Assallamualeykum! I was wondering if there is any proper answer for this question I was asked the other day: "If it is God who decides whether the person believes in Him or not, why would He still send people who don't believe in him to hell, isn't that decision made by Himself already?" And then there's an ayat in Quran 10:100 where it says that no person will believe if Allah doesn't wish for it. and that He doesn't like people who don't believe in Him. Jazakallahu khairan.
Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,
There are various Islamic theological theories that tried to answer that question. My favorite so far is Ibn Taymiyya’s who says that guidance is like a conversation between humans and God. God guides the human, and the human responds by accepting this guidance or rejecting it. If they accept it, God guides them further, and if they reject it, God either ignores them or causes them to become even more misguided.
This “conversation” takes place every single day of our lives. The more we choose guidance, the more we are guided by Him, and the more disobey and turn our backs on Him, the more misguided He makes us.
So it is not a case of God forcing total guidance or misguidance on us from the beginning. It is a case of Him guiding us, then ourselves choosing whether we want to be guided further or not.
There are some hadiths that suggest that humans are choiceless in whether they are guided or not, for example:
While the Prophet (ﷺ) was in a funeral procession. he picked up something and started scraping the ground with it, and said, "There is none among you but has his place written for him either in the Hell Fire or in Paradise." They said, "O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)! Shall we not depend upon what has been written for us and give up deeds? He said, "Carry on doing (good) deeds, for everybody will find easy to do such deeds as will lead him to his destined place for which he has been created. So he who is destined to be among the happy (in the Hereafter), will find it easy to do the deeds characteristic of such people, while he who is destined to be among the miserable ones, will find it easy to do the deeds characteristic of such people." Then he recited: 'As for him who gives (in charity) and fears Allah, and believes in the best....' (92.5-10) (Sahih al-Bukhari Vol. 6, Book 60, Hadith 474)
While we cannot escape God’s decrees, He guides or misguides us based on our choices. The above hadith therefore has to be re-interpreted through the theory of a dynamic fate; from birth your place in the Hell or Paradise may be “written”, but based on your choices as you grow up, God may change what He has written. So the fate is always written by God and decreed by Him, but our choices change what He decrees for us. There are hadiths that support the idea of a changeable fate, for example:
لَا يَرُدُّ القَضَاءَ إلَّا الدُّعَاءُ، وَلَا يَزِيدُ فِي العُمُرِ إلَّا البِرُّ
Nothing counters God's decree except supplication, and nothing increases lifespan except righteousness. (Narrated in al-Tirmidhi, authenticated by al-Albani in al-Silsila al-Sahiha 154 and in Sahih al-Jami` 7687.
According to this hadith if your fate is to be misguided, all that you need to do is pray for guidance, and this will change your fate.
The Quran itself never suggests that our fate is sealed as soon as we are born, instead supporting the theory of a changeable fate. The Quran says:
God erases whatever He wills, and He affirms. With Him is the Mother Book. (The Quran, verse 13:39)
The above may refer to the Divine Registry (al-Lawḥ al-Maḥfūḍ) where our fates are written, and it says that God erases and affirms as He wishes.
The Quran’s theology and the above hadith support the idea of a written fate that changes by God’s choice, but in response to our choices. So guidance and misguidance is decreed by God, but He decrees them based on our choices. If we choose guidance, God chooses guidance for us and increases us in guidance. And if turn away from Him, He chooses misguidance for us. While it is always God who guides us and misguides us, it is our own choices that lead to this, so we are held responsible for it.
A misguided person can never say to God, “I asked for guidance but you misguided me!” because that is not how the universe works. God guides constantly everyone who sincerely asks Him for guidance. A misguided person is one who chooses misguidance constantly. God calls them to Himself and places reminders in their path, and but they constantly turn away and based on that choice God punishes them.
... Say, “God leads astray whomever He wills, and He guides to Himself whoever repents.” (The Quran, verse 13:27)
... God chooses to Himself whom He wills, and He guides to Himself whoever returns to Him (with repentance). (The Quran, verse 42:13)
Sources I benefited from:
- Fatwa by Dr. Abdullah Farkous (Arabic PDF)
- The book Ibn Taymiyya and His Times (see my review of this book here)