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God registers everything in His Knowledge in a record containing each thing’s particular characteristics, life span, provision, time and place of birth and death, and all of its words and actions. All of this takes place by Divine Will, for it is through Divine Will that everything and event, whether in the realm of Divine Knowledge or in this world, is known and given a certain course or direction. Nothing exists beyond the scope of the Divine Will.

For example, an embryo faces innumerable alternatives: whether it will be a live being, whether it will exist or not, when and where it will be born and die, and how long it will live, to mention just a few. All beings are completely unique in complexion and countenance, character, likes and dislikes, and so on, although they are formed from the same basic elements. A particle of food entering a body, whether an embryo or fully developed, also faces countless alternatives as to its final destination. If a single particle destined for the right eye’s pupil were to go to the right ear, this might result in an anomaly.

Thus, the all-encompassing Divine Will orders everything according to a miraculously calculated plan, and is responsible for the universe’s miraculous order and harmony. No leaf falls and no seed germinates unless God wills it to do so.

With Him are the keys to the Unseen; none knows them but He. And He knows whatever is on land and in the sea; and Divine Destiny and Decree and Human Free Will 81 not a leaf falls but He knows it; and neither is there a grain in the dark layers of earth, nor anything green or dry, but is (recorded) in a Manifest Book. (6:59)

And no female carries or gives birth, save with His knowledge. No one long-lived has been granted a long life, nor another one not so long-lived has been appointed a shorter life, but it is recorded in a Book. Surely that is easy for God. (35:11)

Our relation with Divine Will differs from that of other beings, for only we (and the jinn) have the power of choice; in other words, free will. Based on His knowledge of how we will act and speak, God Almighty has recorded all details of our life. As He is not bound by the human, and therefore artificial, division of time into past, present, and future, what we consider “predetermination” exists in relation to us, not to God Himself. For Him, predetermination means His eternal knowledge of our acts.

In sum: Divine Will dominates creation, and nothing can exist or happen beyond Its scope. It is also responsible for the universe’s miraculous order and harmony, and everything and event is given a specific direction and characteristics. However, the existence of Divine Will does not mean that we do not have free will.

Gulen, Muhammed Fethullah. “The Essentials of the Islamic Faith” The Light, Inc. 2005.