A Study of the Hadiths on Qadar (Predestination): Judging Between Fatalism and Free Will

This is a supplement to my essay Reconciling Free Will and Predestination in Islam with al-Māturīdī and Ibn Taymiyya

Qadar (divine predestination) is one of the most controversial issues in Islam. Muslim thinkers are generally divided into two groups on this issue. There are the rationalists and semi-rationalists like the Matūrīdīs, Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya and most mainstream intellectuals who try to make room for human choice and free will and do their best to avoid asserting fatalism. Fatalism is the belief that all of humanity is divided into believers and disbelievers from birth–we have absolutely no choice but to live out the lives that are predestined for us even before we were conceived. According to fatalism, whether your destination is Paradise or Hell is something decided by God before your birth and you have absolutely no choice in the matter.

While most mainstream thinkers try to avoid fatalism, its most ardent defenders are the scholars of hadith, who believe that fatalism is proven through numerous narrations and that doubting it is disbelief. While we can believe in qadar (predestination) with or without fatalism, hadith scholars say we must only believe in the fatalistic interpretation of qadar.

The issue is very important because if humanity was really created in a fatalistic manner, it would make the creation of humanity sound rather useless and pointless. Humans would already be divided into the dwellers of Paradise and Hell from before birth and they would have no choice but to end up there. How could any just, wise and sensible God create such a system? Believing that you might end up in Hell because it is “decreed” for you even if you are a believer now (as some hadiths say) leads to a rather depressing and hopeless worldview and has nothing to do with the worldview of the Quran.

Qadar can be interpreted in two ways: the first way is that God decides everything that befalls you without forcing you to choose between good and evil, so that you can choose between a good or evil destiny even if you have no control over what befalls you in life. This is what orthodox rationalists like the Maturīdīs say. The second way to interpret qadar is to say that it means, besides controlling what befalls you, God also controls your choices. You have no choice in whether you end up in Paradise or Hell–it was decreed for you even before birth. This is what the fatalist hadith scholars believe. Which view of qadar is to be preferred?

So far the argument between the rationalists and the fatalists has failed to progress because neither side engages with the other on the other’s terms. The rationalists use rational and Quranic evidence to argue that fatalism is unjustified and senseless–God must give us some choice in the matter of our destiny. The hadith scholars wholly reject rational arguments and say that since hadith “proves” fatalism, there is no room for rational argumentation. The rationalists have often had little interest in or knowledge of hadith and have merely resorted to stating that the Quran and rational arguments should be given preference.

In this essay I will perform the unique task of engaging with the issue of fatalism and free will using the hadith scholars’ own terms and methods. I decided that this study was necessary because I am working on synthesizing Matūrīdī theology with Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya’s theology in order to reconcile free will and predestination in an orthodox and coherent manner. But the biggest hurdle I have faced in this task are the fatalistic hadith narrations that seem to contradict divine justice and wisdom and that make it impossible to build a satisfactory and complete Islamic theological theory.

As I will show in this essay, despite what hadith scholars believe, the evidence for fatalism is not really that strong. In fact, one major characteristic that becomes clear throughout this study is the unusual level of weakness and doubtfulness associated with most fatalistic narrations, which in itself is a strong argument against fatalism. If fatalism was such a crucial aspect of Islam, why did the Prophet fail to clearly state it enough times for us to get just one single hadith that is corroborated by four or more Companions? In fact, even if lower our standard to requiring only two Companions’ witnessing to a fatalistic hadith coming through two transmitters and so on, we have no hadiths that reach even this level.

Ideally we should have four or more Companions narrate the same hadith (each through four transmitters and so on) in order to prove a point beyond doubt in theology. Singular (aḥād) narrations that come only from one or two Companions do not prove anything beyond doubt when it comes to matters of uṣūl (fundamentals). It is perfectly fine to accept a narration from a single Companion on secondary (furūʿ) matters, such as the Prophetic way to use the miswāk (a type of toothbrush made from an Arabian tree). But when it comes to crucial matters that completely change the nature of our religion, we should require a much higher standard of evidence. Islam requires four witnesses to prove a case of fornication. Shouldn’t we at least require the same standard of evidence on crucial issues of our faith? This is especially necessary when hadiths conflict with the Quran, reason and with other narrations that support the opposing case.

Al-Bayhaqi’s Kitāb al-Qaḍāʾ wa-l-Qadar

I have based this study mainly on Kitāb al-Qaḍāʾ wa-l-Qadar (The Book of Predestination) by the hadith scholar Imam al-Bayhaqī (d. 1066 CE), may God have mercy on him. This book tries to bring together all existing hadith narrations on the issue of qadar and tries to prove fatalism in the strongest terms. I only dealt with hadiths that are authentic or may be considered to have a chance of authenticity, or may be of doubtful authenticity. I have skipped the ones that are judged by most hadith scholars to be fabricated and unauthentic since there is no point in dealing with them.

To find additional evidence for and against fatalism, I have surveyed the entirety of the two volumes of Ṣaḥīḥ Jāmiʿ al-Ṣaghīr wa-Ziyādatuh by Imam Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī (d. 1999, may God have mercy on him). This book attempts to bring together almost all existing authentic Prophetic statements from the hadith literature from dozens of sources. It is a good resource for finding Prophetic information on any chosen topic.

Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī’s Ṣaḥīḥ Jāmiʿ al-Ṣaghīr wa-Ziyādatuh

I did not merely do a keyword search for words having to do with qadar since many Prophetic statements on qadar do not actually mention the word or anything close to it. It was therefore necessary to read the entire book.

Summary

As will be shown below, there is only one wholly authentic narration that comes from multiple Companions that affirms fatalism (that humans are divided into believers and disbelievers before birth and their fate never changes). There are also three other narrations, each coming from a single Companion, that affirm fatalism.

As mentioned, we must require four Companions’ hadiths to prove theological points. However, since the three-Companion hadith is the most significant fatalistic hadith in existence, I will deal it with specifically.

I will mention Anas’s version since all three Companions’ hadiths agree on its meaning:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "At every womb Allah appoints an angel who says, 'O Lord! A drop of semen, O Lord! A clot. O Lord! A little lump of flesh." Then if Allah wishes (to complete) its creation, the angel asks, (O Lord!) Will it be a male or female, a wretched or a blessed, and how much will his provision be? And what will his age be?' So all that is written while the child is still in the mother's womb."

Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 318

This hadith is fatalistic because it implies that wretchedness and blessedness in the afterlife is decided for the person from their mother’s womb. This hadith is actually not very well-attested. Here is a diagram of the narrations coming from Anas:

The hadith only comes through Ḥammād b. Zayd, through ʿUbaydallāh, so we have to trust that these individuals correctly understood and transmitted the hadith. Thus we have no second opinion on Anas having said this. And here is a diagram of the narrations from Ibn Masʿūd:

This hadith too comes only through single individuals; al-Aʿmash, through Zayd b. Wahb. The other attesting chains of Salama b. Kuhayl and Abū Ṭufayl are not fully reliable and can be ignored. The version from the third Companion Ḥudhayfa b. Usayd is as follows (right to left):

It comes only through Abū al-Ṭufayl through various badly-attested chains.

This is the most important fatalistic hadith. In order to accept it, we have to trust that Ibn Masʿūd correctly understood the Prophet , that Zayd b. Wahb correctly understood Ibn Masʿūd, and that al-Aʿmash correctly understood Zayd. The same applies to the other Companions’ hadiths. This is an extremely precarious structure to rely on for something so important, especially something that is not found in the Quran and that appears to contradict its wisdom and plain meaning.

