Praise be to Allah.
As for these doubts and thoughts regarding the issue of the divine will and decree (predestination), the Muslim can guard himself against them by remembering a general principle that is established by the revelation, which is that Allah does not wrong anyone at all, even by as much as an atom’s weight.
Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And what [harm would come] upon them if they believed in Allah and the Last Day and spent out of what Allah provided for them? And Allah is ever, about them, Knowing.
Indeed, Allah does not do injustice, [even] as much as an atom's weight; while if there is a good deed, He multiplies it and gives from Himself a great reward”
“Indeed, Allah does not wrong the people at all, but it is the people who are wronging themselves”
“Whoever does righteousness - it is for his [own] soul; and whoever does evil [does so] against it. And your Lord is not ever unjust to [His] servants”
Therefore the Muslim must try to divert his mind away from these matters, for with regard to the issue of the divine will and decree, Allah – may He be exalted – has taken care of this issue on the basis of His justice and grace. Moreover, reason on its own cannot comprehend the details of this issue, because it comes under the heading of knowledge of the unseen.
Hence the ‘aqeedah (belief, doctrine) of Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa‘ah is to believe in the divine will and decree (al-qada’ wa’l-qadar), both good and bad, without enquiring into the details of that.
Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
One of the main principles of Islam is that anyone who omits any matter of faith, failing to utter it and believe in it, will not be regarded as being one of the people of faith. That includes believing in the divine decree (predestination), both good and bad, and accepting and believing the hadiths that speak of it. There should be no asking why or how; rather we should accept and believe in the divine will and decree.
Whoever does not understand the meaning of a hadith and finds it to be beyond his comprehension should not worry about it; rather he should believe in it and accept it, such as the hadiths that speak of the divine decree (al-qadar), or of seeing Allah on the Day of Resurrection. Even if the listener finds something strange or feels uncomfortable with it, he must still believe in it and not reject even a single part of it. That applies to all other hadiths narrated from trustworthy narrators.
He should not argue with anyone or debate or dispute with him, because debating and talking about the divine decree, seeing Allah on the Day of Resurrection, the nature of the Qur’an, and other such issues, is disapproved of and is forbidden. The one who engages in such talk – even what he says is in harmony with the religious texts – cannot be regarded as one of Ahl as-Sunnah unless he avoids arguing about this matter, and accepts and believes in the reports.
End quote from Usool I‘tiqaad Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa‘ah (p. 157).
The remedy for such doubts is to seek refuge with Allah from the accursed Shaytaan, and to stop thinking about them.
It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him): The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “The Shaytaan may come to one of you and say: Who created such and such? Who created such and such? until he says to him: Who created your Lord? If it goes that far, let him seek refuge with Allah and stop (such thoughts).” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (3276) and Muslim (134).
That is because trying to think about matters of the unseen outside of the guidelines set out by revelation is a waste of time, and does not help one to reach the truth; rather it is a waste of time and distracts a person from what is more important in his religious and worldly affairs. This is contrary to what the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) enjoined.
It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, although both are good. Strive to do that which will benefit you and seek the help of Allah, and do not feel helpless. If anything befalls you, do not say ‘If only I had done (such and such), then such and such would have happened,’ rather say: ‘Allah has decreed and what He wills He does,’ for ‘if only’ opens the door to the work of the shaytaan.” Narrated by Muslim (2664).
We should point out that the signs of the Hour that have to do with people’s behaviour are within the framework of the reason and wisdom for which Allah created humankind, which is to be tried and tested.
Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me”
“Blessed is He in whose hand is dominion, and He is over all things competent.
[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed - and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving”
With regard to those whom Allah will punish of those who cause tribulations at the end of time, murderers and others, he will punish them on the grounds that their deeds were not good, and they did them after the message of Allah, may He be exalted, had been conveyed to them, but they decided willingly to go against Allah’s laws and follow their whims and desires.
Allah will not punish them for being a sign of the Hour, because that in and of itself is not cause for punishment, based on the fact that some of the signs of the Hour are good, such as the sending of the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him); the descent of ‘Eesaa (peace be upon him) and his killing the Dajjaal; and the conquests that the Muslims will be enabled to achieve at the end of time.
