Compared to other creatures in this universe, humans have a high position enabling them to say “I am free; I can do whatever I want”. Human can have opposite ideas in his universe of thought. For example, when divine determining is understood as an obligation, there will be no freedom for people. Indeed, throughout the history, some currents have emerged claiming that human has no power of will and human is like a leaf on the wind. Some other currents exaggerated so much that they denied divine determining stating, “If human is free, then how divine determining is compatible with it?” and “Human is the creator of his own actions.”
Through seven ways in his work the Twenty-Sixth Word the Treatise on Divine Determining, Hazrat Bediuzzaman answers the questions “How is Divine Determining compatible with the power of choice?”, “How they can be explained without denying one another?”.
(Our) inability to know how the power of choice is compatible with Divine Determining may be because of divine actions that we do not know the reasons behind
[The First]: “The perfect order and precise balance in everything from atoms to humans, from animals to plans, from stars to galaxies show the wisdom and justice of Allah. They are witnesses to the meticulous wisdom of Allah in everything. They show the All-Just and Wise One. According to Master Bediuzzaman, the reward and punishment for people as a result of the prophets sent, divine obligations, religious and worldly responsibilities and actions are just and wise. He explains that they are not tyranny and without a reason. Otherwise sending prophets, obligation, reward and punishment would be meaningless.
It is not appropriate to wisdom to put creatures without power of will under some responsibilities and obligations and reward or punish them. Such actions are contrary to the principles of wisdom and justice. Does Allah ever do any action without wisdom, reason and justice? Because of this reason, Allah gave to man a power of choice which would be the means of reward and punishment for him. The nature of this will is unknown to us. And people are incapable of understanding all the wisdoms of Allah. There are countless divine actions whose reasons are unknown to us. First of all, inability to know how the power of choice is compatible with Divine Determining may be because of things (divine actions) that we do not know the reasons behind. It is better to accept the existence of such a possibility rather than denial and doubt coming from inability to understand the compatibility of them. Our inability to understand how the power of choice is compatible with Divine Determining does not mean that it is not so. So, among the divine actions whose wisdom is unknown to us, there may be subtle mysteries in the compatibility of power of choice and Divine Determining.”
Power of choice may be one of the subjects that is out of our knowledge and we are unable to explain with all of its aspects
[The Second]: Everyone perceives in himself that he is creature with a free will, power of choice. And he knows the existence of that power through his conscience. Our conscience witnesses the existence of a mystery which separates the things that we do with our own free will and the things that we do involuntarily. Our inability to understand the nature of our power of choice and explain it with all of its aspects does not prove that it does not exist. Because knowing the nature of something and knowing its existence are different.” There are
lots of things whose existence is known but nature is unknown to us. For instance, we are all sitting and listening to this speech here with our souls/spirits. We live. But we do not know in detail the essence of our souls, how the speech is carried out/come into existence and how the sound reaches to you, how we can hear. But none of us doubt the existence of such a thing. Therefore, knowing the existence of something feeling it does not mean knowing its essence, its nature, with all of its mysteries or evident aspects. And our ignorance about something does not mean that it does not exist. We are all aware of the fact that everything is not known to us. Our ignorance about something cannot be a proof for the inexistence of that thing. Thus, humans’ power of choice may be among those. That is to say, inability to describe the will power of humans in detail, inability to know its complete nature does not endanger its existence which is an unchangeable truth and not contrary to it. We should not ignore this possibility: “Human’s power of choice may be one of the things that is outside of our knowledge and that we are unable to explain.”
DIVINE DETERMINING AND POWER OF CHOICE ARE NOT CONTRARY TO ONE ANOTHER. DIVINE DETERMINING IS A PROOF OR POWER OF CHOICE.
