Allen S. Maller

Islam and Judaism on fate vs. free will

One of the few major differences between Islam and Judaism is the issue if fate verses free will. A Pew Research study indicated that 88-93% of Muslims around the world believe in Fate, compared to less than 10% of Jews.

The Qur’an states:“Wherever you may be, death will overtake you, even if you should be within tall towers…” (4:78) So the fate of all living things is to die. No one can deny that.

And the Qur’an states: “No calamity befalls the earth, or in yourselves, but is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (al-lawh al-mahfooz), before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah.” (57:22) The laws of nature determine earthquakes. Humans can build safer houses, but humans can not prevent earthquakes.

Yet the Qur’an also clearly states: “Allah never changes the condition of people until they strive to change themselves.” (13:11) God helps people who help themselves.

So humans need to change whatever should be changed; and accept whatever can not be changed; and the wisdom to know how and when. So Muslims need to choose between “God guides whom He wills and misleads whom He wills.” (14: 4) and “those who strive in our (Cause), We will certainly guide them to Our paths: for verily God is with those who do right.” (29: 69).

Judaism teaches this too, but also stresses the importance of making choices with optimism, hope and self confidence because God is always our partner in all our attempts of Tikun Olam /self-improvement and society improvement.

This is because when God made a covenant with the Jewish People at Mount Sinai, Prophet Moses commanded them: “…obey the Lord your God, keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Torah Book; if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.

“For this commandment which I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it far away. It is not in heaven, that you could say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us and get it for us, and proclaim it to us, so that we may follow it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you could say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us and get it for us and proclaim it to us, so that we may follow it?’  On the contrary, the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may follow it.

“See, I have placed before you today life and happiness, and death and adversity, in that I am commanding you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, so that you may live and become numerous, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to take possession of it.

“But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but allow yourself to be led astray and you worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you will certainly perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan (river) to enter and take possession of it.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have placed before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding close to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, so that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Torah Deuteronomy 30:10-20)

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 850 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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