The discussion of the mashiyya and irada of Allah in Islamic theology would be found situated within the broader discussion of the essence and attributes of Allah. Murtuza Mutahhari writes that discussions of theological matters among Muslims seem to have begun sometime around the first half of the second century hijra1 and that the first topic, which engaged the minds of the Muslims, was that of human free-will and predestination.2 He later contradicts himself and writes that the first discussion to engage the attention of the Muslims was that of the infidelity of the Muslim sinner, which was raised by the Khawarij in the first half of the first century hijra. This was followed by the problem of human free will and predestination raised by Ma’bad al-Juhani (d circa 704 CE)3 and Ghaylan al-Dimashqi (executed circa 743 CE)4 at the turn of the first century hijra5. Then during the first half of the second century hijra, a person by the name of Jahm bin Safwan (executed in 128 AH / 746 CE)6 is credited with coming up with the notion of the unity of Allah’s divine essence with his attributes.7 This historical trend of the appearance of various theological problems seems much more probable than Mutahhari’s earlier statement. However, a statement which Mutahhari makes whilst outlining the above trend is worthy of quotation here, which is that; the first person who may be credited with speaking on such theological issues in a rational manner was the Caliph Ali8 whilst earlier to him, the Quran and the Prophet may be credited with encouraging and inspiring thought on such knotty issues even though the expressions in the Quran, in the sayings of the Prophet and the Caliph Ali may not entirely resemble the expressions used by the later Muslim theologians.9 Mutahhari writes that three theological groups seem to have surfaced in respect to the responses to the various theological issues that were considered. These were: the Mu’tazilites, the Ash’arites and the Shi’as.10

1 2

Mutahhari. 2002, pg 50 Ibid, pg 51 3 Watt. 2002, pg 85 4 Ibid, pg 86 5 Mutahhari. 2002, pg 75 6 Watt. 2002, pg 143 7 Muthhari. 2002, pg 68 8 Mutahhari. 2002, pg 50 and 76 9 Ibid, pg 50 10 Ibid, pg 54.

Muslims belonging to whichever of these three theological persuasions have no differences among themselves with regards to the unity of Allah’s essence known as Tawhid al-Dhat, or that Allah is the only Deity worthy of worship, which is known as Tawhid al-Ibadiyy.11 Differences arise with respect to Tawhid al-Sifat and Tawhid al-Af’al. The former means the unity of Allah’s essence with His attributes and the latter means that all actions, human or divine are willed by Allah’s Sacred essence.12 The Mu’tazlites affirmed the unity of Allah’s essence with that of His attributes in the sense that His attributes such as knowledge, life, power, sight, hearing, etc are reducible to His essence. They said that Allah is alim bi ilm huwa huwa which would mean ‘Allah is knowledgeable by a knowledge that is Him’, qadir bi qudratin huwa hiya meaning ‘powerful by a power that is Him’, hayyu bi hayatin huwa hiya meaning ‘alive by a life that is Him’.13 But they denied that Allah wills human actions and that humans have no role or part in willing their acts.14 On the other hand the Ash’arites affirmed that Allah wills all human actions and His will is all-embracing and that humans only acquire the ability and power at the time of acting15 and further maintained that Allah’s divine attributes are neither identical to His essence nor separate to His essence. El-Bizri writes that al-Ash’ari in his letter to the people of the frontier (Risala ila ahl al-thagr) rejected any equivalence between the divine essence and attributes,

and maintained that the attributes are co-eternal with the essence but

without being marked with otherness or privation.17 When reading the Ash’arite position on this issue, one often feels like asking quite frustratingly (but with due sincerity) as to what their actual position is! For they seem to be rejecting and affirming the same thing at once! On this issue, one feels that they come very close to the Hanbalite position which is to affirm belief in the attributes but leaving the ‘howness and the meaning’ of it all to God alone; in other words admitting defeat in being able to understand Allah.18 As for the Shi’a Imamiyya, they side with the Mu’tazilites with respect to Tawhid al-Sifat, but with the caveat that whereas the Mu’tazilites denude the essence of Allah of all qualities, the Shi’a notion is that the essence of Allah is identical with His attributes.19
11 12

Ibid, pg 59 Ibid, pg 59 13 El-Bizri. 2008, pg 124 14 Ibid, pg 65 -66 15 See point number 15 and 16 of the translation of Ash’ari’s Creed by M.Watt 1994, pg 42 16 El-Bizri. 2008, pg 129 17 Ibid. 2008, pg 130 18 Ibid. 2008, pg 127 19 Mutahhari. 2002, pg 81