Another reason to doubt it is that we have a non-fatalistic version of the hadith coming from Ḥudhayfa b. Usayd, from an authentic chain except for one individual who is trusted by some and not others (Abū al-Zubayr al-Makkī):

حَدَّثَنِي أَبُو الطَّاهِرِ، أَحْمَدُ بْنُ عَمْرِو بْنِ سَرْحٍ أَخْبَرَنَا ابْنُ وَهْبٍ، أَخْبَرَنِي عَمْرُو، بْنُ الْحَارِثِ عَنْ أَبِي الزُّبَيْرِ الْمَكِّيِّ، أَنَّ عَامِرَ بْنَ وَاثِلَةَ، حَدَّثَهُ أَنَّهُ، سَمِعَ عَبْدَ اللَّهِ بْنَ مَسْعُودٍ، يَقُولُ الشَّقِيُّ مَنْ شَقِيَ فِي بَطْنِ أُمِّهِ وَالسَّعِيدُ مَنْ وُعِظَ بِغَيْرِهِ ‏.‏ فَأَتَى رَجُلاً مِنْ أَصْحَابِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يُقَالُ لَهُ حُذَيْفَةُ بْنُ أَسِيدٍ الْغِفَارِيُّ فَحَدَّثَهُ بِذَلِكَ مِنْ قَوْلِ ابْنِ مَسْعُودٍ فَقَالَ وَكَيْفَ يَشْقَى رَجُلٌ بِغَيْرِ عَمَلٍ فَقَالَ لَهُ الرَّجُلُ أَتَعْجَبُ مِنْ ذَلِكَ فَإِنِّي سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ "‏ إِذَا مَرَّ بِالنُّطْفَةِ ثِنْتَانِ وَأَرْبَعُونَ لَيْلَةً بَعَثَ اللَّهُ إِلَيْهَا مَلَكًا فَصَوَّرَهَا وَخَلَقَ سَمْعَهَا وَبَصَرَهَا وَجِلْدَهَا وَلَحْمَهَا وَعِظَامَهَا ثُمَّ ‏.‏ قَالَ يَا رَبِّ أَذَكَرٌ أَمْ أُنْثَى فَيَقْضِي رَبُّكَ مَا شَاءَ وَيَكْتُبُ الْمَلَكُ ثُمَّ يَقُولُ يَا رَبِّ أَجَلُهُ ‏.‏ فَيَقُولُ رَبُّكَ مَا شَاءَ وَيَكْتُبُ الْمَلَكُ ثُمَّ يَقُولُ يَا رَبِّ رِزْقُهُ ‏.‏ فَيَقْضِي رَبُّكَ مَا شَاءَ وَيَكْتُبُ الْمَلَكُ ثُمَّ يَخْرُجُ الْمَلَكُ بِالصَّحِيفَةِ فِي يَدِهِ فَلاَ يَزِيدُ عَلَى مَا أُمِرَ وَلاَ يَنْقُصُ ‏"‏ ‏.‏

ʿĀmir b. Wāthila said that he heard 'Abdullah b. Mas'ud say that wretched one is the one who is wretched in the womb of his mother and the happy one is he who takes a lesson from the (fate of) others. The narrator came to a person from amongst the Companions of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) who was called Ḥudhayfa b. Usayd al-Ghifārī and said: How can a person be an evil one without (committing an evil) deed? Thereupon the person said to him: You are surprised at this, whereas I have heard Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: When forty-two nights pass after the semen gets into the womb, Allah sends the angel and gives him shape. Then he creates his sense of hearing, sense of sight, his skin, his flesh, his bones, and then says: My Lord, would he be male or female? And your Lord decides as He desires and the angel then puts down that also and then says: My Lord, what about his age? And your Lord decides as He likes it and the angel puts it down. Then he says: My Lord, what about his livelihood? And then the Lord decides as He likes and the angel writes it down, and then the angel gets out with his scroll of destiny in his hand and nothing is added to it and nothing is subtracted from it.

Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2645 a

Notice that above, it is Ibn Masʿūd himself who makes the fatalistic statement. The actual Prophetic hadith narrated by Ḥudhayfa b. Usayd completely lacks all fatalism. It merely says that a person’s death-timing, livelihood and sex is determined in the womb. There is no mention of a person’s deeds or fate in the afterlife being written there.

Ibn Masʿūd himself appears to have been a fatalist. His statement that people are differentiated into Hell-dwellers and Paradise-dwellers from the womb is attested from authentic chains. It seems quite possible that Ibn Masʿūd’s opinion became mixed up with the content of the Prophetic statement so that Ibn Masʿūd’s fatalistic interpretation of it became a part of it in people’s minds. Later people may have “corrected” the hadith by adding the fatalism to it that seemed obvious to them. We can therefore conclude that the hadith in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2645 a is likely to be the original and authentic version.

The fatalistic narrations are countered by an authentic narration that affirms the changeability of qadar, thus wholly contradicting fatalism. There are also a number of other authentic narrations that only make sense if the world is not fatalistic but dynamic and changeable.

What we have, therefore, are a number of authentic narrations and the entirety of the Quran, all of which go against fatalism, and a few other narrations that assert fatalism, the most important of which is not worth relying on in this matter since it is refuted by another version of itself that lacks fatalism. If the fatalistic version had come through four Companions, each of whom said it to four trustworthy people, and so on until it reached us, we would have had no choice but to consider it true. But as it is, it seems justified to prefer the Quran and the non-fatalistic version to it.

The correct and just attitude, therefore, is to acknowledge the inconclusive and contradictory nature of the hadith evidence and to acknowledge that many different interpretations are possible. The hadith scholars’ insistence on fatalism seems unjustified.

Since our sense of justice and wisdom is repulsed by fatalism, and since it demolishes much of the beauty and sense of the Quran’s statements, I think we are justified in taking the below hadith’s advice regarding this issue by doubting fatalism and considering the non-fatalistic interpretation of qadar of scholars like Ibn Taymiyya to be the likely correct one.

Narrated by the Companions Abū Ḥumayd and Abū Usayd:

إِذَا سَمِعْتُمُ الْحَدِيثَ عَنِّي تَعْرِفُهُ قُلُوبُكُمْ ، وَتَلِينُ لَهُ أَشْعَارُكُمْ وَأَبْشَارُكُمْ ، وَتَرَوْنَ أَنَّهُ مِنْكُمْ قَرِيبٌ فَأَنَا أَوْلَاكُمْ بِهِ ، وَإِذَا سَمِعْتُمُ الْحَدِيثَ عَنِّي تُنْكِرُهُ قُلُوبُكُمْ ، وَتَنْفِرُ مِنْهُ أَشْعَارُكُمْ وَأَبْشَارُكُمْ ، وَتَرَوْنَ أَنَّهُ مِنْكُمْ بَعِيدٌ ، فَأَنَا أَبْعَدُكُمْ مِنْه

If you hear hadith from me and your heart knows it, and your feelings and good cheer lean toward it, and you consider it close to you, then I am closer to it than you. And if you hear hadith from me hadith that your hearts do not know, and your feelings and good cheer are repulsed by it, and you consider it distant from you, then I am more distant from it than you.

Musnad Aḥmad 15808, a very similar version is considered hasan by al-Albānī

The above hadith comes from wholly trusted and reliable transmitters.

We are in charge of whether we will be happy or wretched in the afterlife through choosing to accept God’s guidance or rejecting His guidance. As the Quran states, all humans attested to God’s oneness before they were born:

And when Your Lord summoned the descendants of Adam, and made them testify about themselves. “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we testify.” Thus you cannot say on the Day of Resurrection, “We were unaware of this.”

The Quran, verse 7:172

This is the fiṭra (pristine original state of humanity) that all humans are born with, as the following hadith affirms:

Every child is born on the fiṭra but his parents convert him to Judaism, Christianity or Magainism...

Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 1359, a similar version in Ṣaḥīh Muslim 2658 d

All human souls attested to God’s oneness before they were born, and they are born in that state, ready to either become believers or disbelievers as they age. God guides them to Himself through various means throughout life until they become convinced of the truth of His prophets:

We will show them Our signs on the horizons, and in their very souls, until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. Is it not sufficient that your Lord is witness over everything?

The Quran, verse 41:53

Once they reach that conviction, they either choose guidance and God increases them in guidance and rewards them with Paradise, or they constantly choose disbelief and God causes them to be misguided and rewards them with Hell. This is the picture that the Quran and numerous hadiths draw for us and it is preferable to the fatalistic understanding of Islam that implies that people are needlessly thrown into Paradise or Hell without having any say in the matter.

Technical Details

Verification Methodology

I have used most existing books on the criticism of hadith transmitters in judging the trustworthiness of a transmitter. However, I have been more strict in my judgments than is typical of hadith scholars. If 10 scholars consider someone trustworthy but two respected ones consider them weak, then I have gone with the weak judgment. I have also seriously taken into account the statements of scholars that a person is trustworthy but cannot be relied on in legal judgments.

My strictness seems justified because when it comes to such a crucial and fundamental matter, it seems only right to only trust the transmitters with impeccable or nearly-impeccable reputations.

Fatalistic Hadith Narrations

There are so many fatalistic hadiths in this section that, from the face of it, it appears that they prove fatalism. But the section against fatalism later will also be supported by numerous hadiths.

