Al-Basri's Argument against Pre-Destination

Introduction

The belief in predestination has always been one of the fundamental concepts in Islam. There are numerous mentions of it in the main and central religious text of Islam. Islam considers this principle as a determined one and one that should not be a subject of discussion. However, many philosophers, scientists, religious scholars, and Islam confessors were not always certain whether the rule of predestination was fair from the point of view of free will. The purpose of this paper is to make the analysis of opinions of different Islam scholars on the correlation between free will and predestination in Quran. After reading the information from three primary sources that concern the issue, it becomes clear that al-Hasan al-Basri provides the most reasonable and sufficient review of the concept and justifies it through giving a solid explanation.

The Comparison of Al-Basri’s and Handbali’s Positions in Relation to Predestination

The correspondence named “The Letter (Risala) of al-Hasan al-Basri on Free Will and Predestination” includes several letters from one scholar to another and further answering letters. The very first document is Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan’s letter to al-Hasan al-Basri where al-Malik respectfully starts with underlining al-Hasan al-Basri’s certain knowledge of qadar and overall deep understanding of the Quran. The sender shows his respect to al-Basri and calls him “sound in…being, meritorious in…religion and knowledgeable, searching and intent in religious through” (Rippin and Knappet 115); then, al-Malik asks him about his position in relation to the free will and predestination. Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan states that he would listen to al-Basri’s thoughts about the concept first and only after it, he will listen to others. It demonstrates that al-Basri’s opinion on the given issue is the most relevant and important for him. The analyzed document has political overtones, which shows that in early Islam, such theological discussions as the current one aroused due to politico-religious uncertainties.

In his answering letter to Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, al-Basri explains that the God created humans only so that they could worship Him; it is their sole purpose. However, he also explains that “God would not have created them for a purpose and come between them and (the purpose) because he does not do harm to His servants” (Rippin and Knappet 116). Al-Hasan al-Basri claims that people changed the words of God and, thus, developed misleading positions. According to him, people opposed the book of God and distorted some parts of the law of God. Furthermore, al-Hasan al-Basri explains it through the following words: “It is not for any soul to believe except by the permission of God” (Rippin and Knappet 119); it means that the scholar thinks that God allowed people to believe and gave them faith. Then, basing on Quran, al-Hasan al-Basri adds that “God is not the one to send a messenger to be obeyed and then prevent His creation from obeying him” (Rippin and Knappet 119. He considers it the proof of the thought that God would be far not fair and wise if He did say so. Al-Hasan al-Basri points at God’s wisdom, kindness, and good will. According to him, God would wish only good for people before they would wish it for themselves, which actually makes sense and demonstrates His kindness. However, God’s words were reversed to the claim that individual’s will could not be embodied without God’s will to embody it. The second thesis shows God as the first and last entity, which would approve people’s plans and actions. However, the first and original statement differs from it and means that God wishes people the best even before they wish it themselves. These two sentences differ in a few words but their final meanings are almost absolutely opposite.

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Al-Hasan al-Basri’s answering letter also touches the question of fortune. Fortune is defined as a type of power that people cannot affect anyhow. However, it always directly affects people. Fortune or fate is something that also predestinated humans’ lives. Al-Hasan al-Basri refers to Quran when analyzing this question; concerning people’s fate, the latter says that “Some of them will be unfortunate, others fortunate” (Rippin and Knappet 120). Al-Hasan al-Basri believes that people interpret this passage incorrectly assuming that God created some people fortunate or unfortunate but the fortunate ones cannot become unfortunate and vice versa. However, other parts of Quran continue to explain the above-mentioned thought, and it becomes clear that the fortunate people are those who “hold fast to the command of God” (Rippin and Knappet 121) while unfortunate individuals are those who neglect the God’s command.

Another document that concerns the issue of predestination is “The Creed” by ibn Qudama, which is the presentation of information about Islam and God. It is divided into the paragraphs of different length, and each paragraph has a title, which represents the following information clearly enough. For instance, the first one after the introduction is called “Faith;” it gives the definition of the term “Iman” (faith), which ibn Qudama determines as the “verbal confession, action, and intention” (Rippin and Knappet 121); faith increases when a human obeys and decreases when he/she disobeys. It means that the greater obedience a person shows, the stronger his/her faith becomes. This expression also points at the crucial importance of the obedience and, thus, the absence of the free will. The next paragraph called “Predestination” says that everything in humans’ life – the good, the evil, the sweet, the bitter, the loved, the unloved, the little, and the big – comes from God. The part “The Quran” states that the holy book of Islam is the speech of God; it was not created but originated directly from God and will return to Him.

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After analyzing al-Hasan al-Basri’s opinion on predestination expressed in “The Risala,” it becomes clear that the philosopher does not approve the idea of predestination in Islam and, at the same time, does not deny the words of Quran. He states that those who claim that Quran includes the proofs of God’s determination of every man’s action interpret the Quran incorrectly; thus, they use the word of God to manipulate people for their purposes. “The Creed,” on the other hand, supports the opinion that humans’ will is determined before they try to make decision themselves. However, the analysis, which al-Hasan al-Basri provides, is more profound and relevant. The author of “The Creed” seems to belong to the category of people al-Hasan al-Basri described in his letter.

Finally, Rippin presents the words of Muhammad who said about people’s actions that they are “indeed settled in advance…Whoever is of the people of happiness will do that which leads to happiness, and whoever is of the people of misery will do that which leads to misery” (52); it shows that Muhammad was the supporter of the predestination concept. However, people who promoted the doctrine of predestination used those words but the hadith reports include also the arguments in favor of the opposite position. It means that the information could be often corrupted.

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Conclusion

In conclusion, the difference between the two sources seems quite clear. The first document “The Risala” includes profound analysis of each sentence of Quran that touches the problem of predestination and free will. Al-Hasan al-Basri reviews both original version of Quran and the version that people created. The latter is actually the changed or interpreted text of Quran. Reading and analysis help to assume that the original version of the Quran does not preclude or forbid the free will but also does not say that God predestinates human life. The second document, however, seems to support the opposite thought. “The Creed” clearly states that nothing will come into human’s life without God’s will for it, which means that God controls everything that happens in people’s lives.

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