The sixth Twelver Shi’a Imam al-Sadiq is attributed with the following statement: ‘Our Lord is Luminant in His very Essence, Living in His very Essence, All-knowing in His very Essence, AllEmbracing in His very Essence.’20 Al-Kulayni reports an interesting tradition in al-Kafi, which al-Majlisi rates as authentic;21 with a chain terminating at Muhammad bin Muslim who reports Abu Ja’far al-Baqir, the fifth Twelver Shi’a Imam saying the following regarding the attributes of Allah: ‘ He is One, Eternal, One in meaning and not One with multiple and different meanings.’ “I said, ‘may I be your sacrifice, but a group from Iraq claims that He Hears with other than what He Sees and that He Sees with other than what He Hears’. He replied, ‘they have lied, apostatised and have likened Him (to creation), He is far exalted than that. Verily He Hears and Sees. He Hears with what He Sees and He Sees with what He Hears’. I said: ‘they claim that He Sees according to what they have understood.’ He replied, ‘Exalted is Allah! What they have understood is from the attributes of the created and Allah is not like that.’22 Al-Kulayni reports another interesting report, which though al-Majlisi reckons it as inauthentic, does corroborate and reiterate the same theme enunciated in the above tradition. This tradition terminates at Hisham bin Hakam who narrates a meeting, which took place between an atheist and al-Sadiq. The atheist asked al-Sadiq: ‘Do you claim that He (i.e. Allah) is Hearing and Seeing?’ AlSadiq confirmed: ‘He is Hearing and Seeing, He Hears without any limb and Sees without an instrument, rather He Hears by His Self and Sees by His Self. Moreover, my statement that He (Allah) Hears by His Self does not mean that He is one thing and His Self is another, rather, I used this expression simply for your comprehension. Thus I say He Hears by His entire Being, but His entire Being does not constitute of parts just as our entire being does constitute of parts, but I used this expression for your comprehension. And my reference in all that I have said is naught except that He (Allah) is Hearing, Seeing, Knowing, Aware without differentiation in Essence or in meaning.23 Yet when one reads the following tradition attributed to the Caliph Ali and cited by the contemporary Shi’a scholar Ja’far Subhani in the section (of his theological work) dealing with the unity of the attributes of Allah with that of His essence one feels that the Shi’a position comes
20 21

Rayshahri. 2009, pg 725 See: 22 Usul al-Kafi, pg 63 23 Ibid, pg 63 in the same chapter and section.

dangerously close to the Mu’tazilite position on this issue and that the difference between the two, belaboured by some is at most superficial. The tradition is as follows: ‘Perfect sincerity in tawhid is that we negate all attributes from Him; for every attribute testifies to its being other than the object to which it is attributed, and every such object in turn testifies to its being other than the attribute.’24 However, with regards to Tawhid al-Af’ali, the Shi’a position is closer to the Ash’arites. The Ash’arites maintain that Allah creates all human acts and humans are not the creators of their acts.25 The Shi’a maintain however, that the system of causality is real and therefore the actions of humans are caused by themselves, yet while all effects depend on their proximate cause, they are also dependent on Allah, the ultimate (and the distant) cause.26 Al-Kulayni reports a tradition in al-Kafi from the eighth Imam with a chain that terminates at Muhammad bin Abi Nasr. Al-Majlisi has reckoned the hadith to be authentic.27 Muhammad bin Abi Nasr says that al-Ridha (as) said: ‘O son of Adam, it is by means of My will that you will for your self what you will, and it is by means of my strength that you fulfil the obligations which I have made incumbent on you. It is by means of my blessings that you intensify in disobeying me. I made you hearing, seeing and strong. Therefore whatever good comes your way it is from Allah, and whatever evil afflicts you it is from your own self. This is because I am more worthy of your good deeds than you are, and you are more worthy of your evil deeds than I am. And that is why I will not be asked for what I do, but they will be asked.’28 Now more specifically, the discussion about the mashiyya and irada of Allah would be found situated within the sections of theological treatises which discuss the attributes of Allah, in particular within the sections debating which of the divine attributes are attributes of the divine Essence (sifat al-dhat) and which pertain to Allah’s acts (sifat al-af’al). El-Bizri writes that it was Ash’arism which drew this nuanced division between the attributes of the essence and attributes of acts,29 however if the traditions in al-Kafi transmitting the questions on the unity of Allah and His attributes posed to the Twelver Shi’a Imams and their responses to them are anything to judge by, we may safely suggest