Narrated Abū Hurayra:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Moses argued with Adam and said to him (Adam), 'You are the one who got the people out of Paradise by your sin, and thus made them miserable." Adam replied, 'O Moses! You are the one whom Allah selected for His Message and for His direct talk. Yet you blame me for a thing which Allah had ordained for me before He created me?" Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) further said, "So Adam overcame Moses by this Argument."

Sahih al-Bukhari Vol. 6, Book 60, Hadith 262

This hadith comes from a single Companion. It does not have to be interpreted fatalistically; perhaps Adam was specially destined to make his error. That does not prove the same applies to all human choices. There is a weaker version of this hadith from ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb.

The following narration is from ʿAlī b. Abū Ṭālib:

We were accompanying a funeral procession in Baqi Al-Gharqad (graveyard in Al-Madinah) when the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) proceeded towards us and sat down. We sat around him. He had a small stick in his hand. He was bending down his head and scraping the ground with the stick. He said, "There is none among you but has a place assigned for him either in Paradise or in Hell." The Companions said: "O Messenger of Allah, should we not depend upon what has been written for us (and give up doing good deeds)?'' The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "Carry on doing good deeds. Every one will find it easy to do such deeds (as will lead him to his destined place) for which he has been created."

Al-Bukhari and Muslim, mentioned in Riyad as-Salihin Book 7, Hadith 945

This hadith only comes from ʿAlī. As other narrations will show later, even if someone is destined for Paradise or Hell, that does not mean this destiny cannot change. Therefore even if our place in Paradise or Hell is decided right now, if we choose to be good or evil later on, that place may change. This hadith therefore does not necessarily imply fatalism.

The next hadith is from ʿImrān b. Ḥuṣayn:

Has there been drawn a distinction between the people of Paradise and the denizens of hell? [The Prophet ] said: Yes. It was again said: (If it is so), then what is the use of doing good deeds? Thereupon he said: Everyone is facilitated in what has been created for him.

Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2649 a

This hadith, despite being in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim (a shorter version is also in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 7551) has Yazīd b. Shurayk al-Ẓubbaʿī in all of its chains of transmitters, who was considered weak by Yaḥyā b. Muʿīn according to Ibn ʿUlayya and as being below the degree of authenticity by Abū Aḥmad al-Ḥākim. Below is a diagram of all existing chains of this hadith:

This hadith only comes from one Companion through a precarious chain. We have to take Muʿtarrif b. ʿAbdallah’s word for it that ʿImrān b. Ḥuṣayn really said that, and we have to take Yazīd b. Shurayk al-Ẓubbaʿī’s word for it that Muʿtarrif b. ʿAbdallah said that.

The next one is from Saʿd b. Mālik:

عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ : مَا مِنْ نَفْسٍ إِلَّا وَقَدْ كَتَبَ اللَّهُ مَدْخَلَهَا وَمَخْرَجَهَا وَمَا هِيَ لَاقِيَةٌ ، فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ مِنَ الْأَنْصَارِ : فَفِيمَ الْعَمَلُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ؟ قَالَ : اعْمَلُوا فَكُلٌّ مُيَسَّرٌ ، مَنْ كَانَ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ يُيَسِّرُهُ لِعَمَلِ أَهْلِهَا ، وَمَنْ كَانَ مِنْ أَهْلِ النَّارِ يُيَسِّرُهُ لِعَمَلِ أَهْلِهَا ، قَالَ : فَقَالَ الْأَنْصَارِيُّ : الْآنَ حَقَّ الْعَمَلُ

The Prophet said: "There is not a soul except that God has written for it its entrance and exit and what he will face." So a man from al-Ansar said: "So what is the purpose of deeds O Messenger of God?" He said, "Do [good] deeds for each person is eased [toward their destiny]. Whoever is of the people of Paradise is eased toward the deeds of its people, and whoever is of the people of Hell is eased toward the deeds of its people." So the man from al-Ansar said, "Now deeds have become obligatory [i.e. now the truth of the need to do good deeds has been shown]."

Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 39

This hadith has Aḥmad b. Rusta in its chain, who is unknown.

This hadith is narrated by Surāqa b. Mālik:

قَالَ : فَحُدِّثْنَا عَنْ دِينِنَا هَذَا كَأَنَّا خُلِقْنَا لَهُ السَّاعَةَ نَعْمَلُ لِشَيْءٍ قَدْ جَرَتْ بِهِ الْمَقَادِيرُ وَجَفَّتْ بِهِ الْأَقْلَامُ أَمْ لِشَيْءٍ يُسْتَقْبَلُ ؟ قَالَ : بَلْ لِشَيْءٍ قَدْ جَرَتْ بِهِ الْمَقَادِيرُ ، وَجَفَّتْ بِهِ الْأَقْلَامُ ، قَالَ : فَفِيمَ الْعَمَلُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ؟ قَالَ : اعْمَلُوا فَكُلٌّ مُيَسَّرٌ لِمَا خُلِقَ ، قَالَ : ثُمَّ قَرَأَ الْآيَةَ { فَأَمَّا مَنْ أَعْطَى وَاتَّقَى وَصَدَّقَ بِالْحُسْنَى } إِلَى آخِرِ الْآيَةِ

We were told about this religion of ours as if had been created for it this hour. "Do we work for something whose measures/predestination has come to be and from which the pens have dried, or do we [work for] something to be looked forward to [in the future]?" [the Prophet ] said, "No, rather for something that whose measure/predestination has come to be and from which the pens have dried." He said, "So what are deeds for?" He said, "Do good deeds, because everyone is eased toward that which he has been created for." Then he recited the verse, "As for him who gives, fears God and affirms the truth of the good..." to the end of the verse.

Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 40

This hadith has Abū al-Zubayr Muḥammad b. Muslim in its chain, who is considered a non-hujja by Abū Ḥatim al-Rāzī, meaning his hadiths are not reliable enough to be used as proof-texts in legal debates. Sufyān b. ʿUyayna also appears to consider him weak.

Al-Bayhaqī in al-Qadar 390 mentions a similar narration that has ʿAṭṭāf b. Khālid in its chain who is considered weak by al-Dāraquṭnī. It also has an unknown person in its chain called Ṭalḥa b. ʿAbdallah b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān. It also has Muḥammad b. Aḥmad b. Saʿīd al-Rāzī who is unknown and considered weak by al-Dāraquṭnī.

Next is the following strange hadith from ʿAbdallah b. ʿAmr:

The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) came out to us with two books in hand. And he said: "Do you know what these two books are?" We said: "No, O Messenger of Allah! Unless you inform us." He said about the one that was in his right hand: "This is a book from the Lord of the worlds, in it are the names of the people of Paradise, and the name of their fathers and their tribes. Then there is a summary at the end of them, there being no addition to them nor deduction from them forever." Then he said about the one that was in his left: "This is a book from the Lord of the worlds, in it are the names of the people of Fire, and the name of their fathers and their tribes. Then there is a summary at the end of them, there being no addition to them nor deduction from them forever.' The companions said: 'So why work O Messenger of Allah! Since the matter is already decided (and over)?' He said: 'Seek to do what is right and draw nearer, for indeed the inhabitant of Paradise, shall have his work sealed off with the deeds of the people of Paradise, whichever deeds he did. And indeed the inhabitant of Fire, shall have his work sealed off with the deeds of the people of Fire, whichever deeds he did.' Then the Messenger of Allah motioned with his hands, casting them down and said: 'Your Lord finished with the slaves, a group in Paradise, and a group in the Blazing Fire."

Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 41, Al-Tirmidhī Vol. 4, Book 6, Hadith 2141

This hadith has Abū Qābil Ḥuyay b. Hāniʾ in its chain who is considered weak by multiple scholars. Another version comes from Saʿīd b. Sinān who is also weak.

