Will you explain the verse: "Say: I have no power over any good or harm to myself except as Allah willeth" (al-Araf, 7/188)? According to that verse, does the human will have no importance?

Details of the Question
Will you explain the verse: "Say: I have no power over any good or harm to myself except as Allah willeth" (al-Araf, 7/188)? According to that verse, does the human will have no importance?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Man or jinn wills and Allah creates. It means nothing takes place without the will of Allah in the sense of creation. Satan chose to rebel and not to prostrate using his own will, and Allah created his choice.

Say: I have no power over any good or harm to myself except as God willeth” (al-Araf, 7:188) emphasizes creational willing. According to that verse, does the human will have no importance?

Allah has got two ways of willing.

First: Creational willing.

Second: Juridical willing.

Juridical willing: Allah shows through the prophets He sent what he likes and dislikes. This will of His manifests Allah’s orders and prohibitions. The Quranic verse which is translated as “If ye reject (God), Truly God hath no need of you; but He likes not ingratitude from His servants.” (az-Zumar, 39:7) indicates this “juridical will” of Allah’s.

The feature of this willing is that it is an order which only shows Allah’s contentedness and satisfaction and which does not include enforcement. The Quranic verse “The truth is from your Lord: Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it)” (al-Kahf, 18:29) emphasizes people’s freedom in the presence of this willing. This freedom is also a requirement of the testing which people are put through.

Creational willing: This kind of willing means Allah’s creating, making and inventing. This willing is a reflection of might; it is creative, forcing and it cannot be opposed. It is possible to see the most gnomic statement about this willing in the verse which is translated as “Verily, when He intends a thing, His Command is, "be", and it is!” (Ya Seen, 36:82).

The verse which is translated as “Say: I have no power over any good or harm to myself except as God willeth” (al-Araf, 7:188) emphasizes creational willing.

As explained above, creational willing cannot be opposed or avoided as it is the last decision of Allah. However, it does not mean that it does not leave any options for human beings and forces them into things which they do not want to do with their own free-will because besides this kind of willing, there is also juridical willing. For instance, a murderer wants to kill someone without a fair reason; he puts his will into action and shoots the man to death. It happens in spite of Allah’s juridical willing which does not give consent to and which forbids that act. However, that man will not die and nobody can kill him unless the creational willing, which is the last decision of Allah, allows it.

When one evaluates the truth from this point of view, it will be seen that there is not a statement which restricts people’s freedom, in the Quranic verses regarding Allah’s creational willing. To sum up, human beings do something good or evil using their own free-will, power and self-control. And Allah creates the thing one wants to do if He wills to create it.

2. In the verse above, Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) is ordered to say clearly that he can obtain what is good for him and be protected from what is harmful for him only by the will and wish of Allah; the Messenger of Allah fulfilled that order; thus he informed people, without having any complex, that his means and abilities were limited with what Allah gave him because he was a human being and that he did not have any extraordinary power on his own. Thus, he showed his sincere allegiance to Allah indirectly and displayed an exemplary attitude as to what kind of consciousness of servitude man needs to have in the presence of Allah.   

To know when the Doomsday is means to know the ghaib (unseen, unknown). A person who knows the ghaib may have the power to know what will bring good and what will bring bad things for him in the future and may act accordingly. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) stated that he did not have such a power and that his main function was to convey people information containing good news and warning in such a way to help them.    

As it is seen here, our Prophet (pbuh) did not like to be attributed some qualities independent of the bounties and grants of Allah; he always emphasized that his duty was to be a good servant to Allah, to fulfill his duty of prophethood and conveying the message of Allah fully and to try to help people find the guidance. Regarding the issues like life in the hereafter, Hell, Paradise, angels, devil, which are in the scope of the ghaib and which are beyond man’s knowledge, he informed people as much as Allah let him know based on His permission; however, since he was not given any information about when the Doomsday would strike, he was ordered to tell people that he did not have any information about it.    

It is not stated in the verse that Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) does not know anything about the future by any means but it is stated that he knows nothing about the future except what Allah informed him. Not everything relating to the future is regarded as the ghaib; man can have some definite information about the future and can know something based on his information about the laws of Allah regarding the universe called the laws of nature, his experience and his mind. What is emphasized in the verse is not that the future is completely dark for human beings but that man cannot have any knowledge about the beings and events and about what is useful and what is harmful unless Allah lets him. (Kur’an Yolu, Diyanet ??leri Ba?kanl??? Yay?nlar?: II/504.)

