Quarterly: Issue No 65
THE QUR’ANIC LAW OF GUIDANCE
All Praise is due solely to Allah—Glorified be His Name—and peace and blessings of Allah be upon His beloved Messenger Muhammad, his family and all his companions. Ameen!
One of the areas where there are serious reservations in the minds of some people about the Qur'anic teachings is the question of the extent of freedom an individual enjoys in being guided towards the right path or in being misguided away from it. It is alleged that the Qur'an informs the reader that Allah Almighty allows religious guidance to some people and prevents others from getting it on the basis of His Own sole discretion. As a consequence of this perception, many people find it sufficiently convincing to stay away from making personal efforts to achieve progress towards the acquiring and strengthening of faith, because they contend that since they have no role to play in either accepting faith or in rejecting it, why then should they involve themselves in worrying about it at all.
Another aspect of the same misconception is presented thus: It is mentioned in the Qur'an that there are some people whose hearts are sealed, thus being rendered unworthy of comprehension of the true message such that they are condemned to become deaf, dumb and blind with regard to its teachings. Consequently, they are unlikely to make any progress towards acknowledging the truth. If that was the case, so goes the argument, then why should people with such disabilities be blamed for not doing something they were incapable of doing any way given their natural abilities or lack of them. It amounts to blaming them for no fault of theirs.
Such misunderstandings prevail because for a large number of readers an important aspect of the Qur'anic teachings remains improperly understood. The Qur'an mentions the details of a definite law of guidance which, according to the Book, is uniformly applicable to all people. Allah Almighty implements the law with meticulous precision to all individuals without any discrimination whatsoever.
What exactly is that law? The Qur'an has mentioned the outlines of the law very concisely in one of the earliest revealed chapters thus:
Yet he who spends on others and is righteous and affirms goodness, We shall ease the way of fortune for him. But he who does not spend and is unconcerned and rejects goodness, for him We shall ease the way of adversity. (92:5-10)
These verses show that in matters pertaining to guidance, man is being treated in one of the two ways. Either the way of guidance is being eased for him or misguidance is being made easier for him. The Qur'an has used the expressions of TAYSEER (task made easier) and IMHAAL (temporary relief allowed) respectively for the treatment meted out to the two categories of individuals.
According to the details available in the Qur'an on the nature of the law, each individual who has been put through the test of this worldly life has been provided with adequate abilities to distinguish right from wrong, truth from untruth. However, since this worldly part of man's life was meant to be only a trial in God Almighty's plan to decide as to who from amongst the human beings are going to be found deserving the privilege of entry into paradise and who are not, evil and untruth were allowed to be shrouded under tempting, attractive appearances. Thus, to tell a lie in many worldly situations accompanies some immediate material gains, while to tell a truth, it requires the truthful to make sacrifices in doing so. However, those who are declining to follow the right behaviour for worldly gains have been provided with enough abilities to know from within their souls that what they are doing is in fact hideous. Therefore, an individual's act of lying, for example, may bring some immediate worldly benefits for him on the one hand, but would also be accompanied by a feeling of guilt in his conscience on the other. This voice of the conscience continues to condemn if the individual continues to defy its verdicts, although each subsequent stroke of conscience-pricking if ignored is likely to be less pronounced than the earlier ones. In other words, the facility of self-correction from within is not available to individuals unconditionally and endlessly. If the voice of the conscience is valued by the individual through his positive responses to its calls, it grows in strength. If it is ignored, it gets weaker until such time that it finally disappears into extinction.
Likewise, if an individual demonstrates his willingness to respond to the calls of his conscience, no matter what the consequences, and as a result even when he commits a crime against its verdict, he earnestly regrets and corrects himself, this inner facility not only survives but grows from strength to strength. For such people the path of truth and righteousness is not only familiar but extremely pleasing. Thus, whenever the ultimate truth in the form of the message of a prophet of Allah approaches them, they find no hesitation in recognizing and acknowledging it. They, in fact, find it so familiar that they do not notice any variance between their inner conscience and the contents of the message. Accordingly, the message appears to them most convincing and appealing.
Thus when Allah's message is presented before individuals, their responses are in direct correlation with the state of their conscience. There are some who give an immediately positive response. Such are the people who had preserved the sanctity of their conscience by always respecting the truth and nobility. Since they were always accustomed to acknowledging and respecting the truth, when the clearest manifestation of truth is presented to them, it is no wonder that they unhesitatingly incline towards it. It is an inviolable law which is enforced through subtle manipulations in the human feelings ultimately affecting the behavioural pattern of individuals. The application of the positive aspect of the law in an individual not only helps him in realizing the veracity of the truth, it furthermore leads him to the higher levels of achievement of it. Thus their life in this world is a spiritual journey made easier (taysir) enabling them to be taken from the darkness of relative untruth towards the ever-brightening light of truth.
But for those who have been consistently ignoring the truth in its different manifestations, they do not get the privilege of welcoming the message of Allah, the highest level of truth. It is as if when a student fails at a lower grade examination, he cannot be expected to make it to success at a higher one. They are not only deprived of acknowledging the truth, but are furthermore allowed to plunge into the ever-deepening darkness of ignorance (imhal).
However, it seems that not every one belongs to the category of people who possess the highest level of nobility of heart. There are many others who despite having duly respected verdicts of their conscience on many occasions, do show a tendency of going on the wrong side as well to fall into the trap of doing acts that were not acceptable to the conscience. Thus their inner souls are not as unmistakably clean as of those belonging to the first category. At the time when they are confronted with the message of truth, they are not as immediately clear about its veracity as is the case of those belonging to the first category. They might, therefore, hesitate, to begin with, in accepting it, even to the extent of apparently denying it. However, on later reconsideration, they realize that their earlier decision was incorrect. Thus they too ultimately get the privilege of acknowledging and valuing the truth. The Qur'an says:
And there are others who have confessed their faults. They mixed good works with others that are evil. It may be that Allah will turn to them with compassion. Surely Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.(9:102)
As for those who have lost the true sifting ability of their souls as a consequence of their persistent wrong behaviour, since their inner realisation has perished, they do not find themselves able to appreciate the purity of the message that comes from Allah. The Qur'an mentions the description of a group of such people belonging to the tribe of Quraysh thus:
So comply not with the wishes of those who reject (the Truth). They wish that you should compromise so that they may also compromise. Do not pay heed to any mean swearer, backbiter, one who goes about slandering, forbidder of good, transgressor, sinful, crude, and above all mean and infamous. Only because he possesses riches and children. When Our signs are recited before him, he says 'Tales of the ancient'. (68:8-15)
On another occasion it is mentioned thus:
Ah the woe that day for those who deny, who call the day of judgement a lie! None denies it but the wicked, the transgressor. When Our revelations are recited before him, he says: 'Fables of long ago.' No. In fact what they have been doing has rusted their hearts." (83:10-14)
Even if people belonging to this category apparently accept the truth, it is only for worldly benefits and not for genuine consideration of acknowledging the voice of the truth. The Qur'an says:
When the hypocrites come to you, they say: 'We confirm that you are the messenger of Allah.' Allah indeed knows you are His messenger. Allah bears witness that hypocrites are indeed liars. They have made their oaths a shield, thus they obstruct others from the way of Allah. It is certainly evil what they do. That is because they came to believe, and then disbelieved, so their hearts were sealed and now they do not understand. (63:1-3)
O Allah! Your Forgiveness is far greater than my sins and I have more hope in Your Mercy than in my own deeds.
Requesting your humble duas!
Abdul Haq Abdul Kadir
Kyalami Glen, Gauteng
Johannesburg, South Africa