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Islamic Theology: Full Power (Tafwidh) and Determinism (Jabr), Chap: 6 B


Author: Sheikh Mansour Leghaei

Full Power (Tafwidh) and Determinism (Jabr)


Neither determinism nor free will, rather a matter in between:

Shi’a theologians following the teachings of Ahlul-Bayt (a.s) reject both the dogma of absolute determinism as well as absolute free will. They believe in a matter in between.

 That means man has a free will in the matter of his actions although his free will is by divine decree. Because God is the ultimate and independent cause of all causes it is correct to relate all that exists to God (monotheism in acts). Similarly, because God has granted man free will in his actions, it is also correct to relate the actions of man to his own choice. For instance, God states in the Quran that He is Sustainer of all that is in the earth (11:6) and at the same time holds man responsible for the substance of his family (2:233).


Imam Sadiq (a.s) said:

“Whatever that you could blame man for it, is his action and whatever you could not blame him for it, is the act of God. God blames man for drinking alcohol, committing adultery etc. Thus, these are the acts of man. However, God does not blame man why he is sick or why his skin color is black or fair. Thus, these are the acts of God." [Beharul-Anwaar vol.5 p.58]

The Imam was also asked about the meaning of ‘a matter in between’. His reply was: "The example of it is, if you see a man committing a sin and you advise him to refrain from it, yet he does not pay any heed to your advice. Surely, just because he didn’t listen to you it cannot be said that you forced him to sin." [Ibid, p.83]


Imam Hadi (a.s) quoting from Imam Sadiq (a.s) said: "People with regards to ‘destiny’ are of three categories:

The first is the one who assumes that Allah has given full authority to him. This (person) has weakened God in His kingdom, thus, he is perished.

The second is who assumes that God has forced people to sin and He has hold then responsible over things that they have no power on. This (person) is unfair to God in His judgment, thus he is perished.

The third is the one who assumes God has hold people responsible for what they do and does not hold them responsible for what they have no power on. Then when he does something good, he praises God and when he does something evil, he seeks God’s forgiveness. This (person) is a mature Muslim."


A Muslim should also believe that the decree of God on the matters that are beyond one’s choice is always eventually beneficial for a believer. The Prophet of Islam (P) once so smiled that his blessed molar teeth were shown. The Messenger of God was asked for his smile. He replied:

"I wonder about the affairs of a Muslim that there is no divine decree about him but eventually it will be to his benefits."



Al-Bada’ literally means appear to be different. In Islamic theology it means God sometimes changes His decree due to certain circumstances. God has two types of decrees:

1) Inevitable decree that cannot be changed,

2) Conditional decree that is subject to change if the circumstances and factors change.

Al-Bada is based on two principles:

1) God is Omnipotent and is entitled to change His decree whenever He wills so.

2) The replacement of a divine decree with another is based on divine wisdom and freedom of choice granted to man. For instance, there is a divine decree that all that is on earth must perish. This is an inevitable decree. Similarly, God has a decree that I should die on a certain date and place (unless I keep the bond of relation with one of my relatives, or pay charity). Then it so happens that before the decreed date of death, I visit one of my relatives and hence the decree for my death will be replaced with another one to expand my life. This change of divine decree to another divine decree is called al-Bada’.

God states in the Quran:

"Allah blot out what He wills and confirms (what He wills) and with Him is the Mother of the Book." [13:39]

The usage of the term al-Bada’ for the Almighty Allah must be understood in the same way the terms Makr (plot), Nesyan (forgetfulness) is used for God in the Quran. That means we do not read them literally and with the same meaning we use them for humans.

Further readings :

1. Maxims of Imam al-Hadi in reply to fatalists and indeterminists: Tuhaful-Uqool, p.539

2. Man and destiny: Ayatollah Motahari

3. Prof. N. Swartz http://www.sfu.ca/philosophy/swartz/freewill1.htm

The title of ‘al-Qadari’ is used in the text following the common expression of theologians, whereas in fact none of the two groups accepted the title for themselves. This was due to a Hadith narrated from the Prophet (P): "The Qadaris are the Magus of this nation." In fact the expression of ‘Qadari’ in the Ahadith is more applicable for determinists. For instance, Yazid said to Imam Sajjad (a.s) after the tragedy of Karbala: "How did you see the act of God against your father?!"

Many Prophetic narrations states: "Supplication changes a firm decree." Or "Those who die because of their sins are more than those who die due to their natural death. Similarly, those who live because of their good deeds are more than those who live due to their natural life."

Other Links:

Islamic Theology: Definition and History Chap 1

Islamic Theology:  Towards a meaningful life Chap 2

Islamic Theology: Proofs for the Existence of God-Chap 3 Part A

Islamic Theology: Proofs for the Existence of God-Chap 3 Part B

Islamic Theology: Unity of God; God’s Names and Attributes Chap 4 A

Islamic Theology: Unity of God; God’s Names and Attributes Chap 4 B

Islamic Theology: Justice of God Chap: 5


Author: Sheikh Mansour Leghaei




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