This confusion whether it is Allah that seals the hearts of the people or they themselves do it has fueled heated debates between Muslims throughout the centuries. It caused schisms and a lot of bloodshed.
On one hand the bulk of the Muslims adhered to the concept of predetermination (jabr=compulsion). The more radical of these “jabrians” were the Asharian who denied all free agency in man. Arguing:
“Nothing can happen in the world, whether it respects the conditions and operation of things, or good or evil, or obedience and disobedience, or faith and infidelity … that is not contained in the written tablet of the decree of Allah.” (“Dictionary of Islam” by T.P. Hughes, pages 472-473).
On the other hand the Qadrias and the Mutazilites advocated the free will of man and therefore were rejected as heretics. They argued that man has absolute freedom of will and is responsible for his own actions. If not so rewards and punishments for virtuous acts and sins have no meaning. They quoted the verse (42:30) that says;
“And whatever affliction befalls on you, it is on account of what your hands have wrought.” (42:30)
In fact there are many verses that give an impression that men are responsible for their actions.
“Because Allah will never change the grace which He hath bestowed on a people until they change what is in their (own) souls” ( 8.53)
“ Allah does not change a people’s lot unless they change what is in their hearts. But when (once) Allah willeth a people’s punishment, there can be no turning it back, nor will they find, besides Him, any to protect.” (13.11)
Those who strive in His path, are guided in the right path, while those who persist in denial and sinful living have their hearts sealed against faith (ii. 7, 26; iv. 155; v;.i. 102).
Allah does not compel belief and leaves the people free to believe or disbelieve (6: 35, 150; xvi-. 9).
Whoever has done an atom’s weight of good shall meet with its reward and whoever has done an atom’s weight of evil shall meet with its consequences (99: 7-8).
Most modern Muslims tend to side with the free will of man but their opinion is drastically in contrast with many verses of Qur’an that alarmingly maintain that Allah’s decisions are completely arbitrary.
“Allah blots out and establishes what He pleases.” (3:39).
“Allah has power over all things.” (3:159).
Many are the verses that confirm the idea of a despotic Allah who would not adhere to any norm of conduct and therefore his actions are whimsical and unpredictable.
“If Allah had willed he would have made you one nation. But he leads astray whom he will and guides whom he will. But you shall certainly be called to account for all your actions.” (16:93).
Here again, Allah is in charge. He is the one who guides whom he wills. What is unclear is how people could be accountable for their actions if it is Allah who has chosen not to guide them. This is like a play director assign good and bad roles to some actors and then punish and reward them for their roles.
The same concept is conveyed in the following verse.
“It is equal to them, whether you warn them or not, they will not believe. Allah has put the seal upon their hearts.” (2:6-7)
The above verse renders futile the whole idea of prophethood. If Allah has put the seal upon the people’s hearts and warning or not warning them makes no difference, then what is the point of sending messengers? It simply does not make sense that a wise God seal the hearts of the people and send messengers to guide them knowing that they will not be guided thanks to his little operation on their hearts.
Here again it is Allah who guides or leads astray people. But this verse goes even further. It gives the impression that Allah has deliberately created some jinns and some men and purposefully leads them astray in order to use them as fuel in his Gehenna (Hell). Just to make sure that we have not misunderstood the concept, let us study other verses.
“Do ye desire to guide him whom Allah led astray? Whom Allah leads away, you will find no way for him.” (4:88).
“If Allah willed he would have made mankind one nation, but they continue in their differences, excepting those on whom your Lord has mercy. To that end, he created them and perfectly is fulfilled the word of your Lord: ‘I shall assuredly fill Gehenna with jinns and men altogether.’” (11:118-119).
“Allah leads astray whomsoever he will and guides whomsoever he will.” (14:4).
“For Allah leaves to stray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills. So let not thy soul go out in (vainly) sighing after them: for Allah knows well all that they do!” (35:8)
“… Thus doth Allah leave to stray whom He pleaseth, and guide whom He pleaseth:. (74:31)
“With Allah is the argument that reaches home: if it had been His will, He could indeed have guided you all.” (Sura 6:149).
By. Ali Sina