24 25

Cited in Subhani. 2003, pg 22 See point 16 and 17 of the translation of Ash’ari’s Creed by Watt 1994, pg 42 26 Mutahhari 2002, pg 81 27 28 Al-Kafi pg 88. 29 El-Bizri 2008, pg 128

that an awareness of the distinction between the attributes of Allah existed very early on during the second century hijra.30 Ja’far Subhani, the contemporary Shi’a scholar defines the attributes of the Essence as ‘those which describe God in a manner that adequately enables us to form some kind of conception of His essential nature’31 while the attributes of the acts are defined by him as ‘pertaining to the various kinds of actions that emanate from God, actions by which He becomes described, such as creating, sustaining, forgiving and the like.’32 All Muslims, whether Sunni or Shi’a are unanimous that the divine attributes of Life, Power, Knowledge, Sight, and Hearing are attributes of divine Essence, but they differ with respect to the attributes of Will and Speech. Whereas all Sunni scholars confirm that Will and Speech are Allah’s attributes of essence,33 some Shia scholars maintain that Will belongs to the attributes of the Essence

while the majority consider it to belong to the attributes of acts. A discussion of this debate will

follow shortly. With respect to the Speech of Allah, all Shia scholars agree that it is an attribute of act in contrast to the Sunni belief. Ja’far Subhani then makes a fine point with regards to the attributes of acts. He writes about them that ‘it is only in the measure that God actually creates and sustains that He can be called Creator and Sustainer, however much His Essence may contain principally the power to create, sustain, forgive, and so on.’ This suggests that in his opinion the attributes of acts are not eternal and similar to the attributes of the Essence and this has been the belief of the Shia for centuries. The Sunni Muslims differ on this account and affirm that all the attributes of Allah, irrespective of whether they are attributes of the Essence or acts are eternal with Him.35

Some of these traditions will be cited in this paper soon. Subhani 2003, pg 35 32 Ibid, pg 35 33 See the translation of the Fiqh al-Akbar in Watt 1994, pg 62, 34 See Shaykh Subhani’s discussion on the possibility of the Will of Allah being one of the attributes of divine essence, though he admits and believes that according to the apparent meaning of the Imami traditions, the Will of Allah is His Acts. (Subhani 2003, pg 37) 35 Fiqh al-Akbar in Ibid, pg 62 and al-Nasafi’s Creed in Watt, 1994 pg 81



The Arabic dictionaries define irada and mashiyya as synonymns. Irada is defined as: will, volition, wish and desire and mashiyya is defined with the same terms.36 Ja’far Subhani writes however, that the will of Allah cannot be compared with that of humans for while human will manifests in the human soul in gradual progressions, the same cannot be expected of Allah for that would necessitate a material existence in which change occurs unexpectedly from a state of loss to that of realisation.37 The difference between human and divine will and volition is expressed in clear terms in Imami traditions. Al-Kulayni transmits the following tradition, which al-Majlisi reckons to be authentic38, with a chain that terminates at Safwan bin Yahya who said: ‘I asked Abul Hasan (al-Ridha), “Explain to me the difference between the will of Allah and that of the creatures.” He replied. “The will and volition of the creatures is what occurs in the conscience (mind / heart) and the manifestation of that in action. But as for the will of Allah, it is to create, (to originate and to bring into being something) and there is no other meaning to His will other than that, for He does not take time to do something, neither does He need to make up His mind or resolve to do something, nor does He think. These attributes are negated from Him rather these attributes are those of creation. Thus the will and volition of Allah is the act itself and nothing apart from that. He says: ‘be’ and it is, without a word, without enunciating anything, without endeavour, without thought and without ‘howness’, just as there is no ‘howness’ to His Being.”39 Al-Kulayni also reports the following tradition from al-Kadhim who said: ‘Verily things come into existence solely by His will (irada) and wish (mashiyya); without the need for speech, alternation of breath or utterance with the tongue.’40 Thus these two traditions distinguish clearly between the will and volition of Allah and that of His creatures. Furthermore, in the latter tradition, the words mashiyya and irada occur together and seem to be treated as synonyms, without any difference in meaning.

See the Arabic – English Dictionary of Hans Wehr 1976, pg 366 and 496, as well as the Arabic – English Lexicon of E.W. Lane –Poole 1968, vol 4 pg 1627 37 Subhani 1427 AH, pg 110 38 See: 39 Al-Kafi pg 64 40 Cited in Rayshahri 2009, pg 721


