An early theological movement that upheld the centrality of human free will. The rubric qadariyya is notoriously misleading: it actually derives from the Arabic word qadar – ‘destiny’ or ‘divine predestination’ – and was generally applied in a derogatory fashion to defenders of free will by advocates of predestination (i.e. Jabrites) and vice versa. However, historically it has been associated with the former rather than the latter. Politically, the Qadarites shared some of the Kharijites’ views, most notably the doctrine that any good Muslim can in principle qualify as the caliph but that the caliph must hew to the path of righteousness or risk being justifiably deposed. However, they are primarily remembered for their theological defense of free will. The early Qadarites were adamant that evil not be ascribed to God: only good comes from God, evil being traceable to either human beings or Satan. According to the more moderate version of this position, human beings have the capacity to choose between good and evil. God, it was allowed, knows from all eternity what we will do, but does not preordain or cause it. The more extreme forms of Qadarism rejected even God’s foreknowledge of human choices. Both versions, however, seem committed to the premise that ‘ought implies can’: that is, God would not require human beings to act righteously and avoid evil if it were not within the power of our will. The free will doctrine was taken up by the Mu‘tazilites, albeit in slightly altered form. It would be a grievous injustice, they argued, if God were to reward or punish people for matters they have no real power over, since moral accountability presupposes that one could have chosen otherwise. Thus, if we want to affirm God’s justice we must also affirm human free will. The Qadarites faced staunch opposition from more traditionalist advocates of predestination and divine compulsion, and were ultimately outflanked by the Ash‘arites, who attempted to stake out a ‘middle ground’ between free will and divine compulsion (which often seems closer to the latter than to the former).
   Further reading: van Ess 2006; Watt 1948, 1962/85

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

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