Below is a second hadith from ʿAbdallah b. ʿAmr:

 قَالَ : دَخَلْتُ عَلَى عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَمْرِو بْنِ الْعَاصِ وَهُوَ فِي حَائِطٍ لَهُ بِالطَّائِفِ فَذَكَرَ حَدِيثًا طَوِيلًا . قَالَ : وَسَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ : إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ خَلَقَ خَلْقَهُ فِي ظُلْمَةٍ ، ثُمَّ أَلْقَى عَلَيْهِمْ مِنْ نُورِهِ ، فَمَنْ أَصَابَهُ مِنْ ذَلِكَ النُّورِ يَوْمَئِذٍ شَيْءٌ اهْتَدَى ، وَمَنْ أَخْطَأَهُ ضَلَّ ، فَلِذَلِكَ أَقُولُ : جَفَّ الْقَلَمُ عَلَى عِلْمِ اللَّهِ

I entered upon ʿAbdallah b. ʿAmr b. al-ʿĀṣ while he was in a garden of his in al-Ṭāʾif, so he mentioned a long hadith. He said, "And I heard the Prophet say, 'God, Mighty and High is He, created His creation in darkness. Then He threw on them from His light. So whoever was struck by any of that light then he is guided. And whoever it missed became misguided. So that is why I said, 'The pen has dried upon God's knowledge.'"

Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 43

This hadith comes entirely from trustworthy transmitters, but it comes only from one Companion, through a single transmitter ʿAbdullah b. Fayrūz al-Daylamī. In another hadith from the same transmitter as above, this same Companion denies that he has said a person is either wretched or blessed from his mother’s womb:

قُلْتُ لِعَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو إِنَّهُ بَلَغَنِي أَنَّكَ تُحَدِّثُ أَنَّ الشَّقِيَّ مَنْ شَقِيَ فِي بَطْنِ أُمِّهِ ، فَقَالَ : أَمَا إِنِّي لَا أُحِلُّ لِأَحَدٍ أَنْ يَكْذِبَ عَلَيَّ ، إِنِّي سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَقُولُ : إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ خَلَقَ خَلْقَهُ فِي ظُلْمَةٍ ثُمَّ أَلْقَى عَلَيْهِمْ نُورًا مِنْ نُورِهِ ، فَمَنْ أَصَابَهُ شَيْءٌ مِنْ ذَلِكَ النُّورِ اهْتَدَى ، وَمَنْ أَخْطَأَهُ ضَلَّ

I said to ʿAbdallah b. ʿAmr that I have heard you say that a person is wretched who is wretched from his mothers womb. He said, "I do not allow anyone to make up lies in my name. I heard the Prophet said, 'God, Mighty and High is He, created His creation in darkness. Then He threw on them from His light. So whoever was struck by any of that light then he is guided. And whoever it missed became misguided.'"

Musnad al-Ṭayālisī 2394

It appears that ʿAbdallah b. ʿAmr is only denying having said that without denying its meaning, since what he says above is still fatalistic. Since both fatalistic hadiths come only from one Companion, only through ʿAbdullah b. Fayrūz al-Daylamī, they are not strong enough to be used as conclusive proofs.

Next is a hadith that comes from many Companions:

On the day He created Adam, God grabbed his offspring in two handfuls. All good ones fell into His right hand and all evil ones into His other hand. He then said, "Those who are the companions of the right and I do not care. They will enter Paradise. And those are the companions of the Hellfire."

However, none of the versions are actually very authentic:

  • The version from the Companion Abū Mūsa al-Ashʿarī has Yazīd al-Raqāshī in its chain of transmitter who is a weak transmitter. (Al-Ṭabarāni, al-Muʿjam al-Awṣat 11431)
  • The version from the Companion Abū al-Dardāʾ has Abū al-Rabīʿ Sulaymān b. ʿUtba who was considered weak by Yaḥya b. Muʿīn. (Musnad Aḥmad 26870)
  • The version from the Companion Muʿādh b. Jabal has the weak transmitter Barāʾ al-Ghanawī. (Musnad Aḥmad 21597)
  • The version from ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Qatāda al-Sulamī has Rāshid b. Saʿd who was considered weak by Ibn Ḥazm. (Ṣaḥīh Ibn Ḥibbān 339)
  • The versions from Anas has al-Ḥakam b. Sinān who is a weak narrator. (Musnad Abī Yaʿlā 3359, 3328)
  • The version from Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq has Fiṭr b. Khalīfa who was considered weak by Abū Dawūd and al-Juzjāni. (Al-Jāmiʿ li-Muʿammar b. Rāshid 701; al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar 391)
  • The version from ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb has Muslim b. Yasār in it, who is unknown.
  • The version from Hishām b. al-Ḥakīm was transmitted by Rāshid b. Saʿd, who was considered weak by Ibn Ḥazm. It also has ʿAbdallāh b. Ṣāliḥ who was severely criticized and considered untrustworthy by many scholars (Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 226). Another version of it comes through Baqīya b. al-Walīd who was considered a performer of tadl$is from weak narrators (he heard something from a weak narrator then said he heard it from a trustworthy person). Al-Bayhaqī himself says he is not a ḥujja (his hadiths are not strong enough to be used as proof-texts in legal debates). (Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 227) Another version of it comes through Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm b. al-ʿUlāʾ who was considered unreliable by al-Nasāʾī and Abū Dawūd.

The next hadith is from ʿĀʾisha:

ʿĀʾisha, the mother of the believers, said that Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) was called to lead the funeral prayer of a child of the Ansar. I said:
Allah's Messenger, there is happiness for this child who is a bird from the birds of Paradise for it committed no sin nor has he reached the age when one can commit sin. He said: ʿĀʾisha, per perhaps it may be otherwise, because God created for Paradise those who are fit for it while they were yet in their father's loins and created for Hell those who are to go to Hell. He created them for Hell while they were yet in their father's loins.

Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2662 c

This hadith only comes to us through Ṭalḥa b. Yaḥyā, who is described by al-Bukhārī as munkar al-ḥadīth, meaning he narrates unique narrations that contain information not corroborated by any other hadiths, which is a cause for doubting his authenticity. Al-Qaṭṭān and al-Sājī described him as laysa bi-l-qawī (“not strong”), meaning that his hadiths are not of the highest quality (i.e. not saḥīḥ).

Next is a hadith that seems to completely contradict divine wisdom and justice:

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : هَؤُلَاءِ لِلْجَنَّةِ وَلَا أُبَالِي ، وَهَؤُلَاءِ لِلنَّارِ وَلَاأُبَالِي

The Prophet said, "[God said], 'Those are for Paradise and I do not care. And those are for the Fire and I do not care.'"

Al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar, 54

This hadith has various versions and mentions that right after the creation of Adam, all of his offspring were brought forth and God divided them into the dwellers of Paradise and Hell before they were even born. The one above is transmitted by Naṣr b. Aḥmad b. Abī Ṣura al-Marwazī who is unknown and therefore cannot be relied on.

  • There is another version from Abū al-Dardāʾ’ (Musnad Aḥmad 26870) which has Abū al-Rabīʿ Sulaymān b. ʿUtba in its chain who was unknown and considered unreliable by Yaḥyā b. Muʿīn.
  • Another version mentioned a Companion named Abū ʿAbdallāh (Musnad Aḥmad 17250) which contains Abū Naḍra Mundhir b. Mālik who is known to have become unreliable in his memory in his old age. The hadith is strange in that it does not mention who heard the Prophet say his statement to Abū ʿAbdallāh, as if there is an anonymous hearer involved, which suggests that Abū Naḍra heard it from some anonymous source.
  • Another version from Muʿādh b. Jabal has the weak transmitter Barāʾ b. ʿAbdallāh al-Ghanawī (Musnad Aḥmad 21597).
  • The version from ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Qatāda al-Sulāmī has Muʿawiya b. Ṣaliḥ, who was considered not reliable enough for his narrations to be used as proof-texts by Abū Ḥatim al-Rāzī while Qaṭṭān and Yaḥyā b. Muʿīn considered his narrations unacceptable. It also has Rashīd b. Saʿd who was considered unreliable by Ibn Ḥazm.
  • The version from Abū Musā al-Ashʿarī has Yazīd b. Abān al-Raqāshī, who was considered matrūk (so unreliable that his hadiths should be abandoned) by al-Nasāʾī and Abū Aḥmad al-Ḥākim al-Kabīr (al-Ṭabarānī, al-Muʿjam al-Awsaṭ 11431)
  • The version from Anas has al-Ḥakam b. Sinān who is a weak transmitter. (Musnad Abū Yaʿlā al-Mawṣlī, 3359)
  • The version from Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq has Fiṭr b. Khalīfa who was considered weak by Abū Dawūd and Abū Saʿīd b. Yūnus al-Miṣrī. (Muʿammar b. al-Rāshid, al-Jāmiʿ 701)

Another version simply says:

Those are for that and those are for that. Then the people divided into groups, but they do not differ in predestination (qadar).

