Friday 24 June 2022

Who can benefit from the Guidance of Al Qurʾān القرآن ?

The term guidance generally refers to the process of helping individuals to discover and develop their potential. The need of guidance is something that cannot be ignored by anyone. We cannot progress in our worldly pursuits, we need guidance for our further pursuits. However, guidance only works if the guidance seeker is himself sincerely willing to listen to one's mentor and is willing to accept the guidance so provided to accrue desired benefits.

Likewise, all Religious Scriptures are source of guidance for individuals, communities and people. However with a difference. While our teachers, scholars and mentors may provide us guidance, but neither they are equipped with the "whole" knowledge nor their interpretation of a subject can be total. But in case of Divine Religions, the guidance is provided by none other than God, the Sole Creator of the universe, and all heavens and earth. Therefore the guidance so provided is total with no lapses and incompleteness. The onus lies on the God's servants to be willing to receive the guidance and be ready to implement the Divine Commandments.

However, it is generally seen that only a fraction of followers of a particular Divine Religion are capable of seeking and benefitting from the guidance and live a life truly in line with their faith. And so is true for Islam, the final Divine Religion for the entire mankind. Since Al Qurʾān القرآن, the last Divine Scripture, revealed onto last of the prophets Muhammad ﷺ is in Arabic, most non Arabic speaking followers of Islam have varying shades of its understanding. Rather majority restrict itself to reciting the Al Qurʾān القرآن  in Arabic and feel satisfied that they have performed their holy duty of being connected to the Divine Book. Even most of the Arabic speaking Muslims, though understand the meaning, are far from seeking guidance from Al Qurʾān القرآن and their life style does not correspond to the living of a true Muslim as enunciated in the Al Qurʾān القرآن  and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.l

So who can seek and benefit from guidance of Al Qurʾān and how. Allah comes to our help and tells us who are the true beneficiaries of Al Qurʾān. In the very second verse of Surah 2. Al Baqarah (The Cow) Allah says:

ذٰ لِكَ الۡڪِتٰبُ لَا رَيۡبَ ۛۚ ۖ فِيۡهِ ۛۚ هُدًى لِّلۡمُتَّقِيۡنَۙ‏ 
(2:2) This is the Book of Allah, there is no doubt in it; it is a guidance for the pious,
(this is the Book of Allah, there is no doubt in it) Its simple meaning is: "No doubt, this is the Book of Allah", but it may also imply that this is the Book which contains nothing doubtful. It is not like the common books on metaphysics and religion which are based on mere speculation and guess-work. Therefore even their authors cannot be free from doubts concerning their own theories, in spite of their assertion that they are convinced of them. In contrast to them, this Book is based on the Truth: its Author is He Who possesses full knowledge of the Reality. Therefore, there is indeed no room for doubt about its contents.
Having told the mankind that this book, Al Qurʾān is a book from Allah and there is no ambiguity and is free from any error. Then in the second part of the above quoted verse, Allah tells that it is the Mttaqeen, the pious, who can seek guidance from it. So who are the Muttaqeen"
it is a guidance for the pious ) That is, though there is nothing but guidance in this Book, there are a few pre-requisites for benefiting from it. The first pre-requisite is that one should be inclined to avoid vice, and should seek and practice virtue. But there is no guidance in the Qur'an for the people who do not bother to consider whether what they are doing is right or wrong, who follow the ways of the world or their own whims and lusts or move aimlessly in the ways of life. 
Muhammad Asad adds that the conventional translation of muttaqi as "God-fearing" does not adequately render the positive content of this expression - namely, the awareness of His all-presence and the desire to mould one's existence in the light of this awareness; while the interpretation adopted by some translators, "one who guards himself against evil" or "one who is careful of his duty", does not give more than one particular aspect of the concept of God-consciousness.

