Did Allah create physical laws

'Allah leads astray whoever He wills, and whoever He wills, He brings him on the straight path' - determinism, freedom and eschatology in Islam


1. Freedom and Determination: Introduction

2. Man, death and the end of the world
2.1. Islamic anthropology
2.2. Eschatology in Islam

3. Freedom and predestination in Islam
3.1. The basics: the Koran and tradition
3.1.1. The Koran
3.1.2. The tradition
3.2. Theological teachings
3.2.1. “There is no freedom!” - Teachings on Determination
3.2.2. “Man is responsible!” - Freedom in Islam
3.2.3. A middle way? The Ash'arites
Excursus: omniscience and freedom

5. Conclusion

6. Literature

1. Freedom and Determination: Introduction

This is the story of a difficult problem, a problem that will preoccupy many generations of men and generations after us. It is about the question of whether man is free in his actions and thoughts; or whether the whole world and thus also humans are determined by external (causal?) causes, as some scholars have not only claimed since the success of Isaac Newton's theory of gravity[1]. In addition to physical determinism, Richard Taylor also names ethical, logical, psychological and theological determinism[2], which I would add a neurobiological one[3]. There are also advocates for freedom. The controversy between determinists and freedom theorists has existed since ancient philosophy and has since fought through the whole of intellectual and natural history. The - Islamic - theological determinism should interest us at this point. How does Islam deal with the question of freedom and predestination? Many usually assume that Islam is characterized by a fatalism.

During the preparation of my lecture on Islamic eschatology, I came across a blatant contradiction: How can a God who is almighty in the truest sense of the word, who guides and governs world events as it occurs, be just? Because the Koran allows Allah to appear as the absolutely powerful and transcendent, who created heaven and earth, and before whom all beings are only dust. In section 2.1 I will show what the relationship between man and God looks like and what man is from an Islamic point of view. In order to make the difficulty of God's righteousness clear to the reader, a small introduction to Islamic eschatology is included in section 2.2. We will see there that Allah judges people on the Last Day according to their beliefs and their deeds. And therein lies the problem: When Allaah judges people according to their good or bad works and thus allows them to go to paradise or hell for all eternity, but at the same time he has predetermined the deeds of people from time immemorial. Is the human being ultimately responsible for his actions at all? Can you be held accountable for something that could not have been done differently because God “forced” you to do something, so to speak? I will then make it clear how the foundations for human freedom and divine determination are given by the Koran and tradition, and how Islamic theology has dealt with this issue (Sections 4.1 and 4.2). At this point it should be anticipated that there were schools that represented a consistent divine determination, as well as doctrinal opinions that pleaded for freedom. There is also a school that takes what has often been referred to as the middle ground - we'll see if that really is the case. Then, in an excursus, the idea of ​​divine omniscience in relation to human freedom is critically questioned.

However, in this work I cannot give a comprehensive presentation of Islamic theology, but only an insight with special attention to the problem presented. Due to the limited space, I have to forego a historical classification.

2. Man, death and the end of the world

2.1 Islamic anthropology

Islam is a religion of strict monotheism. The doctrine of human nature, anthropology, must also be understood from this point of view. In contrast to Christianity, there is no talk of “man and God”, but of “man in front God". According to Peter Antes, anthropology is not a topic of theology, since God's transcendence and inaccessibility are so absolute, every anthropomorphism[4] it is so strictly excluded that Islam makes one forget any thought of human participation in divine uniqueness.[5] Sura 112 "impressively underlines the uniqueness and complete otherness of God."[6] It reads: “Say: He, Allah, is only, Allah the Eternal. He does not create and is not created and there is no being like him ”.

