Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verse 213..........Part 3
Mankind was a single community, then God sent prophets to bring good news and warning, and with them He sent the Scripture with the Truth, to judge between people in their disagreements. It was only those to whom it was given who disagreed about it after clear signs had come to them, because of rivalry between them. So by His leave, God guided the believers to the truth they had differed about: God guides whoever He will to a straight path. (Chapter 2: Verse 213)
We know that guidance refers to that which takes you directly towards your goal. There are two types of Guidance: first there is God's general guidance, and second, there is His divine guidance. General guidance is universal for entire mankind. More specifically, God calls everyone to the right path; He sends prophets and messengers and supports them with miracles and scripture to deliver his message to everyone. God clarifies the outcome of those who follow His path and those who abandon it. So whoever wants to follow the right path can do so, and whoever chooses to abandon it can do so.
As for those who choose to follow God’s general guidance, the Lord supports them with his divine guidance; he endears faith and piety to their hearts and facilitates for them the actions that lead to paradise. God protects them from evil and helps them through hardship. This divine guidance is specific for the believers. God says:
As for those who follow true guidance, He leads them far ahead in their right ways and grants them piety and restraints from evil suited to their condition. (47:17)
Let’s clarify the difference between general and divine guidance with an example. Say that you were lost and asked a policeman for directions towards your destination. The policeman gives you a map to help you find your way; it is the same general map he gives to everyone. If you show appreciation for him and say: “thank you for your help, you have made things so much easier for me.” The policeman may decide to help you further by highlighting the best way for you to take. He will warn you about roads that have construction and traffic and about areas that are not safe at night.
Allah guides all humanity towards His path and then guides the believers even further by being with them every step of the way. God says:
As for the tribe of Thamood, We gave them guidance, but they preferred blindness, so they were struck by a blast of humiliating punishment for their misdeeds. Yet We saved those who believed and were mindful of God. (41:17-18)
You can further see the distinction between the two types of guidance in the following two verses. In the first verse, God addresses the Prophet and says:
You cannot guide everyone you love to the truth; it is God who guides whoever He will: He knows best those who will follow guidance. (28:56)
And in another verse, God also addresses the prophet and says:
and you certainly guide them to the right path (42:52)
At first glance these two verses are in contradiction: One verse denies the prophet guidance, and the other affirms that the prophet guides. How can this be? We answer that our beloved prophet Muhammad is the means of delivering God’s book and general guidance to humanity. He lit the path towards heaven for everyone. Allah confirms: ‘and you certainly guide them to the right path. On the other hand, the verse ‘Surely you cannot guide whom you love, but Allah guides whom He pleases’ means that while the prophet delivers the message, God is the one who makes guidance –His divine guidance- penetrate into the heart of a person. Allah says: Say, ‘Indeed it is the guidance of Allah which is the true guidance.’ (2:120)
Some people try to dissociate themselves from the responsibility of faith and deed and blame God for their disbelief. They use verses like this one for evidence:
What about those whose evil deeds are made alluring to them so that they think they are good? God leaves whoever He will to stray and guides whoever He will. Do not waste your soul away with regret for them: God knows exactly what they do. (35:08)
The disbelievers think that the phrase ' God leaves whoever He will to stray and guides whoever He will' will save them from hell-fire on the day of resurrection because God is responsible for misguiding them. They claim that since God had willed them to disbelief, what were they to do? We answer that a person who blames God for a choice that he or she made has not studied the Quran. Let's look at the following verses:
That is because they preferred the worldly life over the Hereafter and that God does not guide the disbelieving people. (16:107)
And in another verse:
Abraham said, "So indeed it is Allah Who brings the sun from the East - you bring it from the West!" - the disbeliever was therefore baffled; and Allah does not guide the unjust. (2:258)
Say, ‘If your fathers, sons, brothers, wives, tribes, the wealth you have acquired, the trade which you fear will decline, and the dwellings you love are dearer to you than God and His Messenger and the struggle in His cause, then wait until God brings about His punishment.’ God does not guide those who are corrupt. (9:24)
These verses clearly highlight the three groups of people who do not receive God's guidance: the disbelievers, the corrupt and the unjust. Allah sent His Prophets & Messengers, His scriptures, and His guidance to all mankind. Moreover, He created the universe and subjected it to our service, so each one of us may ponder the creation. Sadly, many people opposed God, refused to listen to His Messengers, followed their own desires, and took the beauty of creation for granted.
The truth is: Allah has blessed humanity with His general guidance, and provided all of us with countless bounties. He came forth with love and mercy. Those who responded to this love with denial, and chose disbelief did so with their own free will. In response, God left them for what they chose and did not force belief upon them.
Had God wanted to force belief or disbelief on us, He would have done so. In fact, God has demonstrated to you that He can have absolute power over you if He so wills. Take the examples of your internal organs; they operate entirely outside your will. Your heart, blood circulation, kidneys, and liver are subjected to God’s will. Likewise, the calamities that may happen to you are out of your control. You cannot prevent disease, a car crash or a rock from falling on you.
Allah, however, did not want to force belief or disbelief on anyone. He gave you full control over one area of your life: your choices and actions. Are you going to use these great gifts to practice God’s teachings? This freedom of choice is what you and I will be responsible for on the day of resurrection. If you choose disbelief for yourself, God does not force you to believe; rather, He informs you of the consequences. Allah wants you to freely turn to Him out of love. He does not benefit from your faith and deeds; the benefits and rewards will be for you alone. Faith in Allah and the actions that support that faith are your personal treasures on the day of resurrection; they are your salvation on that terrible day.