(qadr, taqdīr)

Muzaffar Iqbal and Naseer Ahmad

Many Qurʾānic verses declare that everything in existence has been apportioned in its creation, qualities, functions, and relationships to other existent things: The paths of the sun and the moon have been apportioned so that each revolves in a fixed orbit (Q 36:38-39); the night and the day alternate such that one cannot overtake the other (Q 36:40); the stages of the moon are determined such that human beings may learn the calculation of years and the reckoning of time (Q 10:5); water is sent down from the sky in measured quantities (Q 23:18); in fact, Allah Most High has created everything in due measure and proportion (Q 25:2). The apportionment of all things is also closely related to the Qurʾānic proofs for the existence of the Creator (see Allah Most High), His oneness (see Tawḥīd), and for the Resurrection, these being three primary aspects of the message of the Qurʾān to which Divine apportionment is closely linked (see below).

Definitions and Usage

The Qurʾān employs words derived from six roots to denote apportionment. Those used most often are derived from the polysemic root q-d-r. The other five are: sawwā (“to make congruous”), from s-w-y (Q 18:37; 32:9; 75:38; 82:7; 87:2); mawzūn (“in due measure or weight”), from w-z-n (Q 15:19); atqana (“to perfect, or to perform skillfully”), from t-q-n (Q 27:88); aḥsana (“to improve, to adorn, to do with excellence”), from ḥ-s-n (Q 17:7; 32:7; 40:64); and ʿadala (“to act justly, with fairness and proportion”), from ʿ-d-l (Q 82:7) (Zabīdī, Tāj).

The meanings associated with the root q-d-r include power, ability, determination, reckoning, extent, worth, destruction, and strain (Farāhīdī, ʿAyn; Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs; Fayrūzābādī, Qāmūs; Zabīdī, Tāj; Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān). The same root also yields the meaning “providential fate”, for which see Divine Decree. Also see AbilitySustenanceLife; and Life of this World, which are all related to Divine apportionment of sustenance among His creatures (Q 13:26; 28:82; 29:62; 30:37; 34:36, 39; 39:52; 42:12).

Al-Fayrūzābādī (729-817/1329-1415) lists six categories of Qurʾānic usage of the words derived from the root q-d-r:

  1. honor and greatness, as in [the verse] Indeed We have sent it down on the Night of Qadr (Q 97:1)—said to mean a night ordained for specific matters (layla qayyaḍahā li-umūr makhṣūṣa);
  2.  constriction of space and provisions (ḍīq al-makān wal-maʿīsha), as in He grants abundant sustenance for whom He wills, or straitens [it] (yaqdiru), meaning ‘constricts it’ (Q 13:26); And let him whose means are scant (qudira ʿalayhi rizquhu), meaning ‘constricted’ (Q 65:7); and And he deemed that We had no power over him (lan naqdira ʿalayhi), meaning “We would not restrict his [ability]” (Q 21:87);
  3. embellishment (tazyīn) and adornment of creaturely form (taḥsīn al-ṣūra), as in Thus We determined (qaddarnā), and [We are] most excellent determiners (al-qādirūn), [meaning] ‘We fashioned and are most excellent of fashioners’ (Q 77:23) and The One who determined (qaddara[the nature of what exists], then guided, meaning ‘He created, then fashioned’ (Q 87:3);
  4. to make and to work, as in We have appointed for it (qaddarnāhu) stages, meaning ‘We made stages for it’ (Q 10:5); We have appointed (qaddarnāhu) stages for the moon (Q 36:39); And Who created everything and wrought its course (fa-qaddarahu taqdīrā) (Q 25:2); [and as is said regarding the earth, after creating it, And He placed firm mountains on it, and blessed it, and measured out (qaddaraits sustenance in four days, equitable to [the needs of] all who seek [sustenance] (Q 41:10);
  5. [divine] knowledge and wisdom, as in Allah determines the measure (yuqaddiruof night and day, meaning ‘knows [it]’ (Q 73:20); and
  6. power and ability(al-qudra wal-quwwa), as in Does he think [none] has power (yaqdiraover him?, meaning ‘ability’ (yaqwā) (Q 90:5); And He has power (qadīrover all things (Q 5:120; 11:4; 30:50; 42:9; 57:2; 64:1; 67:1); and Say: it is He [alone] Who has the power (huwa l-Qādir); and there are other examples (Q 6:65).