The Koran does not contain a longer passage that could be used as the basis for an Islamic anthropology, and Sura 76 (“Man”) cannot be considered as such.[7] From a few passages in the Koran, however, one can still easily reconstruct an image of man. The essence of man, his nature, can be explained by the fact that he is a creature of Almighty God: “He is thus a being that depends entirely on God, not only in his existence, but also in all areas and expressions of his life. "[8]

God formed man - the first man is Adam in Islam too - out of earth, clay and loam, given him a beautiful and harmonious shape and endowed him with the senses and understanding. Nature is at his service so that he is viable. The essence of man consists of his natural weakness and a lack of determination. He is fickle in belief in his God as his trust in Allah is constantly changing; this makes him unreliable - he turns to his creator in an emergency and immediately forgets him again when he is better. The Koran says in sura 70: 19-20, “Man is created to be faint-hearted. When evil hits him, he is very discouraged. ”Furthermore, he is impatient, ignorant, contentious, and opinionated, and prone to injustice. In addition, the Koran accuses most people of disbelief (Sura 17.89).[9]

A sensitive weakness of man is his ingratitude (Sura 43.15) - this word is related in Arabic to the term for unbelief (“ k-f-r “).[10]

In contrast to Christianity, Islam has no original sin. Adam and Eve's sin is not passed on to future generations. "In this respect," says Antes, "the view of Islam is much more optimistic than that of Christianity."[11] Man is not born sinful, but by forgetting God he sins.[12] Even the devil Iblis, the enemy of man, who in creating man as the only angel refused to prostrate himself before man and

was then violated[13], chases after them again and again and tries to seduce them. The way of salvation consists of following the divine commandments. A mediator

between God and man, like Jesus Christ as Messiah in Christianity, does not exist in Islam. Each person is responsible for his or her actions before God. God's mercy allows repentance to be the atonement for sins committed - as long as they are not too serious.[14] Just disbelief (kufr) and the "addition" (ishrak, i.e. polytheism) are considered unforgivable sins that are atoned for with eternal punishments in hell. Man lives on earth in order to prove himself, the creation is therefore a means to test the creature. Mohammed is said to have said: “The world is a farm, what you sow here, you will reap over there”.[15] Ethical behavior (this also includes adherence to the so-called "Five Pillars of Islam": creed, prayer, poor tax, pilgrimage to Mecca and fasting on Ramadan) protects against a horrific infernal fate after death.[16]

With all these attributes, human psychology is extremely ambivalent. Annemarie Schimmel calls the situation a “dualism of possibilities”, i. H. on the one hand, man is higher in rank than even the angels and rules as the governor of God on earth (khalīfa), on the other hand, he can also become the lowest of the lowly through his greed, anger, envy, etc. "To clear up the mystery of man is impossible [...]", says Schimmel finally.[17]

Finally we have to ask about the soul (nafs) to discuss. There is disagreement among theologians, philosophers and Sufis (Islamic mystics) as they are:

“In Islam, however, there is no dogma of the spirituality of the soul in the sense of Christian dogmatics, whether the human soul (Nafs - Ruh) is a spiritual or physical being is in Muslim theology [and philosophy; C. A.] Rather, it is a matter of dispute, and no Muslim may deny orthodoxy because he professes the spirituality or the physicality of the Nafs. "[18]

According to Hermann Stieglecker, this is a “profound difference” between Christianity and Islam.[19] The philosopher Avicenna (980-1037) taught on the one hand that humans have an immaterial soul that exists independently of the body and therefore continues after death.[20] In contrast to Avicenna, the philosopher believed Mullā Sadrā from the school of Isfahan, on the other hand, that the soul is created together with the body and is thus bound to the physical being (and thus perishes after death). Unlike Avicenna, he did not believe “that the soul was created as its own spiritual substance. Nonetheless, from the very beginning there is a striving directed towards the spiritual. "[21] At this point it is impossible to go into detail on the inner-Islamic discussion about the material or immaterial nature of the soul and thus its constitution or imperfection. Nowadays the question is mostly avoided, but rather in favor of its incorporeality.[22]

In the following section on eschatology, the question of the survival of the soul after death will be discussed further.

2.2 Eschatology in Islam

In each of the three great monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) there are comprehensive teachings of heaven and hell, of the death of man and of the end of time, the Apocalypse or the Last Judgment. In the religion of Muhammad, belief in a final judgment comes first and "is one of the core statements of Muhammad's message".[23] Johann Fück writes that monotheism is not the central idea of ​​the ancient Islamic sermon, but the Last Judgment: "Monotheism does not play a leading role in the oldest suras."[24] At this point, an attempt should be made to answer the questions of what happens to people after their death, such as the ideas of the Last Judgment

at the end of time and from heaven (Arabic ğanna) and hell (Arabic ğahanan) look. It should be said that the Islamic end times are closely related to the Jewish

Christian apocalypse (e.g. Revelating of the Johannes 6,12-14).


