Guidance is a light

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What does guidance mean, and can we guide someone else?

Guidance is a light that God kindles in you because you use your own free will in the way of belief. Only God guides one to the truth, as pointed out repeatedly in the Qur’an: If God willed, he could have brought them all to the guidance (6:35); If it had been your Lord’s will, all who are on earth would have believed, altogether (10:99); You do not guide whom you like, but God guides whom He wills (28:56); and For verily You cannot make the dead to hear, nor can you make the deaf to hear the call when they have turned to flee. Nor can you guide the blind out of their deviation. You can make none to hear save those who believe in Our Revelation so that they surrender and become Muslims. (30:52–3).

Since it is God Who guides, we implore Him in every rak‘a of our daily prescribed prayers, saying: Guide us to the Straight Path (1:6). God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, says: “I have been sent to call people to belief. Only God guides them and places belief in their hearts.”

The Qur’an also contains other verses stating that God’s Messenger calls and guides people to the Straight Path, among them: Surely you call them to the Straight Path (23:73); and Thus We have revealed a Spirit to you from Our Command. You did not know what was the Scripture, nor what the Faith was, but We have made it a light whereby We guide whom We will of Our servants. You are indeed guiding to a Straight Path (42:52).

The verses do not contradict each other. God creates everyone with the potential to accept belief; but the family, along with existing educational and social conditions, have a certain role in one’s guidance or misguidance. To call people to belief, God sent Messengers, some of whom received Revealed Books, throughout human history so that people could reform themselves. Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is the last Messenger, and the Qur’an that He revealed to him is the last and only uncorrupted Divine Book.

The Qur’an contains the principles of guidance. The Messenger provides guidance, whether through the Book or through his personality, conduct, and good example. He recites the Divine Revelations and shows the signs of God to his people (or to humanity at large, in the case of Prophet Muhammad), and points out their misconceptions, superstitions, and sins.

Every thing, event, and phenomenon in the universe is a sign pointing to God’s Existence and Unity. Therefore, if we believe sincerely and without prejudice, and struggle against carnal desire and the temptations of our evil-commanding self and Satan, and if we use our free will to find the truth, God will guide us to one of the ways leading to Him. He declares in the Qur’an: Fear God and seek the means [of approach to and knowledge of] Him, and strive in His way in order that you may succeed and be prosperous [in both worlds] (5:35); As for those who strive in Us [in Our way and for Our sake and to reach Us], We surely guide them to Our paths; and verily God is with the good (29:69); and Whoever fears God [and keeps his duty to Him], He will appoint a way out for him (62:2).

In order to find or deserve guidance, we must sincerely strive for it and search for the ways leading to it. Those whom God blesses with guidance should first show that they have received it by setting a good example, and then call others to it through every lawful (Islamic) means. God repeatedly commands His Messenger to do just that in these, and other, verses:

Warn your tribe of near kindred [of their end and the consequences of their deeds and of the punishment of Hell]. (26:214)

Remind and give advice, for you are one to remind. (88:21)

Proclaim openly and insistently what you are commanded. (15: 94)

Call to the path of your Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the most courteous manner. (16:125)

Surely in the Messenger of God you have a good example for him who hopes for God and the Last Day, and remembers God oft. (33:21)

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, conveyed God’s Revelations to people, called them to belief in the best and most effective way, and endured great difficulty and persecution for doing so. He refused the most alluring bribes designed to make him stop calling people to belief in One God, and continued his mission without expecting any worldly reward. Since he sought only God’s pleasure and the prosperity of people in both worlds, when he conquered Makka (with God’s help) and thus made His Word prevail, he forgave the Makkans who had persecuted him ruthlessly for 21 years, saying: “No reproach, this day, shall be on you! God will forgive you, He is the Most Merciful of the Merciful. Go! You are freed.” (Ibn. Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat al-Kubra’, 2.142; Ibn. Ishaq, al-Sirat al-Nabawiyya, 2:402.)

God’s Messenger once said to ‘Ali: If someone finds guidance at your hand, this is better for you than having red camels. (Bukhari, Jihad, 102; Muslim, Fada’il al-Sahaba, 35.) [“Red camels” is a metaphor (used by the Arabs of medieval ages) for the most precious thing one can have in the world. (Tr.)]

According to the rule The one who causes is like the doer, one who leads someone else to guidance receives whatever the latter earns without any decrease in his or her own reward. Similarly, God’s Messenger says:

Whoever establishes a good path receives the same reward as those who follow that path thereafter until the Last Day without any decrease in their reward; whoever establishes an evil path is burdened with the same sins as those who follow it thereafter until the Last Day, without any decrease in their burden. ( 6. Muslim, Zakat, 69; Ibn. Maja, Muqaddima, 203.)

If you lead other people to guidance, never remind them by saying, for example: “You found guidance only because of me.” This is a grave sin and ingratitude to God, for only God guides and causes you to lead others to guidance. Similarly, those who were led to guidance through you should never say, for example: “Without you, I would never have been guided.”

If you lead others to guidance, you should think something like: “Praise be to God, for He has used such a poor and needy one like me to achieve this meritorious deed of leading someone else to guidance. God is so powerful, merciful, and munificent to His servants that He creates clusters of grapes on wood. As wood has no right to ascribe to itself the grapes growing on it, I also cannot attribute another’s guidance to myself.” As for those who find guidance, they should think something like: “God, my Master, saw my need and helplessness and allowed His servant to lead me to guidance. All praise be to Him.”

Nevertheless, those who are led to guidance can feel thankful to the one whom God used to guide them. After all, since God created us and our actions, He also creates the means that enable guidance and misguidance. But this does not negate or diminish the part of our own free will in our guidance or misguidance.

 

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