Yusuf Ali  explains that Taqwa and the verbs and nouns connected with the root, signify: (1) the fear of God which according to the writer of Proverbs (i.7) in the Old Testament is the beginning of Wisdom; (2) restraint, or guarding one's tongue, hand, and heart from evil; (3) hence righteousness, piety good conduct. All these ideas are implied; in the translation, only one or other of these ideas can be indicated according to the context. 

Javed Ahmed Ghamid is of the opinion that  Guidance is needed to find the right path and it is also needed to tread on the right path. Divine scriptures have been primarily revealed for the latter reason. The Qur’ān here and at some other instances has regarded itself to be guidance in this very meaning. The attributes mentioned in these verses of people who benefit from this guidance, deliberation will show, are directly opposite to the ones that were found in the Jews as a nation in those times. Further down in this sūrah, the Qur’ān has alluded to these attributes in detail. The Qur’ān points out that instead of becoming fearful of God, these Jews showed arrogance and haughtiness against Him; they contended that they would believe in God only if they were able to see Him; they abandoned the prayer and instead of spending in the way of God urged others to miserliness; they denied the messengers of God merely because of prejudice; their belief in the Hereafter was nothing more than a dogma and this belief seemed to have no effect on the way they conducted themselves in their lives. 

The following verse lays down the second prerequisite for deriving benefit from the Qurʾān:

الَّذِيۡنَ يُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ بِالۡغَيۡبِ وَ يُقِيۡمُوۡنَ الصَّلٰوةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقۡنٰهُمۡ يُنۡفِقُوۡنَۙ‏ 
(2:3) for those who believe in the existence of that which is beyond the reach of perception, who establish Prayer and spend out of what We have provided them,
The second condition for obtaining guidance from the Qur'an is that one must believe in the "unseen" -- those realities which cannot be perceived by the senses and which do not come within human experience and observation, e.g. the essence and attributes of Allah, Angels, Revelation, Heaven, Hell, etc. These things must be taken on trust from the experts (Prophets) just as we do in many cases in the physical world. Therefore, only such a person, who believes in the "unseen", can benefit from the Guidance of the Qur'an. As for the one who believes only in those things which can be seen, tasted and smelt, or can be measured and weighed, cannot get any guidance from this Book.
Muhammad Asad is of the opinion that (who believe in [the existence of] that which is beyond the reach of human perception) Al-ghayb (commonly, and erroneously, translated as "the Unseen") is used in the Qur'an to denote all those sectors or phases of reality which lie beyond the range of human perception and cannot, therefore, be proved or disproved by scientific observation or even adequately comprised within the accepted categories of speculative thought: as, for instance, the existence of God and of a definite purpose underlying the universe, life after death, the real nature of time, the existence of spiritual forces and their inter-action, and so forth. Only a person who is convinced that the ultimate reality comprises far more than our observable environment can attain to belief in God and, thus, to a belief that life has meaning and purpose. By pointing out that it is "a guidance for those who believe in the existence of that which is beyond human perception", the Qur'an says, in effect, that it will - of necessity - remain a closed book to all whose minds cannot accept this fundamental premise.
The third condition to benefit from the Qur'an is that one should be willing and ready to put into practice the teachings of the Qur'an. As the Salat ( Prayer) is the first and foremost obligatory duty enjoined by the Qur'an, it is the practical proof and permanent test of the sincerity of one's Faith. Therefore, after a person's profession of Islam, the moment he hears the call to the Prayer (which sounds regularly five times a day from every mosque in the Muslim world), he should join the congregation for the Salat, because this determines whether he is sincere in his profession or not. If he does not attend to the call and join the congregation, it is an indication that he is not sincere in his profession. It must also be noted that "iqama-tus-Salat¦(the establishment of Prayer is the comprehensive term. It means that Salat should be performed in congregation and that permanent arrangements should be made for it in every habitation; otherwise Salat will not be considered to have been established, even if every inhabitant of a place offers the Salat individually.
Javed Ahmed Ghamidi notes that "I have translated the expression يُقِيْمُوْنَ الصَّلٰوةَ as showing diligence in the prayer. In Arabic, this means to be watchful over the prayer and to be steadfast in offering it. The prayer was well known to the Arabs. As a practice of the religion of Abraham (sws) they were aware of its methodology and utterances. The righteous among them also diligently offered it. For this very reason, the Qur’ān has not mentioned any details regarding the prayer. Besides the prayer, spending in the way of God is also mentioned here.
These are the two foremost virtues in the eyes of the Qur’ān. The Prophet Jesus (sws) is reported to have said something similar in essence: One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with a question: ‘Teacher which is the greatest commandment of the Law’. Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind’. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew, 22:35-40)
The fourth condition to benefit from the Qur'an is that one should be willing to part with one's money according to the instructions of the Book in order to render the rights of Allah and Man and should make monetary sacrifices for the cause of Islam which he has accepted. 
Yusuf Ali explains that all bounties proceed from God. They may be physical gifts, e.g., food, clothing, houses, gardens, wealth, etc. or intangible gifts, e.g., influence, power, birth and the opportunities flowing from it, health, talents, etc. or spiritual gifts, e.g, insight into good and evil, understanding of men, the capacity for love, etc. We are to use all in humility and moderation. But we are also to give out of every one of them something that contributes to the well-being of others. We are to be neither ascetics nor luxurious sybarites, neither selfish misers nor thoughtless prodigals.
Muhammad Asad explains that Ar-rizq ("provision of sustenance") applies to all that may be of benefit to man, whether it be concrete (like food, property, offspring, etc.) or abstract (like knowledge, piety, etc.). The "spending on others" is mentioned here in one breath with God-consciousness and prayer because it is precisely in such selfless acts that true piety comes to its full fruition. It should be borne in mind that the verb anfaqa (lit., "he spent") is always used in the Qur'an to denote spending freely on, or as a gift to, others, whatever the motive may be. 
The fifth requirement, as it appears in the next verse, is that one should believe in the Books revealed by God to His Prophets in the various ages and regions of the world, in the Book revealed to Muhammad (peace be on him) as well as in those revealed to the other Prophets who preceded him. 

