A FEW days before Christmas in 2017, Saeed Noori, an Afghani refugee who came to Australia on a humanitarian visa in 2004, ploughed his mother’s car into a crowd on Flinders Street in Melbourne. As a result, sixteen pedestrians were injured and 83-year-old grandfather Antonio Crocaris later died in hospital. As he drove, Noori was shouting “Allah akbar” (Allah is great), according to the off-duty policeman who arrested him. In an interview with the police, he explained his action by saying “Allah made me do it.”
This same exclamation was used by Adel Amastaibou, a French-Moroccan, who stabbed Jewish disc jockey Sebastien Selam to death in Paris in 2003. It was also the justification given by Gulchekhra Bobokulova, an Uzbek nanny, who decapitated a four-year-old girl left in her care in Moscow in 2016.
As Quadrant reported in its December, 2018, edition, foreign student Momena Shoma also invoked Allah’s alleged greatness as she repeatedly plunged a carving knife into the man who had taken her into his family home. As he recalled the incident,
All she [kept] saying was “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar,” while my daughter was screaming here, and I told my daughter, “Run, Shayla, run.”
Why do some Muslim people blame their criminal actions on Allah? Such a conclusion can arise out of the Islamic doctrine of qadr or predestination. It is one of the six key doctrines of Islam: the others are belief in Allah, his books, his angels, his prophets, and the day of judgement.
Historically, Islam has taken a strong view of predestination. Certainly there are some verses in the Koran which suggest humans have free will and agency. For example, its readers are told: “Whosoever wills, let him seek a place with his Lord.” (78:39)
However other verses seem to present this freedom of choice as an illusion.
Let him who will, take the right path to his Lord. Yet you cannot will, except by the will of Allah. Allah is wise and all knowing. He is merciful to whom He will. (Q.76.30)
Your Lord creates whatsoever He wills and chooses, no choice have they [in any matter]. (Q.28:68)
The overall thrust of the Koran is that Allah holds all the power.
O Allah! Possessor of the kingdom, You give the kingdom to whom You will, and You take the kingdom from whom You will, and You endue with honour whom You will, and You humiliate whom You will. In Your Hand is the good. Verily, You are Able to do all things. … You bring the living out of the dead, and You bring the dead out of the living. And You give wealth and sustenance to whom You will, without limit [measure or account]. (Q.3:26,27).
But it is not just the good things of life that are granted by Allah. Bad aspects also come from him.
No misfortune can happen on earth or in your souls but is recorded in a decree before We ([i.e. Allah] bring it into existence: that is truly easy for Allah. (Q.57:22)
Another verse states it more baldly:
No calamity falls but by the leave of Allah (Q.64:11)
Allah sends astray whom He wills and He guides on the Straight Path whom He wills. (Q.6:39; 7:155; 13:27; 14:4; 16:93; 28:56; 35:8; 74:31)
So every human action, positive or negative, can ultimately be attributed to Allah. The hadith, or traditions, which record the sayings of Muhammad are even more prescriptive. A person’s eternal destiny is decreed by Allah forty days before that person is born. Muhammad said:
There is none among you, and no created soul but has his place written for him either in Paradise or in the Hell-Fire, and also has his happy or miserable fate (in the Hereafter) written for him. (Sahih al-Bukhari 6:473)
And it is more than simply the outcome of a person’s life. Another saying of Muhammad states that Allah sends an angel who is ordered to write four things. He is ordered to write down his (i.e. the new creature’s) deeds, his livelihood, his (date of) death, and whether he will be blessed or wretched (in the Hereafter). Then the soul is breathed into him. … So all that is written while the child is still in the mother’s womb. (alBukhari 4:430,549; 8:593; 9:546).
These deeds include a husband’s unfaithfulness to his spouse. Muhammad said:
Allah has fixed the very portion of adultery which a man will indulge in, and which he of necessity must commit. (Sahih Muslim bk 33 no 6421, 6422).
From here it is a relatively small step to attribute all of one’s actions, good and evil, to Allah. So the statement “Allah made me do it” may be a plausible conclusion based on some readings of Islamic theology.
A strong belief in fatalism can become a very convenient means of escaping personal responsibility for one’s own actions. It cleverly attributes the ultimate blame for evil to some-one who is beyond the grasp of the law.
Dr Bernie Power is the Missiologist at the Melbourne School of Theology, and a lecturer with the Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths