Man and Free Will

Topics
Sign in English Us
Man and Free Will
3397 0 share 0

Human free will is a self-evident reality which can be assimilated by man in various ways, some of which we shall discuss here.

1. The conscience of each person bears testimony to his ability to decide either to perform or to abstain from a given action; if this self-evident fact be denied, then no axiomatic truth what-soever can ever be accepted.

2. Throughout human society- religiously governed or otherwise-one finds that widely differing persons are subject to praise or blame; this should be taken as a sign that the attribution of free will to the individual is a universally encountered fact.

3. If the free will of the individuals were non-existent, the dictates of religion would be vain and futile. For if each individual were helpless in regard to his life, he would be compelled to continue to follow the course of life that had been established for him previously, and thus unable to deviate by even an inch from that path; in such a case, the religious commands and prohibitions, promises and threats, rewards and punishments, would all be utterly meaningless.

4. Throughout the course of human history, one observes that the reformation of the individual and of society has been an overriding concern, to which end many programmes and policies have been promulgated, yielding clear results. It is evident that such efforts are entirely incompatible with belief in determinism as regards human action, for if the individual were assumed to be devoid of free will, all such efforts would be a waste of time.

These four points decisively and irrefutably establish the reality of free will. However, the principle of free will does not allow us to conclude that man possesses absolute liberty, and that God exercises no influence over his actions. For such a belief, called tafwid, contradicts the principle of man's eternal dependence upon God; it also restricts the sphere of power and creativity proper to God:.

These four points decisively and irrefutably establish the reality of free will. However, the principle of free will does not allow us to conclude that man possesses absolute liberty, and that God exercises no influence over his actions. For such a belief, called tafwid, contradicts the principle of man's eternal dependence upon God; it also restricts the sphere of power and creativity proper to God.

compulsion (jabr) or freedom (tafwid)?

After the passing away of the Holy Prophet, one of the questions that engaged Muslim thinkers was that of the nature of human action. One group adopted the viewpoint of determinism (jabr), regarding man as an intrinsically constrained agent; another group took the diametrically opposite position, conceiving of man as an entity delivered up entirely to his own resources, his actions having no connection at all with God. Both groups upheld an exclusivist point of view: action either devolved entirely upon man or entirely upon God, it was either human power that was effective or divine power.
There is, however, a third perspective, the one upheld by the Holy Imams of the ahl al-bayt. Imam Sadiq (as) stated:

'Neither compulsion (jabr) nor complete freedom (tafwid): rather, something between the two. '[1]

In other words,' although action devolves upon man, it is also dependent upon God; for the action proceeds from the human agent, but since in reality the agent, along with his power, is created by God, how can one consider the action of such an agent to be independent of God?
The way in which the ahl al-bayt clarify the reality of human action is nothing other than the way of the Qur'an, this revealed Scripture occasionally refers action both to its immediate agent and to God, rendering one and the same action susceptible of dual attribution. As the following verse says:

And you did not kill them, but it was Allah who killed them. And you threw not, [O Muhammad], when you threw, but it was Allah who threw that He might test the believers with a good test. Indeed, Allah is Hearing and Knowing.(Sura al-Anfal, 8:17)

The meaning here is that whenever the Holy Prophet undertook. an action, he did not do so on the sole basis of his independent agency or power; rather, the action was accomplished through the power of God. Thus, the attribution of the action to two sources is sound and correct. Put differently, the power and might of God are present within every phenomenon; this touches upon a mystery which we might try and comprehend by means of the following simile: A current of electricity, generated by a power station, is present in electric wires; however, it is we who switch the lights on and off. It is correct to say that we switch on the light, just as it is also correct to say that the light of the bulb is derived from the electric current.

The meaning here is that whenever the Holy Prophet undertook. an action, he did not do so on the sole basis of his independent agency or power; rather, the action was accomplished through the power of God. Thus, the attribution of the action to two sources is sound and correct. Put differently, the power and might of God are present within every phenomenon; this touches upon a mystery which we might try and comprehend by means of the following simile: A current of electricity, generated by a power station, is present in electric wires; however, it is we who switch the lights on and off. It is correct to say that we switch on the light, just as it is also correct to say that the light of the bulb is derived from the electric current.

All integral aspect of our belief in man's free will is our certainty of God's foreknowledge of all our actions from pre-eternity. There is no contradiction between these two beliefs. Whoever cannot in fact reconcile them should consider carefully that the eternal knowledge of God encompasses the principle by which actions proceed from the free will of man; naturally, there is no contradiction between such fore-knowledge, on the one hand, and human freedom, on the other.

1. Shaykh Saduq, Kitib al-tawhid, ch. 59, hadith no. 8.

COMMENTS
Leave a Reply

Daily Hadith
لا يكونُ أخوكَ أقوى مِنكَ على مَودّتِهِ.
Do not let your brother be stronger than you are in your amity for him.