A Shi'ite Encyclopedia (chapter 9)

The Change in Allah's Will

Ahlul-Bayt (AS) stated that from the time of creation of the "will" for a specific action until the moment of execution (Imdhaa), Allah may withdraw His permission for the occurrence of that action and may cancel the created "will" and change the sequence altogether. This concept is called "al-Badaa" (initiating/originating a new thing).

This change only occurs to the created information (i.e., the five steps mentioned earlier) while there is no change in His Eternal Knowledge/His Essence. Note that Badaa is not limited to what was explained above.

Any creation of Allah at any time is due to His Badaa since neither the creation nor the will of Allah about it was eternal, and Allah initiated to create it from non-existence. Thus, Allah has made Badaa in everything (See the tradition by Imam al-Ridha (AS) below). Moreover, when Allah changes a will, it actually means He removes (Mahw) the previous will and then He originates a new will just as He originated the previous will. Therefore, Allah's creation is entirely Badaa.

As the Sunnis consider the will of Allah eternal and claim it to be His Essence, they cannot admit any change in it. This is while, numerous verses in Quran prove that Allah's hands are open to originate or change anything in His creation. Once Ma'mun, one of the Abbasid Caliphs, prepared a discussion between Imam al-Ridha (AS) and Sulaiman al-Maruzi who was the greatest theologian (Mutakallim) of Khurasan.

Sulaiman used to believe that the will of Allah and His intention are eternal (not created) and that Allah never initiates any change in His will. Below is but a small part of the interesting discussion between Imam al-Ridha (AS) and Sulaiman in the presence of Ma'mun. Al-Hasan Ibn Muhammad al-Nufili narrated:

... Imam Ridha (AS) said: "Why did you deny al-Badaa, O Sulaiman, while Allah, the Glorious, states, 'But does not man call to mind that We created him before, and he was nothing? (19:67)', and the Glorious states, 'It is He Who initiates the creation, then He returns it (30:27)', and He states, 'The Originator of the heavens and the earth (2:117; 6:101)', and the Glorious states, 'He increases in the creation what He wills (35:1)'.

He also states, 'and He began the creation of man from clay (32:7)', and the Glorious states, 'There are others, held in suspense for the command of Allah, whether He will punish them, or turn to them in mercy (9:106)'. He, the Glorious, also states, 'Nor is an individual's life prolonged, nor does anything decrease from his life span, except that it is (being reflected) in a Book (35:11)'."

Sulaiman asked: "Do you have any narrations from your ancestors on this?" The Imam (AS) replied: "Yes. It is narrated to me that Abu Abdillah (Imam al-Sadiq (AS)) said, 'Surely for Allah, the Glorious, there are two (types of created) knowledge: One is the hidden and the reserved knowledge (i.e., the knowledge of al-Ghaib) that no one knows but He, and from that comes al-Badaa. The other is the knowledge that He has taught it to His angels and His Messengers, and the Ulamaa of the People of the House of His Prophet (PBUH&HF) know it.'"

Sulaiman asked: "I would like you to further derive it (i.e., al-Badaa) from the Book of Allah, the Mighty and the Majestic." He (AS) replied: "Consider the saying of Allah to His Prophet (PBUH&HF), 'So turn away from them, and you are not blameworthy (51:54)' (by which) He intended their destruction. Then, Allah made Badaa (i.e., initiated a new will) and said, 'And remind, for reminding benefits the Believers. (51:55)'"

Sulaiman said: "Increase my (knowledge), may I be sacrificed for you." Imam al-Ridha (AS) said: "Indeed my father informed me from his ancestors that the Apostle of Allah (PBUH&HF) said, 'Certainly Allah, the Glorious, revealed to a Prophet (referring to Prophet Hizqil as per another tradition) amongst His Prophets that he should inform a certain king that Allah would take his soul in such and such time.

