In the name of Allāh, Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy.
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All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all creation, may Allah extol the mention of our noble Prophet Muhammad in the highest company of Angels, bless him and give him peace and security―and his family, his Companions and all those who follow him correctly until the establishment of the Hour.
The Hadeeth of the Writing in the Womb and The Four Categories of the Written Decree
We reached the point in Imām Ahmad bin Hanbal’s Usool us-Sunnah where he explains that if a person’s intellect does not comprehend a Hadeeth, then the Hadeeth itself is sufficient for him as a proof.
The Imām of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamā’ah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d.241H) stated:
مثل حديث “الصادق المصدوق” وما كان مثله في القدر ومثل أحاديث الرؤية كلها وإن نبت عن الأسماع واستوحش منها المستمع
“…such as the Hadeeth of the Truthful and the Believed (Prophet of Allah), and whatever is similar to it in the matter of Qadar (Divine Decree) – and also the narrations regarding the Ru’yah (the believers seeing Allah in the Hereafter) – all of them, even if these narrations disagree with people’s hearing and even if the one who is listening to them feels repelled and is averse to them…” Meaning: We are obligated to believe in all that is narrated from the Messenger of Allāh (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) in the authentic ahādeeth.
The Hadeeth of as-Sādiq al-Masdooq (the Truthful, the Believed Prophet of Allah):
It is from the foundations of the religion to accept and affirm all these ahadeeth and to have Eemān in them. The Hadeeth of as-Sādiq al-Masdooq, which is the Hadeeth of Abu ‘Abdir Rahmān, ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) from the first and foremost of the companions of Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) who migrated in the first hijrah to Habashah (Abbysinia) and he is also from those who accompanied the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam), and he is a great Imām amongst the Sahabah (radiyallahu ‘anhum) which is why there is so much information regarding him. He said: The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) narrated to us, and he is as-Sādiq al-Masduq (the truthful one, the one who is believed): “Verily the creation of one of you is brought about in his mother’s womb for forty days as a drop of semen (nutfah), then he becomes a clot (‘alaqah) for forty days, then he is a piece of flesh (mudghah) for another forty days – then Allah sends an angel to it who blows the soul into it and writes down four matters:
(1) its provision (rizq),
(2) its lifespan (ajl),
(3) its deeds (‘aml)
(4) and whether it will be wretched or happy.” (Reported by Bukhari and Muslim).
So, the Qadar (Decree) has already been written in Al-Lawh Al-Mahfoodh (the Preserved Tablet) as occurs in the Hadeeth which we have previously covered where the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “The first of that which Allah created was the pen, and He said to it ‘Write!’ So the Pen wrote everything that would occur from that hour, up until the Day of Resurrection.” Allah (the Most High) has also said in His Book:
إِنَّا كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَاهُ بِقَدَرٍ
“Verily We have created all things with Qadar.” (Surah al-Qamr 54:49) Meaning by His Divine Preordainment of all things before their creation, as recorded in the Book of Decrees, al-Lawh al-Mahfoodh.
Therefore, both the Hadeeth and the Ayah affirm that Allah (the Most High) has written whatever is to take place, and it has been recorded in the Preserved Tablet, fifty thousand years before the creation of the heavens and the Earth. Allah (the Most High) even wrote the person’s procrastination in his worldly affairs and religious deeds, nothing is left out from the Lawh al-Mahfoodh. Even the grains of sand as they roll over each other when they meet the ocean, every fish that swims and the direction it swims in, every egg that is laid, every feather that Allah (the Most High) places upon the birds, and the fur upon the animals – every single affair is written in the Book (Preserved Tablet) and it is upon us to believe in all of this.