[1] For example, the French scholar Marquis de Laplace at the beginning of the 19th century: If one knew the state of the universe completely at a certain point in time, one could predict (calculate) all future states. Since the development of quantum mechanics in the 20th century, however, we have known that Heisenberg's uncertainty principle put an end to this (nightmare) dream; it is an inevitable quality of the world. In the micro range, physical laws do not have a strictly deterministic effect, but a statistical one. (Stephen Hawking [2000], " A brief history of time ", Hamburg, p. 75ff).

[2] Richard Taylor (1967), " Determinism "; in: "The Encyclopedia of Philosophy", New York; London, Volume 1 + 2, p. 359.

[3] See e.g. Wolfgang Singer (2004), "Interconnections fix us: we should stop talking about freedom"; in: Christian Geyer (ed.), “Brain Research and Free Will. For the interpretation of the latest experiments ", Frankfurt / Main, pp. 30-65. Also Gerhard Roth (2001), “Feel, think, act. How the brain controls our behavior ", Frankfurt / Main, pp. 494-535.

[4]Student Dude Philosophy " (2002), Mannheim, p. 29: “The transfer of human characteristics and behavior to non-human objects and beings”. A mundane example would be the animals (fish, turtles, etc.) in the Disney film "Finding Nemo".

[5] Peter Antes (1977), "Man before God in Islam"; in: M. Fitzgerald, A. Th. Khoury, W. Wanzura (eds.), "Man, World, State in Islam", Graz; Vienna; Cologne, pp. 11-30; here p. 12.

[6] Johan Bouman (1977) , “God and man in the Koran. A structural form of religious anthropology based on the example of Allah and Muhammad ", Darmstadt, p. 2.

[7] Antes, " Man before God in Islam ", P. 18.

[8] Entry " human "In A. Th. Khoury, L. Hagemann and P. Heine (eds.) (1991)," Lexicon of Islam “, Freiburg in Briesgau, p. 515 [in the context of the Herder digital library, vol. 47]; i. F. only as " Lexicon of Islam “Quoted!

[9] Ibid., P. 516; also Antes, " Man before God in Islam ", P. 20.

[10] Ibid., P. 19.

[11] Ibid., P. 23; also entry " human " in the " Lexicon of Islam ", P. 517.

[12] Mehdi Aminrazavi (2000), " God, creation and the image of man in Islam "; in: Peter Koslowski, " Concept of God, origin of the world and image of man in the world religions ", Pp. 113-136; here p. 126.

[13] See some Islamic thinkers Iblis therefore as only true monotheists because he did not want to worship any other being besides Allah.

[14] Entry " salvation " in the " Lexicon of Islam ", P. 207.

[15] Aminrazavi, " God, creation and the image of man in Islam ", P. 118.

[16] Hans-Jürg Braun (1996), "The Hereafter. Human ideas about the afterlife ", Zurich et al., P. 294.

[17] Annemarie Schimmel (1995), “The signs of God. The religious world of Islam ", Munich, pp. 224f.

[18] Hermann Stieglecker (1962), "The Doctrines of Islam", Paderborn; Munich; Vienna, p. 657.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ulrich Rudoph (2004), "Islamic Philosophy. From the beginning to the present ", Munich, p. 50.

[21] Ibid., P. 104.

[22] If you are interested see Stieglecker, "Beliefs of Islam", Pp. 657-672.

[23] Entry " Eschatology " in the " Lexicon of Islam "(P. 212). annotation: The reader should not be confused by the different spellings of the Prophet's name!

[24] Johann Fück, (1975), " The originality of the Arab prophet "; in: Rudi Paret, " The Koran “, Darmstadt, pp. 167-182; here: p. 172. Whether this is really the case, I would rather leave it to experienced orientalists at this point. Incidentally, the concept of fear of the final judgment as the main motive for Muhammad's prophecy is controversial; see Braun, "The Hereafter", P. 293f.

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