According to the verse, is human will not important?

The Details of the Question

“Say: I have no power over any good or harm to myself except as Allah willeth.” (al-Araf, 7/188)
- Can you explain this verse?
- According to this verse, is human will not important at all?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

1. There are two kinds of will of Allah:

First: Ontological will,
Second: Legislative will.

Legislative will manifests itself in the issues that Allah declared to be pleased with through the prophets He sent. This is the will of Allah that shows His orders and prohibitions.

“If ye reject (Allah), truly Allah hath no need of you; but He liketh not ingratitude from His servants...” (az-Zumar, 39/7)

In the verse above, this legislative will of Allah is indicated.

The characteristic of this will is that it is an order showing only Allah’s consent and contentment and does not allow for coercion. “Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it).” (al-Kahf, 18/29) In the verse above, the freedom of the servants in the face of this divine will is emphasized. This freedom is also a requirement of the test to which people are subjected.

On the other hand, ontological will expresses the creation and invention of Allah. This will is a reflection of power; it is creative and compelling; it has the feature of not accepting opposition. It is possible to see the most concise expression showing this will in the following verse: “Verily, when He intends a thing, His Command is, “be”, and it is.” (Yasin, 36/82)

On the other hand, ontological will is emphasized in the following verse:

“Say: I have no power over any good or harm to myself except as Allah willeth.” (al-Araf, 7/188)

As it is explained above, since ontological will is Allah’s final decision, so to speak, it is an irresistible attribute. However, this attribute never expresses an obligation that takes away all the opportunities within the circle of wisdom and leaves him no right of use because, besides this will, legislative will is also in question. For example, a murderer’s attempt to kill a man unjustly, his actual attempt, that is, shooting a man with a bullet, occurs in spite of Allah’s legislative will, which does not consent to it and does not approve of it. However, this man cannot die, and no one can kill him unless ontological will, which is the characteristic of the creative will that has the last word, occurs.

If we view the reality from this window, it will be seen that there is no expression in the verse that forces man. To sum up, it is man who wants, Allah who creates.

2. In the verse above, the Prophet (pbuh) is ordered to state clearly that obtaining what is beneficial for him and protecting him from what is harmful depends only on Allah’s will. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) fulfilled this order and explained to people, without any complex, that because he was a human being, his possibilities and abilities were limited to what Allah had given him, and that he had no extraordinary power on his own. Thus, he actually displayed an exemplary attitude in terms of what kind of servitude awareness man should have before Allah by revealing his sincere devotion to Allah indirectly.

Knowing when the Doomsday will strike means knowing the ghayb. However, a person who knows the ghayb can also have the power to know what will do him good and what will harm him in the future, and can act accordingly. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) stated that he did not have such an opportunity, and that his main function consisted of giving good news and warning information that would benefit believers.

As it can be seen, the Prophet did not like to be ascribed attributes independent of Allah’s grace and benevolence; he always emphasized that his duty was to be a good servant as best he could, and to strive and lead people to attain guidance by duly fulfilling the mission of prophethood and conveying the message that Allah entrusted to him. He showed his knowledge to the extent that Allah revealed to him in issues such as the hereafter, Paradise, Hell, angels and devils that are included in the field of the ghayb and hence exceed the knowledge possibilities of human beings, and he gave information to people depending on Allah’s permission; however, he was ordered to state that he had no information on this issue, as he was not informed about when Doomsday would strike.

It is not stated in the verse that the Prophet (pbuh) knew absolutely nothing about the future, but that he did not know the ghayb except what Allah revealed to him because not every issue about the future can be regarded as ghayb. Thanks to his knowledge, experience and intellect about Allah’s laws in the universe, which are called the laws of nature, man has certain information about the future and can make certain determinations. The main point emphasized in the verse is not that the future is completely dark for people, but that the servant will not be able to learn about existence and events on his own, and that he will not be able to see what is beneficial and what is harmful unless Allah gives him the opportunity and means. (Kur’an Yolu, Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı Yayınları: II, 504.)

