Most religious sermons begin with a traditional prayer and praise to Allah and the Prophet (PBUH) and his family that includes the statement, “ Man yahdillahu fala mudilla lah, wa mai yudlil hu fala haadiya lah, ” popularly translated as, “Whomever Allah guides, no one can misguide, and whomever Allah misguides, no one can guide.”
Let us keep this in mind, while we look at the following verses from the Quran:
“ And if, as is sure, there comes to you guidance from Me, whomsoever follows my guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. But those, who reject Faith and belie our Signs, they shall be companions of Fire, They shall abide therein. ” ( 2:38-39 , Yusuf Ali)
“ Say, ‘The Truth is from your Lord’: Let him who will, believe; and let him who will, reject… ” ( 18:29 , Yusuf Ali)
The above verses state that Allah has given us freedom of choice to accept or to reject His guidance. So what about the statement, “whomever Allah guides, no one can misguide and whomever Allah misguides, no one can guide?” Apparently, there seems to be contradiction between these two statements and Allah is beyond contradiction ( 4:82 ). Furthermore, there is nothing in the Quran, which will lead to doubt ( 2:2, 32:2 ). Therefore, this requires us to stop, think, and ponder. We cannot simply say, “Allah knows best. Let us move on.”
Why this apparent contradiction then? Obviously, there seems to be some problem in our interpretation and understanding of this issue. Moreover, we cannot simply brush this off by saying, “Since majority of our Islamic scholars (i.e. Ijm’a) agree on this issue, therefore we have to accept these two seemingly contradictory statements.” We also cannot simply accept that our ancestors have passed this on to us and therefore, we have to accept this contradiction. The Quran says that Kuffar and Mushrikun used to say these things ( 2:170, 5:104, 31:21, 34:43, and 43:21-24 ).
The final authority in Islam is only One, and that authority is Allah. Moreover, since our only contact with Allah is through his Book, Al-Quran, the final authority in Islam is therefore the Quran. The Quran is the only book, which Allah has taken the responsibility to protect ( 15:9 ). No one can change it ( 6:34, 18:27, 10:64 ). It is complete ( 6:115 ). Nothing essential has been left out of it ( 6:38, 6:59, 10:61, 34:3 ). Those who do not decide matters according to what Allah has revealed (i.e. the Quran) are Kafirs ( 5:44 ).Coming back to the central question: does Allah personally misguide anyone? Most of us have one scapegoat, which we always use when we face with such situations. We say, “Allah can do anything. He has unlimited power and control over everything and everyone.” Yes, Allah can do anything, but He has sent His Book of guidance to us. Moreover, He sent His messengers (who were human beings) to practically implement that guidance in the real world so that it can serve as a model for us ( 6:84 ). Our Prophet (PBUH) faced many enemies in daily life. These enemies were so determined to oppose our Prophet’s mission that they even started wars against him and his companions. Why did he (PBUH) and the Sahaba (R) suffer so much throughout their lives for the sake of establishing Allah’s guidance? Allah has all the powers and He can do anything! He could have directly punished all the enemies of the Prophet (PBUH), the most beloved and exalted human being in the eyes of Allah – but He did not. Instead, Allah ordered the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions to fight the enemies who wanted to wipe them out. Allah asked them to go to battlefields and give their lives if need be – so much so that He warned that those who would try to run away from the battlefield will go directly to Hell ( 8:16 ).
We usually hear that Allah can do anything, e.g., He can send anyone to Hell or Heaven as he pleases; He can give wealth or poverty to anyone as he pleases; He can give dignity or indignity to anyone, etc. Then why do human beings have to be held accountable for their deeds? It does not seem fair and just or even logical to send someone to Hell if Allah misguided him or her. Moreover, the Quran clearly tells: Iblis was the one who said God misguided him, and put him in the wrong ( 15:39 ). So, we should pause and seriously reflect on these extremely important questions affecting our lives—here as well as in the hereafter?
It may help us in our search for an answer if we consider another question: does Nature misguide us? This question is easy to comprehend as we are directly in contact with Nature.
Does Nature Misguide Anyone?
The very question seems strange at first. However, this will help us in drawing meaningful conclusions, as there is a parallel argument in our search for an answer to our original question, “Does Allah misguide anyone?”
Nature has provided guidance to human beings since the dawn of civilization. From the stars guiding the Bedouin Arabs in the vast desert (without any signposts or milestones), to the ships, airplanes, and space vehicles equipped with sophisticated modern computerized navigation systems – it is Nature which ultimately provides the guidance for following the desired (right) path. In addition, Nature provides indications in case of failure (wrong path). Nature provides guidance regarding truth and falsehood in every field of human knowledge and scientific endeavor. Therefore, Nature guides us. Our imperfect knowledge, improper designs, or improper observations misguide us. The moment knowledge advances to the level of perfect human understanding in accordance with Nature, human beings succeed in their mission. Therefore, Nature provides the touchstone (guidance) to test the validity of all scientific hypotheses in various fields of knowledge.
Now let us consider another parallel argument. The question “Does Allah Misguide Anyone,” actually means, “Does the Quran Misguide Anyone?” This is because whatever Allah had to say to humanity is in the Quran in its finality, totality, and completeness ( 6:115, 6:38, 10:37, 5:48 ). There will not come any other book from Allah, nor will any other Prophet come after our last Prophet (PBUH), so declares the Quran ( 33:40 ). Therefore, our relationship to Allah is only through the Quran and nothing else.
Allah tells us that the Quran guides and give glad tidings to the Momineen ( 2:97 ). Those who will follow the Quran will benefit from it; those who will not follow it will suffer the consequences ( 10:108 ). Those who will follow it will be guided, and no one can misguide them. It is our choice whether to follow the Quran; and after we have made our choice, we will get what we deserve. Allah does not magically choose whom to guide or whom to misguide. Rather, it is up to the person to choose the Quran as his guidance. If one chooses the Quran, one will be guided and no one can misguide him. If one chooses anything else then one will be misguided and no one can guide him. Therefore, the way to put the above statement should be: “ Whoever follows the Quran will be guided by Allah, and no one can misguide; and whoever does not follow the Quran, will not be guided by Allah, will be left astray, and no one can guide. ”
Allah does not directly do things for us; we have to do ourselves and follow his laws. Allah does not change our condition until we change our selves, i.e., until we change our psychology, until we change our mentality and behavior ( 13:11 ). However, there are many verses where Allah says that He does (or does not) do things for human beings. As we know, Allah does not directly control the affairs of the human world—be they political, social, economic, military, or psychological. This confusion is easily removed by using “Allah’s law” instead of “Allah”. After all, our contact with Allah is only through His laws. Allah has given us certain potential and we have to actualize it using His laws. This is obvious in the material world. We use Allah’s laws in the material world (i.e., Natural laws) for all kinds of scientific progress. Similarly, we have to use His divine laws (contained in the Quran) in the human world for moral, ethical, and spiritual progress as well. Here is a list of a few verses from the Quran to give some examples to illustrate this point. [The translation is from from Taqi-u-ddin Al-Hillali and Mohsin Khan.]
“Surely, Allah [i.e., Allah’s law] wastes not the reward of the Muhsinun.” ( 9:120 )
“Surely, Allah [i.e., Allah’s law] guides not the plot of the betrayers.” ( 12:52 )
“Verily, Allah [i.e., Allah’s law] does not set right the work of Al-Mufsidun (evil-doers, corrupts etc.). ( 10:81 )
“And Allah [i.e., Allah’s law] guides not the people who are Al-Fasiqun (rebellious, disobedient to Allah). ( 9:24 )