Are We Judged for what’s Already Destined?
Waleed Ahmed Najmeddine
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-`ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam, is His Messenger
In the Qur’an, it is mentioned that Allah knows what is in the womb of the mother, i.e., whether the child is going to be a boon for society, what will he do in his life, etc. Thus if Allah already knows whether a person is going to go Jannah or Jahannam then why is the Qur’an again mentioning to follow the straight path or taste the hellfire?
As for the question of destiny and free will, it is a common one in Islam. Allah has written His plan and kept it in the “Al-Lawh Al-Mahfouz - Preserved Tablet.” He had this plan before He created anything. Then, humans, like the jinn, were created with a free will. We are free to choose between good and bad, between obedience to Allah and disobedience. This is one of the main distinctions between us and Allah’s angels, who do not possess this ability. They are commanded and they obey Allah without fail; they do not ask why or why not. But Allah knew what would occur in all places and times before He wrote anything. Once His plan was written, fully knowing what would occur in His Creation, our destinies were set.
Our free will, though, is not hindered in Allah’s knowing the future. He knows what we will choose and the results of those choices. Just because He knows what we will do, and even all of the ramifications of those choices, this does not change the fact that the choice was ours alone. According to His divine decree He allows some of what we plan to do to be fulfilled while preventing other plans. This is all in His infinite wisdom and for His own divine reasons.
This is why we will be held accountable for what we have done on the Day of Judgment. We will earn eternal Paradise, through His mercy of forgiving our mistakes, or we will earn eternal Hellfire because of our own selfish choices and refusal to follow guidance. No one will have forced us to choose one path or the other.
Nothing happens in this life except what Allah allows to occur, good or bad. It is not Allah’s fault if evil is allowed to spread on the earth; the fault is ours alone. He has given us everything we need to live peaceful and prosperous lives and the guidance of prophets to keep us on the straight path; however, we often refuse to follow His guidance. The results are that we suffer from negative choices or that we benefit from positive ones.
Having said that, Allah may change what He has written or destined in response to our sincere du'a (supplication), asking Allah for guidance and mercy in this life and on the Day of Judgment.
May Allah guide us on the Straight Path.
[Excerpted with minor modification from Q&A published in Islam Online -- Ask About Islam, 27th Feb 2oo5.]