Difference between the Irādah Kawniyyah (Universal Will) of Allah and the Irādah Sharʿiyyah (Legislative Will) of Allah ― Correctly Understanding the Decree of Allah and Avoiding Doubts.

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Shaikh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Bāz, Ibn Abil-‘Izz and others from the Scholars have explained that the Will of Allah (al-Irādah) as mentioned in the Qur’ān is of two types: The Universal Determined Will and The Religious Legislative Will.

Al-Irādah al-Kawniyyah al-Qadariyyah (The Universal Determined Will of Allah).

What is meant by this is the Will of Allah that is all-encompassing over all the events and occurrences that take place. This relates to everything that Allah Wills, His Actions and what He brings into existence. This includes what He loves and what He is not pleased with (such as disbelief or disobedience). And whatever He Wills is according to His perfect Wisdom, His complete Knowledge of the consequences, and His absolute Awareness and Ability over all things.

So, the Iradah Kawniyyah can include that which Allah loves and is pleased with or that which He does not love and is not pleased with—however, it is bound to occur as He has written and decreed, such as the birth of one person and the death of another, the sickness of one and the health of another, the īmān of one and the kufr of another, and so on.

And it may be the case that the intent behind the Irādah Kawniyyah of Allah is other than what is apparent, such as the creation of Iblees (and other evils), so that people may avoid these evils, and do deeds beloved to Allah, such as worship, dhikr, striving against falsehood and seeking forgiveness.

Imām Ibn Bāz explained that The Universal Determined Will is that which is already known by Allah (and recorded in the Preserved Tablet)―and the intent is that which has been decreed already, that it will indeed occur. This is like the saying of Allah:

إِنَّمَآ أَمْرُهُۥٓ إِذَآ أَرَادَ شَيْـًٔا أَن يَقُولَ لَهُۥ كُن فَيَكُونُ

“Verily, His command, when He intends a thing, is only that He says to it, ‘be!’, and it is.” (Yāsīn 36:82) This Decree is determined and will occur. Allah (the Most High) stated:

فَمَن يُرِدِ ٱللَّهُ أَن يَهْدِيَهُۥ يَشْرَحْ صَدْرَهُۥ لِلْإِسْلَـٰمِ ۖ وَمَن يُرِدْ أَن يُضِلَّهُۥ يَجْعَلْ صَدْرَهُۥ ضَيِّقًا حَرَجًا كَأَنَّمَا يَصَّعَّدُ فِى ٱلسَّمَآءِ ۚ

“And whomsoever Allah wills to guide, He opens his breast to Islam, and whomsoever He wills to send astray, He makes his breast closed and constricted as if he is climbing up to the sky (unable to breath).” (Al-Anʿām 6:125)

Al-Irādah ad-Dīniyyah Ash-Sharʿiyyah (The Religious Legislative Will of Allah).

This is the Will of Allah that is in accordance with what He loves and is pleased with and is therefore connected to what He has commanded the people with and enjoined upon them. Al-Imām Ibn Bāz (rahimahullāh) explained: This is al-Irādah ash-Sharʿiyyah (The Legislative Will) of Allah, as He (the Most High) said:

ۗ يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ بِكُمُ ٱلْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ ٱلْعُسْرَ

“Allāh intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship…” (Al-Baqarah 2:185) And He (the Most High) said:

يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ أَن يُخَفِّفَ عَنكُمْ ۚ وَخُلِقَ ٱلْإِنسَـٰنُ ضَعِيفًا

“Allah wishes to lighten (the burden) for you and man was created weak.” (An-Nisā’ 4:28)

So, these verses show the Legislative Will of Allah―that Allah wants ease and He has commanded the people with that which will bring them ease. However, this ease is obtained by some people but not by others. Some are tried with hardships, difficulties, and tribulations.

Furthermore, Allah wants the people to pray (establish the Salāh) and fast―Allah (the Most High) commanded them with these affairs, and to worship Him alone. So, from the people are those who pray, fast and worship Allah―and from them are those who disbelieve (and disobey Him), and they are greater in number.

