Invoking Allah’s Decree When We Fall into Sin

We often hear it: A person falls into temptation and commits a major sin. Instead of regretting it and repenting, that person shrugs it off, arguing: “I fell weak, but Allah decreed for me to be weak, so it is not entirely my fault…”

Now, there can be no doubt that believing in Divine Decree is one of the principles of Islam and a pillar of faith.

Whatever Allah determines to take place, good or bad, will take place. Whatever He determines that it will not take place, then indeed it will not take place.

However, that does not mean that the person who perpetrates an evil act and sins can use Allah’s decree as an excuse for his ignoble actions.

Allah rebukes the polytheists when they used His decree as excuse for their false worship. Allah says: “Those who are polytheists will say: If Allah had pleased we would not have associated (aught with Him) nor our fathers, nor would we have forbidden (to ourselves) anything. Those who came before them likewise rejected, until they tasted Our punishment. Say: Have you any knowledge with you so you should bring it forth to us? You only follow a conjecture and you only tell lies.” [Sûrah al-An`âm: 148].

Had they been excused for their unbelief on account of Allah’s decree, then would not have tasted Allah’s punishment.

It is wrong for a person to cite Allah’s decree as an excuse for the sins and evil deeds he commits and thereby attribute those deeds to Allah.

Whoever attributes that to Allah, blaming Allah for his misdeeds and excusing himself of responsibility, then he has fabricated a lie against Allah.

Allah says: “Surely those who forge a lie against Allah shall not prosper.” [Sûrah al-Nahl: 116]

Different meanings of attributing one’s deeds to Allah’s decree

For greater understanding, we should know that there are two ways that Allah’s decree can be invoked with respect to a person’s actions.

The first of these is the wrong way. It is to excuse oneself of the responsibility for one’s sins by referring those sins to Allah’s predetermination – or even worse: to give oneself an excuse to persist in such sinful behavior. This is impermissible. It is similar to the act of the polytheists, some sinful people, and the extreme Sufis.

Allah says: “And they who give associates (to Allah) say: If Allah had pleased, we would not have served anything besides Allah, (neither) we nor our fathers, nor would we have prohibited anything without (order from) Him. Thus did those before them; is then aught incumbent upon the messengers except a plain delivery (of the message)?” [Sûrah al-Nahl: 35]

When `Umar was caliph, a man was brought to `him for stealing. When `Umar sentenced that man to have his hand cut off, he said: “O Commander of the faithful! I have only stolen, because it had been Allah’s decree.”

`Umar replied: “And we are only cutting your hand off by Allah’s decree.”

When `Umar decided not to enter a city that was affected by plague, Abû `Ubaydah asked him: “Do you flee from Allah’s decree?”

`Umar replied: “We flee from Allah’s decree to Allah’s decree.

There is a second way of invoking Allah’s decree upon our actions which is permissible. It has two contexts. Allah’s decree might be invoked to reconcile oneself to misfortune. Alternatively, it might be invoked by the sinner after his sincere repentance for having committed a sinful act. This is how Adam invoked Allah’s decree to defend himself against Moses (peace be upon them both).

Prophet (peace be upon him) relates their argument as follows:
There was argument between Adam and Moses. Moses said to Adam: “You are our father. You did us harm by causing us to be cast out of Paradise.”

Adam replied: “You are Moses. Allah selected you to speak to directly and wrote for you (the Book) by His hand. Do you then blame me for an act which Allah had ordained for me forty years before He created me?”

In this way, Adam got the better of Moses in the argument. [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (6614) and Sahîh Muslim (2652)]
There are two ways of understanding this hadîth:
1. Adam protested by invoking Allah’s decree with respect to the calamity of his being cast out of Paradise, and not with respect to the sin that he ate from the tree.

2. He may have invoked Allah’s decree after having repented for the sin to save himself from blame and not so he may continue in his sins.
In summary, we would say that invoking Allah’s decree is permissible with reference to the misfortune of the deeds and not to exonerate oneself from the sinfulness of those deeds. There is a difference between the one who invokes Allah’s decree in reference to something that had already passed, while he regrets it and promises himself not to do it again, and the one who protests by Allah’s decree in order to justify his sins and persist in committing them. The former is acceptable while the latter is not.