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Amr Bayn al-Amrayn

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Amr bayn al-amrayn (Arabic: أمر بين الأمرين) is Imamiyya's belief concerning Human predestination and free will (Jabr and Ikhtiyar). This theory, which is contrary to both predestination and delegation of actions to mankind (Tafwid), holds that God's will and Human will are both involved in human voluntary actions. Based on some hadiths, the theory was first proposed by Imam 'Ali (a).


The significance of the theory is due to the fact that the problem of predestination and delegation of actions to mankind has been a general issue that has concerned all different religions and sects.[1] In addition to its theoretical aspect, the problem has a practical aspect[2] and is related with issues such as divine justice (theodicy)[3] and social freedom.

The theory was first proposed by Amir al-Mu'minin (a). Someone asked him about the nature of Qadar. Imam recommended him not to enter such a complex and profound issue, but he insisted on his request. Imam said: now that you do not give up your request, know that regarding qadar, there is no predestination, nor delegation to mankind, rather something between the two things (Amr Bayn al-Amrayn).[4]

There are many hadiths in this regard from other Imams, in particular Imam al-Sadiq (a) and Imam al-Rida (a). Also a lengthy treatise has been quoted from Imam al-Hadi (a) about this problem.[5]


The two things in question are predestination and delegation of actions to mankind. According to the theory of predestination, human will is by no means involved in any action, and according to the theory of delegation, human will is by all means effective, and God's will has no role in human's actions; God has only created human beings and their powers. The theory of Amr Bayn al-Amrayn (something between two things) rejects both these theories and shows that both God's will and human will are involved in human's voluntary actions; these two wills are in line with each other, and this is the truth about human's free will in actions.[6]


Islamic philosophers and Imamiyya theologians (Mutakallimin) have been proponents of Amr Bayn al-Amrayn.[7] Among other theological schools, although Maturidiyya have proposed the theory of acquisition (Kasb) about human voluntary actions, they have provided an interpretation of 'acquisition' which is compatible with Imamiyya attitude about Amr Bayn al-Amrayn.[8]

The view of Tahawiyya —followers of Abu Ja'far al-Misri al-Tahawi (229/843-321/933)— with respect to this problem is also compatible with Imamiyya.[9]

Some Ash'ari theologians have subscribed to the theory of Amr Bayn al-Amrayn but not under this title —theologians such as Shams al-Din Mahmud al-Isfahani, 'Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha'rani,[10] 'Abd al-'Azim al-Zarqani,[11] al-Shaykh Muhammad 'Abduh[12] and Shaykh Mahmud Shaltut.[13]


According to theologians, Qur'anic verses and hadiths and some rational proofs demonstrate the truth of this theory.

Qur'anic Verses

From among Qur'anic verses we can mention the verse "You [alone] do we worship, and to You [alone] do we turn for help"[14].[15] The verse is incompatible with belief in predestination, since if God were the creator of our actions and our will were not involved in our actions, it would make no sense to ascribe worship to ourselves and say: "we worship", and on the other hand, the verse is incompatible with delegation of actions to mankind, since it does not make sense to seek aid from someone who is by no means involved in the realization of the action.[16] In answer to a question about this problem, Imam al-Sadiq (a) appealed to this verse.[17]

Another verse to this effect is verse 17 of Anfal:

So you did not slay them, but it was Allah who slew them, and you did not smite when you smote, but it was Allah who smote. [18]

This verse has first affirmed the verbs "slay" and "smite" to the faithful (Mu'minun) and the Prophet (s) by "you slay them" and "you smote" and then it denied the verbs about them and ascribed them to God. The affirmation and denial are not in the same respect; otherwise, it would be contradictory. The verse has instead denied the independence of the faithful and the prophet in their actions, but has affirmed their involvement in the actions. This is what has been called "Amr Bayn al-Amrayn".[19]

Some verses have described human beings free in their actions and have ascribed the actions to them, such as "man shall have nothing but what he strives for" [20][21] and in some other verses, God's permission and providence have been said to be involved in actions, such as "and we did not send any messenger but that he should be obeyed by allah's permission" [22].[23] The former verses are contrary to the theory of predestination and the latter are contrary to the theory of delegation of actions to mankind, and the way to reconcile the two is by saying that God has given volition and free will to his servants, and this volition is along God's own volition.


