God registers everything in His Knowledge in a record containing each thing’s particular characteristics, life span, provision, time and place of birth and death, and all of its words and actions. All of this takes place by Divine Will, for it is through Divine Will that every thing and event, whether in the realm of Divine Knowledge or in this world, is known and given a certain course or direction. Nothing exists beyond the scope of the Divine Will.
For example, an embryo faces innumerable alternatives: whether it will be a live being, whether it will exist or not, when and where it will be born and die, and how long it will live, to mention just a few. All beings are completely unique in complexion and countenance, character, likes and dislikes, and so on, although they are formed from the same basic elements. A particle of food entering a body, whether an embryo or fully developed, also faces countless alternatives as to its final destination. If a single particle destined for the right eye’s pupil were to go to the right ear, this might result in an anomaly.
Thus, the all-encompassing Divine Will orders everything according to a miraculously calculated plan, and is responsible for the universe’s miraculous order and harmony. No leaf falls and no seed germinates unless God wills it to do so.
Our free will is included in Divine Will. However, our relation with Divine Will differs from that of other beings, for only we (and the jinn) have the power of choice; in other words, free will. Based on His knowledge of how we will act and speak, God Almighty has recorded all details of our life. As He is not bound by the human, and therefore artificial, division of time into past, present, and future, what we consider “predetermination” exists in relation to us, not to God Himself. For Him, “predetermination means His eternal knowledge of our acts. This point is important because Islam does not accept the theistic concept of God, namely, that He created the universe and left it to run itself. We are contained by time and space, and therefore cannot draw exactly true conclusions about the relation between the Creator and the creation. Also, we cannot perceive eternity and have little true information about this world. God is beyond all time and space, infinite and eternal. He holds the universe in His “hand” and controls and manages it as He wills. However, so that we might glimpse His actions and acquire some knowledge of Him and His Attributes, He allows His manifestations related to creation to be limited by time and space. If He did not do so, life could not exist and we could acquire no knowledge of Him and the universe. Therefore, what we have said about His Will and Destiny should be considered in light of the fact that we can talk about these matters only from within the bounds of this life (limited by time, space, and matter) and of our very existence.
In sum: Divine Will dominates creation, and nothing can exist or happen beyond Its scope. It is also responsible for the universe’s miraculous order and harmony, and every thing and event is given a specific direction and characteristics. However, the existence of Divine Will does not mean that we do not have free will.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.