The fact that the appearance of these evils is one of the signs of the Hour is proof against those who commit these deeds; it is not an excuse that they can cling to, because whoever of those who commit these evils knowing that what he is doing of unlawful deeds is a sign of the Hour, this should motivate him strongly to give it up and repent.
Abu ‘Abdillah al-Qurtubi (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
The scholars (may Allah have mercy on them) said: The wisdom behind the emergence of the portents of the Hour before the Hour and telling people of them is to alert people, wake them from their sleep and urge them to take precautions by repenting and turning to Allah, so that they will not be taken by surprise and will have the opportunity to make up for their shortcomings. So people, after the portents of the Hour begin to appear, should examine themselves, keep away from worldly pursuits and prepare for the promised Hour. And Allah knows best.
End quote from at-Tadhkirah (3/1217).
The portents of the Hour are part of the divine will and decree in which we should believe. Believing in the divine will and decree is not limited only the portents of the Hour; rather everything that happens and will happens in this world only happens because Allah decrees that it should happen, otherwise it would not happen.
Moreover, everyone feels that he has the complete freedom to choose what to do, to do an act of obedience or disobedience, to strive hard or be lazy, and this is applicable to everything he does in his day-to-day life. Everything is written in al-Lawh al-Mahfooz. “Indeed, it is We who bring the dead to life and record what they have put forth and what they left behind, and all things We have enumerated in a clear register” [Yaa-Seen 36:12].
So man has complete freedom to choose, and Allah will bring him to account for that choice.
This is also applicable to the signs of the Hour. One of the signs thereof is the prevalence of immorality and obscenity, but this is not an excuse for anyone to commit shameful deeds.
When a person commits such deeds by his free choice and will, on that basis he will be brought to account.
In principle, man is enjoined to obey Allah, may He be exalted, and to avoid disobeying Him. As for the divine decree (predestination), we believe in it, but we do not take it as an excuse for ourselves or for others to commit that which Allah, may He be exalted, has forbidden.
As for the one who commits sin and cites the divine decree as an excuse for that, it should be said to him:
When you committed that sin, did you do that by your choice or were you compelled to do it?
No doubt he will say: I did it by my choice. This is something that everyone knows in himself; no one should deny that or argue about it.
So it may be said: Based on the choice that you made to do that, you will be brought to account, for no one forced you to commit evil.
Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
It may be said of the one who cites the divine decree (al-qada’ wa’l-qadar) as an excuse for doing evil that he now has the choice between two paths, the path of good and the path of evil, and before he embarks upon the path of evil, he should ask himself whether he knows that Allah has decreed that he should embark upon the path of evil?
Undoubtedly he does not know that, and if he does not know, then why should he not think that Allah has decreed that he should embark upon the that of good? Because man does not know what Allah has decreed until after it happens, for the divine will and decree, as one of the scholars said, is a hidden secret which cannot be known until after it happens and we see it.
So we say to the sinner: You have committed a sin, and when you decided to do it, you did not know that Allah had decreed that for you. If you did not know that, then why did you not decide that Allah had decreed the path of good for you, so that you could choose the path of good?
Moreover, we say to him: In your worldly affairs, do you choose what is good for you or what is bad?
He will say: I choose what is good for me. Therefore we say to him: Why do you not choose what is good for you with regard to the hereafter?
Similarly, if we say to him: Now you are going to travel to the city. There are two roads you could take. The road to the left is not paved, and there are bandits and grave dangers along the way, but the road to the right is paved and safe. Which one will you take? He will definitely say: The road to the right.
So we say to him: Why is it that with regard to worldly matters, you travel on the road to the right, in which there is goodness and safety? So why do you not choose the road to the left, in which there are bandits and it is unpaved, and say that this is something decreed for me?
He will say: I do not know what is already decreed, but I choose what is good for me.
So we say: So why do you not, with regard to the hereafter, choose that which is good for you?
End quote from the essay Arkaan al-Eemaan.
We ask Allah, may He be exalted, to save us and you, and all the Muslims from tribulations both apparent and hidden.
And Allah knows best.