That Prophet went to him and informed him of that. (Out of anxiety) the king fell down from his throne and prayed to Allah, 'O Lord! Postpone my (death) so that I can provide for my baby and I conclude my matter'. Next, Allah revealed to that Prophet to go back to the king and to inform him that Allah has caused his (previous) appointed time of death to be forgotten (i.e., He has made its decree disappear) and increased his life for 15 years.

That Prophet said to Allah, 'O Lord! You know that I have never been known as a liar.' Allah revealed to him that he is but an appointed servant, and that he should deliver it to him, and that Allah is not questioned for what He does.'"

The Imam (AS) again turned to Sulaiman and said: "Are you emulating the Jews on this issue?" He replied: "No! I seek refuge in Allah from (doing) that. What did the Jews say in this regard?" He (AS) said: "They said, 'the hand of Allah is tied up (5:64)'. They meant Allah has concluded the matter and therefore He no longer originates anything. Hence, Allah said, 'Be their hands tied up and be they accursed for what they uttered.

(5:64)'" The Imam (AS) continued: "Indeed, I (personally) heard people asking my father, Musa Ibn Ja'far (AS), about al-Badaa, and he (AS) replied, 'Why should people deny al-Badaa when Allah has halted some people who wait for His command?'" (Referring to the verse: 'There are others, held in suspense for the command of Allah, whether He will punish them, or turn to them in mercy (9:106)'.)

Sulaiman asked: "Could you inform me about the verse, 'We have indeed sent it down in the Night of Qadr (97:1)'? What was sent down?" Imam al-Ridha (AS) replied: "O Sulaiman! In the Night of Qadr, Allah makes the detailed planning of what will happen until next year regarding any life, death, goodness (Khair), evil (Sharr), and sustenance. Whatever Allah measured on that night is of definite matters (Mahtum)."

Sulaiman said: "Now I understand it. But, increase my (knowledge), may I be sacrificed for you." Imam al-Ridha (AS) said: "O Sulaiman! Surely amongst the matters are suspended (Mawquf) issues that are with Allah, the Glorious. Of them, He advances what He wills and delays what He wills..."

  • Kitab al-Tawhid, pp 443-444, Hadith #1
  • Uyun Akhbar al-Ridha (AS), v1, p180-182, Hadith #1
  • Bihar al-Anwar, v10, pp 329-331, Hadith #2

As we have seen, there are many pieces of evidence in Quran that clearly disprove the Sunni doctrine which states the Pen has dried up, having written down all future events. In contrast, the followers of Ahlul-Bayt (AS) do not emulate the Jews who considered Allah had concluded the matter. We believe Allah's hands are open to do as He wills.

Of course, Allah does not act without purpose. The changes in decree has educational purposes for people including the Prophets and Imams, peace be upon them. Although people are usually unaware of the details of all such changes, yet by realizing the general concept of al-Badaa one will truly understand that everything is in the hand of Allah and He is able to do all things at any time, and that it is never too late for Him to do anything He wills.

It demonstrates the absolute freedom of Allah in all His actions and that He is never restricted by His own creations, including His previous will. Moreover, it removes the suspicion of compulsion and non-revocable pre-destination, and gives the sinners hope that Allah may totally revive their past and future. It encourages them to make hard efforts, to supplicate to Allah, and to act upon good deeds hoping that Allah may fix their deeds and may change their fate. Zurara Ibn A'ayun and Hisham Ibn Salim narrated:

Imam al-Sadiq (AS) said: "Allah was not worshipped to the extent that He was worshipped due to al-Badaa. Allah was not glorified as much as He was glorified due to al-Badaa."

