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wordVision Student

The Nature And Extent Of Free-will In Islam

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Albert Einstein once said:

 

“A person's actions were just as determined as those of a billiard ball, planet, or star… Human actions are determined, beyond their control, by physical and psychological laws … Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star.â€

 

The Islamic view propounded by Said Nursi rejects this deterministic view which implies the absence of free-will. In Nursi's view, it is wrong to see humans as having no free-will, as this would avoid responsibility for actions and render any Divine punishment unjust. Human beings have been given a very limited free-will. Our free-will is limited to making choices, or having a preference. We have no power of our own to actually carry out an action subsequent to making a choice. Once we make the choice, Allah either allows the action to take place, or disallows it. The Power to make things happen belong to Him alone. We can only desire things. But contrary to Einstein's or Spinoza's view, the choices we make are freely made; they are not deterministic.

 

In Nursi's view, the freedom to choose is wholly reconcilable with Divine Predetermining or Qadar. Qadar is a kind of Divine Knowledge, which is omniscient, all encompassing. Not bound by the constraints of time, Allah knows what the future holds. He sees the past, present and future of the universe all at once. But the fact that Allah knows what choices we will make, or even the fact that He enables those choices to be carried out, in no way absolves us of guilt for wrong-doing. This is because the wrong-doing was freely wanted and desired by us.

 

Free-will has numerous purposes and benefits. In essence, it is what makes us human. It is what enables us to be examined and what gives us the potential to rise above the Angels in rank. Moreover, it is a tool or device which simultaneously enables us to reflect and know our Creator's Attributes. In relation to the latter, sensing our limited free-will, we can imagine Allah's infinite free-will.

 

Sad Clown, I'm certain you'll have some thought provoking questions. I'll look forward to them...

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PropellerAds

Thank you for starting this topic. I will do my best to uphold an interesting and beneficial discussion.

 

As best as I can tell, given the limited context, your quote from Einstein exemplifies what I understand to be determinism, which essentially holds to mechanistically determined universe, of which we are a part. Like the pieces of a watch, each parts movements are completely determined, with no variation from the principles of its nature. Because of this, one would be able to perfectly predict each movement of each piece so long as one had a complete description of the elements that composed the system.

 

But knowing this does not tell us yet whether there is freedom in such a system, because we have yet to define freedom, and there are two general views that are in agreement with determinism. The first is hard determinism, which is what I understand your interpretation of Einstein to be. This view understands freedom to be incompatible with determinism, because it understands freedom to mean the ability to act in ways that not determined by the principles that describe the system.

 

The second view is soft determinism, or compatibilism, and as the name suggests, it holds that freedom and determinism are compatible. It achieves this by understanding freedom to be the ability to do what one wills without impediment or compulsion. But because the compatibilist is also a determinist, he would understand that the will is just as much a part of the determined system as anything else. Thus what we will is determined, but this still allows for freedom because our measure of freedom isn't our ability to act outside of the parameters of the system, but merely to act in the way we are inclined to in the system, and that a lack of freedom is forces that drive us away from that inclination (e.g., a robber holding a gun to your head takes your money. You don't want him to take your money, but the compulsion of the threat has moved you to do so anyway).

 

The third view is libertarianism, which agrees with the hard determinist that determinism is incompatible with freedom, but disagrees that we have no freedom. The Libertarian would argue that at least some of our choices are free from the constraints of the system, that we can self-determine these actions, independent of the principles that generally govern the system we are in.

 

This is a rough simplification of the issue, and I state it more for the benefit of others so that the discussion can be framed. In addition to the above, there are also positions such as indeterminism, which holds that the universe is not determinate, but that there are random events that cannot be predicted, no matter how complete one's knowledge of the system is. Actually, this view is likely the more popular one than determinism, but for the discussion does not seem to present us with that much of a problem, because indeterminism is just as difficult to square with freedom as determinism is (is a random act not determined by anything, including myself, free?). In this case, I suppose you would have the same varieties, the hard indeterminist, the compatibilist, and the libertarian (who would still be arguing for a position that is neither determined, nor indetermined, but rather a self determination that defies both).

