Imam baqir (p.b.u.h) said: Allah,blessed most high said,I will certainly punish every muslim community who accepted the leadership of a tyrant leader who isn't chosen by Allah.
Written by Reza Berenjkar   
Monday, 25 September 2017 22:54

Reza Berenjkar

Full Professor, the University of Tehran


Abstract: the common opinion among philosophers is that the realizations of external actions take place through gnosis, desire and will power. Action is the effect of free will and free will is the effect of eagerness; and eagerness is the effect of gnosis. Gnosis is the effect of external reasons. These reasons ultimately end up in the “Necessary Being”.

According to this theory, the three realizations of action, are not merely based on free will; God, through external causes and internal causes, is the cause of human beings action.

This theory faces serious problems, such as vagueness of the meaning of free will and its incompatibility with conscience (vujdan). The present study is to introduce this theory that free will and will power, in all three realizations of actions are significantly present and among these realizations from one hand and the approach and action on the other hand, there is bilateral and multi-lateral connection.


Generally, to explain the main realizations of action, three elements of gnosis, desire and free will are introduced. The famous opinion is this: human being first imagine an action, after that, he/she confirms the benefit he/she gets from that action. This confirmation provokes human beings’ interest to do that action. If this desire is strong, free will is issued. After this step, the motor power of muscles will start working, and action is taken.[i] These steps are called “realizations of action based on free will.”

In this theory, free will is the essential result of interest. Interest is the essential result of confirmation, and confirmation is the essential result of imagination. And imagination in its return is the essential result of external causes and effects. These causes lead necessary being in the chain of cause and effect.

According to this, realization of actions or will power, is not based on free will.  Of course some philosophers do not regard such a position for will power and believe will power to be equal with interest and not the result of it.

The present study is to review this theory to show presence of free will in three realizations of action- imagination and confirmation (ilm: gnosis), interest and will power- is seriously essential. The main model of action is more complicated than what is mentioned in the afore-mentioned theory. These three fold realizations not only can be based on free will, but also each one should be present in the other one and it is impossible to separate each one from the other ones. Of course actions, after being taken, are effective in the creation and quality of desires and gnosis of human beings.

In fact, from one hand, among action-realizations per se. and on the other hand between these realizations and action, there exists multi-lateral connections. But among them, more than anything else, the presence and reign of free will (above other elements) can be seen. The method of discussion in this study is the method of inter-religion, tradition-oriented and description-oriented. The explanations are based on Quran and traditions concerning the domain of actions and the ways to take them.

Before entering the main discussion, we should refer to some prerequisites which are regarded as the pivot of this discussion.

1. Human being’ actions are divided into two groups: internal actions and external actions. Usually, in the discussion about actions, only the attention is paid to external actions which can be seen and is done by members of body such as walking or drinking water. In these examples, the internal side of an action is forgotten, it means whatever which is done by heart, soul and without using members of body, such as imagination, confirmation, eager and interest, free will and faith. This article is going to explain actions and approaches to take an action, including internal and external actions.

2. Advising others to do something or not to do something, praising and blaming, rewards and punishment, are only issued from a wise person when he/she is able to do it or avoid doing it. In the other words, these labels as duty, good or bad, rewards or punishment to actions or as a result of an action are all dependent on free will. If we want to prove an action is based on free will from religious aspect, it is enough to show presence of one these three elements in it.

3. The actions of soul: similar to the actions of body, there are of two kinds: a kind of it based on free will and the other kind which is not based on free will. Based on free will means backed by free will, out of interest or gnosis and human being can do it based on his free will or not to do it based on his free will. As Motekallaman say “ صحه الفعل و الترک” can be applied to it.[ii]

The famous definition among Muslim philosophers is: the lack of complete free-will regarding power and freedom. According to this, being able means if a doer wants to take an action, does it or if he doesn’t want, doesn’t do it. “ کون الفاعل فی ذاته بحیث ان شاء فعل  و ان لم یشاء لم یفعل “  this definition is compatible with freedom and also with Jabr.