So this is the Irādah Sharʿiyyah (the Legislative Will of Allah)―which entails that which He wants for them, is pleased with and commands them to do. However, it is not a must that the Irādah Sharʿiyyah will occur, such as the wish (irādah) of Allah that every person should be a believer. So, this is from Allah’s Legislative Will.

Differences Between the Two and Benefits

Both ‘The Legislative Will’ and ‘The Universal Will’ come together in the one who is obedient to Allah, but they are separated in the one who is disobedient to Him and in the unbeliever.

Why? Because the obedient person does what Allah loves and commands (so He fulfils the Legislative Will) and likewise he is bound by Universal Will. The fact that he obeyed Allah means that he is encompassed by the Universal Will also—as well as the fact that he encounters ease, hardship, hunger, provision, riches, happiness, sadness, trials, etc. as were decreed for him.

As for the disobedient one (or the Kāfir), he does not fulfil the Legislative Will of Allah because he does not do that which Allah loves and is pleased with, so in this, he is negligent and absent. The fact that these acts of disobedience take place proves that Allah willed them by His Universal Will, not that He is pleased or legislated kufr or disobedience for His creation.

So, al-Irādah al-Kawniyyah will definitely come to pass as it has been decreed and written in the Preserved Tables (al-Lawh al-Mahfoodh), and it does not necessitate that Allah loves what He has Decreed (by His Universal Will) such as the instances of murder, theft, fornication, idolatry, bidʿah, etc. Indeed, He (the Most High) hates these sins and acts of disobedience, and the people who fall into them do so out of their own volition and choice, not because they were compelled or forced by Allah. Allah’s foreknowledge and Will does not mean that the person is compelled by Him to sin.

Additionally, the true victims of these crimes are oppressed in the sight of Allah, and He recompenses them and brings about His Justice, either in this life or in the Hereafter in numerous ways that have been explained in the Qur’ān and Sunnah. Then there are those who are tried with calamities, disasters, illnesses and so on—and this is in accordance with the level of their belief (īmān); those strong in faith are tried more severely than the weak believers. So, they are tested and tried by Allah to see which of them is best in deeds, and which of them gives up and despairs in their Lord—and these occurrences are a reminder to those around them, whether relatives or onlookers, so they may reflect on their lives and come closer to their Lord by worshipping Him and performing righteous deeds.

As for al-Irādah ash-Sharʿiyyah, then there is no doubt that Allah loves that His Legislative Will is followed and practised, but it is not necessary that it happens—it may come to pass, or it may not.

So, the Irādah Kawniyyah combines with the Irādah Sharʿiyyah in such things as the belief of the believer and the obedience of the obedient one.

And the Irādah Kawniyyah is on its own in such things as the disbelief of the disbeliever and the disobedience of the disobedient one.

And the Irādah Sharʿiyyah is singled out in things such as the call to belief in Allah that the unbeliever is invited to; and the obedience to Allah that the sinner is invited to. The fact that these things are beloved to Allah alongside the fact that they did not take place shows us that they were Legislated (Sharʿiyyah), and no more.

The Irādah Kawniyyah is connected to the Lordship of Allah and what He creates, whereas the Irādah Sharʿiyyah is connected to the worship of Allāh, His ‘Uloohiyyah and following His Laws (because it encompasses what He loves and is pleased with).

The person who understands the difference between the two Wills is saved from doubts and misguidance—and he is saved from questioning the Will of Allah and showing displeasure at times of calamity. Imām Ibn Al-Qayyim stated, “Allah, the Most Perfect, is All-Wise. He does nothing in jest, nor without meaning, benefit and wisdom—and this is the intended goal of the action. Indeed, His actions emanate from the Highest Wisdom due to which He acts, just as they arise due to causes and reasons for which He acts. And His Speech and the speech of His Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) point to this.” The saying of Ahlus-Sunnah and the Salaf is that Allah is the All-Wise and there is wisdom in whatever He has created—indeed, there is in it, mercy and wisdom.

Abu Khadeejah ʿAbdul-Wāhid.


Majmūʿ Fatāwā of Ibn Taymiyyah, 11/266.

Sharh al-ʿAqeedah at-Tahāwiyyah of Ibn Abil-ʿIzz al-Hanafī, 1/66.

Audio of Shaikh Ibn Bāz (rahimahullāh):

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