In today’s section we come to a tricky question: How much control does Allah have over the events of the day?  We often hear the phrase “the will of Allah” or “if Allah wills” (inshallah), the qualifying addendum to a wish for the future, and these ideas are all throughout this passage.  This is a question of predestination (qadar).

It is commonly believed within Islam that Allah has foreknowledge of what is to come.  Some even believe there is a written record of these events (the “Preserved Tablet”).  However, this foreknowledge does not negate human free will; Allah simply knows what free human beings will choose.  Most mainstream Muslims do not believe in complete free will, though.  Allah is in control of all things, and a human only has freedom to the degree Allah wants to allow that freedom.  It is as if we live within a bubble of freedom, in which we can do what we wish.  But if Allah wills for something to happen (or not) the boundaries of that bubble are much tighter in that area and the will of Allah is imposed.  This view is not that different from what many Christians believe as well.

An interesting addition is that the level of commitment one has to Allah can determine how much Allah allows.  He will more rigorously protect His own and will place many more obstacles between a believer and sin.

How does all of this play out in today’s section?

  • If Allah willed for unbelievers to avoid idolatry, he would have made sure it was so. (6:107)
  • Be careful about judging idol worshipers; Allah can even use idolatry to bring people to him. (6:108)
  • People are free to obstinately oppose Allah, and unless He has it within His plan to call them to Him and use them, Allah will allow their freely chosen rebellion. (6:110-11)
  • Allah actively puts evildoers in place to scheme evil. (6:123)
  • Allah doesn’t necessarily punish wrongdoing when it stems from ignorance, not rebellion (6:131)
  • Allah’s will is inescapable (6:134)
  • The rationale for all of this is that Allah is “all wise, all knowing.” (6:128)

From here there are further questions, aren’t there?  Why does Allah not will that all come to know Him in such a way that He imposes that will on everyone?  If he can control all things, why does he allow things that frustrate His will?  Would Allah send a person to Hell who wished to be saved?  Why would Allah actively do things that bring about evil (c.f., 6:123)?

These are all questions people ask of the Christian God too, though.  I will be paying attention to this idea as we read further.

I’ll end with a quote from today’s section that vividly compares the result of Allah’s predeterminism on a person to breathing:

When God wishes to guide someone, He opens their breast to islam (total devotion to God); when He wishes to lead them astray, He closes and constricts their breast as if they were climbing up to the skies. (6:125)