Therefore, it is possible free will and wish of God are fulfilled based on Jabr, and an action is taken unwillingly while at the same time it can be included in the above mentioned definition. In the other words, for the applicability of this definition, it is enough to have will power! But this definition does not say if human beings choose an action willingly, or his free will turns into Jabr, whether from God or external causes. Therefore, the mentioned definition has shortcoming.

4. In internal and external actions, sometimes the action per. se. can not be taken willingly. But its prerequisites are based on free will. In this situation, an action is called free due to those prerequisites.

For example, it is possible we can not get ourselves interested in something directly, but through some internal actions, or paying attention to some issues, and attention to related points to those internal actions, or by repeating and other similar actions, indirectly and gradually create such an interest in ourselves.

These examples are not good examples to show that action is done based on free will or not. Because an action being done out of free will does not necessities that, that action is taken directly and without tools and mediators.

In some cases, a feeling of knowledge happens to human beings which was not out of free will, sometimes this feeling is present in human beings from the first, but saving it or rejecting it depends on free will. In these cases, the principal is fulfilling the first knowledge and it is obligatory; but keeping it or leaving it depends on free will.

Sometimes, only empowering or weakening these feelings are at the control of human beings. In each level, the free will of human being has some limitations which is responsible only for that part which is free.

It should be noted that a lot of knowledge and tendencies and actions are not at the control of human being’s free will. Generally, human beings enter this world with various tendencies and dispositions. After the birth, quite a few number of information is acquired by human beings unwillingly. Of course, human being after the passage of years of his life, reaches a level who can enjoy free will in selection of internal and external actions. After this level, he could move on to the selections based on free will.

In the following discussions, it should be noted to these points and bear in mind that we are discussing about free will-based actions, in different levels.

5. In verses and traditions, responsibilities and being accountable, not only are regarded for members of body like eyes and ears, but also for heart. In holy Quran, we read :

وَلَا تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولَئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُولًا

Do not follow what you do not know. The hearing, sight and heart about all these you shall be questioned.” (17:36)

In a verse (surah 6; verse 151) human beings are forbid from evil actions internally and externally. And in another verse (2:284), accounting internal and external deeds has been reported.

In a tradition from imam Sadiq, we read the obligatory deeds for heart is different from obligatory deeds of external members of body. Obligatories of heart are faith, confession, belief, satisfaction, surrender to the Unity of God and Prophethood of Muhammad and whatever which is given by God.[iii]

Some traditions know the first level of inviting to good and forbidding from evil as something which is in heart.[iv]

The mentioned evidence show heart and inside of human beings have free will- based-actions. Therefore, the claim of this discussion can be proved.

Of course, in Islam we come up with some actions which are reprimanded. But for their doers no punishment has been mentioned and it is said if these actions are not put into practice, they would be forgiven.[v]

This subject is not the reason of non-willingness of these actions. Reprimanding itself shows these actions done based on free-will. The reason for escaping punishment is the Mercy of God and His will to set Islam an easy religion.

Now, regarding the above-mentioned principles, we are continuing our discussion.

a. The presence of free will in the level of gnosis ( knowledge)

Quran and traditions, with various wordings, talk about gnosis, including thinking, reasoning, reminding, authenticity, doubt, certainty, suspicion, faith and blasphemy.

1. Thinking, reasoning, reminding, and authenticity

Various verses of Quran praise the mentioned actions and order to them. And reprimand those who leave thinking and reasoning.[vi] And also it is said, the verses of God are for those who will to be reminded. (Forqan: 62)

In traditions, also, we come up with cases in which we are ordered to acquire such gnostic actions. Religious elites (Faqih) issued orders concerning something being obligatory, or advised or forbidden according to them. For example, thinking in the subject which is a lesson, contemplating on the end of each action before doing it, thinking in the meaning of Quran and learning from it, reminding God, thinking of death, imagining hardship of Prophet, remembering sins, avoiding adultery, and learning from seeing death.

