God’s Grace and Free Will

I wanted to share with you an excerpt from my second book, The Qur’an Discussions. . . this line of questions pops up a lot in my classes, so I thought you might find it interesting:

I have two questions about verses in the Qur’an: 1) V2:6 and V2:7 (i.e., in the second Surah on verse six and seven) appears to mean that the reason people disbelieve in Islam is because Allah desires it, but if that is true then people do not have any free will to accept or reject Islam. Do human beings have complete free will, or is it limited, or is there none? 2) Regarding V2:24, does this statement mean that anyone who is not a Muslim will be punished by Allah?

In the Name of God, the Most-Gracious, the Ever-Merciful:

Your first question regarding (2:6-7) refers to the leaders of Quraysh who had heard the Prophet’s preaching for over thirteen years and still refused to accept that he was truly sent by God. In addition to refusing belief, they used their power and influence to prevent others from believing in the Prophet. This prevention took the form of persecution, verbal, and physical abuse, economic boycott, and beatings, torture, and killing. These opening verses were revealed in the first few years after the Prophet migrated from Mecca to Medina (twelve to thirteen years after first receiving revelation), and their purpose was to console the Prophet, for he was eager for all the people to believe and follow the guidance he was sent with. God informed him that none would believe except those who received God’s grace.

The Qur’an teaches that God guides those who want to be guided and leaves astray those who do not wish to receive guidance, like the leaders of Quraysh referred to in (2:6-7).

We read this in the Qur’an: Then when they turned away, God turned their hearts away. (61:5)

But because they broke their covenant, We cursed them, and made their hearts grow hard. (5:13)

God’s granting or withholding His grace is a result of the heart choosing to turn toward Him or away from Him. If the choices we made were not genuine, it would be injustice for God to hold us accountable for them. Since God is The Just, The Forbearing, and The Truth, we understand that our choices are real. The Qur’an affirms this by ending in many different verses with the following phrase: This is for what you yourself have done, and never is God unjust to His creatures.

As for your second question, the verse (2:23-24) is simply a challenge to those who doubt that the Qur’an is really from God. It says to compose a chapter as eloquent and profound. Since the Arabs were at the peak of their literary abilities at that time, and since Muhammad was a simple, illiterate man never known for any poetic ability in the forty years of life before revelation, the challenge is a strong one even in this day and age.

Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to respond to my email. Could you please help me understand these two verses from the Qur’an? (1) Regarding V2:34, do angels have free will? If angels do not have free will, then how can Iblis choose to reject Allah? If angels are free to reject or accept Islam, then what happens to all the angels who rejected it? (2) Regarding V2:61, who were the Sabians? Do the Sabians still exist now?

. . . End of Excerpt . . .

Read more of this deep, historical, and interpretive discussion in The Qur’an Discussions: What Would a Muslim Say – Volume 2.

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