  • al-Kafi, v1, p146, Hadith #1
  • Kitab al-Tawhid, p331, Hadith #1 & #2
  • Bihar al-Anwar, v4, p107, Hadith #19 & #20

However, it should be noted that, the verses of Quran and the traditions of Ahlul-Bayt (AS) stress that Allah does not make Badaa on everything. Allah has a definite will, which consists of the will that is unlikely to be changed as well as the will He has chosen not to change at all. The unchangeable wills are known as His customs (Sunan) and His Promises. Allah stated in Quran:

"... The evil trick will surround only the authors thereof. Then, are they but looking for the way the ancients were dealt with? But no change will you find in Allah's custom. And no turn around will you find in Allah's custom. (35:43)"

"Verily that which you are promised is true. (51:5)"

"And they ask thee to hasten on the Punishment! Behold! Allah shall never break His Promise. (22:47)"

Our Destiny

The Sunnis have narrated:

Jabir reported that Suraqa b. Malik b. Ju'shuin came and said: Allah's Messenger, explain our religion to us (in a way) as if we have been created just now. Whatsoever deeds we do today, is it because of the fact that the Pens have dried (after recording them) and the destinies have begun to operate, or do these have effects in the future? Thereupon he said: The Pens have dried and destinies have begun to operate.

(Suraqa b. Malik) said: If it is so, then what is the use of doing good deeds? Zuhair said: Then Abu Zubair said something but I could not understand that and I said. What did he say? Thereupon he said: Act, for everyone is facilitated (to act upon what he is created for).

  • Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Hadith #6402 (See also similar traditions: Hadith # 6404 & # 6406) - Musnad Ahmad Hanbal, v3, Chapter of Musnad Jabir Ibn Abdillah There is no dispute in the genuineness of the last sentence of the above Hadith, that is, "Act, for everyone is facilitated".

This sentence of the Prophet (PBUH&HF) was also narrated by the Shia authorities and was explained by Ahlul-Bayt (AS). However, the first part of the above Sunni-reported Hadith is not at all compatible with its last part. In explaining the above sentence, the Sunnis alleged that the Prophet (PBUH&HF) said:

"Act, for everyone is facilitated to act upon what he is created for so that whoever belongs to the blessed ones is facilitated for the acts of the blessed people and whoever belongs to the unfortunate ones is facilitated for the acts of the unfortunate people."

  • Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Hadith #6398
  • Sahih al-Tirmidhi, v5, under the commentary of the Chapter of the Night, Hadith #3402
  • Sunan Abi Dawud, v2, the Chapter of Qadar, Hadith #4694
  • Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v1, Under Musnad Umar

As we already quoted the Sunni scholars, they believe that not all people were created to worship Allah and to do good deeds. They claimed some people were created only for Hell and some were created only for Paradise. According to them, those who were created for the Hell are facilitated for bad deeds and those who were created for Paradise are facilitated for good deeds.

On the other hand, the explanation of Ahlul-Bayt (AS) on the original saying of the Prophet (PBUH&HF) is quite different from that of the Sunni counterpart. The school of Ahlul-Bayt (AS) does not consider this fate to be a necessitated one, and a person for whom it is written that he will die wretched, will not be compelled to such a fate.

Felicity and wretchedness rather points to the foreknowledge of Allah about our would-be choices of beliefs and actions towards the end of our life given the future situations that are currently intended by Allah.

Morover, Allah has provided us means, such as striving to perform good deeds, supplication to Allah and seeking His assistance so that Allah may change our spiritual state and may assist us by His Mercy so as to lighten for us the burden of performing good deeds and to make it easier for us to rectify our deeds.

Although Allah has the foreknowledge of our future supplications and good deeds (provided that we are blessed by Allah to turn to such deeds), Allah might have decided not to change our situation in His will until the time of the occurrence of such good actions.

Ibn Abi Umair narrated:

I asked Imam Musa Ibn Ja'far (AS) on the meaning of the saying of the Apostle of Allah (PBUH&HF), "A wretched is he who became wretched in the womb of his mother, and a felicitous is he who became felicitous in the womb of his mother". The Imam (AS) replied: "A wretched is a person that, while he was in the womb of his mother, Allah knew he shall soon act upon the deeds of the wretched.

