Religious Beliefs

Do Muslims believe in predestination or fatalism?

A common misperception of Islamic tradition is that God exercises such minute and perfect control over all things that human actions have no bearing on the individual’s ultimate destiny. When Muslims use the expression “God willing,” they do not mean to suggest that human beings are mere marionettes dancing at the whim of the divine puppeteer. They are simply reminding themselves that God is ultimately in charge of everything, regardless of individual human preferences. True, the Qur’an often describes how God both guides and leads astray “whomever he chooses.” But that does not suggest that God is capricious or spiteful, only that God is God and that lesser beings ought not to take God’s sovereignty for granted even for a second. Equally often, the Qur’an reminds believers how God lays out his “signs” in creation and in the individual heart, adding “perhaps you will understand.”

Muslims believe in God’s justice. The Qur’an insists that each person will be held accountable for his or her actions at judgment. But since God is just, Muslims conclude that human beings exercise a significant freedom of choice—otherwise accountability at the judgment would be a sham, a cruel hoax to which God hardly needs to resort. All in all, Muslim tradition seeks to maintain the delicate balance between belief in God’s absolute power, and a limited, but more than adequate, human freedom to choose either good or evil.


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