Al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar, 53

This version has Muḥammad b. ʿAbdallāh b. al-Zubayr who is known to make errors in his transmissions from Sufyān al-Thawrī, and this hadith happens to be a transmission from Sufyān al-Thawrī.

We also have this extremely fatalistic hadith from Ibn Masʿūd, dealt with in the summary above:

ʿAbdallāh b. Masʿūd said :
The Messenger of Allah (May ) who spoke the truth and whose word was belief told us the following : The constituents of one of you are collected for forty days in his mother’s womb, then they become a piece of congealed blood for a similar period, then they become a lump of flesh for a similar period. Then Allah sends to him an angel with four words who records his provision the period of his life, his deeds, and whether he will be miserable or blessed ; thereafter he breathes the spirit into him. One of you will do the deeds of those who go to Paradise so that there will be only a cubit between him and it or will be within a cubit, then what is decreed will overcome him so that he will do the deeds of those who go to Hell and will enter it; and one of you will do the deeds of those who go to hell, so that there will be only a cubit between him and it or will be within a cubit, then what is decreed will overcome him, so that he will do the deeds of those who go to Paradise and will enter it.

Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2645 a, a version is also in al-Bukhārī 7056

Its chain is fully authentic. A shorter version version of it comes from Anas:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "At every womb Allah appoints an angel who says, 'O Lord! A drop of semen, O Lord! A clot. O Lord! A little lump of flesh." Then if Allah wishes (to complete) its creation, the angel asks, (O Lord!) Will it be a male or female, a wretched or a blessed, and how much will his provision be? And what will his age be?' So all that is written while the child is still in the mother's womb."

Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 318

The chain of this one is also fully authentic.

There is another version from Hudhayfa b. Usayd (al-Albāni, Ṣaḥīh al-Jāmiʿ al-Ṣaghīr wa-Ziyādatuhu 797) that lacks any mention of wretchedness or blessedness, and lacks mention of God determining his actions beforehand. Another version from Hudhayfa b. Usayd (al-Albāni, Ṣaḥīh al-Jāmiʿ al-Ṣaghīr wa-Ziyādatuhu 1984) says at the end “Then God makes him (yajʿaluhu) wretched or blessed”, which leaves room for interpreting it as a reference to divine guidance throughout a person’s life. Another version of his is as fatalistic as Ibn Mas’ud’s:

Hudhayfa b. Usayd reported directly from Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) that he said:

When the drop of (semen) remains in the womb for forty or fifty (days) or forty nights, the angel comes and says: My Lord, will he be good or evil? And both these things would be written. Then the angel says: My Lord, would he be male or female? And both these things are written. And his deeds and actions, his death, his livelihood; these are also recorded. Then his document of destiny is rolled and there is no addition to nor subtraction from it.

Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2644

Hudhayfa b. Usayd’s non-fatalistic version could have been the original statement of the Prophet that was later enlarged by adding the fatalistic meanings. But I admit that this is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the fatalistic argument.

Another fatalistic hadith from Abū al-Dardāʾ says:

فَرَغَ اللَّهُ إِلَى كُلِّ عَبْدٍ مِنْ خَمْسٍ ، مِنْ أَجَلِهِ وَمِنْ عَمَلِهِ وَرِزْقِهِ وَأَثَرِهِ وَمَضْجَعِهِ ، لَا يَتَعَدَّاهُنَّ عَبْدٌ

God has finished [dealing with five things in regards to His servant]: the timing of his death, his work, his provision, his footprint and his place of death. He will never be able to transgress these.

Al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar, 64

This hadith is authentic but only comes from one Companion, through one transmitter.

Another hadith from Ubayy b. Kaʿb says:

إِنَّ الْغُلَامَ الَّذِي قَتَلَهُ الْخَضِرُ طُبِعَ كَافِرًا ، وَلَوْ عَاشَ لَأَرْهَقَ أَبَوَيْهِ طُغْيَانًا وَكُفْرًا

The boy who was killed by Khidr had been sealed with disbelief. If he had lived he would have overwhelmed his parents to with oppression and disbelief.

Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2662 a

This hadith comes only from one Companion. It can be given a non-fatalistic interpretation: the boy may have been a few years past puberty (when a person becomes responsible for their deeds) and may have already committed so many evil deeds that his heart had been sealed by God. The Quranic verse, however, suggests that his death was based on a probabilistic judgment of his future evil nature, because it says “we feared”, rather than “we knew”, that he would overwhelm them with oppression and disbelief.

As for the boy, his parents were believers, and we feared he would overwhelm them with oppression and disbelief.

The Quran, verse 18:80

Another version from the same Companion takes away all fatalism:

وَكَانَ يَوْمَ طُبِعَ كَافِرًا

That day he was sealed with disbelief.

Sunan Abi Dawud 4706

Rather than saying he was sealed with disbelief from birth, it says he was sealed with disbelief on that day. This hadith comes from an authentic chain (authenticated by al-Albānī), but it has Isrāʾīl b. Yūnus who was widely considered authentic but considered unauthentic by Ibn Ḥazm and ʿAlī b. al-Madīnī.

Another fatalistic hadith from Ibn ʿAbbās says:

خَلَقَ اللَّهُ فِرْعَوْنَ فِي بَطْنِ أُمِّهِ كَافِرًا ، وَخَلَقَ يَحْيَى بْنَ زَكَرِيَّا فِي بَطْنِ أُمِّهِ مُؤْمِنًا

God created Pharaoh in his mother's womb as a disbeliever, and He created John son of Zechariah in his mother's womb as a believer.

Al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar 69

This hadith has Yāhya b. Baṣtam in its chain who was considered unreliable by al-Bukhārī and Ibn Ḥibbān. Another version of it comes through Ayyūb b. Khawṭ in it who is also weak (al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 69). Another version of it comes from Ibn Masʿūd but comes through Naṣr b. Ṭarīf who is weak (al-Bayhaqī,, al-Qadar 70). Another version from Ibn Masʿūd has the weak narrator Abū Umayya b. al-Hābaṭī (al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 71). Another version has ʿUmar b. Ibrāhīm who is not perfectly authentic, it also has Shādh b. Fayyāḍ who is known to transmit munkar (unusual and doubtful) narrations through this type of chain. Another version also has ʿUmar b. Ibrāhīm and his son al-Khalīl b. ʿUmar b. Ibrāhīm whose hadiths from his father are also considered munkar. Another version of this hadith (al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 72) from Ibn Masʿūd comes through Abū Hilāl Muḥammad b. Sulaym al-Rāsī who is considered weak by Daraquṭnī and al-Qaṭṭān.

Another fatalistic hadith from Ibn Masʿūd starts with:

 الْعَبْدُ يُولَدُ مُؤْمِنًا وَيَعِيشُ مُؤْمِنًا وَيَمُوتُ مُؤْمِنًا ، وَالْعَبْدُ يُولَدُ كَافِرًا وَيَعِيشُ كَافِرًا وَيَمُوتُ كَافِرًا...

The servant is born a believer, lives as a believer and dies a believer, and the servant is born a disbeliever, lives as a disbeliever, and dies a disbeliever.

Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 71

This hadith also comes from Shādh b. Fayyāḍ through ʿUmar b. Ibrāhīm, both of whom are of doubtful reliability.

Another fatalistic hadith from Abū Hurayra says:

The happy [in the afterlife] is the one who is happy from his mother's womb.

Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 74

This hadith is authentic. But this statement only comes only from the two Companions Ibn Masʿūd and Abū Hurayra through questionable chains. Most hadiths attribute the saying to Ibn Masʿūd himself rather than the Prophet . The version from Abū Hurayra comes from a rather precarious chain:

This hadith only comes through the fourth transmitter above, making it rather doubtful. The version from Ibn Masʿūd is even worse (Ibn Māja 45). Its chain has Abū al-Aḥwaṣ ʿAwf b. Mālik who was a mudallis. The chain also has Abū Isḥāq ʿAmr b. ʿAbdallāh, another mudallis whose memory weakened in old age. It also has a third mudallis Musā b. ʿUqba. It also has the unknown transmitter ʿUbayd b. Maymūn. Both versions are therefore quite unworthy of relying on.