Three views have been put forward to explain the meaning of the irada and mashiyya of Allah after having established that there is no similarity between the will of Allah and that of His creation. The First View: A group of scholars such as Sadr al-Muta’alihin Mulla Sadra and Hakim al-Sabzwari have opined that the irada of Allah is akin to His knowledge of the most efficient and perfect system and organisation.41 Thus Mulla Sadra writes in his Asfar: ‘the meaning of His Being Willing is that He, Glorified and Exalted, comprehends His Essence and comprehends the beneficial system existent in everything by His Essence and how it will be.’42 Al-Hakim al-Sabzwari said the following in his work titled The Commentary of the Beautiful Names of Allah: ‘Will and Power are the very essence of His knowledge, which is His very Essence.’43 Intriguingly, both these erstwhile scholars have equated Allah’s Will to His knowledge, while Hakim Sabzwari has coupled the Will of Allah with His Power thereby indicating that they belong to the same category of the attributes of the Essence. Subhani writes that by reducing the Will of Allah to His knowledge both these scholars have effectively denied the existence of will in Allah as a special attribute.44 However, the traditions from the Shi’a Imams seem to negate the equivalence of Allah’s Will with His knowledge. Al-Kulayni transmits a tradition, which al-Majlisi has deemed inauthentic,45 but which Subhani has quoted nevertheless in disproving the notion that Allah’s Will is congruous to His knowledge,46 with a chain terminating at Bukayr bin Ayan who says: ‘I asked Abu Abdillah al-Sadiq, “Are the Will of Allah and His knowledge one and the same or different?” He replied, “ The Knowledge of Allah is not the same as His Will. Have you not realised that you say ‘I will do such and such if Allah Wills’ and you don’t say ‘I will do such and such if Allah knows?’ Thus your speech ‘if Allah Wills’ is

41 42

Subhani 1427 AH, pg 110 Cited in Ibid, pg 111. 43 Cited in Ibid, pg 111 44 Ibid, pg 111 45 See: 46 Subhani 1427 AH, pg 111

evidence that He has not willed yet, for if He willed, then the thing which He wills would become as He has willed and the knowledge of Allah precedes His Will.’47 This tradition not only negates categorically that the Will of Allah and the Knowledge of Allah are the same but also reiterates the theme already introduced earlier48 that Allah’s Will is akin to His act as it says, ‘for if He willed, then the thing which He wills would become as He has willed’. Though this tradition has been deemed inauthentic by al-Majlisi, it does conform in content with the other traditions on this subject, which distinguish the Will of Allah from being an essential attribute. It is equally surprising to note that Shaykh al-Saduq, the early Imami Muhaddith interprets the mashiyya and irada of Allah as Allah’s Knowledge in his theological work ‘I’tiqadat al-Shi’a’. He writes as follows in the section on the ‘Belief concerning Allah’s Intention (irada) and Will (mashiyya)’: Now by sha'a (He wills) is meant that nothing takes place without His knowledge; and arada is synonymous with it.49 Al-Kulayni reports another tradition, deemed authentic by al-Majlisi,50 whose chain terminates at Asim bin Hamid, who asked al-Sadiq whether Allah was eternally Willing, to which al-Sadiq replied: ‘the one willing is not except with the thing willed. Allah was eternally Knowing and Powerful, then He Willed.’51 This tradition seems to be distinguishing between attributes that are eternal and those that are not, placing Knowledge and Power (which have already been identified as attributes of the Essence) among the eternal attributes while Will is placed among the non-eternal attributes. The following tradition reiterates that the Will of Allah is something that is brought about, perhaps understood to mean that it is the same as Allah’s act.

47 48

Al-Kafi pg 64 Refer to the two traditions cited earlier on the previous page from al-Ridha and al-Kadhim respectively. 49 Saduq, 1982 pg 34 50 See: 51 Al-Kafi pg 64

Al-Kulayni reports this tradition which al-Majlis has deemed authentic,52 with a chain terminating at Muhammad bin Muslim that ‘the Will (of Allah) is something that is generated / caused / brought about.’53 Yet the following tradition is even more clear and categorical! Al-Ridha says: ‘Wish and Will are among the attributes of action, so whoever claims that Allah, Most High, is eternally willing and wishing cannot be considered a monotheist!’54 Contrast all the above Imami traditions with the claim of Najm al-Din Nasafi, the twelfth century Maturidi scholar who asserts in his creed that the Will of Allah is ‘a pre-eternal attribute of God, subsisting in His essence.’55 The Second View: According to this view, the irada of Allah is His exultation and delight with His Own Self and with His Acts. Thus according to this view, the irada of Allah has two aspects. The meaning of this definition is that when Allah discharges goodness and completes it, He becomes exultant and delighted with perfect exultation with His Self. And then there emanates from the level of Essential delight, an exultation at the level of His Act, for one who loves something also loves its effects and necessary corollaries. Thus this love of the act is the irada at the level of the act.56 However, Ja’far Subhani contends that this opinion also reduces the Will of Allah to His exultation and Satisfaction and thereby negating the existence of His Will as a special attribute.57 The Third View: That the irada of Allah is the employment of His all-encompassing Power (to create), which is without deficiency and is carried out without dependence on any prerequisites, as the Quran testifies: ‘His command is such that when He wills something, He says “Be” and it is.’58 This view may be said to be in conformity with the Imami traditions. Thus al-Mufid writes in his Kitab Awail al-Maqalat: ‘God is Willing I say, because of revelation, following and deferring to what is said in the Quran. I say that God’s Will in respect to His own acts is the acts themselves; His Will in respect to other’s acts is His Command of the acts. Traditions to
52 53

