Predestination in the Bible and in the Qur’an

12. Predestination in Qur’an and Bible


We all know what a destination is: it is the place we travel to. The word pre-destination means really that we have no choice in the direction we travel and where we go. Some higher power determines that for us.

Do the Qur’an and the Bible actually teach that we are on a road which we cannot choose and to a destination we do not want? Let us investigate.

When looking at words, we must always try to understand them the way they were originally meant. The Qur’an uses the words “taqdir, qadar, or qasa” which have roughly the same meaning as decree, pre-order or pre-decision. Some ayas (verses) from the Qur’an express this clearly:

Nothing will happen to us except that Allah has decreed for us! (Surah 9:51)

All things we have created under a fixed decree. (Surah 54:49)

Allah created you and what you make. (Surah 37:96)

Some of them there were whom Allah guided and there were others decreed to err. (Surah 16:36)

Note: The last three are translated differently in modern translations but Arabic scholars agree that the above one is more correct.

This is an admonition: whoever will, Get him take a (straight) path to the Lord But ye will not, except, as Allah Wills…. (Surah 76:29)

Adah sendeth whom He will astray, and guideth whom He will, but ye will surely have to account for all your actions. (Surah 16:93)

Many are the jinns and men We have made for hell… (Surah 7:178)

These passages from the Qur’an need no interpretation for they clearly state their case. This is not the only teaching. There were Muslim leaders that taught that man has a freedom of will and choice, and that punishment is the effect of sins committed voluntarily. They too prove their case from the Qur’an:

And whatever affliction befalls you, it is on account of what your hands have wrought.. (Surah 42:30)

However, the tradition of Islam, as laid down in the Hadith, confirms the teaching of predestination. Muhammad expressed this in no uncertain terms:

Allah created Adam when he created him. Then He stroke his right shoulder and took out a white race as if they were seeds, and he stroke his left shoulder and took out a black race, as if they were coats. Then He said to those on his right side: towards paradise and I don’t care. He said to those who were on his left side: Towards Hell and I don’t care. (Mishkat vol.3 p. 117)

There are numerous other portions in both the Qur’an and the Hadith which confirm this teaching. Maybe just one very typical passage illustrates this: Muhammad is reported to have said:

Verify, Allah has fixed the very portion of adultery which a man will indulge in and there would be no escape from it. (Sahih Muslim,Vol 4. Chapter MCVF, verse 6421)

In contrast to these teachings, we have quite a different understanding of the word predestination in the Bible:

The word appears only four times in two passages of the New Testament:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son… And those he predestined, he also called… justified… (and) glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)

In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ…In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:5, 11-12)

We notice two things:

  1. God acts on his foreknowledge, not capriciously.
  2. He does not predestine anyone for hell, but to become like Jesus and live to the praise of God.

The whole context of the Bible clearly states that Man is given choices and freedom to choose. God will never predestine anyone to sin! On the contrary, God predestined those whom He foreknew would choose to live with him, to a very high calling indeed.

In fairness to the topic it must be said, however, that in several passages of the Old Testament we can also read that God does whatever pleases him. In Psalm 115:3 and in Psalm 135:6ff, we read: “He lets the clouds rise… sends lightning with rain ….struck down the first-born of Egypt…sent signs and wonders to Egypt …Struck down many nations.” From biblical history we know that these manifestations of God were in response to evil practices, and not arbitrarily dictated. As always, we will have to weigh the two opposing teachings honestly and earnestly. Both cannot possibly be right. I assume that all people will agree that eternal punishment for actions over which one has no control is unjust.

On this basis we accept the biblical version of predestination.


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