وَالَّذِيۡنَ يُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ بِمَۤا اُنۡزِلَ اِلَيۡكَ وَمَاۤ اُنۡزِلَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِكَۚ وَبِالۡاٰخِرَةِ هُمۡ يُوۡقِنُوۡنَؕ‏ 
(2:4) who believe in what has been revealed to you and what was revealed before you, and have firm faith in the Hereafter.
The fifth condition is that one should believe in the truth of all those Books which Allah sent down by Revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be His peace and blessings) and the Prophets before him at different times in different countries. Those who do not believe in any kind of guidance from Allah, cannot at all benefit from the guidance of the Qur'an. Likewise those who profess to believe in the necessity of guidance from Allah but do not turn to Revelation and the Prophets for it, or who dub their' own theories as "divine light", cannot obtain any guidance from it. Moreover, guidance is also denied to those who believe only in that revealed Book or Books in which their forefathers believed and reject all other guidance received from the same Source. Apart from all such people, the Qur'an guides only those who believe that they stand in need of Divine Guidance as well as admit that it does not come to every man individually but reaches humanity only through the Prophets and revealed Books.
Then those who want guidance should not be slaves to any racial or national prejudices but should be seekers after truth and should submit to it wherever and in whatever form they find it. 
Muhammad Asad explains that ( and who believe in that which has been bestowed from on high upon thee, [O Prophet,] as well as in that which was bestowed before thy time:) This is a reference to one of the fundamental doctrines of the Qur'an: the doctrine of the historical continuity of divine revelation. Life - so the Qur'an teaches us - is not a series of unconnected jumps but a continuous, organic process: and this law applies also to the life of the mind, of which man's religious experience (in its cumulative sense) is a part. Thus, the religion of the Qur'an can be properly understood only against the background of the great monotheistic faiths which preceded it, and which, according to Muslim belief, culminate and achieve their final formulation in the faith of Islam.
This is the sixth and last condition. "Hereafter" is a comprehensive word which applies to the collection of many beliefs, which are as follows: 
  • (a) Man has not been created irresponsible in the world but he is answerable to Allah for all his deeds here. 
  • (b) The present world order is not everlasting, but has to come to an end at a time only known to Allah.
  • (c) After the present order has been brought to an end, Allah will create a new world, when He will bring back to life all human beings, born from the beginning of creation till Resurrection, simultaneously and will call them to account for their deeds, and then will reward them justly accordingly to what they had done in the world. 
  • (d) Those, who will be judged as good by Allah, will go to Paradise, and those who will be judged as bad will be cast into Hell. 
  • (e) The criterion of success or failure is not the prosperity or adversity of this worldly life, but successful in actual fact will be he who comes out successful in Allah's final judgement, and failure he who is a failure there. 
Those who do not believe in the life-after-death with the above implications, cannot benefit from the Qur'an because the one who entertains' even the slightest doubt about these; not to speak of rejecting them, can never follow the way of life which the Qur'an prescribes.