See: Al-Kafi pg 65 54 Cited in Reyshahri 2009, pg 725 55 Refer to Watt 1994, pg 80 56 Subhani 1427 AH, pg 111 57 Subhani 1427 AH, pg 112 58 Sura Yasin verse 82

this effect have come from the Imams of Guidance of the family of Muhammad. It is the doctrine of all the Imamites…’59 Thus if the Will of Allah is His acts as determined by the Imami traditions, then it follows that it is not the attribute of His Essence, but rather that of His Acts and therefore not eternal. One may ask here that if the Will of Allah is to be equated with His acts, as the Imami traditions suggest, then isn’t this stand a reduction of the Will of Allah to His acts and thereby a negation of this attribute as an special one for Allah? Al-Kulayni has a nice and clear explanation in al-Kafi regarding the criterion that may be applied to determine which divine attribute may be considered that of His Essence and which that of His acts. In the course of it he explains why the Will of Allah is an attribute of Act and not that of the Essence.60 This explanation is unlike the rest of the contents of al-Kafi for it is not a hadith, but is his own words. He writes: ‘Any two attributes which you may use to describe Allah with, and both can be possible for Him, are attributes of acts and not of Essence.61 Now it is established that Allah intends certain things and also does not intend or will others, that He is satisfied with some things and dissatisfied with others, that He likes certain things and dislikes others. Now if will and intention were from the attributes of the Essence like knowledge and power, then what He does not will would be contrary to that attribute and the same would hold true for liking (thereby denoting multiplicity)! Do you not see that we do not find in Allah what He does not know and what He is incapable of, and that is because these are the attributes of His eternal Essence (which does not entertain multiplicity). Thus we do not describe him as being powerful and impotent, knowledgeable and ignorant, wise and foolish and erring, dignified and abject. It is permissible to say with respect to Allah that He likes one who obeys him and dislikes one who disobeys him, he befriends one who obeys Him but does not befriend one who disobeys Him, that He feels satisfaction and dissatisfaction. It is said in the supplication: “O Allah be satisfied with me and do not be dissatisfied with me, befriend me and do not be my enemy.” However, it is not permissible to say that He is capable of knowing and He is incapable of not knowing, He is capable of possessing and He is incapable of not possessing, that He
Cited in The Theology of Shaikh al-Mufeed, 1963, pg 147 Al-Bizri gives a similar explanation in his article for distinguishing the attributes of the acts and those of the Essence and attributes it to Ash’ari teachings. Nevertheless, despite a similarity in explanation, Ash’arism still considers the Will of Allah as part of His Essence, though there might be a minority opposing view among them. See El-Bizri 2008, pg 128 61 This is because having contrary attributes for the essence would mean multiplicity in the Essence, which would negate the absolute and simple Unity of Allah.
60 59

is capable of being Mighty and Wise and incapable of not being Mighty and Wise…for capacity and knowledge are from the attributes of the Essence. However irada (Will) is from the attributes of acts. Have you not seen it being said ‘He intended this and did not intend that?’ Now the attributes of the Essence negate their opposites from His being. It is said: He is Living, Knowing, Hearing, Seeing, Great, Rich, etc and the opposite of life is death and the opposite of knowledge is ignorance and the opposite of greatness is abjectness (and all these are negated from Allah’s Essence)…62 Thus when an attribute is possible to be affirmed for Allah and its opposite negated from Him, then it can be considered as an attribute of Essence, however when an attribute and its opposite both can be true for Allah then that cannot be an attribute of the Essence, but may be considered an attribute of act. Thus we read Shaykh al-Saduq writing as follows in I’tiqadat al-Imamiyya, in the chapter titled ‘Concerning the Attributes of His Essence and Attributes of His Actions’: Our belief concerning the attributes of (His) Essence is this. Whenever we describe Allah by the attributes of His Essence, we only desire by each attribute the denial of its opposite in respect of Him, the Glorious and Mighty. We say that Allah, the Glorious and Mighty, has always been the Hearing One (sami`), the Seeing One (basir), the Knowing One (alim), the Wise (hakim), the Powerful (qadir), the Glorious (aziz), the Living (hayy), the Ever-lasting (qayyum), the One (wahid), the Prior (qadim),-for these are the attributes of His Essence. We do not say that He, the Glorious and Mighty, has always been the Great Creator (khallaq), the One possessed of Action (fa'il), Will (sha'i) and Intention (murid), the Approver (radi), the Disapprover (sakhit), the Provider (raziq), the Bountiful One (wahhab), the Speaker (mutakallim),-because these are the attributes of His action (af`al) , and (therefore) they are created (muhdath). For it is not permissible to say that Allah is always to be qualified by them.63 FURTHER OBSERVATIONS ON THE MASHIYYA AND IRÀDA OF ALLÀH.