Baṣāʾir, baṣīra fī-l-qadar 4:243-245

Al-Rāghib al-Aṣfahānī (d. 502/ca.1108) says apportionment by Allah Most High is of two kinds: (i) granting certain abilities to things (iʿṭā al-qudra) through which they reach their final stage of development; and (ii) creating things in their complete form at once, formed upon a complete pattern and to a certain measure, according to His Wisdom. The first kind is created to have certain principles in actuality (bil-fiʿl) whose consequences are left as potentiality (bil-quwwa). “He has constrained them so that they cannot but appear as He has determined, as with His determination that only the date-palm will [ever] grow from [its] seed, not the apple or olive; and that only humans shall be born from human semen, not any other animal.” Al-Rāghib cites Q 80:19 (Of a sperm-drop did He create him, [and] then apportioned a measure for him (fa-qaddarah)), as alluding to the potentialities with which Allah has endowed sperm (Mufradātsub q-d-r).

The word atqana occurs only once in the Qurʾān: And you see the mountains, deeming them firmly fixed, but they [shall] pass away, even as clouds pass away: the work of Allah, Who has perfected (atqana) all things. Verily He is well-informed of what you do (Q 27:88). Atqana is glossed as “made firm, strong, beautiful” by Mujāhid (d. ca.104/722) (Tafsīr); other exegetes similarly explain it as denoting a flawless combination of beauty, strength, and harmony (cf. Tafsīrs of Ṭabarī and Bayḍāwī). Al-Zamakhsharī proclaims in relation to this verse that Allah has not made anything imperfect, but rather has created everything on a firm pattern and in the best conformation; this perfection of things is a proof of His Knowledge and Wisdom (Kashshāf). Beauty (ḥusn) is understood by many exegetes as one aspect of the perfection and apportionment of created things. Ibn ʿAṭiyya, for instance, says that the beauty of everything is in the aesthetic relation to its function and created things not conventionally regarded as beautiful are nonetheless divinely perfected in their apportionment. In this sense Ibn ʿAbbās (3bh-68/619-688) and his student ʿIkrima (d. 104/722) cited the example of a monkey’s buttocks, which though not beautiful are harmoniously well-formed (Muḥarrarsub Q 32:7).

Exegetical Reflections

Ibn ʿAṭiyya (480-546/1087-1151) explains apportionment as “determination of things with respect to their place, time, quantity, raison d’être, and perfection” (Muḥarrar, sub Q 25:2). Al-Naysābūrī (d. 850/1446) says perfection means freedom from defects and disharmony, so that “no rational person, seeing them, would claim that they would have been better formed this way or that” (Gharāʾib, sub Q 67:3). Ibn ʿĀshūr (1296-1393/1879-1972) writes that the perfection of things proves the perfection of the Creator, Who created all things, great and small, in perfect form and to perfect measure—as does His saying, Indeed We have created everything in a determined measure (Q 54:49). Furthermore, this indicates that their creation is through volition and with knowledge (Tafsīrsub Q 25:2).

