1. Means of Guidance
A traveller has an address in his hand. He meets you and asks you to help him find the address. You have two choices before you:
First, to go with him and complete your good deed by a accompanying him to his destination and then say goodbye and leave him.
Second, indicate with your hand and giving various signs guide him towards his destination.
It is evident that in both cases, you have guided him towards his destination but there is a difference between these two; the second one is just telling which way to go and the first, is taking one to one’s destination. The Holy Qur’an and Traditions of Islam mention both ways.
On the other hand, sometimes guidance only has a legal quality to it, i.e., formed by means of laws and rules. Whereas, sometimes it has an instinctive quality, i.e., by means of facilities provided by creation like the guidance of an embryo to becoming a complete human being and both of these ways are mentioned in the Holy Qur’an and the Traditions. By clarifying the means of guidance (and, naturally, the point opposite it, leading astray or error), we return to the main discussion.
We read in many of the verses of the Holy Qur’an that guidance and leading astray is God’s work. Doubtlessly, the ‘indication of the way’ comes from God. Why? Because He sent the Prophet and sent a heavenly Book to show people the way.
But ‘reaching the goal’ through coercion or force clearly does not agree with free will and choice. However, because all power and strength which is necessary to reach one’s goal is given to us by God and it is He Who gives us success upon this way, this sense of guidance is also from God. That is, preparation of the equipment and the preliminaries and providing them is at the disposal of humanity.
2. The Question of God’s Guidance
Now, an important question arises and that is that we read in many verses of the Holy Quran:
“God guides whom He wills and misleads whom He wills.” (Surah Ibrahim, 14: 4).
Some people, without considering other verses of the Holy Qur’an, and the interpretation which one verse has relative to others, immediately, upon seeing this verse, object and say, “If God guides whom He will and misleads whom He wills, what are we supposed to do in the middle?”
The important point is that the verses of the Holy Qur’an must always be studied in relation to each other in order to understand them in truth. Here we will recall several other verses about guidance and leading astray so that you can study them in relation to the above verse:
“God will establish in strength those who believe, with the Word that stands firm in this world and in the hereafter; but God will leave, to stray, those who do wrong: God does what He wills” (Surah Ibrahim, 14:27).
“Thus does God leave to stray such as transgress and live in doubt.” (Surah Al-Mu’min, 40:34).
“And those who strive in our (Cause), We will certainly guide them to Our paths: for verily God is with those who do right.” (Surah Al-Ankabut, 29: 69).
As we see, God’s will is not inexplicable. He neither gives the success of guidance to a person nor does He deny a person success. Those who undertake the jihad upon God’s Way, war with their difficulties and show strength and firmness of purpose, have been promised guidance and this is justice.
But those who create oppression and suppression and those who take steps towards extravagance, doubt, injustice and causing temptation in hearts, God takes away their possibility of guidance. Their hearts, as a result of these deeds, are darkened and they will not be able to succeed in reaching the station of wellbeing. This is how the Creator leaves the results of our deeds in our own hands and this is justice.