Al-Kulayni has devoted a separate chapter in al-Kafi for the mashiyya and irada of Allah and has recorded six reports therein. I would like to present three of these reports and excerpts of their analysis done by al-Majlisi in his commentary of al-Kafi. This commentary is titled: Mirat al-Uqul fi Sharhi Akhbari aal al-Rasul.

62 63

Al-Kafi pg 65 Saduq 1982 pg 31 -32

The first tradition, which I would like to present, is also the first one in this chapter. This tradition terminates at Ali bin Ibrahim al-Hashimiyy, who said: ‘I heard Abu al-Hasan Musa bin Ja’far (as) say “nothing occurs except what Allah desires (sha’a) and wills (arada), decrees (qaddara) and destines (qadha).” I asked, “What is the meaning of ‘to desire’ (sha’a)?” He replied, “it is to initiate an act”, I asked, “what is the meaning of ‘to decree’ (qaddara)”, he replied, “determining something with respect to its length and breadth”, I asked, “what is the meaning of ‘to destine’ (qadha)”, he replied, “if He destines something, He executes and accomplishes it, and the thing becomes inevitable.”64 In this version of the tradition, the Imam seems to be distinguishing between the ‘mashiyya’ and ‘irada’ of Allah, yet the tradition seems to have been partially reported as the report misses out the explanation of ‘irada’. Al-Majlisi identifies a report with similar wording reported by al-Barqi in his book al-Mahasin. Al-Majlisi rules the report in al-Kafi to be weak and then mentions the version of al-Barqi from the eighth Imam al-Ridha (as) and identifies its chain to be authentic. The text of the tradition is almost similar in wording and completely similar in meaning and concept. In this tradition the questioner also asks about the meaning of ‘arada’ (to will) and the Imam replies, “it is the resolution and the confirmation of the act (al-thubut alayhi).” Al-Majlisi then attempts to interpret and explain the tradition by saying that the ‘mashiyya’ of Allah, which is explained by the Imam to be the initiation of the act, is either the writing on the Tablet or the beginnings of what originates from the actor and what ensues from him of that which will lead to the existence of the effect. Then he explains the ‘irada’ to be the confirmation of the ‘mashiyya’, which in relation to Allah is an expression denoting the writing on the Tablet and the causation of the causes of the existence of the act. Al-Majlisi then explains the ‘qadar’ of Allah as the specification of the characteristics of the act and that the ‘qadha’ of Allah, which makes the act inevitable, is the completion of all the necessary conditions for its existence and on which the act depends. Thus the act becomes inevitable. Thus this tradition in its generality conforms to the other traditions, which identify the irada and mashiyya of Allah being the act of Allah. Yet whereas the other traditions wherein the words irada and mashiyya occur together seem to be equating one with the other, here the Imam seems to be making a nuanced distinction.


Al-Kafi pg 87

The second tradition, which I would like to present, is the third in the chapter. I had read this tradition in the context of the discussion of human free will and predestination in secondary literature and since then it has continued to intrigue me. The chain of this tradition ends at an Abdullah bin Sinan who says he heard the sixth Imam al-Sadiq (as) say: ‘Allah commanded (amara Allahu) but did not will (wa lam yasha’), and He willed (wa sha’a) but did not command (wa lam ya’mur). He commanded Satan (amara Iblis) to prostrate to Adam but willed (wa sha’a) that he does not do so, for had He willed so (wa law sha’a), then Satan would have prostrated. And He prohibited Adam (naha Adam) from eating the (fruit of the) tree but willed (wa sha’a) that he eat from it for had He not willed (wa law lam yash’a) then He would not have eaten.’65 I have always been mystified by the Quran’s narrative of Adam. It is established that he was created for the earth as is evidenced from the Quranic narrative, yet had he not eaten of the forbidden fruit, he would have continued to reside in the abode in which he was placed and never descend to earth! Yet Allah prohibits him from doing exactly that which was necessary for the purpose of his creation to be realised. Thus the latter part of this tradition felt like it was trying to help solve the mystery where though Allah prohibited him from partaking of the forbidden fruit, yet He willed its contrary so that the original aim of Adams creation is fulfilled. Therefore, it may be surmised that the entire drama of the prohibition was with the purpose of steering Adam towards the realization of human sexuality. The fact that Adam was subsequently pardoned of his lapse and sent to earth as an interring Prophet irons out the whole event. But interpreting the first part of the tradition in a similar fashion was problematic as Satan continues to be detested and cursed for his disobedience. Thus why would Allah will Satan’s disobedience?! Now al-Majlisi rates this tradition as ‘majhul’ – unknown. I suspect this verdict is on the basis of an examination of the chain. He then proceeds to study and explain its meaning and offers eight interpretations. I will only present two of the interpretations where al-Majlisi utilizes Imami traditions to help explain this report. The first explanation that he offers is that of dissimulation. He suggests that this tradition may have been uttered due to dissimulation as it is clearly in line with the beliefs and principles of the Jabriyya, i.e. the predeterminists. He writes that what confirms that what is described in this

