Part 1: “Guide us in the straight path…”

The next 3 ayahs we come across is a prayer for guidance that us people should make. “Guide us in the straight path, the path of those on whom you have bestowed your grace, not of those who have incurred your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray.” So in essence it is teaching us how to make Dua and what we should ask for, if we are continuously asking for guidance it will eventually come and after you have guidance you are set, everything will slowly start to fall into place. Here it also indicates that guidance isn’t just limited to higher people or lower people, it is for everyone whether you are a Muslim or not, whether you are a scholar or not, it is for everyone.

Another question which arises is; if somebody has already been granted guidance like the Prophets or Ulama why then should they still continue asking for guidance?  When asking for guidance we are also asking for Allah to remove all difficulties and confusions/doubts that arise in one’s mind to remove any type of suspicion in our minds that the verses of the Quran are contradicting each other. The best way to understand all of this would be to understand the meaning of guidance, Imam Raghib al-Isfahani in his Mufradat al-Quran explains guidance as: “Hidayah signifies leading someone towards his destination, gently and kindly; while guidance, in the real sense, issues forth from Allah alone, and it has several degrees.”

Now it would be logical to talk about the degrees of guidance, this is explained excellently in Maariful Quran:

The first degree of guidance

The first degree of guidance is general, and covers everything that exists in the universe — minerals, plants, animals etc. It would surprise many to hear of guidance in relation to minerals. But the Holy Qur’an makes it quite clear that all forms of existents in the universe, and every particle of dust possesses life, sensitivity, and even consciousness and understanding in its own degree and according to its own sphere of existence. Some of these existents possess more of this essence than others, and some less. Hence, those who have very little of it are considered to be inanimate and devoid of consciousness. The shariah too has recognized this difference, and such creatures have not been made to bear the obligation of observing the injunctions of Allah. The creatures which show obvious signs of life but not those of consiousness and reason are considered to be living, but not rational; whereas, creatures showing the signs of consciousness and reason, along with those of life, are called rational beings. Because of these differences in the degrees of consciousness, men and jinn alone, of all the existents in the universe, have been made subservient to the injunctions of the shariah and accountable for their actions, for they alone have the necessary consciousness and understanding. But, it does not mean that other creatures or existents are totally devoid of life or sensitivity, or of consciousness and understanding. The Holy Quran is very explicit on this point:

“Nothing exists that does not celebrate His praise, but you do not understand their (mode of) praising.”

(17:44)

Have you not seen that everything in the heavens and the earth proclaims Allah’s purity, and the birds too that spread their wings? Each of them knows its prayer and its (mode of) praising. And Allah is aware of what they do.

(24:41)

Evidently, one cannot extol and praise Allah without knowing Allah. It is equally evident that knowing Allah is the highest form of knowledge possible, and such knowledge cannot be gained unless one possesses consciousness and understanding. These verses, therefore, show that everything that exists in the universe possesses life, sensitivity, understanding and consciousness, though it may not always be apparent to the ordinary observer — a truth which has been endorsed by all the great religions, by certain ancient philosophers, and lately even by experimental science. This, then, is the first degree of guidance which is common to minerals, plants, animals, men, jinns and all the forms of creation. The Holy Qur’an speaks of this primary and general guidance in these words:

“He gave to everything its distinctive form, and then guided it.”

(20:50)

or, as we find in another Surah:

“Celebrate the name of your Lord, the Most High, Who has created all things, well proportioned them, and who has determined and guided them.”

(87: l-2)

 That is to say, Allah has given every creature a particular nature and function, and guided it in a way which should correspond to its station in the scheme of things. Thanks to this general guidance, everything in the universe is performing its allotted function with such marvellous efficiency. For example, it is the ears that hear a sound and not the eyes or the nose. Similarly, the nose smells but cannot see; the eyes see but cannot smell. In short:

“There is nothing in the heavens and the earth but comes to the All-Merciful as a servant.”

(19:93)

The Second Degree of Guidance

Unlike the first, the second degree of guidance is not general but particular. It is limited to those creatures which are considered to be rational, that is, men and jinns. This kind of guidance comes to every man through prophets and revealed books. Some accept this guidance, and become believers (Muslims): some reject it and become disbelievers (Kafirs).

The Third Degree of guidance

The third degree of guidance is still more particular, being special to true believers (muminin) and the God-fearing (Muttaqin). Like the first degree, the third kind of guidance too descends directly to the individual from Allah, and it is called, Tawfiq. That is to say, Allah’s grace provides a man with internal and external means and circumstances which should make it easy, and even pleasant for him to accept and act upon the guidance of the Holy Qur’an, and difficult to ignore or oppose it. The scope of the third degree of guidance is limitless, and its levels indefinite. Here is the sphere in which man, not only can, but is required to make a progress in the veritable sense of the term. The agency of this progress is the performance of virtuous deeds. All increase in virtuous deeds brings with it an increase in divine guidance. The Holy Qur’an itself gives us the promise of such increase:

“As for those who follow the straight path, Allah will increase their guidance.”

(47:17)

“And whoever believes in Allah, He guides his heart.”

(64:11)

“Those who strive for (literally, ‘in’) Us, We will surely guide them in our paths.”

(29:69)

It is in this field of progress that we see even the greatest prophets and men of Allah striving, and it is an increase in divine guidance and help that they keep seeking to their last breath.

A Cumulative view of guidance

Keeping in mind the three distinct degrees of guidance, one can easily see that guidance is a thing which everyone does possess in some way, and yet no one, not even the greatest, can do without wishing to attain more of its advanced and higher stages. Hence, of all the prayers man can address to Allah, the most important is the prayer for guidance, which has been taught to us in the very first Surah of the Holy Qur’an; and this prayer is as necessary for the greatest of prophets and men of Allah as for an ordinary Muslim.”

From this we can see that direct contact with God only applies to the first and third degree of guidance without having anyone in the middle. Also from this we can see that any authentic religion comes from the second degree and to reach the third degree one must make spiritual progress. A person cannot reap the rewards and benefits of the third degree without having accepted guidance on the second degree. (If that made any sense at all)

And Allah knows best.

Keep me in your humble duas.

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