 

As you can tell from the above description, it is not enough to determine whether or not determinism holds (most science holds that it doesn't except on a statistical level), for without a definition of freedom, we cannot know if it is or is not compatible with determinism (or indeterminism). So, I guess, first off, I would need to ask, what does it mean to be free? Or is it even possible to answer that question in definitive way? What if there is no definitive definition of freedom, and we are able to come up with a number of definitions, depending on how we frame the question?

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We can experience such wills in role playing games, for example all the actions are predetermined.

The only power in games we have been given is to chose and rest actions are already created.

 

What you can see in these games is that all actions are created, either good or evil. The creator of the games knows what will be the outcome of the choices you make.

So that means all actions are predetermined. Then after all can we blame the creator of the game for the choice we make?

 

We are getting there, and may Allah teach us more and guide us to truly understand Him.

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We can experience such wills in role playing games, for example all the actions are predetermined.

By "such wills", what do you mean? I assume you are referring to what I said, but I offered a number of options, and I'm not sure which you mean.

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Salaams,

 

Even if determinism is considered true, it has no real relevance to how we behave. Evolutionary psychologists, who believe that genetics and evolution determine our choices, admit that the human mind is so complex that we may as well behave as if we have free-will. Believing otherwise has no importance. I think the most basic definitions of free-will is to be able to choose between available options. Determism may well claim that prior events dictate this choice, but so what? When the time comes to make the choice, we behave as if we have the the free-will to choose without concerning ourselves with mechanical determinism.

 

Peace

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I think the most basic definitions of free-will is to be able to choose between available options. Determism may well claim that prior events dictate this choice, but so what? When the time comes to make the choice, we behave as if we have the the free-will to choose without concerning ourselves with mechanical determinism.

Well, I agree with you, but I suspect I am inclined towards some type of compatibilism, so this isn't a surprise.

Edited by the sad clown

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Thanks SC for your valliant effort at providing us the Readers Digest version of the philosophical positions, which are otherwise a quagmire!

 

I tend to side with Josh's view, that what really matters is that we behave as though free when making choices. For me, what's relevant is whether I am accountable for my actions. If I can blame someone or something else for my actions, then I can rest easy. But if not, I had better make sure that I make wise choices. For me, this means acting in accordance with Islam.

 

Freedom is an interesting question. I guess the thinkers are right to an extent, when they posit that our freedom is limited. Its clear to me that I have the freedom to choose, but then the choices are limited. As Henry Ford said, in relation to his T-Model Ford, "They can have it any colour they want. As long as its black."

 

This is necessarily so, because I am not the Creator. I am the created. Its not within my capability to create choices, I merely choose. Allah created the universe and the choices. Being All Knowing (Alim), He even knows what choices I will make, ab initio. But I am more than content with all this. Allah has created me, has created my needs, and the means to fulfilling those needs. He clothed me in Existence, when I was nothing. I have no need of any freedom outside of this.

Edited by wordVision Student

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By "such wills", what do you mean? I assume you are referring to what I said, but I offered a number of options, and I'm not sure which you mean.

 

Actually I was reffering to no one, but the response was in regards to that every action is predetermined, for example games. Even the choices are created, but we only have the power to chose.

Now coming into reality, sometime we will be guided by Our Creator to select appropriate option if He so Wills.

But to what extent Our Creator interfere with the choices we make is a mystery today, maybe not tomorrow if He so Wills, and He will teach us of what we do not know today.

 

The only one to blame for the wrong choices we make is ourself.

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I tend to side with Josh's view, that what really matters is that we behave as though free when making choices. For me, what's relevant is whether I am accountable for my actions. If I can blame someone or something else for my actions, then I can rest easy. But if not, I had better make sure that I make wise choices. For me, this means acting in accordance with Islam.

Well, I don't think there is as much to talk about either, since I take a pragmatic, ordinary language approach to the question myself. I thought perhaps you were advocating something else based on the previous thread and then the Einstein quote, but if not, I think we pretty much agree on this topic. Thanks for bringing it up, sorry I couldn't make it more interesting.

Edited by the sad clown

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