Al-Kafi pg 88

tradition is not the actual Imami teaching, is a tradition which Shaykh al-Saduq has recorded in both Uyun Akhbar al-Ridha and Kitab al-Tawhid from Husayn bin Khalid, who reports that he said to alRidha (as) as follows: ‘O son of the Messenger of Allah! People are attributing to us the belief in anthropomorphism and pre-destination on the basis of the traditions which have been transmitted from your forefathers, the Imams (peace be on them).’ The Imam said: ‘O son of Khalid, tell me about these traditions which are transmitted from my forefathers, the Imams. Are those reported from them (i.e. the Imams) greater in number or those reported from the Prophet (saw)?’ Husayn bin Khalid replied: ‘Rather the traditions reported from the Prophet are greater in number.’ So the Imam said: ‘So do they maintain that the Prophet taught anthropomorphism and pre-destination?’ Husayn bin Khalid replied: ‘they maintain that the Prophet did not say them, rather it is reported from him as such.’ So the Imam said ‘then they should say the same about my forefathers the Imams, that they did not say such things rather it is reported from them as such.’ Then the Imam said ‘he who maintains belief in anthropomorphism and predestination is an infidel polytheist. We disassociate ourselves from him both in this world and in the hereafter. O son of Khalid, verily those who fabricated reports in favor of anthropomorphism and predestination and attributed them to us are the extremists who belittled the Greatness of Allah and so the one who loves them hates us and the one who hates them loves us.’ The second explanation suggested which is also in the form of a tradition, is short in terms of the number of words but involved in terms of meaning. Al-Majlisi writes that it is said that what is meant by ‘mashiyya’ is ‘knowledge’. What corroborates that is the tradition in the book Fiqh al-Ridha where the Imam is reported to say: ‘Allah had willed from His creatures disobedience (sha’a Allahu al-ma’siya) but did not intend that (wa maa arada). And He willed obedience (sha’a al-ta’a) and intended that from them (wa arada minhum). This is because the mashiyya (will) are of two types; the mashiyya of command and that of knowledge. And irada (intention) is of two types too; the irada of satisfaction and that of command. He commanded obedience (amara al-ta’a) and was satisfied with it (wa radhiya biha), and He willed disobedience (sha’a al-ma’siya), that is, He knew that His creatures would disobey Him (alima minhum al-ma’siya) but did not command them to do so (wa lam ya’murhum biha).’ Thus the first part of this tradition: ‘Allah had willed from His creatures disobedience (sha’a Allahu al-ma’siya) but did not intend that (wa maa arada). And He willed obedience (sha’a al-ta’a) and intended that from them (wa arada minhum) would be translated as follows – Allah knew that His

creatures would disobey Him (mashiyya al-ilm) but neither commanded it nor was pleased with it (iradatu al-amr wa iradatu al-ridha). And He willed obedience (mashiyyatu al-amr) and both commanded it and was satisfied with it (iradatu al-amr wa iradatu al-ridha). . The tradition in question can now be interpreted (or translated) in a similar manner. The tradition is: ‘Allah commanded (amara Allahu) but did not will (wa lam yasha’), and He willed (wa sha’a) but did not command (wa lam ya’mur). He commanded Satan (amara Iblis) to prostrate to Adam but willed (wa sha’a) that he does not do so, for had He willed so (wa law sha’a), then Satan would have prostrated. And He prohibited Adam (naha Adam) from eating the (fruit of the) tree but willed (wa sha’a) that he eat from it for had He not willed (wa law lam yash’a) then He would not have eaten.’ It can now be translated as follows: Allah commanded Satan to prostrate (iradat al-amr wa al-ridha) but knew that he would not do so (mashiyyat al-ilm), for had he willed so (mashiyyatu al-amr) then Satan would have prostrated. And He (Allah) prohibited Adam from eating the fruit (irada / mashiyya al-amr) but knew that he would partake of it (mashiyya al-ilm), for had He not known thus (mashiyyat al-ilm), then Adam would not have eaten (for the knowledge of Allah is never deficient). The issue with this explanation and interpretation is that it concedes that the meaning of mashiyya and irada of Allah is not limited to the acts of Allah, but may mean His knowledge and satisfaction. In light of this realization, the opinions of Mulla Sadra, Hakim Sabzwari and Shaykh al-Saduq stated above in the category of the ‘First View’ as well as the opinion expressed in the ‘Second View’ now seem suddenly plausible! Yet one wonders how the tradition of al-Sadiq (as) reported by Bukayr bin A’yan can be explained away. Perhaps the fact that it is inauthentic is the only way one can discard it! This recent explanation may also be considered to be in accord with the fifth tradition cited in this chapter of al-Kafi, where the Imam al-Sadiq (as) is reported to say: ‘He (Allah) willed and intended and He did not love and was not satisfied. He willed that nothing should occur save with His knowledge and He intended likewise…’66 The last and third tradition, which I had intended to cite here, is the fourth one in this chapter. The tradition ends at al-Fath bin Yazid al-Jurjani. He reports from Abu al-Hasan (as) that he said: ‘Allah has two types of irada and two types of mashiyya, an irada, which is ordained (hatmun) and another, which is determined (azmun). He (Allah) prohibits and wills, and He commands and does not will.

