free will and Islam

by way of InstaPundit, is this recycled polemic from The esteemed Reverend Donald Sensing, claiming that Islam has no free will:

Islam teaches that Allah's control over events of the world and human life is total and complete. There is no human free will, there is only rebellion against Allah or submission to Allah. Yet even rebellion is, somehow, under the controlling purview of Allah. Everything that happens, without exception, is the preordained will of Allah.
Bin Laden's sort of self-justifying extremism is not the mainstream of Islam, but neither is it as far removed as we might imagine. Fatalism is a characteristic of Islam. There is no human freedom. Human liberty, especially as Americans think of it, is literally a foreign concept to Islam, especially Arab Islam.

The esteemed Reverend Sensing is repeating stale antimuslim polemic a thousand years old. In actual truth, Islam has as a central principle th freedom of man and the importance of reason. Only with Wahabism has this ancient tradition within Islam been suppressed in favor of centralized theocratic control substituting for thought and rational exegesis. The esteemed Reverend Sensing makes a nod to the same trend in Christianity in the past but now claims that it has died out - presumably because he subconciously filters out the esteemed Reverends Falwell and Robertson.

Curiously, the esteemed Reverend Sensing equates Allah's omniscience with lack of free will by human agents. This is perhaps a reflection of his own religious background - not even the Wahabis believe that human actions are "pre-ordained". This is what, a Puritan belief? Only a child would fail to make the simple distinction between "pre-ordaining the future" and "knowing the future" - Allah's omniscience about what choices we humans make (as free will agents) does not negate the action of choosing. But ultimately we all do make one choice or another, and the outcomes are known.

To take an example, was Hitler pre-ordained to massacre 6 million innocent Jewish women and children, just because our history books say he did so? Would you kill Hitler as a child if you went back in time? The answer "YES" to that question is morally equivalent to what the esteemed Reverend Sensing accuses of Islam. Because if you judge a man for what he has not yet done (based on your knowledge of future history), then you do not truly believe that the man can act differently. This is what "pre-ordained" means.

But Islam says the answer to that question is NO. For example, the case of Ali AS. Ali was murdered by a former follower, Ibne Muljim. Years before his murder at Muljim's hands, Ali AS met with him and told him, "you will murder me.". Ibne Muljim, shocked, begged Ali AS to slay him so that he could never carry out such a deed. Ali AS refused, saying that he had not committed the deed yet. And yet Muljim DID murder Ali AS, despite having been informed of it beforehand!

Islam has a long tradition, spanning across the major madhabs (schools of religious thought), of holding the faculty of reason as the highest aspect of Man. Islam lays upon the believer a moral charge to excercise this faculty - the Prophet SAW himself (in a hadith that is accepted universally by both Shi'a and Sunni) exhorted his followers to seek out knowledge, even if it take them to "China" (metaphor for the far end of the world). And Ayat 2:256 within the Qur'an reminds the believer that there is no compulsion within religion - that choice is fundamental to faith.

UPDATE: Al-Muhabajah supplies a link to an exceedingly detailed essay on free will and Islam, grappling with the issues of predestination and causality in the Islamic context. It's no exaggeration to say that Islam has had centuries of philosophical debate about these issues, driven as always by study of the Qur'an.

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