Q & A: Someone asked, “Is there a place for human accountability in Islamic beliefs?

Question: in Islamic beliefs, is there a place for human accountability? If so, what does human accountability mean or entail in light of the doctrine of predestination?

Answer: Accountability is connected to the voluntary acts that one performs every day. These acts, however, while performed by us with our bodies and minds, are predestined and created by Allah.

It must be kept in mind that Allah could have created me and you in the Hellfire to begin with, without any actions from our side. This would be mere torture, and not punishment. As a grace to us, He did not do that, but created us in this world and gave us rules to follow. He has willed for some of us to follow and some of us not, as you can observe. Those that follow are rewarded with pleasure in Paradise, while those who do not will be tortured, unless they are forgiven. Being forgiven happens only if one believed prior to death that there is only one god and that Muhammad is his Prophet and Messenger.

Torture in the next life correlating with voluntary acts of disobedience to Allah in this life is called punishment, unlike the imaginary case of someone being created in the Hellfire to begin with, which is just torture, and not punishment. There are many articles on predestination and justice that you can peruse, and I won’t repeat it all here. One article is this one.

Authored by Shaykh Abu Adam al Naruiji

16 Responses to Q & A: Someone asked, “Is there a place for human accountability in Islamic beliefs?

  1. Sign of Saturn says:

    “Accountability is connected to the voluntary acts that one performs every day.”

    What does it mean to say that an act is “voluntary”? If you eat an apple, is it the result of your will? Or is it the result of God’s will? Do you have a will? If you don’t, then in what sense can any action of yours be considered “voluntary”?

  2. What does it mean to say that an act is “voluntary”?
    Voluntary in the sense that you do not feel forced, not that it is created by you. Like when you get up in the morning and have cereal, you do it according to your own will. This is as opposed to a leaf flying in the wind, were there is no will involved on part of the leaf.

    If you eat an apple, is it the result of your will? Or is it the result of God’s will?
    It is by the will of God, but if you did it willingly, then it was voluntary on your part. Our will is not the same as Aļļaah’s will, it is according to Aļļaah’s will. Our will is a created will, a will that exists, because it is created. It is that will that you perceive in yourself, “I want this I don’t want that” and so on.

  3. Sign of Saturn says:

    So, if our “will” is itself willed, then it what sense can the former be called a “will”? To define the former as perception or desire only begs the question: where did this perception or desire originate? In what sense is my perception or desire mine? Do I create my own desires or are they created for me? If they are created for me, then in what sense can I be said to be responsible or accountable for them?

    Also, if human will is defined as synonymous as desire created someone else, then doesn’t the very concept of human will become entirely superfluous? It seems misleading to say that human beings have a will, since the very concept of will implies autonomy.

  4. Saturn says: So, if our “will” is itself willed, then it what sense can the former be called a “will”?
    Answer: I answered this already above.

    Saturn says: To define the former as perception or desire only begs the question: where did this perception or desire originate?
    Answer: It was brought into existence by Aļļaah.

    Saturn says: In what sense is my perception or desire mine?
    Answer: It is yours in the sense that it exists in you.

    Saturn says: Do I create my own desires or are they created for me?
    Answer: They were brought into existence by Aļļaah.

    Saturn says: If they are created for me, then in what sense can I be said to be responsible or accountable for them?

    Answer: In the sense that you committed them with the willingness that you sense in your voluntary acts, not in the sense that you created your own actions or intentions. Take a look at the original entry.

    Saturn says: Also, if human will is defined as synonymous as desire created someone else, then doesn’t the very concept of human will become entirely superfluous? It seems misleading to say that human beings have a will, since the very concept of will implies autonomy.

    Answer: If you want to call it something else, what would you call it? We call it will because this is how we refer to it in our daily lives.

  5. Rashid says:

    Assalam u Alaikum,

    Ya Sayyidi,

    If someone has not been reached by the message of Islam or been presented Deen in distorted manner, will he be held responsible for not believing in Islam in the Hereafter? Kindly elaborate or refer.

    Wa-Salam,
    Rashid

  6. Salmaan says:

    Assalamu alaikum,

    Two things that Sheikh Hamza Karamali mentioned which helped me understand this issue:

    1. Allah’s prior knowledge of what we will do, doesnt mean he has forced us to do it.

    e.g If you leave all these clues around your house or tell me that you’re going to rob a bank and later you get caught by the police, you cannot blame me because I knew you were going to do it – It was your choice and your choice alone (regardless of mine or Allah’s prior knowledge) that makes you responsible for your action.

    2. We choose, but Allah also chooses.

    I.e Allah predestines our existance and the events therein on lauh al mafoodh in pre-eternity (i.e he chooses) but when we come across these events we – of our own free will – choose to do an action, either one way or the other or for or against us. Allah ta’ala creates our actions and their consequences.

    There are two types of actions – voluntary and involuntary actions. Allah creates both of these actions by us humans.