[The Third]: Power of choice and divine determining are not issues contrary to one another. Rather, divine determining supports the existence of power of choice, strengthens it. Act as its proof. Because divine determining is a manifestation of divine knowledge, it is a sort of knowledge from the knowledge of Allah. The connection of Divine Knowledge with us is only the knowledge of how, in what way, where our power of choice will make a selection/choice. That is to say, it knows the choices of our power of choice. And this shows the existence of power of choice. For example, generally, parents know what their children will choose how they will act, what kind of solutions they will try before certain kinds of choices, incidents and problems and this is also the case among friends. The very knowledge of them shows us the choices of the children, the friends. It becomes a proof of their power of choice. For instance, sometimes, an experienced judge knows that an ex-inmate will commit a crime again, he even knows the method/style of the crime, but the knowledge of the judge does not have an effect on the choice of the ex-inmate. On the contrary, it shows the free will of the inmate. Therefore, when he commits a crime, he will be punished again because of his unlawful act. The unlawful act is carried out not by the will of the judge but the inmate’s. (In the same way) Divine knowledge knows the choices and actions of His servant decided by his own free will. The things known are the results caused by our free will. If we could see what Divine Knowledge knows, we were able to understand the fact that human is a free creature. Because Divine knowledge knows the choices of their will. Since divine determining is manifested/connected in/with our will and choice, human is a creature with free will. The fact that Divine Determining knows what the free will of human will do is not contrary to free will or not an obstacle before it. Thus its supports the existence of will, it does not nullify it.
Knowledge is dependent on the thing known.
[The Fourth]: Divine Determining is a sort of knowledge. Knowledge is dependent on the thing known. That is, with His pre-eternal knowledge, Allah knows everything and action with all their aspects before their existence and before they happen. Allah has the pre-eternal knowledge of which results connected to which reasons, and who will try them and what sort of an outcome they will get, in short He knows things and actions with His pre-eternal knowledge.
This knowledge is dependent [EG1] on the thing known. If there is a difference between the knowledge and the thing known, it will be ignorance. And it is impossible to attribute such an imperfection to Allah. The fact that Allah knows everything beforehand does not indicate/show that the responsibles act by force. Because, an action, an activity, anything occurs with the use of will and power. Knowledge has no effect on the external existence of things[EG2] . Divine knowledge does not nullify the will of humans. On the contrary it[EG3] knows that, servants will carry out their actions by their own free will. Knowing the future is like knowing the past. Knowing the past does not change the incidents and things in the past and in the same way knowing the future does not alter the future actions and things[EG4] . For instance, everyone knows the things that he lived in the past. He has an exact knowledge about it. There are lots of things that he would like to change if it were possible. But knowing the past is not enough to change it. If knowing could produce an effect, then everyone could be able to change their past just by knowing it. For example, Sun does not rise since we know when it will. Knowing that you will return after the meeting to the places that you have come, does not force you into return. Thus, the character of knowing is having the knowledge of it. Divine knowledge knows how the choices will be, how they will occur.
Bediuzzaman And the concept of Pre-eternity
Bediuzzaman consider the concept of pre-eternity as an essential attribute of divine knowledge. He treats the concept of pre-eternity different from its denotation. That is, pre-eternity is not the beginning or tip [EG5] of the past. He claims that if we think pre-eternity as the tip of a chain reaching into the past, there will be a compulsion because of not holding the past, the present, and the future all at once. That is, since everything is not seen with their reasons and results, like a theatre script, like stage actors playing acting according to it, creatures act, live according to that plan. As a result, a compulsion occurs.
Rather, pre-eternity holds the past, the present, and the future all at once, looking at them from above like a mirror. In which case, it is not right to imagine an end to past time which stretches back within the sphere of contingency and call it pre-eternity, and to suppose that things enter that knowledge of pre-eternity in sequence, and that oneself is outside it; to reason thus is not right.
He gives the following example in order to explain this mystery[EG6] : “Suppose there is a mirror in your hand and the area to your right is the past and the area to your left, the future; the mirror only holds what is opposite it. Then with a movement it holds both sides, but it cannot hold all of it. However low the mirror is held less will appear in it and the higher it rises; the area it encompasses expands, until it can hold both sides in their entirety simultaneously. Whatever occurs in the areas reflected in the mirror in this position cannot be said to precede or follow one another, or to conform to or oppose one another.
Divine Determining is part of pre-eternal knowledge, and in the words of the Hadith, pre-eternal knowledge is “at an elevated station which from its lofty view-point encompasses everything that has been and will be from pre-eternity to post-eternity.” We and our reasoning cannot be outside of it so we can be like a mirror to the area of the past.”
