If man is to be held accountable for his deeds, it is essential that he be free to do right and wrong, if all his actions are predestined then he should not be held responsible for any of them. The Quran gives a definite answer to this, but before we do present it, let us first see how some of our philosophers view this question which has puzzled many a mind.
Pythagoras thought that the universe is like a machine with various parts. Man is also a part of this whole. No part of a machine has a will of its own. According to Heraclitinst the universe is a huge combination of unchanging physical laws. These laws are also working on man and therefore is no question of free will. Zeno maintained that everything that happens has a cause. Whatever man does is actually an effect of senses that are distinctly separate from his actions -- therefore there is no will at all. Voltaire was of the opinion that if free will is not complete and absolute, then there is no free will and it is quite obvious that men does not have absolute free will.
VIEW OF THE QURAN
According to the Quran, the matter should be understood by introspection rather than entrospection.
There is no free will for man regarding his physical self, environment and events external to himself. But he has been given free will in a limited circle. And this is where he would be held accountable on the judgement day. He is only free in his intention (2:30) (intentions as opposed to desired). As per his freedom in actions or converting intentions into actions is concerned, man has a defacto freedom to that as well, but not dejure. Then as man has freedom in intentions therefore his accountability would be on the basis of his intentions. The test of man is that with this freedom in intention, whether he intends for good or evil.
There has been a lot of debate as to what is good and what is evil among thinkers and philosophers. The Quran states that man knows what is good and what is evil, and this, according to the Quran, is an Apriori knowledge:
But infact man is a witness over himself, however much an excuse he tenders. (75:14-15)
Have We not made for him a pair of eyes and a tongue and a pair of lips? And shown him both the paths?' (90:8-10)
Hence, if (soul) was enlightened as to its right and wrong. (91:8)
Another question in this respect is that who is the creator of good and evil? The Quran states that actually there is only one real value, that of good. Evil is only the result of providing man with freedom in intention. When, on the basis of his free will, he opts to avoid good, evil comes into being.