Whom Allah Chooses to Guide

Whom Allah Chooses to Guide

Islam teaches that Allah’s guidance is a key factor in both becoming guided to Islam and remaining guided in Islam. Allah states:

وَمَا كَانَ لِنَفْسٍ أَن تُؤْمِنَ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ ٱللَّهِ

“And it is not for a soul to be able to have Iman, except by Allah’s permission.” (Qur’an 10:100)

Islam does not teach that accountable people have full control over their beliefs, but only that they have sufficient control to the point where they could be held accountable for their beliefs.

وَمَا تَشَآءُونَ إِلَّآ أَن يَشَآءَ ٱللَّهُ

“And you cannot will something unless Allah wills it.” (Qur’an 81:29)

Allah’s guidance does not entail Him forcibly making one believe. Rather, for Allah to guide a person, that person must, himself, will to believe.

فَمَن شَآءَ فَلْيُؤْمِن وَمَن شَآءَ فَلْيَكْفُرْ

“Whoever wills to believe, let them believe, and whoever wills to disbelieve, let them disbelieve.” (Qur’an 18:29)

وَٱلَّذِينَ جَـٰهَدُوا۟ فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا ۚ

“And whoever strives in our cause or path, we shall guide them.” (Qur’an 29:69)

فَمَن شَآءَ ذَكَرَهُۥ كَلَّآ إِنَّهُۥ تَذْكِرَةٌ

“This is only a reminder. So whoever wills will pay heed to it.” (Qur’an 74:54-55)

And there are several other ayat to that effect.
So Allah guides those who truly wish to seek the truth.

Guidance from Allah سبحانه وتعالى as clarified by the ulama involves making the truth clearer to the person. And easing and facilitating the path to acquiring the truth. It also involves Allah giving the individual the inner strength to accept the truth in the face of obstacles. We can understand Allah’s guidance as Him actualizing circumstances to enable people to make correct decisions in their religious inquiry whereby He enables their motivations to be further inclined to seek the truth.

We need to understand something here. Who are the people that are accountable in Islam? They are those whom the message of Islam has reached and are intellectually capable of understanding it and engaging in the required process of reflecting upon it and subsequently either accepting or rejecting it without any serious threat to their wellbeing.

They must be able to engage in contemplation about the message of Islam, which would then serve as a causal stimulus to them embracing it. The critical contemplation or reflection process would involve mental questions such as: “Are there good reasons for me to embrace Islam?”, “Have I properly understood what Islam teaches?”, “What commitments and sacrifices would I be required to make when I convert to Islam?”, etc.

Just as we have control over our weight by forming intentions to exercise and eat fewer calories, there is also that control to believe things by forming intentions to reflect upon them. And as said earlier, Islam teaches that Allah سبحانه وتعالى would assist that process of reflection and embracement of the truth if the will to seek the truth is truly there. So the control that the human being has is the intention to engage in serious, reflective inquiry of religious truth, while the final result involving discovering the truth and embracing it with its settlement in the heart is by the guiding aid of Allah سبحانه وتعالى.

Allah can enable and assist the person to have correct desires and inclinations to seek the truth and resist temptations and obstacles that may hinder one’s journey to seeking the truth, but there must be that higher intention, that higher-order desire to truly seek the truth, and then the lower-order desires become aligned with that higher-order desire through Allah’s help.

What are higher-order and lower-order desires? Higher or second-order desires are desires to have certain desires. For example, an example of a higher-order desire is: I desire to desire to eat healthy foods. So, not only do I want to eat healthy foods, but I also want to enjoy and crave healthy foods. Basically, you want to have the feeling of wanting something, not merely just wanting something. The lower-order or first-order desire is simply: I desire to eat healthy foods. Now it’s easy for lower-order desires to get influenced and manipulated if they are not strongly aligned with a higher-order desire. In other words, if you don’t truly want to desire and crave healthy foods, then your desire for healthy foods is more prone to alter under pressure and temptation.

Similarly, the same logic works when it comes to seeking religious guidance. The Prophet (peace be upon him) taught us to make the dua:

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ الثَّبَاتَ فِي الْأَمْرِ ، وَأَسْأَلُكَ عَزِيمَةَ الرُّشْدِ

“Oh Allah, I ask you for firmness and consistency in this affair (meaning the ability to constantly practice and be committed to the deen), and I ask you for the determination to follow the right path.”

So here, you can see that the dua involves invoking Allah سبحانه وتعالى to help us have the correct lower- order desires, namely continuously wanting to be consistent in following the deen.

We also make the dua:

اللهم ثبت قلوبنا على دينك

“Oh Allah, make our hearts firm upon this deen.”

Again, merely making this dua out of sincerity is an indication that there is a higher-order desire to want to follow the deen of Allah. The making of the dua is a reflection of a desire of desiring firmness upon the deen of Allah.

We also make other duas like:

اللَّهُمَ حَبَّبْ إِلَيْنَا الْإِيمَانَ وَزَيِّنْهُ فِي قُلُوبِنَا، وَكَرِّهْ إِلَيْنَا الْكُفْرَ وَالْفُسُوقَ وَالْعِصْيَانَ، وَاجْعَلْنَا مِنَ الرَّاشِدِينَ 

“Oh Allah, make Iman beloved to us and adorn our hearts with it. And make detestable to us kufr, and fisq, and disobedience. And make us among those who are guided and upright.”

Again, this dua is a dua to Allah سبحانه وتعالى to help us have the correct lower-order desires. We don’t merely wish to have Iman. But rather, wish to always want Iman by loving it. To desire to have the desire of hating kufr and whatever displeases Allah.