    Voluntary actions – like jumping or moving ones arm, or speaking – are ones which we have “ability” to choose to do and through choosing these actions which Allah creates for us, we acquire responsibility for them. In the case of Voluntary actions Allah creates both the “ability” and the action.

    Involuntary actions – like hearts beating are actions which we still do, actions which Allah ta’ala still creates, yet for which we are not held accountable.

    By necessity, we know that we are not coerced in the voluntary actions we do and the decisions we make.

    If I go to raise my arm and scratch my head – this is a a choice that I freely choose to do and everyone knows I wasnt forced to do so. That Allah knew i would do this in pre-eternity, He destined it, and he chooses to create the movement of my arm for me to do so, doesnt mean he forced me to do it and thus whilest Allah created the movement of my arm, I acquired the responsibility and the action of moving it.

    Thus there is no incongruency between Allah’s (swt) pre-eternal knowledge and his predestination of our actions and our free will as humans.

    jazakallahu khairan

    Wassalam

    • Waˆalaykumussalaam, OK, as long as it is understood that the act of choosing is created by Allaah. That is, if you have a choice between, for example, remaining sitting or standing up, and you stand up, then it is Allaah that created your act of choosing to stand up. The overall principle is this: absolutely nothing can happen in this world without Allaah having specified it and brought it into existence. This includes thoughts, movements, and any other event or occurrence or change.

      • Salmaan says:

        Agreed. alhamdulilah,

        Do you know of a simple way of explaining (or a good analogy to use in explaining etc) this to one who suggests that we have no will – claiming that since Allah has predestined and Allah creates our thoughts our actions and their consequences?

        Kind regards,

        Salmaan

        Wassalam

      • When you shiver, you have not choice, so you have no will in the matter. When you choose from the menu in a restaurant, are you choosing what to eat or not? Choosing. So here your will is involved. This is the meaning of created will.

  7. Ahmad-Qadri says:

    Salam Alaikum

    Possible typo in the last comment Sheikh… 2nd line 6th word: *IN* – BY?

  8. Belal says:

    Assalamu alaikum,

    can you explain the difference between jabriyah and ashariya with regard to predestination?

    • wa3alaykumussalaam,

      The jabriyah have never been a very big sect because they believed that there is no difference between a human being and a leaf blowing in the wind. They denied the obvious phenomenon that human beings make choices, even if these choices are predestined by Allaah. A leaf does not have any choices, predestined or otherwise.

      The notion of choice comes from the fact that we face expectations and uncertainties regarding the future. We act in order to steer towards what we prefer for the future according to our expectations in terms of what is achievable and desirable. However, all of these thoughts, mental images and events, as well as our behavior and thinking, are predestined and created by Allaah.

      Human choice then, is a phenomenon intrinsically linked to human ignorance of the future. Without at least some ignorance of what will be next, we would perceive no choice. However, since we are ignorant of the future, we try to move towards what we desire for ourselves among the perceived options. Hence, desire or need or dissatisfaction is another intrinsic part of choice along with imagination to form expectations and goals to work towards. None of this is found in a leaf.

  9. Mus'ab says:

    Assalamu alaikum,

    I wonder about kasb (acquisition) and human accountability.

    Is it right to think that if Allah created anything in me different then what I have, like a thought, a feeling, a will or an action, then that person wouldn’t be me anymore, it would become another creation?

    I’m not saying that Allah cannot create something. Allah can create anything He wants. I’m just saying that I am the sum of all of the things that Allah created in me, and anything different than that would turn me into someone else, since Allah doesn’t create in steps, adding one thing after another.

    So before Allah determined what He would create, He had infinite possibilities because our creation is only possible, not necessary. Then, He determined to create us with all of our thoughts, feelings, wills and actions.

    If someone is a kafir, it is not that Allah imposed disbelief on him, but that person was one of the infinite possibilities of creation and one that Allah willed to create.

    In that sense we are accountable by our choices and actions, even if created, because they we are part of us and define who we are.

    Feel free to correct me. I just want to learn about this issue.

    • wa3alaykumussalaam,

      The issue of accountability can be a great source of disorderly and obsessive thinking encouraged by devils. What you need to focus on and know is this:

      Everything that happens is created by Allaah, including our thoughts and deeds;

      Allaah is absolutely just, because He has no judge, owner or creator. Hence, He does whatever He wills, and no one has the right to judge His actions. I.e. Allaah could have created Hell with people in it that had no prior deeds and He would still be just;

      We are responsible for what we perceive control over, even if what we perceive and do are created by Allaah;

      We are merely Allaah’s creation and have no business questioning what He has willed to be;

      Our deeds do not actually have power to cause us to go to Paradise or Hell. It is by the will of Allaah that someone enters them. The relationship between deeds and going to one of these two places is something Allaah has decreed. I.e. Allaah is not obliged to reward good deeds or punish bad deeds. We only know that He will do this because He revealed this information to our Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank even further).

      Beyond that, focus on your worship and improving yourself and don’t delve on issues that confuse you.

      AAA

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