Another hadith from ʿĀʾisha says:

إِنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَيَعْمَلُ بِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ وَإِنَّهُ لَمَكْتُوبٌ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِنَّهُ مِنْ أَهْلِ النَّارِ ، فَإِذَا كَانَ قَبْلَ مَوْتِهِ تَحَوَّلَ فَيَعْمَلُ بِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ النَّارِ فَمَاتَ ، فَدَخَلَ النَّارَ ، وَإِنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَيَعْمَلُ بِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ النَّارِ وَإِنَّهُ لَمَكْتُوبٌ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِنَّهُ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ ، فَإِذَا كَانَ قَبْلَ مَوْتِهِ تَحَوَّلَ فَيَعْمَلُ بِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ ، فَدَخَلَ الْجَنَّةَ

A person performs the deeds of a person of Paradise while he is written in the Book as a person of Hell. Before his death he reverts and performs the deeds of the people of Hell, so when he dies he enters Hell. [And vice versa]

Al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar 80

This hadith only comes through the little-known narrator Ashʿath b. Hilāl al-Jurjānī and for this reason it is doubtful. Another version of it comes from the weak narrator ʿUbaydallāh b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Mawhib (al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 79).

The next hadith is from the Companion al-ʿUrs b. ʿUmayra:

سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَقُولُ : إِنَّ الْعَبْدَ مِنْ عِبَادِ اللَّهِ لَيَعْمَلُ بِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ الْبُرْهَةَ مِنْ دَهْرِهِ ، فَتُعْرَضُ لَهُ الْجَادَّةُ مِنْ جَوَادِّ النَّارِ ، فَيَعْمَلُ بِهَا حَتَّى يَمُوتَ عَلَيْهَا وَذَلِكَ مَا كُتِبَ لَهُ . وَإِنَّ الْعَبْدَ مِنْ عِبَادِ اللَّهِ لَيَعْمَلُ بِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ النَّارِ الْبُرْهَةَ مِنْ دَهْرِهِ ، فَتُعْرَضُ لَهُ الْجَادَّةُ مِنْ جَوَادِّ الْجَنَّةِ ، فَيَعْمَلُ بِهَا حَتَّى يَمُوتَ عَلَيْهَا وَذَلِكَ لِمَا كُتِبَ لَهُ

I heard the Messenger of God say, "The servant among the servants of God performs the deeds of the people of Paradise for a period of his lifetime. Then a road of the roads of Hell are presented to him so that he performs acts according to it and dies in that state, and that is because of what has been decreed for him [by God]. [And vice versa]

Al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar 82

This hadith’s chain has Yūsuf b. Yazīd who is considered to have had a weak memory, to make numerous errors and to have little knowledge of hadith. It also has Saʿīd b. Kathīr b. ʿUfayr who confused and mixed up narrations according to ʿAlī b. al-Madīnī. It also has the little-known transmitter Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Ḥakam b. Yazīd al-Ramlī.

The next hadith is from ʿAbdallāh b. ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb:

جَاءَ أَهْلُ نَجْرَانَ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالُوا : الْآجَالُ وَالْأَرْزَاقُ تُقَدَّرُ ، وَالْأَعْمَالُ إِلَيْنَا . فَأَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى : { إِنَّ الْمُجْرِمِينَ فِي ضَلَالٍ وَسُعُرٍ } إِلَى قَوْلِهِ : { كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَاهُ بِقَدَرٍ }إِلَى قَوْلِهِ : { وَكُلُّ صَغِيرٍ وَكَبِيرٍ مُسْتَطَرٌ }

The people of Najran came to the Prophet and said, "The death-timings and the provisions are decreed, but deeds are ours." So God sent down: "The wicked are in confusion and madness." to His saying, "Everything we created with a qadar." to His saying, "And everything, small or great, is written."

Al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar 113

This hadith comes through al-Hudhayl b. Bilāl al-Madāʾinī, who was considered weak by Yaḥyā b. Muʿīn, Abū Dawūd, al-Nasāʾī and al-Daraquṭnī.

لَمَّا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ عَلَى رَسُولِهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : { لِمَنْ شَاءَ مِنْكُمْ أَنْ يَسْتَقِيمَ } قَالُوا : الْأَمْرُ إِلَيْنَا إِنْ شِئْنَا اسْتَقَمْنَا ، وَإِنْ شِئْنَا لَمْ نَسْتَقِمْ . فَأَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ : { وَمَا تَشَاءُونَ إِلَّا أَنْ يَشَاءَ اللَّهُ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ }

When God, Mighty and He is He, sent down upon His messenger : "For whoever among you who wishes to be upright", they said, "The matter is [in our hands]. If we wish we will be upright, and if we wish we will not be upright." So God sent down, "You do not will [a thing] except that God, the Lord of the Worlds, wills it."

Al-Bayhaqi, al-Qadar 116

This hadith comes from the transmitter Mālik b. Sulaymān who is considered weak by Abū Dawūd, al-Nasāʾī and al-Daraquṭnī. It also has an incomplete (mursal) chain of narrators since the first transmitter does not mention which Companion he heard it from. The chain also has Baqqiya b. al-Walīd, who is known to perform tadlīs from untrustworthy transmitters (he says he heard something from a trusted person but actually heard an untrustworthy person say that he heard it from a trustworthy person). The chain also has Muhammad b. Muṣaffā who is another performer of tadlīs and who is known to err often.

Narration 128 in al-Bayhaqī’s al-Qadar mentions the angels Gabriel, Michael and Isrāfīl arguing on the issue of qadar leading to a fatalistic conclusion. The hadith is unreliable: it has the transmitter Jaʿfar b. Muḥammad who was considered unreliable by Sufyan b. ʿUyayna and al-Wāqidī. The chain also has Abū Muslim Muḥammad b. al-Zubayr who was mentioned by Sufyan b. ʿUyayna and al-Sakhtiyānī as if they considered him unreliable.

Al-Bayhaqī in hadiths 134, 135 and 139 in his al-Qadar presents authentic narrations all of which say that belief in qadar, “its good and its bad”, is obligatory on a Muslim. The hadiths do not have a fatalistic meaning.

In hadith 149, al-Bayhaqī mentions a long fatalistic hadith that mentions the respected Successor Saʿīd b. al-Musayyab getting angry when someone says humans have free will to do good or evil. He narrates a Prophetic statement that says humans are created either for Paradise or Hell [from birth]. This hadith comes through the unknown transmitter ʿAṭīya b. ʿAṭīya and al-Dhahabī says it is a fabricated hadith.

In al-Qadar 306, al-Bayhaqī mentions a shorter version of this hadith from a different chain. The chain has ʿAmr b. Shuʿayb who is considered to be below the degree of authenticity by Abū Ḥātim al-Rāzī. The hadith also has ʿAbdallah b. Lahīʿa who is widely considered weak.

In al-Qadar 309, al-Bayhaqī mentions a narration from ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb in which he implies that God creates people for Paradise or Hell from birth. Its chain has Khālid b. al-Ḥadhdhāʾ who is considered not reliable enough for his hadiths to be used as proof-texts by Abū Ḥātim al-Rāzī. The chain also has Abū Bakr b. Isḥāq al-Faqīh who is unknown and whose hadiths are munkar (unique and doubtful) according to al-Bukhārī.

The hadith below appears to be fatalistic, but it actually can be used to argue against fatalism:

Narrated Abū Hurayra:

I said, "O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)! I am a young man and I am afraid that I may commit illegal sexual intercourse and I cannot afford to marry." He kept silent, and then repeated my question once again, but he kept silent. I said the same (for the third time) and he remained silent. Then repeated my question (for the fourth time), and only then the Prophet said, "O Abu Hurayra! The pen has dried after writing what you are going to confront. So (it does not matter whether you) get yourself castrated or not."

Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 5076

The Prophet says that what Abū Hurayra is going to face in life is already written. Yet he admits that Abū Hurayra has a choice in whether he castrates himself or not. This could actually be an affirmation of his free will. This hadith comes through Yūnus b. Yazīd who erred often in his narrations from al-Zuhrī (this one is such a narration) according to Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal. Another in the chain, ʿAbdallāh b. Wahb, was known to be a performer of tadlīs. This evidence is not sufficient to consider the hadith weak, but its chain is low-quality.

Next is a hadith from Ibn ʿAbbās:

I did not see anything so resembling minor sins as what Abū Hurayra said from the Prophet, who said, "Allah has written for the son of Adam his inevitable share of adultery whether he is aware of it or not: The adultery of the eye is the looking (at something which is sinful to look at), and the adultery of the tongue is to utter (what it is unlawful to utter), and the innerself wishes and longs for (adultery) and the private parts turn that into reality or refrain from submitting to the temptation."

Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6612

This hadith is authentic, but it only comes from Abū Hurayra through a precarious chain:

A version comes directly from Abū Hurayra (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2658 a) but through Suhayl b. Abū Ṣāliḥ who was considered weak by al-Dāraquṭnī.

Narrated Ibn ʿUmar:

The Prophet (ﷺ) forbade vowing and said, "In fact, vowing does not prevent anything, but it makes a miser spend his property."

Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6608

Another version of it comes from Abū Hurayra and explicitly mentions qadar:

Do not take vows, for a vow has no effect against qadar; it is only from the miserly that something is extracted.

Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1640 a

Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī also has a hadith with the same meaning from Abū Hurayra (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6609) with a stronger chain. The authenticity of both hadiths seems established. But since no other Companions mention it, it falls short of the gold-standard of four Companions. And since vowing was very common in Arabia, it is strange that there are not any more hadiths where the Prophet forbids vowing.

However, assuming it is authentic, we can still give it a non-fatalistic interpretation. If we assume the possibility of change in qadar (as the Prophet affirms in other narrations), the Prophet is saying we cannot counter God’s qadar with vows. This does not mean that it does not have an influence on what God decrees. It is also likely that the Prophet was not laying down a theological idea but trying to discourage people from a practice he disliked. The Prophet is saying we cannot force God to do anything through vows (perhaps people assumed vows were binding on God). The Prophet is not necessarily stating that vows cannot have an influence on qadar if and when God chooses.

The next hadith (al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar, 230) is authentic and from Ibn ʿAbbās. He says the Prophet said nothing will befall him except that which God has written for him, and that “the scrolls have dried and the pens have been lifted.” This hadith sounds fatalistic, but since it only mentions what befalls a person (rather than what they will do in life), it cannot be used to support fatalism with certainty. The Prophet may also be saying that, at this moment, the scrolls have dried and the pens have been lifted rather than saying there can never be any change in qadar in the future.

Next is a hadith that mentions multiple Companions:

Ibn al-Daylamī said :
I went to Ubayy b. Kaʿb and said him : I am confused about qadar, so tell me something by means of which Allah may remove the confusion from my mind. He replied : were Allah to punish everyone in the heavens and in the earth. He would do so without being unjust to them, and were he to show mercy to them his mercy would be much better than their actions merited. Were you to spend in support of Allah’s cause an amount of gold equivalent to Uḥud, Allah would not accept it from you till you believed in divine decree and knew that what has come to you could not miss you and that what has missed you could not come to you. Were you to die believing anything else you would enter Hell. He said : I then went to ʿAbdallāh b. Masʿūd and he said something to the same effect. I next went to Hudhayfa b. al-Yamān and he said something to the same effect. I next went to Zayd b. Thābit who told me something from the Prophet (May ) to the same effect.

Sunan Abī Dawūd 4699

This hadith has Muhammad b. Kathīr in its chain, who is considered weak by Yaḥyā b. Muʿīn, al-Jīlī and al-Baghdādī. A different version of it is narrated by al-Bayhaqī in al-Qadar 305. This hadith has Muʿāwiya b. Ṣāliḥ in its chain, whose hadiths cannot be used as proof-texts according to Abū Ḥātim al-Rāzī. It also has his son ʿAbdallāh b. Ṣāliḥ who has a worse reputation than his father. Al-Nasāʾī says he is not trustworthy and Ibn al-Madīnī said he avoids all narrations from him.

This hadith is therefore not high-quality. It also does not actually support fatalism since the Companions only affirm the meaning of qadar that is accepted by both sides. However, their saying that it would be just if God was to punish everyone in the heavens and the earth is strange and questionable. In al-Qadar 414 al-Bayhaqī mentions another version of this hadith with a weaker chain. The chain has Hishām b. Saʿd who was widely considered to be weak. It also has Saʿīd b. Hilāl who was considered below authentic by Ibn Ḥazm.

ʿUbāda b. al-Ṣāmit said to his son :
Son! You will not get the taste of the reality of faith until you know that what has come to you could not miss you, and that what has missed you could not come to you. I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: The first thing Allah created was the pen. He said to it: Write. It asked: What should I write, my Lord? He said: Write what was decreed about everything till the Last Hour comes. Son! I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say : He who dies on something other than this does not belong to me.

Sunan Abi Dawud 4700 (sahih according to al-Albani)

The last transmitter of the above hadith is considered to have erred sometimes. Otherwise the hadith has an authentic chain. It does not have a fatalistic meaning since it does not say that the goodness or wickedness of humans was decreed then. It could be referring only to the decreeing of things that would befall humans.

Anti-Fatalistic Narrations

 لَا يَزِيدُ فِي الْعُمْرِ إِلَّا الْبِرُّ ، وَلَا يَرُدُّ الْقَدَرَ إِلَّا الدُّعَاءُ ، وَإِنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَيُحْرَمُ الرِّزْقَ بِخَطِيئَةٍ يَعْمَلُهَا

Nothing increases lifetime except righteousness, and nothing counters qadar except prayer, and a man may be forbidden provision because of a sin he commits.

Sunan Ibn Māja 90, authenticated by al-Albānī, Ibn Ḥibbān and al-Ḥākim al-Nisābūrī

This hadith has entirely reliable transmitters except for ʿAbdalah b. Abī al-Jaʿd, who is little-known but considered trustworthy by Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī. This hadith contradicts all fatalistic narrations that say nothing will ever change in a person’s qadar (“the scroll has dried”, etc.). A different version of the hadith adds the following (said by the Prophet ):

إِنَّ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ لَمَكْتُوبٌ : يَا ابْنَ آدَمَ ، اتَّقَ رَبَّكَ ، وَبِرَّ وَالِدَكَ ، وَصِلْ رَحِمَكَ ، أَمْدُدْ لَكَ فِي عُمُرِكَ ، وَأُيَسِّرْ لَكَ يُسْرَكَ ، وَأَصْرِفْ عَنْكَ عُسْرَكَ

It is written in the Torah: O child of Adam, fear your Lord, be dutiful toward your parents, be dutiful toward your relatives, and I will extend your lifetime, ease for you your ease, and take away from you your difficulty.

Musnad al-Rūyānī, 608

This version also comes from entirely trusted transmitters except for Sālim b. Rāfiʿ who is considered unknown by some and trusted by others. Since the saying is in the context of qadar, the concept of dynamic, changeable qadar is strongly suggested by it. What we choose to do, whether we do good or evil, changes what God causes to befall us. This is the opposite of fatalism.

Faʿḍāla b. ʿUbayd:

أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، قَالَ : اللَّهُمَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِكَ ، وَشَهِدَ أَنِّي رَسُولُكَ ، فَحَبِّبْ إِلَيْهِ لِقَاءَكَ ، وَسَهِّلْ عَلَيْهِ قَضَاءَكَ ، وَأَقْلِلْ لَهُ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا ، وَمَنْ لَمْ يُؤْمِنْ بِكَ وَلَمْ يَشْهَدْ أَنِّي رَسُولُكَ ، فَلَا تُحَبِّبْ إِلَيْهِ لِقَاءَكَ ، وَلَا تُسَهِّلْ عَلَيْهِ قَضَاءَكَ ، وَأَكْثِرْ لَهُ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا

The Prophet said, "O Allah, whoever believes in you, and bears witness that I am your messenger, then cause him to love meeting you, and ease your decrees on him, and decrease from him the worldly life. And whoever does not believe in you, and does not bear witness that I am your Messenger, then do not cause him to love meeting you, and do not ease your decree on him, and increase for him of the worldly life."

Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Ḥibbān 208

This hadith has a wholly authentic chain. In it the Prophet speaks as if God’s decree is changeable, for he prays that it should be eased or not eased. There would be no point in this prayer if qadar was unchangeable.

ʿĀʾisha:

وَأَسْأَلُكَ أَنْ تَجْعَلَ كُلَّ قَضَاءٍ قَضَيْتَهُ لِي خَيْرًا

... and I ask you to make every decree You decree for me to be a good.

Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Ḥibbān 870; Muṣannaf Abī Shayba 28767

The above hadith comes from two chains from wholly trusted transmitters. The first chain contains one individual whose memory weakened in old age. The second chain does not contain that individual. The Prophet again speaks as if God’s decrees are changeable. If God’s decrees never changed, the meaning of the prayer would be, “O God do what you would have done anyway.”