The opening verses of Sūrat al-Aʿlā succinctly describe the apportionment of all things with respect to their creation: Glorify the name of your Lord, the Most High; Who created all things and fashioned them in good proportion (fa-sawwā); and Who determined (qaddara), then guided [them] (Q 87:1-3). Al-Zamakhsharī (467-538/ca.1074-1143) comments, “He created everything and then He apportioned His creation. He did not make it disharmonious and discordant, but made it follow a consistent pattern” (Kashshāfsub Q 87:1-3). Likewise, al-Rāzī (543-606/1148-1209) says that Divine apportionment encompasses all created things with respect both to their essences (dhawātuhā) and their accidental attributes (ṣifātuhā). Thus apportionment of the heavens, the planets, the elements, minerals, plants, animals, and humans is in respect to their size and bodies. Furthermore, “He has established a fixed term for their existence just as He has determined their color, taste, fragrance, place, beauty or ugliness, happiness or wretchedness, guidance or misguidance. As He has said: There is nothing of which the stores are not in Our keeping, and We do not send it down except in a known measure (bi-qadarin maʿlūm) (Q 15:21). The details of this cannot be covered even in voluminous tomes; indeed, the entire cosmos, from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high, is an exposition (tafsīr) of this verse” (Tafsīrsub Q 87:1-3).

Al-Māturīdī (d. 333/ca.945) explains that Allah Most High has delimited and apportioned everything and that “this apportionment is such that if all creatures were to gather they would not be able to fathom its benefits, and if this apportionment were not present, disorder and corruption would abound!” (Taʾwīlātsub Q 25:2). Commenting on Q 54:49, We have created everything in a fixed measure (bi-qadar), al-Rāzī contrasts the perfection of actions of Allah Most High with those of an archer who does not know with absolute certainty, when he shoots, where his arrow will land (Tafsīr). Elsewhere, al-Rāzī states: “He has constrained the movements of the sun and the moon, so that the sun completes its rotation in one year and the moon in one month; and in these apportionments are benefits for all. The alternation of the four seasons benefits human beings: they receive their sustenance through the ripening of fruits and grain, and any increase or decrease in those terms would have destroyed those benefits” (Tafsīrsub Q 6:96).

Al-Khāzin (678-741/1279-1340) explains the meaning of “best formation” (aḥsan al-taqwīm) in Q 95:4 as follows: “The ‘best formation’ means perfection and unparalleled beauty, which resides in uprightness of the body and in the relative proportion of the parts of the body” (Lubāb al-taʾwīlsub Q 64:3). In Sūrat al-Sajda, the apportionment of all things is mentioned as part of the Divine excellence in creation: Who makes most excellent everything He creates (Q 32:7).

In his commentary on Q 82:7, the twentieth-century exegete Ibn ʿĀshūr points to the perfection and relative proportion of various parts of the human body as expressing a principle of just proportion (taʿdīl):

The two hands, the two feet, the two eyes, as well as the shape of the face are all proportionate; there is no disharmony in the pairs, and there is no ugliness in the whole. [Allah] has created man in an upright form. Had one hand been to the side and the other on the back, the hands would have been dysfunctional. Had He placed the eyes behind, they would have been of little use to see where one was going. The same applies to the placement of all the internal organs of the body, such as the throat, stomach, liver, spleen, and kidneys, the placement of the lungs and the heart, and the placement of the brain and the spinal cord. Allah created the human body as consisting of parts. Its extremities are on either side and there is no disharmony between them; and He made the two sides mirroring each other in veins, nerves, and arteries (see Arteries and Veins). (Tafsīr)

Resources on earth have also been apportioned out (Q 15:19): And the earth have We spread out, and have cast on it firm mountains, and have caused [life] of every kind to grow on it in a balanced manner (mawzūn). “One of the meanings of this verse,” according to al-Rāzī, “is that Allah Most High has apportioned everything on earth according to human needs, as He knows the measure (miqdār) [of everything] required by humans and what would benefit them, so He brings forth (yunbitu) that measure from the earth” (Tafsīr). The word mawzūn (lit., “in due weight”) in the verse, al-Zamakhsharī explains, means “weighed in the scales of wisdom, apportioned in a just measure, not able to be improved by increase or decrease” (Kashshāf).