3. In another verse regarding the issue, the following is stated: "But ye will not, except as Allah wills; for Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom." (al-Insan, 76/30)

While in the previous verse in the same chapter, it is stated that a person who wills will take the path to his Lord, in the 30th verse, it is stated that Allah will encompass those that He wills with His mercy. That is, sincere believers surrender themselves to the will of Allah with all of their belongings.   

We were not created based on our own will; we were not born in the country where we were born based on our own will, either; the family and the environment that we belong to were not chosen based on our own wish and will. They all took place with the manifestation of the divine will. Everything takes place in accordance with the plan He has made in the pre-eternity based on His infinite knowledge and His will. 

After coming to the world and reaching the age of “responsibility”, that is, the age of discretion, our wills start to take part in our lives. We are desired to be led by being notified with divine commands. At this point, we need to stop and think. After the notification and being shown the right way, a person is let choose using his own will; on the other hand, God’s will prevails as it is stated in the verse “But ye shall not will except as Allah wills”. We see the conclusion that “man is bound by the divine will within a certain limit”. A person can find the right path if He wills, but if not, he cannot. In this case, what are people held responsible for? If we just look only at the outer appearance of the verse without analyzing the indicated meaning, we might think that the claims of the Qadariyyah and Jabriyyah schools turn out to be correct. However, the matter is of ultimate importance and subtlety. It is hard to come to a conclusion unless its wisdom is comprehended. As it is stated in the 30th verse, Allah tells us about the limit of possibility and will that He has put between Him and His servants; in other words, the border of the right path. Unless a person reaches the level of that border with the help of his mind, intelligence and will, and religious advice and knowledge, Allah will not manifest His supreme will; and for this reason, the door of guidance path will not open for him.

Do we not encounter this limit regarding almost every matter? Without plowing and without any strife, by only sprinkling seeds onto dry soil, how can we expect yield from these seeds? People are obliged to do what they are expected to regarding this matter, and then, the rest depends on the divine will. At that point, we cannot will unless God Almighty wills. Unless He manifests His guidance and help, we cannot enter the right path and cannot benefit from the thing we have started. 

We can summarize the issue as follows:

There is no such a decree like compulsion or invalidity of human will. What this is all about is the situation of crossing the limits of possibility and will that we have mentioned above. When that limit is reached, the divine will and guidance of the Almighty God play their roles above all sorts of will; He opens the door of guidance for the ones whom He wills or He does not open it for those whom He does not will. The door of guidance will not open for the ones who have not been able to use the will, and as a result, who will not be able to take themselves to the mentioned border.

The statement “You cannot will unless Allah wills” describes the ability to choose and to wish which Allah has installed in the creation of human; no extra meaning is included because bestowal of this kind of ability on the humankind is emphasized in a number of verses in the Qur’an with definite and clear expressions. Thus, we can count this as a strong principle of Islamic teaching. Moreover, the one who desires this will and ability to be available in man is Allah, the Exalted, Himself. For this reason, the choice of guidance or deviation by a person is within this extent. That is to say, as far as we comprehend, there is no contradiction. The fact that the verse consoles the Prophet (peace be upon him) due to negative reactions he received, that the deniers are described as “evil ones” as if it was their basic quality is a strong clue of their deviation from guidance and deserving Allah’s punishment because of their evil intentions and unjust deeds. And it stands as a message for us to interpret the statement “He takes the ones whom He wills to a right path” as “the ones with well-intentions and who desire to enter the right path.  

If Allah had not granted us will in this world as a requirement of the position and the trial of this world and if He would not have let us choose whatever we wanted, then nobody would have had this kind of right to choose. O people! That is, you should know that your ability to choose denial or rebellion depends on God’s permission, too. If He had taken hold of the rope around your necks from the time you were born onwards, like He did with angels, mountains, rocks, sky, the moon, stars, the sun and plants and so on, in other words, if you had been created without your wills, none of you would have had the right to choose whatever you wanted.

Only man is provided with this opportunity. Freedom of rebelling and challenging has only been given to man based on Allah’s law. Therefore, the obedience of man is much more different than other creatures. That is, man’s obedience to Allah is different from the slave’s obedience to his master. Since freedom to rebel has been granted, man’s obedience is a lot more precious. Angels, mountains, skies, stars, the moon, animals and plants are also Allah’s servants but their obedience is their nature.

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