2. doubt

In the verses of Quran, infidels and opponents of Prophet are introduced as those who were in doubt. In traditions, we are advised to avoid a special doubt. For these cases, suspecting God and Prophet darken hearts of faithful ones and it may even result in blasphemy.

Therefore, doubt is only a good passage and not a good destination. It should be noted sometimes a doubtful human beings want to reach certainty, and search for certainty in doubt. Of this free will-based doubt in philosophy we can point to “Cartesian doubt” by René Descartes.  To differentiate between good and bad, first he doubts in everything and then he studies everything one by one, to generate undoubtable philosophical foundation for sciences.

3. Suspicion

In Quran, faithful people are ordered not to suspect and some suspicions are counted as sins. In other verses, hypocrites, infidels and dualists are introduced as those who have improper perception of God. In traditions also it is talked about obligation of positive thinking and avoidance of negative thinking about God.

4. Trust and faith

In the interpretation of verse 36 surah Asra, it is said, heart will be questioned about whatever it believes.

The principle of Quran in grouping people is based on their faith and their good deeds and value of people is determined based on them.

From Qurānic point of view, only those who have faith in God and do good deeds will be subject of God’s Mercy, Forgiveness and rewards and eventually will enter heaven.

As we know, gnosis is divided into “conception” and “Countenance”. In the mentioned subjects, some of them are in the category of conception and some of them in countenance. The process of reaching gnosis is: first human being makes some conceptions about something. Then, he relates some conception with it and image it. Finally, he confirms this relation or denies it. It means he believes or rejects the relationship between these two conceptions. Free will can be present in all of these levels or in some of them. But if even one level of this process is out of free will, this gnosis is counted as based on free will.

b. The presence of free will in the level of desire

Interests and desires of human beings have various forms. Here we only refer to some of them, making the foundation of actions:

1. Attachment and love

Quran considers a painful torture for those who are interested in spreading obscene acts among faithfuls. Also we are forbid to make friendship with enemies of God.

Traditions advise us to attach to God, to worshipping, friendship with Prophet and Ahlul Bayt and faithful ones and Quran and the day of Doom.

In addition to forbidding Muslims from love of the world ( to the extent that one forgets God), this love is considered as the zenith of sins and the biggest sin and we are ordered to put it out of heart.

2. Fear (khof: خوف) and hope (raja: رجا) and satisfaction ( reza: رضا)

The holy Quran promises us a reward which is heaven for those who fear from God, and punishment of hell for those who are satisfied with the mundane life of the world. In some cases, also, we are ordered to have fear and hope.

Traditions say to be fearful of God and to be hopeful in Him at the same time. They prohibit us of setting our hope in beings other than God. Of the obligatory duties is to be satisfied with Qada and Qadar and of the forbidden actions is not to be happy with the oppressions of oppressors.

3. Desire and belief

Quran forbids us of tendency towards oppressors and considers hell and fire for them. In traditions desire and trust in the world and ignorant ones are disparaged.

c. Presence of free will in the level of putting our will in action

This means free will itself is not subject of any cause from outside. In another word, we can say free will in actions whether internal or external are bound to some reasons, which means when free will is accompanied them, they become willful. But freewill per se. is in its essence bound to any cause. Therefore, no cause and effect relationship can be distinguished for it.

Of course, gnosis and desire are effective in freewill but this effect is not essential or production of them. Therefore, despite of imagination, confirmation and desire, human beings again choose their behaviors deliberately. This freedom of freewill is inborn, does not refer to any external cause.

It should be noted that the ability to decide and choose is a sort of power and freedom which are endowed to human beings. Qada and Qadar of God, though, govern it and its territory, but as long as God has given this power of free will to people and does not take it away, people can act freely, upon their decision.

In fact, all actions done based on free will are all dependent on free will per se. If it was supposed that freewill be dependent and a result of other causes, free will has no meaning. It means human beings were superficially free, because freedom was a result of another cause.

According to this opinion regarding epistemology, human being is not a “rational animal”, but has two inborn traits of   desire and gnosis and other traits of him including free will refer to these two traits. But freewill is of independent traits of human beings.