It has been reported in the Qur’ān that there are angels that are with people who write down everything that they do – then they return to the heavens, ascending, and they look into the Lawh al-Mahfoodh, and they find that that which they have written is in accordance with that which has already been written in it – whether it is for the person or against him. That which the angels write down is presented to Allah on Mondays and Thursdays and He (the Most High) wipes from them that for which there is no reward and no punishment – such as a person saying, ‘Come down from your riding beast,’ or ‘Give me a cup of water’ and this is the meaning of the statement of Allah:
يَمْحُو اللَّهُ مَا يَشَاءُ وَيُثْبِتُ ۖ وَعِندَهُ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ
“Allah blots out what He wills and confirms what He wills – and with Him is the Mother of the Book (al-Lawh al-Mahfoodh).” (Surah ar-Ra’d 13:39)
The Four Categories of the Written Decree
The initial writing in the Preserved Tablet is called the Taqdeer al-Azali (the complete decree). After this comes the Taqdeer al-‘Umari (the lifespan decree) which was explained in the above Hadeeth of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (radiyallahu ‘anhu). Then comes the Taqdeer al-Hawli (the annual decree), which takes place on Laylatul-Qadr in the month of Ramadan wherein the angels write whatever will happen in the year to come, and this is the execution of that which is already present in the Taqdeer al-Azali. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (radiyallāhu ‘anhumā) said regarding the Night of Decree: Everything that occurs over the whole of the coming year, from the matters of death, birth, provision and rain will be recorded from the Mother of the Book – it will even be said that so and so will perform Hajj. The Mufassireen (the scholars who explain the Qur’ān) have recorded this in their commentaries of the Night of Decree. The last category is the Taqdeer al-Yawmi (the daily decree) – that which is confirmed by the angels regarding the people in that which they write of their daily actions. These last three categories (other than the Taqdeer al-Azali) are all taken from the first writing, which is the Taqdeer al-Azali, i.e., what the Pen wrote in the Lawh al-Mahfoodh.
A person’s Eemān will never be perfected or complete until he believes in all of this. The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said in part of the Hadeeth of Jibreel (‘alaihisalām) reported by ‘Umar ibn al-Khattāb (radiyallahu ‘anhu) regarding Imān, ‘..and that you believe in the Pre-Decree, its good and its evil.’ All of this is from Allah the Most High, and we must believe in it all, and not doubt in any part of it.
So, Allah (the Most High) knows the actions of His servants before they perform them. It is reported by Bukhāri and Muslim that Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, ‘He who loves that his provision be expanded, and his life be extended, should join the ties of kinship.’ A person may ask, ‘How can this Hadeeth be explained when everything has already been written?’ The answer is that a person does this action so the angels write it down and present it to Allah (the Most High) who already knew that He (the Most High) would be presented with this record – and He already knew that His slave would choose to do that action. In fact, it was already written in the Lawh al-Mahfoodh fifty thousand years before the creation of the Heavens and the Earth – and because of that action of the slave, Allah would increase that person’s provision and extend his life.
We also have the tremendous narration reported by Abu Dawud in his Sunan that ‘Ubādah ibn Sāmit said to his son, ‘O my son! You will not truly taste Eemān until you affirm that that which has befallen you was never going to miss you, and that which missed you was never going to befall you.’ This is our complete submission to the Pre-Decree of Allah (the Most High), and we believe that He (the Most High) knew what we were going to do before we did it. Allah knew that those who are righteous will make righteous choices – and that those who are sinful would make sinful choices. Allah already knows that there are from His creation those who are sinful, and then they become righteous, and there are those who are righteous who become sinful just as the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said in that same Hadeeth of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood, ‘By Allah, besides whom there is none worthy of worship, one of you performs the deeds of the people of Paradise until there does not remain between him and it except an arm’s length, and then that which is written for him [in the Book] overtakes him and he does the deeds of the people of the fire, and thus he enters into it.’ Therefore, Allah knows that there are people who will perform the deeds of the righteous, but then they fall into sin – not because He compels them, but because they were given a choice to continue to be righteous or to choose disobedience, so they chose disobedience over piety – then that which had been written for them fifty thousand years before the creation of the Heavens and the Earth overtakes them and is fulfilled.
He (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) also said, ‘A person will do the deeds of the people of Hellfire until there is just an arm’s length between him and it – then that which has been written for him (in the Lawh al-Mahfoodh) overtakes him and he does the deeds of the people of Jannah, until he enters it.’ Allah already knew what choices people would make before they even made them because He (the Most High) wrote it in the Book. No one is compelled to do anything, rather each person is given a choice to either obey Allah’s commands and follow the Revelation or to disobey, and Allah knew beforehand what choice each person would make.
The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said in a Hadeeth reported by Bukhāri, “Indeed the Pen has dried after the writing of what you were going to confront.” Meaning that Allah (the Most High) wrote everything, and then the Pen dried. We do not know what it is that Allah has written for us – but it is upon us to strive to do that which He (the Most High) has commanded us to do and avoid what He has prohibited us from.
والحمد لله رب العالمين وصلى الله على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين.
سبحانك اللهم وبحمدك أشهد أن لا إله إلا أنت، أستغفرك وأتوب إليك
Abu Khadeejah Abdul-Wāhid.
This article was transcribed by Umm Maryam (may Allah reward her) from the classes of Abu Khadeejah (SalafiSounds.com). Please share it with others.