Let us list down these six conditions for easy remembrance:
  • Al Qur'an is a guidance for the pious,
  • One must believe in the "unseen",
  • One should be willing and ready to put into practice the teachings of the Qur'an, including establishment of prayer, 
  • One should be willing to part with one's money according to the instructions of the Book,
  • Belief in the truth of all those Books which Allah sent down by Revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be His peace and blessings) and the Prophets before him at different times in different countries, and
  • Who have firm faith in the Hereafter.
Thus if a believer fulfills all above six conditions, is deemed fit and qualified to seek guidance from Qur'an and is one of the true Muttaqeen. These are summed up as in the fifth verse below:

اُولٰٓـئِكَ عَلٰى هُدًى مِّنۡ رَّبِّهِمۡ​ وَاُولٰٓـئِكَ هُمُ الۡمُفۡلِحُوۡنَ‏  
(2:5) Such are on true guidance from their Lord; such are the truly successful.

Now if we analyze all the three verse quoted above, we can build the character of a person who can feel and absorb the radiations oozing out of each word contained in the Qur'an, and can rhythmize his hear t and soul to the Divine Commandments and live a life as per the guidance contained in the Qur'an. In my reckoning the reverts are more closer to these six conditions as spelt out above for they being non Muslims felt the message of Qur'an imprinting on their hearts and thus they took the final decision of their lives to read the Shahadah and enter in the fold of Islam. It is time that the born Muslims too try to emulate the very personality of a Muttaqi, the pious and the God fearing, to receive true guidance from Qur'an and live a life as enunciated in the Qur'an, which was practically demonstrated by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ through his way of life and performance of daily chores.

May Allāh (سبحانه و تعالى‎) help us understand Qur'ān and help us to act upon the commandments of Allah contained therein. May Allah help us to be like the ones He loves and let our lives be lived helping others and not making others life miserable or unlivable. May all our wrong doings, whether intentional or unintentional, be forgiven before the angel of death knocks on our door. 

May Allah forgive me if my posts ever imply a piety far greater than I possess. I am most in need of guidance.

Note: When we mention God in our posts, we mean One True God, we call Allah in Islam, with no associates. Allah is the creator of all things, and that Allah is all-powerful and all-knowing. Allah has no offspring, no race, no gender, no body, and is unaffected by the characteristics of human life.

Please refer to our reference pages Understanding Al Qur'an  and Quick Reference Pages  for knowing more about Islam and Qur'ān.
Photo | Tafsir References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Qur'ān from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that the exegesis of the chapters of the Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi.  
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided, additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
  • Towards Understanding the Quran
  • Tafsir Ibn Khatir
  • Muhammad Asad Translation
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • Al-Quran, Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Verse by Verse Qur'an Study Circle
In addition the references of other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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