Freewill

Page 1 of 17

Freewill

By | Feb. 2013
Page 1 of 17
Free Will and Determinism:
An Overview of Muslim Scholars' Perspective

Dr. Abdur Rashid Bhat*

The problem of free will and determinism is both old and complex. From the early days of human civilization men reflected on it and formed their opinions about its various aspects. The Greek philosophers, Socrates (470-399 BC), Plato (427-347 BC) and Aristotle (384-322 BC) concentrated on the internal capacity of man to find the truth of practical good.1 The medieval Christian dogmatism led man to despair as he had no freedom to enquire about the authority and had to suffer for the 'original sin'.2 The Renaissance thinkers of Europe like Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Rene' Descartes (1596-1650) and Leibniz (1646-1716) focused more on the rational mechanism of the universe than on the spirituo-ethical reality of man. The propounders of Enlightenment and empirical science revolved round the material progress and happiness in the world of cause and effect, thus ignoring the role of transcendental or spiritual powers.3 To many of them man is subject to cosmic physical determinism, which, in consequence, restricts his domain of activity.4

Islam, the primordial and revealed religion of God for all-embracing guidance of mankind, treats the problem of free will and determinism in totality. In the history of Islam scholars have dealt with it in various dimensions and paradigms. Its conspicuous rise was during the period of Umayyads and it continued to stimulate the scholars of subsequent times. Here an attempt is made to look into the early rise of the problem and its treatment by the Muslim theologians and scholars of the medieval and the modern times. However the focus will be on the main theme and on the representative personalities only.

Early Rise of the Problem
During the time of Prophet Muhammad (may Allah's peace be upon him) the people who belonged to other religions as well as polytheists were engaged with the problem of destiny (taqdir). They used to ask...