There’s also the dua:

 اللَّهُمَّ أعِنَّا عَلَى ذِكْرِكَ، وَشُكْرِكَ، وَحُسْنِ عِبَادَتِكَ

“Oh Allah, help me to remember you. And thank you. And worship you in a beautiful manner.”

This is a beautiful dua. You’re basically saying when you’re making this dua: Oh Allah, I want to want to remember you. I want to want to thank you. I want to want to worship you in a beautiful manner.

The very fact that you’re making all these kinds of duas sincerely is indicative of the fact that you have a higher-order desire to want to have the lower-order desires of remembering and thanking and worshipping Allah. You making the dua sincerely to want to love Iman is proof that you want to want to love Iman. So you have that higher-order desire.

These are the people whom Allah سبحانه وتعالى guides. They are the people who have the right sincere higher-order wills and desires. Allah will make things easier for them by strengthening their willpower to have the correct lower-order desires to align with and conform to those higher-order desires in order to please Him.

You will not stop wanting to commit zina, unless you sincerely want to want to stop committing zina. And this goes for every other sin, including the worst one, Shirk. You keep committing a sin, and you say: “My willpower is too weak. I can’t overcome my desires. I can’t stop committing zina.”

Okay, a sincere question to you: Do you really wish that your desire for zina comes to an end? Ask yourself that.

Now at this point, you might be asking, why on earth is Bassam getting too philosophical about this and just complicating things?

Look, the point I’m essentially trying to make in the context of Allah guiding a non-believer to Islam is that the non-believer must have a higher-order desire to want to accept the truth at all costs. To truly want to submit to God even if it means conceding that he was wrong about his religious views all along. Even if it means having to change his moral paradigm, even if it means upsetting his family and friends, even سبحانه if it means drastically changing his lifestyle. And if that higher-order desire is truly there, then Allah would enable that individual by strengthening his willpower and guiding his desires to take the وتعالى measures necessary to acquire the truth of Islam. Allah would enable him to want to undergo his research correctly and in an unbiased fashion. Allah would assist him by emboldening him and instilling courage in him to want to confront his family and friends about the new deen he has embraced. In other words, Allah سبحانه وتعالى would guide him by helping him correct his lower-order desires.

This is the main point I wanted to reach, and I apologize if I have overcomplicated this, but I really wanted to find a way to make it clear that Allah’s guidance involves guiding our desires and will, but that doesn’t occur unless we have a higher-order desire for that divine guidance to occur. So the free will is there because having that higher-order desire is from us, but the correction of our lower-order desires is by Allah’s assistance. Thus, this helps us understand how divine intervention does not compromise our free will.

فَمَن يُرِدِ ٱللَّهُ أَن يَهْدِيَهُۥ يَشْرَحْ صَدْرَهُۥ لِلْإِسْلَـٰمِ

“Whoever Allah wishes to guide; He expands his breast to Islam.” (Qur’an 6:125)

Allah سبحانه وتعالى knows best who to guide and who to condemn to hell:

ثُمَّ لَنَحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ أَوْلَىٰ بِهَا صِلِيًّا

“We know who is most deserving of burning in hell.” (Qur’an 19:70)

You don’t know; Allah knows. He knows what each person was capable of doing and not doing. He knows how many opportunities were wasted to traverse the path of guidance. He knows what the true underlying motives of each individual were. He knows how heedless and sincere each person was. You don’t know; He knows.

Allah سبحانه وتعالى states that He wouldn’t bear people burdens that they are not able to bear.

لَا نُكَلِّفُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا

“We burden not any person, but that which he can bear.” (Qur’an 6:152)

And on the Day of Judgment, those who do enter hell will concede that they were wrong and are worthy of blame. They won’t be kicking and screaming that God was unfair to them, but rather that it was their fault.

وَقَالُوا۟ لَوْ كُنَّا نَسْمَعُ أَوْ نَعْقِلُ مَا كُنَّا فِىٓ أَصْحَـٰبِ ٱلسَّعِيرِ

“And they would say: Only if we had listened or used our intellect, we wouldn’t have been from amongst the people of the fire.” (Qur’an 67:10)

They failed to actualize their intellect’s capacity to seeking God, and they acted irrationally by satisfying their short-term desires at the expense of the longer term.

They failed to use their reason to regulate their passions and desires.

يَـٰوَيْلَنَا قَدْ كُنَّا فِى غَفْلَةٍ مِّنْ هَـٰذَا بَلْ كُنَّا ظَـٰلِمِينَ

“Oh, woe to us, for we have been heedless of this. In fact, we were oppressors.” (Qur’an 21:97)

يَـٰحَسْرَتَنَا عَلَىٰ مَا فَرَّطْنَا فِيهَا

“Oh, how we regret being heedless about the Day of Judgment.” (Qur’an 6:31)

There are several Qur’anic references alluding to this admission of guilt and regret by the kuffar in the afterlife. Their own limbs would testify against them on that day. All the evidence against them will be laid out that day. Every opportunity foregone to research about religious truth, every moment they decided to follow their desires, every instance they elevated their egos and found it beneath them to submit to moral dictates that didn’t align with their predetermined standards of morality. All the evidence will be laid bare against them on the Day of Judgment, and they will not be able to refute it, nor would they be able to make a case that they are being unfairly judged.

And once we understand this and fully appreciate the justice and fairness underlying the notion of Allah guiding and misguiding people, then many of the objections that are raised automatically lose their force.

[The Rationale of Hell in Islam by Bassam Zawadi, p.17-21]

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