Apportionment and Oneness of Allah Most High

Among the proofs offered by the Qurʾān for the oneness of Allah are various aspects of the perfection and apportionment of all created things, and particularly the lack of internal disharmony and incongruity in creation. The majestic passage with which Sūrat al-Mulk begins is representative: Hallowed be He in whose Hand is the dominion and Who has power over everything; Who created death and life so that He might test you as to who amongst you is best in conduct; and He alone is All-Mighty, the Most Forgiving; Who created the seven heavens, one upon another; you will find no incongruity in the creation of the Most Merciful; turn your vision once more: canst thou see any flaw? Turn your vision twice more: thy vision will fall back upon thee, dazzled and defeated (Q 67:1-4). Exegetical literature cites examples of congruity from the realms of creation (human, animal, various natural phenomena) to show how they all point to the existence of a single Creator. For instance, in relation to Q 67:1-4, al-Māturīdī says:

Look at the creation of the Most Merciful: do you see there any flaw? For if you saw flaws there, you would think there are multiple originators; and if you saw any incongruity (tafāwutan), you would infer some unsteadiness (safahan) in its originator ( munshiʾih). If you saw there flaws (fuṭūran) and fissures (shuqūqan), you would [also] find internal competition (tamānuʿan) and disharmony (tadāfuʿan)… which is a proof of the existence of more than one [absolute, organizing] volition and more than one creator—because what one would create, the other would destroy, and vice versa, resulting in incoherence and conflict. But if you find no incongruity and find it harmonious, working by a single volition, that is proof of His Oneness, Power, and Might. (Taʾwīlāt)

Apportionment and Resurrection

The teleological apportionment of creation is also offered as an argument for Resurrection. Allah was not compelled to perfect His creation of humans, but that He did so suggests an ultimate end for the human being beyond the material realm (Rāzī, Tafsīrsub Q 82:6-8). Likewise, al-Rāzī explains the sequence of Q 95:4 (Indeed We created human being on the best conformation) and Q 95:7 (What, then, can give the lie to you [O Prophet], about the Reward and the Punishment?) as extrapolating an argument from apportioned creation to the existence of an apportioning Creator, and ultimately to the Resurrection and Reckoning (see Judgment). An apportioned creation suggests a greater purpose, which is to worship Allah (Q 56:51); those who heed this imperative receive due reward, and the heedless too receive their recompense. “His saying, then He fashioned you into a [complete] man (sawwāka rajulan) (Q 18:37) indicates that man has been created with intelligence and all the characteristics required to be held accountable. Given all of this, is it reasonable to believe that Allah Most High will leave you to your affairs without any accountability?” (Rāzī, Tafsīrsub Q 18:37). 

Apportionment and Divine Knowledge, Power, Might, Wisdom, and Mercy

Apportionment is advanced as a proof for certain Attributes of Allah (see Beautiful Names of Allah), such as His Knowledge, Power, Might, Wisdom and Mercy. Ibn ʿAṭiyya comments that Allah adduces the following verses regarding the apportionment of the cosmic order as evidence of His Power and His “necessary Divinity” (wujūb al-ulūhiyya lah) (Muḥarrar): Limitless in His glory is He who has created all the pairs in what the earth produces, and in [men’s] own selves, and in that of which they have no knowledge. And a sign (āya) for them is the night: We withdraw from it the [light of] day—and lo! they are in darkness. And [they have a sign in] the sun, it runs in its own orbit, ordained by the All-Mighty, the All-Knowing. We have appointed stages for the moon till it becomes like an old date-stalk, dried up and curved; neither does it lie in the sun’s power to overtake the moon, nor can the night outstrip the day—all float, each in its own orbit (Q 36:36-40). Likewise, al-Rāzī writes that the third verse of Sūrat al-Mulk (Q 67:3) demonstrates the perfection of divine knowledge: one perceives that the seven heavens are created to a coherent plan, and from this flawless creation infers the vast knowledge of its Creator (Tafsīrsub Q 67:3). The fact that the Qurʾān uses al-Raḥmān (“the Most Merciful”; also see Beautiful Names of Allah), in Q 67:3 instead of the Majestic name Allah, Ibn ʿĀshūr notes, signals that the Divinely fashioned cosmic order is a manifestation of His mercy to humanity (Tafsīrsub Q 67:3).


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See also

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