3. The following is stated in another verse regarding the issue:

“But ye will not, except as Allah wills; for Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom.” (al-Insan, 76/30)

While the previous verse of the same chapter states that whoever wishes will follow the way to his Lord under the guidance of the Quran, verse 30 states that Allah will embrace anyone He wishes with His mercy. It means that sincere believers surrender themselves to Allah’s will with their whole being.

Our creation and our coming to the world in the country we are in, our being included in a certain family and circle ­did not occur with our wish and will. All these came into being with the manifestation of the divine will. Things happen based on whatever plan He prepared with His infinite knowledge and will in pre-eternity.

When we come of age, our will comes into play. We are wanted to be guided as divine commands are conveyed to us. At this point, we need to stop and think for a while: After we are informed and guided, it is left to our will on the one hand, and it is stated that the will of God Almighty dominates on the other hand with the following verse: “But ye shall not will except as Allah wills.” In appearance, the following result emerges: «man is bound to the divine will in a certain line». If He wants the servant to find the right way, the servant can find the right way; If He does not want, he cannot find it. Why is man held responsible then? If we look only at the outward appearance of the verse without determining the real meaning and decree it indicates, we will feel that the claims of the Qadariyya and Jabriyya madhhabs are correct. However, the issue is very serious and extremely subtle. It is very difficult to draw conclusions unless its wisdom is understood. God Almighty mentions the line of possibility, in other words, the line of guidance and will, that He has placed between Himself and His servants in verse 30. It is as follows: Unless a person reaches that limit with his mind, intelligence and will, and the religious advice and knowledge he receives, Allah’s supreme will does not manifest, and therefore the door of guidance will not be opened for the servant.

Does this limit not exist in almost every issue? Sowing seeds on dry soil without plowing the field and making efforts will not yield the desired result. Man is obliged to do his part properly; after that, it will be left to the divine will. And at that point, the servant cannot wish unless God Almighty wills. Unless His guidance and help are manifested, the servant cannot enter the true path and cannot get the desired result in the work he has started.

We can summarize the issue as follows:

There is no decree like coercion or rendering human will invalid. The event of reaching the limit of possibility and will that we have mentioned is in question. When that line is reached, ­the manifestation of divine will and guidance plays a role above all kinds of will; He opens the door of guidance to whom He wills, and does not open it to whom He does not will. The door of guidance will not be opened for a person who does not use his will and hence does not reach the specified line.

The statement “You cannot will unless Allah wills” expresses the ability to choose and will that Almighty Allah has placed in man’s creation; it does not express a connotation because it is emphasized in many verses of the Quran with definite and clear expressions that this ability has been given to man. So much so that we can qualify it as one of the solid principles of Islamic teaching. Moreover, it is Almighty Allah Himself who wishes this will and ability to be present in man. Therefore, people’s choice of guidance or misguidance ­falls within this scope. That is, there is no contradiction (as far as we understand). The fact that the verse consoled the Prophet (pbuh) because of the negative reactions he received, and that it described unbelievers as oppressors as if oppression were their basic characteristics, is a strong clue that they turned away from guidance due to their bad intentions and oppression and that they deserved Allah’s punishment. It is like a message showing that the phrase ‘whom He will’ in the sentence “He will admit to His Mercy whom He will” should be interpreted as “People with good intentions and who really want to attain guidance...”.

If Allah had not wished and given a will due to the position and test of the world in this world and if He had not said, “I give you the right to choose what you want”, no one would have the right to choose what they want. In other words, you should know, O people, that your choice of unbelief and rebellion also depends on this permission given by Allah. If your Lord had created you without a will, and if He had held the reins of slavery around your necks, just like the angels, the mountains, stones, the sky, the moon, the stars, the Sun, plants, stones, and mines, none of you would have the right of choice now.

This opportunity has been given only to man. The freedom to rebel and to stand up to has been given only to man by the laws of Allah. That is why the obedience of man is different from the obedience of other beings. In other words, man’s obedience to Allah is different from the slave’s obedience to his master. Man’s obedience is valuable because he has been given the freedom to rebel. In fact, all beings also obey Allah, but since their obedience does not allow rebellion, they are not like human beings. Angels, mountains, heavens, the earth, stars, the moon, animals and plants also serve Allah, but their obedience is their natural state.

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