Islamic Belief in Destiny (Qadr)

How can Muslims believe in both destiny and free will?

One of the main Articles of Faith in Islam is a belief in destiny, known in Arabic as Al-Qadr.  This tenet has perplexed many, as it seems to contradict the belief that human beings also exercise free will.

Al-Qadr is a belief that everything comes from Allah and is known by Allah. Allah's knowledge is limitless. The Quran says:

"Truly, nothing is hidden from Allah in the earth or in the heavens" (Quran 3:5).

“And with Him are the keys of the unseen, that noone knows but He. He knows whatever there is in the land and in the sea; not a leaf falls, but He knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a Clear Record” (Quran 6:59).

Allah already knows the actions and fate of each person. However, Muslims are not fatalists. We cannot throw in the towel and insist that our actions mean nothing, since "after all" everything is already pre-determined. We have a responsibility to always try our best and make sound choices.

There is an expression among Muslims that we must "tie our camel" - meaning that we can't just let our camel roam about, thinking that "if it were meant to be," it would stay nearby and not get lost or stolen. This expression is based on an incident in which the Prophet Muhammad met a Bedouin man who let his camel roam free because he "puts his trust in Allah." The Prophet advised him to tie his camel, and then trust Allah. We have a responsibility to be thoughtful and make good decisions, using the intellect and common sense that Allah has created us with.

At the same time, when something befalls us that we don't want, or that we don't understand -- we recognize as Muslims that there is a Higher Power involved and our knowledge of the situation is limited.

This belief gives us hope, and helps us to be patient and perseverant during times of difficulty. We cannot get angry that things happen the way they do, since we've tried our best, and in the end it is qadri'Allah, Allah's destiny for us. To become angry or impatient with what happens in life, is to become angry or impatient with Allah - since nothing occurs unless it is Allah's will that it be so.

May Allah protect our hearts from such weakness.

As we make difficult decisions throughout our lives, we may turn to Allah for guidance. The prayer for guidance (salat-l-istikhara) is essentially a question: "What is meant for my life?" In the wording of the prayer, we ask Allah to put our hearts at ease, and guide us to the decision that is best, in recognition of Allah's full knowledge and wisdom.