Allah, the Most High said:
“Every day He is engaged in some matter.” (Soorah ar-Rahmaan, 55: 29) .
And in the Saheeh of al-Haakim, Ibn ‘Abbaas said, “From the things that Allah, the Most High, created is al-Lawh al-Mahfooz. It was created from a white pearl and its covers are red rubies. Its pen is light and its book is light. Every day He looks at it three hundred and sixty times. In each of those times He creates, provides, gives life, ordains death, gives honor, and degrades, and does as He wishes. So that is the meaning of His saying, “Every day He is engaged in some matter!” (Soorah ar-Rahmaan, 55: 29).
All these types of Decrees are detailed components of the Eternal Decree which Allah, the Most High, ordered the Pen to write in al-Lawh al-Mahfooz, when He created it (the Pen). And it was with this meaning that the following verse was explained by Ibn ‘Abbaas and Ibn ‘Umar:
“Indeed, I recorded what you used to do.” (Soorah al-Jaathiyah, 45: 29) 
And all of that has its source in the Knowledge of Allah which is among His attributes, may He be Blessed and Exalted.
 Al-Baghawee quoted Muqaatil’s observation that this verse was revealed to counter the Jewish belief that Allah does not do anything on the Sabbath. (Ma‘aalim at-Tanzeel, 4: 270 and Zaad al-Maseer, 8: 114) The commentators state that among the things He is engaged in are giving life and death, sustaining, honoring some people and humiliating others, healing the sick, freeing captives, relieving the problems of the distressed, responding to supplications, giving to one who asks, forgiving sins, and numerous other deeds that He does for His creation whenever He wills that cannot all be mentioned here. (See Tafseer al-Qur’an al-‘Azeem, 4: 273).
 The hadeeth is found in Saheeh al-Haakim in the Book of Tafseer (3/519). Al-Haakim said that the hadeeth has an authentic chain of narrators and ath-Thahabee agreed with him. At-Tabaranee also recorded this as a hadeeth in Al-Mu‘jam al-Kabeer, 12511, however, two of its transmitters, are weak, hence the hadeeth is weak. At-Tabaranee also recorded this hadeeth through a different chain (hadith no. 10605) but, according to that narration, it is a saying of the companion Ibn ‘Abbaas. (See Majma’ az-Zawaa’id, 7: 191.)
 Ibn ‘Abbaas and others commented, “The angels record the deeds of the creatures and then ascend to heaven with them. There they meet the angels entrusted with the Records of Deeds sent down annually from the Protected Tablet on Laylatul-Qadr containing what Allah has written will occur from His creatures long before He created them. They will compare their records and find out that not a single letter was added or deleted.” Then he recited the verse: “Indeed, I recorded what you used to do.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, vol. 9, p. 36)
 The Decrees and the Pens
Ibn ‘Abbaas stated that one day he was riding behind the Prophet (r) when he turned to him and said, “Son, I want to teach you some words. Remember Allah and He will remember you.
Remember Him and you will find Him with you. Ask of Him whenever you want to ask, and pray for His help whenever you need help. Know that if the whole world combines to do you any good, they will not be able to do it unless Allah has decreed it for you. And if they all combine to cause you harm, they will not be able to do anything except what Allah has ordained for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.” [recorded by at-Tirmithee, no. 2516, who called it hasan saheeh and Musnad Ahmad, 1/293, 303, 307]
The word pen in the above hadeeth has been used in the plural. This shows that there are pens to write the measures of things that are different from the first Pen mentioned earlier along with the Preserved Tablet. In fact, the hadeeths show that there are four types of pens and these are different from what was described earlier. The first Pen is for writing the measures of all created things. This is the Pen that was mentioned in connection with the Preserved Tablet. The second pen was created with Adam. This pen is for recording the measures of mankind. The Qur’an refers to it when it states that Allah wrote the acts of human beings, their provisions, ages and destinies right after He had created their father Adam. The third pen is referred to in many authentic hadeeths which state that after conception an angel is sent to the fetus in the womb of the mother to blow the soul into it. He is then asked to record its provisions, lifespan, deeds and whether it will be saved or doomed. The fourth pen is referred to in verses and hadeeths that state that when a person reaches the age of maturity, two honorable angels are appointed to record his actions. [‘Alee ibn Abee Taalib and ‘Aa’ishah both quoted the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) as saying, “The Pen will not write the deeds of three persons: children until they reach the age of maturity, people asleep until they awake, and the insane until they regain their sanity.” (Musnad Ahmad, 1/116 118, 140, 158 and 6/100, 101, 144)] Commentary on the Creed of at-Tahawi, pp. 211-2.
Significance of the Decrees
The significance of the different levels of decrees is that the changes in the record which Allah speaks about are in some books and not others. The record in the Preserved Tablet is fixed and not subject to any change whatsoever because it is based on Allah’s eternal knowledge. However, changes may occur in the books handled by the angels, as He says:
“Allah erases what He wills and confirms what He wills. For the Mother of the Book is with Him.” (Soorah ar-Ra‘d, 13: 39)
Furthermore, Allah said:
“That you should worship Allah, fear Him, and obey me; He will forgive your sins and give you respite to an appointed term.” (Soorah Nooh, 71: 3-4)
The Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) also quoted by Anas ibn Maalik as saying:
“Whoever would be pleased that his sustenance be expanded and his term of life extended should maintain his family ties.” (Sahih Al Bukhari, vol. 8, p. 11-12, no. 15 and Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, p.p. 1359-1360, no. )
Ibn Taymiyyah explained that “there are two types of provisions and life terms: The unchanged record written in Ummul-Kitaab and another, subject to increase and decrease, made known to the angels by Allah… In the angels’ books, the life terms increase or decrease, and similarly in the case of provisions as a result of particular deeds. Thus, Allah instructs the angel to write the provisions and life term of one of His creatures such that if the person joins family ties, Allah commands the angel to increase his sustenance and life term by specified increments. The angel does not know the actual outcome of the extension in the life term, or the total amount of increase in provisions. Only Allah knows the outcome.” (Al-Fataawaa, vol. 8, p. 517 and 540)
Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalaanee explained the changes in the record as follows: “For example, the angel is instructed that the age of a person is one hundred years if he joins family ties and sixty years if he severs them. In the foreknowledge of Allah, it is already known whether he will join or sever the family ties. Whatever is in Allah’s knowledge is not subject to extension or delay. It is what is in the angels’ knowledge which may increase or decrease. This is what is referred to in Allah’s statement: “Allah erases what He wills and confirms what He wills. For the Mother of the Book is with Him.” (Soorah ar-Ra‘d, 13: 39) The erasure and confirmation is relative to the knowledge of the angels. What is recorded in Ummul-Kitaab is relative to Allah’s eternal knowledge which is unchangeable.” (Fat’hul-Baaree, vol. 10, p. 430) [Fate in Islam, pp. 50-52 and Divine Will and Predestination, pp. 85-6]
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