Likewise, a felicitous is a person that, while he was in the womb of his mother, Allah knew he shall soon act upon the deeds of the felicitous." I asked: "What is the meaning of the saying of the Apostle of Allah (PBUH&HF), 'Act, for everyone is facilitated to (act upon) what he is created for'?" The Imam (AS) replied: "Certainly Allah, the Mighty and the Majestic, created the Jinn and the human to worship Him, and He did not create them to disobey Him.

This is His saying, the Glorious, 'And We did not create the Jinn and the human but in order that they worship Me. (51:56)' Thus, every one is facilitated to (act upon) what he is created for (i.e., worship). Then, woe unto him who prefers the blindness over the guidance."

  • Kitab al-Tawhid, p356, Hadith #3
  • Bihar al-Anwar, v5, p157, Hadith #10

It follows that, when Allah states in Quran, "Many are the Jinn and the human we have created for Hell (7:179)" He means We knew many of the Jinn and the human that We have created will go to Hell. The term "li" in Arabic (which is usually translated as "for") has many meanings. Here it means the outcome and the consequence. It does not mean that the reason for their creation was to send them to Hell, otherwise it would go against many verses of Quran and the traditions of the Prophet (PBUH&HF). Both Shia and the Sunni narrate:

The Apostle of Allah (PBUH&HF) said: "Every child is born according to (pure) nature (Fitra)."

  • Sahih Muslim, v4, Book 33, Hadith #6423, #6426, #6428
  • Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 77, Number 597

This proves that wretchedness is not something intrinsic in the born child. It is rather what Allah knew everyone would choose towards the end of his life given the currently permitted situations and events of the future. Moreover, Allah may change what has written for the wretched by providing His assistance. Hisham Ibn Salim narrated:

Imam al-Sadiq (AS) said: "Verily, Allah, the Glorious, may transfer a servant from the state of wretchedness to felicity, but He does not transfer him from the state of felicity to wretchedness."

  • Kitab al-Tawhid, p358, Hadith #6
  • Bihar al-Anwar, v5, p158, Hadith #12

Allah may decide to change the future of a wretched without compelling him to the right path, and He does so by providing him His assistance and His light when he makes a decision, by lightening his bosom to endure the situation more easily, and by making the right path felt easier for him. If Allah provides His assistance for someone, He has acted according to His grace and has decided to overlook his previous bad deeds.

On the other hand, if He does not assist him due to his previous bad deeds, He has only acted according to His justice. The extent of the assistance is according to Allah's choice and may involve future Badaa for each specific case. Hence, the issue is not concluded by Allah, and an ill fate is only a currently decided fate. Moreover, as we mentioned earlier, Allah's foreknowledge, His withholding guidance, and His deserting do not compel a disbeliever to do wrong, as he still exercises choice.

The possibility of change in the destiny by Allah, shows that it is never too late to return to Him and to ask for His blessings and His assistance. It also makes people truly understand that they cannot rely on their previous deeds and should always seek refuge with Allah in all circumstances, because they never know if they are yet entered amongst the the would-be felicitous.

It is amazing to see that although the Sunnis strongly refute any change in the destiny, they have reported a number of traditions in their Sahih books, which negates their doctrine. For instance:

Narrated by Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "Take refuge with Allah from the difficulties of severe calamities, from having an evil end and a bad fate and from the malicious joy of your enemies."

  • Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 77, Hadith #613
  • Sahih Muslim, v4, Chapter on seeking refuge from bad fate
  • Sunan al-Nisa'i, v8, Book of seeking refuge, Chapter on seeking refuge from bad fate

If our destiny is unchangeable, then praying to Allah and seeking refuge with Him from a bad end is futile. More interestingly, the Sunnis narrated that the two companions of the Prophet, namely Ibn Mas'ud, and Umar Ibn al-Khattab have individually prayed to Allah with the following supplication:

"O Allah! If You have written me amongst the felicitous, then keep on that. But, if You have written me amongst the wretched, then remove me from it and record me amongst the felicitous, because You certainly erase what You will and record (likewise), and with You is the Mother of the Book."