The verses of Quran and traditions are mentioning freewill as one action of God or human being and for different free will different outcomes such as punishment or reward, or titles as good or bad, or orders to do these actions or stop them have been tagged.

Quran gives the glad tiding of heaven to those who do not look for superiority over others. (Qesas, 83)

In other verses, we see praise or disparaging of relating free will to some actions.

According to Quran, each action is carried out based on “intention”. ( Asra: 84)

In numerous traditions, intentions and sincerity (Ikhlas) are recognized as the criteria of accepting actions and worships; intention and ikhlas per se. are known as the greatest actions and even equal to actions.

d. The effect of gnosis and desire on free will

1. The necessity of free will’s effect on realization of external actions is accepted by all but the quality of it is the subject of dispute. Some know free will equal to desire and some others know it as the essential and product of a huge desire.

Another picture is that actions of human being have internal and external fields and conditions. The world in front of human being with its various aspects such as nature, society, and guidance of God, and also the world inside of human beings with its gnostic aspects and tendencies, open different ways in front of people and provide them with the fields of freewill. These causes have a range of effects. Sometimes these causes are only inviters and sometimes are being abled which result in freewill.

But the important is this in freewill and deliberate actions these causes are not complete-final reason. Human beings by relying on their free will can decide to do or quit an action. Due to these abilities and freedom men’s actions are praised or disparaged. Of course, the effects of outside reasons are not limited to freewill and other internal or external actions are effective.

2. Gnosis and desire are effective on special freewill. And it is feasible to be effective in the essence of freewill. A group of desires and gnosis sometimes can weaken or strengthen the power of free will in some individuals.

e. the effect of desire in gnosis

The emphasis of this article is at the presence of freewill in other actions of men. Therefore we speak shortly about other parts.

Quran and traditions in various cases- especially regarding religious believes like belief in God and prophets point out to the effect of carnal desires and negative aspects of character. For example, amongst reasons of astray, these are mentioned: carnal desire, cruelty, arrogance, stinginess, seeking superiority over others.

Gnosis can be regarded as a cause of external actions based on free will and as an independent free will action.

In first form the effect of desire in gnosis is not essential but in the second form the presence of desire in gnosis is essential. In first form, the effect of desire is only necessary in realization of external action.

f. the effect of gnosis in desire

The effect of imagination and believes in forming desires of a person is needless of any explanation. The point mentioned in previous section is meaningful for this part as well.

g. the effect of external actions on internal actions

The external actions of human beings are derived from internal realizations. But these very actions have a bilateral effect on soul and mind of people and can influence men’s desires and gnosis.

In Quran, the reason of rejecting holy verses of Quran and misleading of disbelievers were their bad deeds, cruelty, and insincerity.

In all levels of human being’s actions Qadar of God is present. As in traditions has been said, no phenomenon in sky or earth would happen unless [after passing through] seven levels of Decision, free will, Qadar, Qada, permission (Idn), Book and Death.

The realization of God’s Qada happens in various ways. The power of free will is given to men by God. The ability of men regarding free will is in the longitude of God’s Will. Therefore any time He wants He can take it away from men, and it means Tafwiz (which is leaving all things to men) is meaningless.

In addition, the territory of freewill of men and its effect is limited in various ways. These limitations are made by tendencies, gnosis, physical abilities and external conditions. But after Qadar and preparation of action field, men with total freedom aims at doing what they want and there is no force. Therefore, the responsibility of men deeds is upon them.


[i] Refer to Mola-sadra, Asfar, vol.6, p.354 & vol.4. p.114

[ii] Refer to allameh Helli, Kashful Morad, p.248

[iii] Kolaini, Usul Kafi, vol.2, p.34

[iv] Vasail al-Shia, Kitab amr bi maarouf va nahi anil monkar, abvab al-amr va al-nahi, chapter 3: vol.11, p.403

[v] Ibid, vol.1, p.1, pp.37, 39, 40

[vi] Saba: 46/ Noor: 61/ Jome:10/ Araf: 205/ hashr: 2.