ʿAmmār b. Yāsir

أَحْيِنِي مَا عَلِمْتَ الْحَيَاةَ خَيْرًا لِي ، وَتَوَفَّنِي إِذَا كَانَتِ الْوَفَاةُ خَيْرًا لِي

... cause me to live while You know life to be better for me, and cause me to die if death is better for me ...

Sahih Ibn Hibban 2005, al-Mustadrak 1878

The above is a quotation from a long hadith in which the Prophet prays for a number of things. The hadith comes from two chains both of which are wholly authentic except that both contain a trusted individual who occasionally errs. If a person’s death-timing could never change, there would be no point in this prayer. It therefore appears that the Prophet believed that prayer could change qadar.

Narrated Abū Hurayra:

Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "Every child is born on the fiṭra but his parents convert him to Judaism, Christianity or Magainism, as an animal delivers a perfect baby animal. Do you find it mutilated?" Then Abu Huraira recited the holy verses: "The pure Allah's Islamic nature (true faith of Islam) (i.e. worshipping none but Allah) with which He has created human beings. No change let there be in the religion of Allah (i.e. joining none in worship with Allah). That is the straight religion (Islam) but most of men know, not." (30.30)

Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 1359, a similar version in Ṣaḥīh Muslim 2658 d

The above entirely authentic hadith seems to contradict those hadiths that say humans are divided into the dwellers of Paradise and Hell from before birth. All humans are born on the pure fiṭra (which according to Ibn Taymiyya means belief in a basic form of Islam), but later they become corrupted.

Narrated Abū Huraira:

Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "Allah says, 'If My slave intends to do a bad deed then (O Angels) do not write it unless he does it; if he does it, then write it as it is, but if he refrains from doing it for My Sake, then write it as a good deed (in his account). (On the other hand) if he intends to do a good deed, but does not do it, then write a good deed (in his account), and if he does it, then write it for him (in his account) as ten good deeds up to seven-hundred times.' "

Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 7501

If all human deeds had already been written and the “scrolls” had dried, what is meant by things being recorded and not recorded above? The above hadith suggests a dynamic timeline of life rather a frozen one as fatalism suggests.

Al-Barāʾ b. ʿĀzib reported Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) as saying that Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said:What is your opinion about the delight of a person whose camel loaded with the provisions of food and drink is lost and that moves about with its nosestring trailing upon the waterless desert in which there is neither food nor drink, and lie wanders about in search of that until he is completely exhausted and then accidentally it happens to pass by the trunk of a tree and its nosestring gets entangled in that and he finds it entangled therein? He (in response to the question of the Holy Prophet) said: Allah's Messenger, he would feel highly delighted. Thereupon Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said. By Allah, Allah is more delighted at the repentance of His servant than that person (as he finds his lost) camel.

Ṣaḥīh Muslim 2746, the most authentic chain at Musnad Aḥmad 18206

The above narration comes from entirely trusted transmitters in Aḥmad’s Musnad. It is strange that God would be so happy with a human’s repentance if He had pre-decreed that the person would repent anyway. But it would make perfect sense if the person had a choice between repenting and not repenting.

In the authentic narration below, the Prophet affirms that he has choice over his actions:

ʿĀʾisha said: "The Messenger of Allah used to divide his time equally among his wives then he would say: 'O Allah, this is what I have done with regard to that over which I have control, so do not blame me for that over which You have control and I do not.'"

Sunan al-Nasāʾī 3943 (authentic)

If the Prophet had been a fatalist, he would have said that he has no control over how he divides his time, since his choices are in God’s hands anyway.

Narrated Anas:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Allah will say to that person of the (Hell) Fire who will receive the least punishment, 'If you had everything on the earth, would you give it as a ransom to free yourself (i.e. save yourself from this Fire)?' He will say, 'Yes.' Then Allah will say, 'While you were in the backbone of Adam, I asked you much less than this, i.e. not to worship others besides Me, but you insisted on worshiping others besides me.' "

Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 3334, Ṣaḥīh Muslim 2805 a

The above only makes sense if God had not already separated the children of Adam into believers and disbelievers before birth. It is nonsensical that God would decree that some people should enter the Hellfire only to go on to blame them for not worshiping Him.

Below is a narration not from the Prophet but from Ibn ʿAbbās:

{ وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِنْ بَنِي آدَمَ } الْآيَةَ قَالَ : خَلَقَ اللَّهُ آدَمَ فَأَخَذَ مِيثَاقَهُ أَنَّهُ رَبُّهُ ، وَكَتَبَ أَجَلَهُ وَرِزْقَهُ وَمَصَائِبَهُ ثُمَّ أَخْرَجَ مِنْ ظَهْرِهِ كَالذَّرِّ فَأَخَذَ مِيثَاقَهُمْ أَنَّهُ رَبُّهُمْ ، وَكَتَبَ أَجَلَهُمْ وَأَرْزَاقَهُمْ وَمَصَائِبَهُمْ

"And when your Lord took from the children of Adam"...the rest of the verse. [Ibn ʿAbbās said], "God created Adam and took his oath that He is his Lord. Then He wrote the timing of his death, his provision, and the catastrophes that would be fall him. Then He brought out [his offspring] from his back like dust specks and took their oath that He is their Lord. Then He wrote the timing of their death, their provisions and their catastrophes.

Al-Bayhaqī, al-Qadar 49

In this entirely authentic narration, there is no fatalism in Ibn ʿAbbās’s interpretation. What befalls humans has been written in their predestiny, but what they will choose in the future is not forced upon them there.

Narrated Anas:

Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said," None of you should long for death because of a calamity that had befallen him, and if he cannot, but long for death, then he should say, 'O Allah! Let me live as long as life is better for me, and take my life if death is better for me.' "

Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 6351

The above prayer would only make sense if qadar was changeable through prayer. Otherwise, if a person’s death-timing could never change, the prayer would mean “O God do what You would do anyway.”

Abū Hurayra:

سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَقُولُ : لَا يَدْخُلُ أَحَدٌ النَّارَ إِلَّا أُرِيَ مَقْعَدَهُ مِنَ الْجَنَّةِ ، لَوْ أَحْسَنَ لِيَكُونَ عَلَيْهِ حَسْرَةً ، وَلَا يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ أَحَدٌ إِلَّا أُرِيَ مَقْعَدَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ لَوْ أَسَاءَ لِيَزْدَادَ شُكْرًا

I heard the Messenger of God saying, "No one enters the Fire except that his seat he would be shown his seat in Paradise had he been a doer of good so that it becomes a cause of regret for him. And no one enters Paradise except that he is shown his station in the Fire had he been wicked so that he would increase in gratitude.

Musnad Aḥmad 10795, considered Ṣaḥīḥ by al-Albānī

This hadith’s chain has Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad b. Bahrām who is unknown. It also has ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Dhakwān who is considered weak by some scholars. I am putting it here to balance out all the low-quality narrations I mentioned in the pro-fatalism section. This hadith suggests that a person has a choice between Paradise and Hell since he has two places prepared for him. If it was decided for him that he would go to Paradise or Hell from before birth, then this hadith wouldn’t make sense.

Narrated Abū Hurayra:

Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "The prayer of anyone of you is granted (by Allah) if he does not show impatience (by saying, "I invoked Allah but my request has not been granted.")

Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 6340

The above hadith has an entirely authentic chain. The plain meaning of the hadith suggests that a person has two choices; either he waits patiently and God changes qadar in his favor, or waits impatiently and God allows qadar to stay unchanged.

Narrated ʿAbdallāh b. Masʿūd:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise. And a man keeps on telling the truth until he becomes a truthful person. Falsehood leads to Al-Fajur (i.e. wickedness, evil-doing), and Al-Fajur (wickedness) leads to the (Hell) Fire, and a man may keep on telling lies till he is written before Allah, a liar."

Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 6094

This hadith comes from a wholly authentic chain. The hadith suggests that a person is not written as a liar to begin with unless they choose to constantly lie.

Narrated ʿAʾisha the mother of the faithful believers:

One night Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) offered the prayer in the Mosque and the people followed him. The next night he also offered the prayer and too many people gathered. On the third and the fourth nights more people gathered, but Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) did not come out to them. In the morning he said, "I saw what you were doing and nothing but the fear that it (i.e. the prayer) might be enjoined on you, stopped me from coming to you." And that happened in the month of Ramadan.

Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī 1129

This is another hadith with a wholly authentic chain. If the Prophet had been a fatalist, he should have believed that God had already decreed what would be obligatory on the Muslims. Here he acts as if he thinks his choices would affect God’s decrees.

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