DIVINE DETERMINING HOLDS CAUSE AND AFFECT TOGETHER
[The Fifth]: Divine determining knows which results will happen with which reason/reasons. That is, it says, “This effect will occur through this cause.” Therefore, we should nor say, “Since so-and-so’s death is determined at such-and-such a time, what fault has the man who fired the rifle through his own choice, for if he had not fired it, the other still would have died?” Divine Determining specified that so-and-so’s death would occur through the man’s rifle. If you suppose that he did not fire
The rifle, then you is supposing that Divine Determining had no connection with it, so with what would you decree his death? It will ve wrong[EG7] If you imagine cause and effect to be separate or deny Divine Determining. The Sunni School says: “If he had not fired the rifle, we do not know if he would have died.”
[The Sixth] [EG8] According to Maturidi, inclination, the essence of the power of choice, is a theoretical or relative matter and may be attributed to God’s servants. But Ash‘ari considered it to have existence, so did not attribute it to them. However, according to Ash‘ari, the power of disposal within inclination is a theoretical matter, which makes the inclination and the disposal together a relative matter lacking a definite external existence. Theoretical or relative matters do not require causes through which, for their existence, necessity would intervene and nullify the will and power of choice. Rather, if the cause of the theoretical matters acquires the weight of preference, the theoretical matter may become actual and existent. In which case, at that juncture, it may be abandoned. The Qur’an may say to a person at that point: “This is evil; do not do it.” Indeed, if God’s servants had been the creators of their actions and had had the power to create, then their wills would have been removed. For an established rule in the sciences of religion and philosophy is: [مَا لَمْ يَجِبْ لَمْ يُوجَدْ] “If a thing is not necessary, it may not come into existence [of itself].” That is, there has to be a cause for a thing to come into existence. The cause necessarily requires the effect. Then no power of choice would remain.
If you say: Preference without a cause or attribute to cause the preference is impossible. Whereas the theoretical matter we call human acquisition sometimes does a thing and sometimes does not; if there is nothing to cause the preference, preference without something to cause it would be necessary. As for this, it demolishes one of the most important bases of theology?
The Answer: Preference without a cause or attribute to cause the preference is impossible. That is,
a being deemed preferable or superior without a cause or attribute to make it so is impossible. But preference without something to cause it is permissible and occurs. Will is an attribute, and its mark is to perform a work such as that.
If you ask: “Since the one who creates the murder is Almighty God, why do you call me a murderer?”
[The Answer]: Because according to the rules of grammar, the active participle is derived from the infinitive, which is a relative matter. It cannot be derived from the verbal noun, which is an actual or existent matter. The infinitive is our acquisition; so we are called the murderer. The verbal noun is Almighty God’s creature. Something which gives an inkling of responsibility cannot be derived from the verbal noun.
[The Seventh]: For sure, man’s faculty of will and power of choice are weak and a theoretical matter, but Almighty God, the Absolutely Wise One, made that weak and partial will a condition for the connection of His universal will. He in effect says: “My servant! Whichever way you wish to take with your will, I will take you there. In which case the responsibility is yours!” If the comparison is not mistaken, you take a powerless child onto your shoulders and leaving the choice to him, tell him you will take him wherever he wishes. The child wants to go to a high mountain so you take him there, but he either catches cold or falls. So of course you reprimand him, saying, “You wanted to go there,” and you give him a slap. Thus, Almighty God, the Firmest of Judges, makes His servant’s will, which is utterly weak, a condition, and His universal will follow it.
[In Short]: O man! You have a will known as the power of choice which is extremely weak, but whose hand in evil acts and destruction is extremely long and in good deeds is extremely short. Give one of the hands of that will of yours to supplication, so that it may reach Paradise, a fruit of the chain of good deeds, and stretch to eternal happiness. And give its other hand to the seeking of forgiveness, so that it may be short for evil deeds and will not reach the Zakkum-tree of Hell, which is one fruit of that accursed tree. That is, just as supplication and reliance on God greatly strengthen the inclination to do good, so repentance and the seeking of forgiveness cut the inclination to do evil, putting an end to its transgressions.