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Have you not seen that He prohibited Adam and his wife from eating (the fruit of) the tree and willed that. Had He not willed that they eat then their will would not have overcome the will of Allah, the Exalted. And He commanded Ibrahim to slaughter Ishaq but did not will that he should slaughter him, for had He willed thus then the will of Ibrahim would not have overcome the will of Allah, the Exalted.’67 Al-Majlisi reckons this tradition to be majhul, i.e. unknown and writes that it’s meaning is similar to the previous tradition. He then cites Shaykh al-Saduq’s explanation of this tradition. Shaykh al-Saduq wrote in his book al-Tawhid after narrating this tradition: ‘Allah prohibited Adam and his wife from partaking of the fruit of the tree, but He knew that they would partake of it. However He willed not to interpose between them and the partaking of the fruit with force and power just as He had prohibited them with refrain and deterrence. Thus this is the meaning of His mashiyya here, for had He willed to prohibit them with force and coercion from eating and then if they had eaten of the fruit then their will would have overcome His will (and this is impossible) just as the scholar (as) has said: “Far exalted is Allah, with a mighty exaltedness, that He should be weak and feeble.” He then defines the two iradas distinguished above. He writes that the irada which is ordained (alhatmun) is one, which possesses the conditions of effecting completion towards affirmation and creation and the same applies to the mashiyya which is ordained (mashiyya hatmun). While the irada, which is determined (irada azmun) is one, which is completed and concluded in respect of what is intended of the command or prohibition. And the former is separate from the latter. Thus in conclusion, it seems that the majority of the Imami traditions have favoured interpreting the Will of Allah as His acts, yet some Imami scholars who were renowned as philosophers inclined towards interpreting it as His knowledge. Contradictory traditions exist in Imami hadith literature regarding the equivalence of the Will of Allah to His Knowledge, though it appears that traditions negating the equivalence of the Will of Allah with His knowledge are done in the context of the discussion of which attributes of Allah belong to His essence and which belong to His acts, whilst the traditions which affirm the Will of Allah to be equal to His knowledge are done in the context of the discussion of human free will and divine predestination. These traditions seem to be struggling to make sense of and explain the traditions whose apparent meaning seems to denote the divine

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predestination of the acts of His volitional creatures and which were felt to be contrary to the favoured Imami teaching of al-amr bayn al-amrayn. REFERENCES:

1) Rayshahri, M. (2009). The Scales of Wisdom: A Compendium of Shi’ Hadith. London. ICAS Press. 2) Kulayni, Muhammad bin Ya’qub. (2007). Usul al-Kafi. Vol 1. Lebanon. Manshurat al-Fajr. 3) Subhani, J. (2003). Doctrines of Shi’I Islam: A Compendium of Imami Beliefs and Practices. London. Institute of Ismaili Studies. 4) Subhani, J (1427 A.H.). Muhadharat fi al-Ilahiyya. Qum. Muassasat Imam al-Sadiq (as). 5) McDermott, M. J. (1978). The Theology of Shaykh Mufid Beirut. Dar al-Mashriq Editors. 6) Watt, M. (2002). The Formative Period of Islamic Thought. England. Oneworld Publications. 7) El-Bizri, Nader. (2008). God: Essence and Attributes. The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology. United Kingdom. Cambrideg University Press. 8) Mutahhari, M. (2002). Understanding Islamic Sciences. London. ICAS Press. 9) Watt. M. (1994). Islamic Creeds: A Selection. Edinburgh. Edinburgh University Press. 10) Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir. Mir’at al-Uqul fi Sharhi Akhbari aal al-Rasul. Accessed from: Accessed in July 2009. 11) Saduq, Muhammad bin Babwayhi. (1982). A Shi’ite Creed. Tehran. WOFIS.

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