In different books of hadiths, there are hadiths with regard to this issue under sections titled "the section on predestination and fate and something between the two things"[24] and "the section on providence and volition"[25] and "the section on ability"[26] that might be grouped in five categories:

  1. Hadiths that take predestination (Jabr) to be incompatible with obligation (Taklif), promise and threat (Wa'd wa Wa'id), reward and punishment (Thawab wa 'Iqab) and thus with God's wisdom.[27]
  2. Hadiths that take predestination and fate (Qadar) to be incompatible with the generality of God's power and thus take the theory of predestination to be incompatible with monism in creation and design.[28]
  3. Hadiths that introduce the right opinion to be somewhere between predestination and delegation of actions to mankind.[29]
  4. Hadiths that take the the nature of "Amr Bayn al-Amrayn" to be difficult to comprehend and to depend on being steadfast. According to these hadiths, it is sufficient for the faithful (Mu'min) to reject predestination and delegation of actions to mankind.[30]
  5. Hadiths that have illustrated the nature of Amr Bayn al-Amrayn in terms of examples in order to guide the laymen.[31]

Explaining some Hadiths

Imam al-Sadiq (a) assimilates the issue of human free will to a wrong-doing person that you prohibit him from the wrong action, but he does not listen to you. Imam said: since the wrong-doer did not comply with your prohibition and you let him do whatever he wants to do does not mean that you have ordered him to do the wrong action.[32]

Commenting on this hadith, Mulla Sadra writes: in that you prohibited him, you did not let him do whatever he does, and in that you let him do the wrong action, you have not forced him to do the action.[33]

Imam al-Rida (a) says: "God Almighty says: O' son of Adam! You do what you want with my providence and you perform my orders with my power and you have power to sin with my blessings. I have made you see and listen. What happens to you by doing the right action is from God, and what happens to you by doing the wrong action is from you, and this is because I deserve the right action more than you, and you deserve the wrong action more than me, and this is because I am not questioned for what I do, but people are questioned for what they do."[34]

According to this hadith, volition and power are necessary components of human actions and both are granted to human beings by God. On the other hand, God has ordered humans to do right actions and has prohibited them from wrong actions. So it is true that right actions should be ascribed to God and wrong actions should be ascribed to His servants.[35]

Rational Arguments

Theologians' Argument

One of the arguments provided by theologians is that there are only three views conceivable about the problem of the relation between human volition and divine volition, since when we consider the two wills (God's will and the human's will) with respect to a certain action, it might be that only one of these is involved in the action or both. If we say that only one will is involved in the action and that is God's will, predestination would follow, and if we say that only human's will is involved, we would come to the delegation of the action to the man, but if we say that both are involved, Amr Bayn al-Amrayn would follow. It must be noted that we cannot hold that neither of the two wills are involved, since this is against our supposition.[36]

Philosophers' Argument

Here is philosophers' (Hukama's) argument: God has the ability to do everything, but things are different with respect to the reception of existence (coming to being); God created some things immediately, and some things with a mediator. The mediator is sometimes one and is sometimes numerous, but the requirement of a mediator does not mean that God needs it in His actions; the mediator is required because of a deficiency in the receiver (the creature), since God is the cause of all causes and does not need anything in bringing objects to existence. Human's voluntary actions do not issue from God without any mediation because of their deficiencies and human's volition is one such mediator. Therefore, predestination is rejected and since all mediators are God's creatures and arise from his volition, the delegation of actions to mankind is also rejected.[37]

Functions of the Theory


One function of the theory of Amr Bayn al-Amrayn is that human sees himself/herself obligated to perform certain acts, and accepts responsibility for his/her actions, since on this view, human has free will in his/her actions, but the theory of predestination implies that human has no obligation and responsibility, which leads in turn to promiscuity and sloth. People who propose such a theory are often those who want to free themselves from any obligations, laws and morality and to justify wrong actions.[38] For example, Umayyads often appealed to predestination and Murji'a to justify their cruelties.


Another function of the theory of Amr Bayn al-Amrayn is that the person would believe that s/he has free will and s/he can make changes to his/her nature. Therefore, s/he tries to produce good moral habits in him/herself. Contrary to this view, some people maintain that human nature is unchangeable.[39]

Relief from the Problems of the Theories of Predestination and Delegation

The theories of predestination and delegation have problems of their own—ones that might be bypassed by the theory of Amr Bayn al-Amrayn.

Two troubles with the theory of predestination:

  • Moral and religious responsibilities of human beings do not make sense,
  • Creation of bad things and sins by God.

The trouble with the theory of delegation: God's power would be limited, and the theory of monotheism in actions would be undermined.[40]


  1. Jaʿfarī, Jabr wa ikhtīyār, p. 13.
  2. Ṭabāṭabāyī, Uṣūl-i Falsafa, vol. 3, p. 151.
  3. Motahhari, ʿAdl-i ilāhī, p. 11.
  4. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 5, p. 57.
  5. Ṭabrisī, al-Iḥtijāj, p. 450-453.
  6. Ṭabāṭabāyī, Uṣūl-i Falsafa, vol. 3, p. 161-174.
  7. Mullā Ṣadrā, al-Ḥikma al-mutaʿālīyya, vol. 6, p. 371; Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 1, p. 24.
  8. See: Māturīdī, Kitāb al-tawḥid, p. 225-226; Rabbānī, al-Kalām al-muqāran, p. 217-220.
  9. Rabbānī, al-Kalām al-muqāran, p. 220-221. Ṭaḥāwī, al-ʿAqīdat al-Ṭaḥāwīyya, p. 67.
  10. Shaʿrānī, al-Yawāqīt wa l-jawāhir, vol. 1, p. 140.
  11. Subḥānī, Farhang-i ʿaqāyid, p. 111-112, Quoted from: Manāhil al-ʿirfān, vol. 1, p. 506.
  12. ʿAbduh, Risālat al-tawḥid, p. 119.
  13. Subḥānī, Farhang-i ʿaqāyid, p. 112, Quoted from: Tafsīr al-Qurʾān, p. 240-242.
  14. إِیاک نعبد و إیاک نستعین
  15. Qurʾān, 1:5.
  16. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 1, p. 24.
  17. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 5, p. 56.
  18. فَلَمْ تقْتُلُوکمْ وَ لکنّ اللّهَ قَتَلَهُمْ وَ مَا رَمَیتَ إِذْ رَمَیتَ وَ لکنَّ اللّهَ رَمی
  19. Zunūzī, Lamaʿāt ilāhīyya, p. 207.
  20. لیسَ للإنسان إلاّ ما سعی
  21. Qurʾān, 53:39.
  22. وَما أَرْسَلْنا مِنْ رَسُول إلاّ لیطاعَ بإِذْنِ اللّه
  23. Qurʾān, 4:64.
  24. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 155.
  25. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 155; Ṣadūq, al-Tawḥīd, p. 336.
  26. Ṣadūq, al-Tawḥīd, p. 344.
  27. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 5, p. 96.
  28. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 5, p. 127.
  29. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 5, p. 51.
  30. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 5, p. 97.
  31. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 160.
  32. Ṣadūq, al-Tawḥīd, p. 362.
  33. Mullā Ṣadrā, Sharḥ Uṣūl al-kāfī, p. 416.
  34. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 160; Ṣadūq, al-Tawḥīd, p. 338.
  35. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 160.
  36. Fayyāḍ Lāhījī, Guhar-i murād, p. 327.
  37. Mullā Ṣadrā, al-Ḥikma al-mutaʿālīyya, vol. 6, p. 371-372.
  38. Ṭabāṭabāyī, Uṣūl-i Falsafa, vol. 3, p. 171.
  39. Ṭabāṭabāyī, Uṣūl-i Falsafa, vol. 3, p. 172.
  40. Dādbih, "Jabr wa ikhtīyār", vol. 17, p. 499.


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