Below is an article I wrote for Dawn. It hasn't been published yet and I don't even know if it will be ever published. But its written in that way: For secularists and with a tinge of real Islam.
Qadr (predestination) is the belief that everything is predestined by Allah (SWT). It comprises of four parts. The first part is the knowledge of Allah (SWT). Allah (SWT) knows exactly and everything of what takes place, what has taken place and what will take place. The second part of Qadr is Al-Lawh Al-Mahfooth which is the prescribed tablet. In the Al-Lawh Al-Mahfooth everything that will happen has been written down. The third part is the will of Allah (SWT). Everything in the past, present or future takes place by the will of Allah (SWT). The last part is Creation. It is the belief that Allah (SWT) has created all creation, all what they possess of attributes, and all their actions.
Qadr is one of the seven beliefs of a Muslim. There is no disagreement among the scholars of Islam that it is must for every Muslim to believe in Qadr. Without it the belief of a Muslim is incomplete. Among those who rejected this concept were the Mu’tazilaat, and for this reason were called apostates to Islam by the Muslims of the past and those of today.
The Qadr of Allah (SWT) is not an easy concept to grasp. It is beyond human understanding to fully comprehend and understand it but nevertheless it is possible to understand a great (though small in proportion) part of it. Qadr is not a new concept to the religions of the world. It is also a part of the belief systems of other religions, namely Christianity and to a certain extent Judaism. Though the belief of predestination is present in Christianity, it is different in key concepts from Islam. In Christianity it is an unquestionable fact that it is part of a Christian’s belief. Still, many Christians still reject it because they find it difficult to understand and because it is against free will. Even those Christians, who believe in it, believe in it blindly without knowing too much about it. In sharp contrast, the most research and in-depth analysis done on Qadr is in Islam.
Since the Quran was revealed 1400 years ago, the scholars of Islam have tried to understand this concept and abide by it in their daily lives. Qadr is the belief that everything is predestined by Allah (SWT). One of the questions that arise is that if Allah knows all that we do, if he knows if we will go to Jannah or Jahanum, why doesn’t he make his decision now? Why should we try to be good and follow Allah (SWT) when all that we are going to do is already written down and known by Allah (SWT)? Is their really any point in trying to do good? This question can be best explained by the example of a student and a teacher. Suppose a student has a test at the end of the week. He rarely studies and in all the assessments the teacher gives throughout the week, he fails. It also so happens that the teacher is a neighbor of the student and sees the student all day whether at school or at home. Now the teacher is certain the student will fail that test. It is impossible for him to pass it. Still, the teacher can’t fail the student if he doesn’t take the test. So the student has to take the test for the teacher to fail him.
This is similar to the situation between us and our Creator. The test is this life, the Dunya. Our results will be announced on the Day of Judgement and our reward will be either Jannah or Jahanum. Allah (SWT) knows if we will pass or fail this test in the Dunya. He knows if we will go to Jannah or Jahanum. Yet he can’t make the decision to send us to either one if we don’t take the test. May Allah (SWT) bless us all and help us pass this test.