Search Words

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Free Will, Islam, and Addiction

I'm not going to pretend to be an Islam expert, but I would like to address a few words towards the previous post about strict Islamic countries trying to use the 12 Steps.  So, this post is going to be a little more 'religious' than usual, but I think it is an interesting juxtaposition that people in recovery will have to address, and that is free will versus predestination.

Islam relies pretty heavily on predestination.  Everything is determined by God's will.  If your car breaks down, that's God's will.  Don't get a job, that's God's will.  Fight with your spouse, that's God's will.  Over and over again, you can hear 'inshallah' or 'as God wills' falling from the lips of Arabs throughout the Moslem world.

As a result, Islam has a difficult time with 'cause-and-effect.'  Basically, the world is seen not by God and man both acting on the world with God's foreknowledge, but rather God's and man's wills confronting one another, man as an agency of rebellion and his will either being permitted or thwarted by God's willing overcoming man's.  At the same time, God does not rely on man's agency, and He can make something happen without human 'help.'

As a result of this, you can divorce yourself from a great deal of personal responsibility.  After all, it was God's will that something happened or didn't happen.

And, yet, Islam also teaches that men will be held accountable for their sins and there really isn't much room for forgiveness.  So, for those Muslims who are in big trouble, God is literally leading them into damnation.  You can now see why Jihad and dying in battle became so attractive: if you die as a martyr, your sins are automatically forgiven and you go straight to paradise.

The problem for them will be accepting a disease model in which God desires to forgive and will tolerate even their worst sins.  Harder yet, this model also assumes that man has a completely free will.  After all, you can only take personal responsibility for actions and their consequences that you are responsible for.  If you believe that God is responsible for everything (because He dictates all that happens), then you are not responsible.

Of course, blaming God for everything only goes so far, and so human beings will suffer when they know that they have done wrong.

But, what makes this worse is forgiveness: every evil done to you was decided on by God.  He didn't allow it, He willed it.  There's a big difference between the two.  Moslem addicts will have to struggle with forgiving God first for allowing evils to fall upon them, before they can even get to the part about forgiving other people.

This falls into conflict with the usual interpretations of God found within 12 Step practitioners.  God does not will evil, but does allow it in light of His ability to fix what is broken at a later point.  So, evils of the past become sources of healing and light in the present.

This is the premise of Orthodox Christianity: God's justice is His ability to renew what is broken and rebuild even better what was lost.  It is constant improvement rather than a motion backwards.

It will be interesting to see how 12 Steppers in Moslem countries deal with the definition of a Higher Power.  I can't say for sure how they will square this off.

What will be more interesting will be to see how the religious authorities handle it.  I'm sure they are going to take an active interest, though I wonder how closely they will pay attention to the finer nuances of 12 Step teachings.  Recall from yesterday the confusion between ethanol and methanol in the cleric's statement about the evils of bio-fuels.  He thinks that arak and ethanol are the same thing.  Ooops... I guess he didn't get the memo.

Since these nations are dominated by the clergy, recovery programs are likely to be dominated by non-addict religious figures.  This does not bode well.  Recovery programs are best handled by recovering addicts.  Non-addicts have a difficult time understanding addiction.

As I said, it will be interesting to watch and see what happens.



  1. Divine will/human will---The Islamic perspective is that human beings have limited free-will---this concept acknowledges that in many areas humans do not have free will such as when, and where we are born, or die, our genetic predispositions, some of the circumstances of our lives....etc. Human beings will be held accountable commensurate with the degree of free-will they are given. An individual does not have the same degree of free-will throughout his life, nor is his free-will the same as that of another.

    God is most compassionate, most merciful and forgives those who ask for forgiveness. Nothing is required except that an individual turn to God in repentance and strive for reform. God forgives.

    It is true that God bestows trials and blessings---from an Islamic perspective---BOTH are tests---those who have been given more blessings also have more responsibility towards those who have been given less---and will be held accountable for it. Those who have been given less have less responsibility, but the test is to bear with patience and overcome their trials with their faith in God.

  2. Like I said, this will be interesting to see how 12 Steps are interpreted in this context. The 12 Steps assume complete human free will, and that God does not interfere with our decision-making process. We might not be able to accomplish our goals, but God does prevent a man from desiring or initiating action. If Moslem scholars decide this is 'heretical,' then there will be a real problem with using the 12 Steps as generally taught.

  3. Surah 13 verse 11 (partial) "God will not change a condition of a people until they change what is in themselves"

    However, we Muslims have Ramadhan---so perhaps there may be no need for other types of programes....

    1. Well, from the articles I've posted, it does not seem there's agreement that treatment isn't necessary...

  4. "God's justice is His ability to renew what is broken and rebuild even better what was lost. It is constant improvement rather than a motion backwards."- I totally agree with this statement. Addiction recovery is useless without divine intervention.