  • Kanz al-Ummal, v2, Chapter on General Supplications, Hadith #5045
  • Majma' al-Zawa'id, v10, Book of Supplications, Chapter 38, Hadith #17436

Moreover, the Sunnis reported:

Ali (AS) said: "I asked the Apostle of Allah (PBUH&HF) about the saying of Allah, the Glorious, 'Allah erases what He wills and establishes (likewise), and with Him is the Mother of the Book. (13:39)'" He (PBUH&HF) replied: "I shall reveal to you its mystery so that you give this glad tiding to my nation after me. Certainly, charity for the sake of Allah, kindness to the parents, making good effort, turns the wretchedness into the felicity and increases the lifespan."

  • Jami' al-Saghir, al-Suyuti, v4, Chapter "A-S", Hadith #5146
  • Kanz al-Ummal, v2, Chapter of al-Ra'd, Hadith #4444

The Problem of Evil

It is clear that people's evil actions are not Allah's actions; otherwise, many verses of Quran would become meaningless. For instance, Allah states in Quran:

"Verily Allah does not do any injustice to people. It is people that wrong their own souls. (10:44)"

The above verse proves that injustice is the action human, and that the action of human is not Allah's action since Allah denies committing any injustice.

We should, however, distinguish between the evil that is people's action and the evil/misery that comes from Allah. Both of them are called evil (Soo'; Sayyi'a; Sharr) in Quran. The misery that Allah descends on people is due to their evil actions, and thus it is just a punishment for them. Allah's punishments in this world and in the hereafter are both called evil (Sharr; Soo') in Quran. For instance, Allah stated:

"If some good befalls them, they say, 'This is from Allah'; but if evil (Sayyi'a) befalls them, they say, 'This is from thee (O Prophet)'. Say: All are from Allah. But what hath come to these people, that they fail to understand a single fact. (4:78)"

The evil that is from Allah is but the punishment that befalls the wrongdoers. This punishment is due to their evil deeds, as it is made clear in the next verse:

"Whatever good (O man!) happens to thee is due to Allah's (Mercy); but whatever evil (Sayyi'a) happens to thee is due to thy (own) soul. (4:79)"

Thus, the wrongdoing is an action attributed to people, and the punishment is an action attributed to Allah, and although they were both called evil (Sayyi'a), they are entirely of different nature. Both type of evils were used in the following verse of Quran:

"The penalty of an evil (i.e., wrongdoing) is an evil (i.e., a punishment) like it. (42:40)"

We also recite in Quran:

"... And if Allah intends an evil (Soo') (i.e., punishment) for a group of people, there would be no (other) power to turn it back, nor will they find, besides Him any protector. (13:11)"

"Say: 'Who can screen you from Allah if He intends an evil (Soo') (i.e., punishment) for you or intends a mercy for you?’ Nor will they find for themselves (from) other than Allah any protector or helper. (33:17)"

Note that the intention mentioned in the above two verses are intention of imposition, as it is clear from the context. In other words, the punishing is the action of Allah, not the action of people, though it is due to the action of people.

Other interesting instances in which evil (Sharr/Soo') is mentioned as Allah's punishment are the following verses of Quran: 5:60, 76:7, 76:11, 16:27, 27:58, 40:45.

Besides, we should not judge any harmful event that comes from Allah as evil. Anything that we have belongs to Allah and He may take it back if He wills. Moreover, Allah does not decree harmful events only for the purpose of punishing people for their pervious wrong deeds. At the same time that these events may be punishments for some individuals, they are blessings for others by which they attain higher spiritual positions. In fact, Allah has willed to test people in such situations. Whoever seeks refuge with Allah in all such circumstances, Allah will grant him more tolerance and more faith in Him, and also increases his reward in the hereafter for his turning to Him when facing such situations.

Imam al-Sadiq (AS) said: "The most severe afflictions/tests (Balaa) were for the Prophets, and then those who came after them in virtue."

  • al-Kafi, v2, p252, Hadith #1
  • Bihar al-Anwar, v64, p241, Hadith #71

Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (AS) said:

"Allah cares for a believer by affliction/hardship, like a man who cares for his family by sending them gifts when he is away from them. Allah prevents the believer form (indulging into the comfort of) this world, like a physician who prevents a patient (and limits him to some strict diets)."

  • al-Kafi, v2, p255, Hadith #17
  • Bihar al-Anwar, v64, p213, Hadith #19

Zaid Ibn Zarad narrated:

Imam al-Sadiq (AS) said: "Certainly (enduring) a greater affliction/test is recompensed by a greater reward. Thus, when Allah loves a servant, He afflicts him with a great hardship (Balaa). Then, if he is pleased with it, for him is Allah's satisfaction, and if he is displeased with it, for him is Allah's dissatisfaction."

  • al-Kafi, v2, p253, Hadith #8
  • Bihar al-Anwar, v64, p209, Hadith #11

Husain Ibn Ilwan narrated:

Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (AS) said: "When Allah loves a servant, He immerses him in the sea of suffering."

  • al-Kafi, v2, p253, Hadith #6
  • Bihar al-Anwar, v64, p208, Hadith #9

Like a swimming tutor who throws his new student into water, and makes him struggle in order to teach him swimming, Allah does the same to develop his beloved servants. If one only devotes his whole lifetime to read about swimming, he will never learn how to swim. We have to go into water and exercise under the guidance of a qualified teacher to learn swimming.

As for a sinful believer, there is another reason that Allah may afflict him with hardship. The hardship that he receives is an atonement to his sins, which cleanses him before he leaves this world. Thus, such hardship is a mercy from Allah for them.

Imam al-Sadiq (AS) said: "When the sin of a servant increases and nothing (of his good acts) is found to atone for that, Allah inflicts him by sorrows in this world as an atonement for it, or He will make his body sick to compensate for that, or (in a more serious case) He makes the time of his death more difficult to him so as to cover for that, or else (in a much more serious case) He punishes him in his grave so that he meets Allah on the Day of Judgment without anything that could witness to any of his sins (i.e., he comes with his sins wiped out)."

  • Mustadrak al-Wasa'il, v2, p52, Hadith #1382
  • al-Amali, al-Saduq, p294, Hadith #4
  • Bihar al-Anwar, v78/81, p176, Hadith #15

Imam al-Sadiq (AS) said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) said: Allah said: "By My Might and Majesty! I shall not send out from this world a servant whom I intend to cover with Mercy until I take every sin of him (and exchange it) either by a sickness in his body or by tightening his sustenance or by fear in his life; and if anything still remains of his sins I will increase his tension at the time of his death.

By My Might and Majesty! I shall not send out from this world a servant whom I intend to punish (due to his disbelief) until I take every good deed of him (and exchange it) either by good health in his body or increase in his sustenance or by security in his life; and if anything still remains of his good deeds I will make his death easy for him."

  • al-Kafi, v2, p444, Hadith #3
  • Mustadrak al-Wasa'il, v11, p331, Hadith #13180
  • Irshad al-Qulub, v1, p181

Thus, any worldly benefit that a disbeliever receives is to clear his sound deeds. On the other hand, affliction that befalls a disbeliever in this world is certainly evil. Such an evil is but Allah's worldly punishment for his rejections beside the greater punishment that waits for him in the hereafter. Allah said in Quran:

"As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with severe agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help. (3:56)"

"Let not their wealth nor their children dazzle thee: in reality Allah intends to punish them with these things in this life, and that their souls may perish in the state of disbelief. (9:55)"