It is common practice to begin a sermon by reciting a traditional prayer and praise to Allah, and the Prophet (PBUH) and his family. In this prayer, the following words are constantly heard:
Man-yahdihillahu fala mudilla lahu wa man-yudlilhu fala hadiya lah
And the translation of this is usually given as:
Whomever Allah guides, no one can misguide, and whomever Allah misguides, no one can guide.
Let us look at the following facts from the Quran:
“There shall, none the less, most certainly come unto you guidance from Me: and those who follow My guidance need have no fear, and neither shall they grieve; but those who are bent on denying the truth and giving the lie to Our messages - they are destined for the fire, and therein shall they abide.” (2:38-39). [Asad]
And say: “The truth [has now come] from your Sustainer: let, then, him who wills, believe in it, and let him who wills, reject it.” (18:29) [Asad]
Therefore, it is clear from the above verses that Allah has given complete freedom of choice to human beings either to accept or to reject His guidance. So, how can He also say that whomever He guides no one can misguide and whomever He misguides no one can guide? Clearly, these are two contradictory statements and Allah is beyond contradiction (4:82). Furthermore, there is nothing in the Quran which will lead to doubt (2:2, 32:2).
Allah instructed the Prophet (PBUH) to tell the people to stop and seriously think and ponder (34:46). Therefore, we must stop and seriously think and ponder. We should not simply move on as we usually do by saying, “Allah knows best!” Allama Iqbal says that we have to check ourselves and ask our own hearts:
“Ai Musalman apne dil se pooch, Mullah se na pooch.” [Baal-e Jibril]
Oh Muslims! Ask your own hearts, do not ask Mullah.
As far as Islam is concerned, the final and absolute authority is only One, and that authority is Allah. And 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 كَافِرُونَ (Kafirun) (5:44); are ظَّالِمُونَ (Zalimun) (5:45); and are فَاسِقُونَ (Fasiqun) (5:47).
Coming back to the central question: Does Allah personally misguide anyone? Most of us have one scapegoat which we always use when we are faced with such situations. We say, “Allah can do anything. He has unlimited power and control over everything and everyone.” Well, if that is the case, then why did Allah send His Book of guidance to us? Why did Allah send His messengers – whose opponents invariably, without exception, made their lives very difficult? Why did our Prophet (PBUH) face so many enemies in daily life as well as in the battlefields? Why did he (PBUH) and the Sahaba (R) suffer so much throughout their lives, for the sake of Allah? Allah has all the powers and he can do anything! He could have directly punished all the enemies of the Prophet (PBUH) but He didn’t. Instead, He ordered them to fight the enemies of Islam; to go to battlefields; and give their lives if need be – so much so, that they were warned that those who would try to run away from the battlefield will go directly to Hell (8:16).
There is yet another side of this usual reply of “Allah knows best,” or “Allah can do anything.” First, if that is so, then why do we need all these religious scholars anyway? Since Allah can do anything (e.g. send anyone to Hell or Heaven as he pleases, give wealth or poverty to anyone, give dignity or indignity to anyone, etc.), then why do human beings have to be held accountable for their deeds? It doesn’t seem fair and just or even logical to send someone to Hell if Allah Himself misguided him or her. Second, the Quran clearly tells that it is the Iblees who says that God misguided him and put him in the wrong (15:39). So, is it not our duty to pause and seriously reflect on these extremely important questions impacting our lives—here as well as in the hereafter?
Before we come to resolve the above mentioned contradiction, it may help us in our search for an answer if we posit another question: Does Nature misguide us? This question is easy to comprehend as we are directly in contact with Nature. We humans impact Nature directly by our activities (e.g., the climate) and are impacted by it in our daily lives.
Does Nature Misguide Anyone?
The very question seems strange at first. But 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 time immemorial – or, more appropriately, 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 the Nature which ultimately provides the guidance for following the desired (right) path. It is also Nature that provides indications in case of failure (wrong path). Nature provides guidance regarding truth and falsehood in every field of human knowledge and scientific endeavor. It is not Nature that misguides, but it is our imperfect knowledge, improper designs, and improper observations that misguide us. The moment knowledge advances to the level of perfect understanding in accordance with Nature, human beings succeed in their missions. So, Nature provides the touchstone (guidance) to test the validity of all the scientific hypotheses in the various fields of knowledge.
Now, let us consider another parallel argument. The question “Does Allah Misguide Anyone,” can be cast as “Does Quran Misguide Anyone?” This is because Allah has said whatever he had to say to humanity in its finality, totality, and completeness, is in the Quran (6:115, 6:38, 10:37, and 5:48). There will not come any other book from Allah, nor any other prophet from Allah after our last Prophet (PBUH), as declared by Allah in the Quran (33:40). Therefore, our relationship to Allah is only through His Book, the Quran, and nothing else.
Allah tells us that the Quran was sent to guide and give glad tidings to the Mu'mineen (2:97). Those who will follow the Quran will benefit from it; those who will not, will suffer the consequences (10:108). Those who will follow it will be guided, and no one can misguide them, and those who will not follow it, will be misguided, and no one can guide them. Can there be any question or doubt about this? Clearly not. Can there be more than one interpretation of this statement? Obviously not. It is our choice whether or not to follow the Quran and after our choice is made, we get what we deserve. It is our choice which data to enter into the computer, and based on that, we get the right or the wrong answer (guidance or misguidance). We cannot say the manufacturer magically chooses who will get right and who will get wrong answers. This is up to the person, and how he uses the computer. In the same way, Allah does not magically choose who will be guided or misguided, rather it is up to the person to choose the Quran as his guidance. If he chooses the Quran and follows it, he will be guided. If he chooses anything else, he will be misguided and no one can guide him. Therefore, the saying should be better translated as:
“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 misguided, 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 ourselves (i.e., change our psychology, mental attitudes, 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, military, or psychological. This confusion is removed by using the term “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 very 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 laws (i.e., the Quran) in the human world for moral, ethical, and spiritual progress as well.
Here are some examples from the Quran to illustrate the point above:
“Surely, Allah [i.e., Allah’s law] wastes not the reward of the Muhsinun.” (9:120). [Hilali and Khan]
“Surely, Allah [i.e., Allah’s law] guides not the plot of the betrayers.” (12:52). [Hilali and Khan]
“Verily, Allah [i.e., Allah’s law] does not set right the work of Al-Mufsidun (evil-doers, corrupts etc.)” (10:81). [Hilali and Khan]
“And Allah [i.e., Allah’s law] guides not the people who are Al-Fasiqun (rebellious, disobedient to Allah).” (9:24). [Hilali and Khan]
فَيُضِلُّ اللَّـهُ مَن يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ
(14:4) – God lets go astray him that wills [to go astray], and guides him that wills [to be guided] [Asad]
يُضِلُّ مَن يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ
(16:93) – He lets go astray him that wills [to go astray], and guides aright him that wills [to be guided] [Asad]
فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ يُضِلُّ مَن يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ
(35:8) – For, verily, God lets go astray him that wills [to go astray], just as He guides him that wills [to be guided]. [Asad]