Free Will and Predestination in Islamic Thought

Theoretical Compromises in the Works of Avicenna, al-Ghazali and Ibn 'Arabi

By Maria De Cillis

© 2014 – Routledge

260 pages

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Hardback: 9780415662185
pub: 2013-12-16
US Dollars$145.00

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About the Book

The subject of "human free-will" versus "divine predestination" is one of the most contentious topics in classical Islamic thought. By focusing on a theme of central importance to any philosophy of religion, and to Islam in particular, this book offers a critical study of the intellectual contributions offered to this discourse by three key medieval Islamic thinkers: Avicenna, al-Ghazali and Ibn ?Arabi.

Through investigation of primary sources, Free Will and Predestination in Islamic Thought establishes the historical, political and intellectual circumstances which prompted Avicenna, al-Ghazali and Ibn ?Arabi’s attempts at harmonization. By analysing the theoretical and linguistic ‘techniques’ which were employed to convey these endeavours, this book demonstrates that the three individuals were committed to compromise between philosophical, theological and mystical outlooks.

Arguing that the three scholars’ treatments of the so-called qa?a wa’l-qadar (decree and destiny) and ikhtiyar (free-will) issues were innovative, influential and fundamentally more complex than hitherto recognized, this book contributes to a fuller understanding of Islamic intellectual history and culture and will be useful to researchers interested in Islamic Studies, Religion and Islamic Mysticism.


"I think that some of the important ideas that the author presents …might provide a useful basis for further investigation of the relation between Ibn ‘Arabi’s theosophy and the philosophical thought of Ibn Sina." - Salman Bashier, The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

Table of Contents

Introduction 1 Avicenna: a Biography 2 Divine and Celestial Knowledge in Relation to Determinism 3 Al-Ghazali: A Biography 4 Al-Maqsad Al-Asna Fisharh Ma'Ani Asma' Allah Al-Husna 5 Ibn Arabi: A Biography 6 The A'yan Thabita and the Realm of Responsibility in the Divine Qada Conclusive Remarks

About the Author

Maria De Cillis is a Research Associate and the Shi‘i Studies Co-ordinator at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, Department of Academic Research and Publications, London. Her research interests focus on the Islamic tradition in the formative period, including Islamic theology, the study of the Qur’an, Islamic philosophy, Islamic spirituality and mysticism.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / Free Will & Determinism
RELIGION / Islam / Theology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies