“A man is free from compulsion when he is not restrained or coerced by forces or persons outside of himself. He is free when he can follow his own desires, his own WILL, regardless of how that WILL may itself have come to be what it is”. According to the Quran, man is (born) free to aim at definite ends, free to choose between alternatives, free to choose good from evil and free to act in accordance with his WILL. The Quran says, “Do whatever you will”[Sura Al-fussilet, verse 40]; “there is absolutely no compulsion in the Deen”[Sura Al-Bakara, verse 256]; “the Truth [has come] from your Sustainer: let, then, him who wills, believe in it, and let him who wills, reject it.”[Sura Al-Khaf, verse 29]; “.
Allah says in the Quran that if human beings had not been endowed with freedom of choice, all those who dwell on earth would have been made to believe (in that which Allah asks them to believe). But this was not Allah’s way. He says, “Would you compel people to believe?”[Sura Yunus, verse 99], signifying that people are under no compulsion by the Almighty to believe or disbelieve and that they should not be compelled in this regard by other people. “None can attain faith except in accordance with Allah’s law”, which is that “Allah lays the loathsome evil [of disbelief] upon those who will not use their reason”[Sura Yunus, verse 100]. People believe or disbelieve according to Allah’s law of universal causation. Human WILL is absolutely free from compulsion but not free from causation.
Everything, including our every act and decision has a prior cause. The important point to keep in mind is, however, that the cause is not always outside of us. The cause may also be within us. Our own character, which we ourselves have helped to form, our own past habits, resolutions and decisions may also be the cause of our present decisions and acts.
There are many passages in the Quran which elucidate that man is free from compulsion but not free from causation. However, when some verses of the Quran are viewed in isolation from the other verses, that appear in other parts of the Quran but related to the same theme, then the confusion may arise. For example, Sura Al-Bakara, verse 7-8 says, “As to those who reject Faith, it is the same to them whether you warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe. Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing and there is a covering over their eyes, and there is a great punishment for them”. It appears from the verses that the disbelievers are under compulsion from Allah and since Allah has set seal upon their hearts, they will never believe. However, if we look at Sura An-Nisa, verse 155, it says, “Allah set a seal upon them because of their disbelief”. So there is causation here, not compulsion. The cause of the seal from Allah is their own disbelief. If they start believing, of which they have choice [Sura Al-Khaf, verse 29], the seal will go off.