It is hard for common sense to understand the verse of the Holy Quran which says: "Thus does Allah make err whom He pleases ...”

Q: It is hard for common sense to understand the verse of the Holy Quran which says:

يُضِلُّ اللَّهُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۚ

"Thus does Allah make err whom He pleases ...” (Al-Muddaththir, 74:31)

Please explain in detail.

A: This holy verse carries several meanings:

One is regarding knowledge about the Almighty Allah's authority over guidance and misguidance for anyone whom He wishes and that He is able to draw him to good or evil willy-nilly, but since withdrawal of free will is against Divine wisdom, He does not do so, because if He does so, one cannot be either rewarded or punished. Therefore the verse only informs us about God's ability and it does not mean that he really takes this step.

Another reason is that the meaning of guidance in this verse is not showing of the way as the same has already been conveyed to all responsible beings through prophets and Imams (a.s.). Similarly the meaning of guidance here is also not the attaining of the aim without free will or intention of man, because it too negates ones being entitled to reward or punishment.

Hence what is meant by guidance and misguidance in this verse is divine sense (Taufeeq) or abandoning (Khizlaan). Taufeeq means that the Almighty Allah pays special attention to His servant and makes the path of good easy for him thereby making him inclined to good and by increasing his desire to do good. He provides for him the means, which help him succeed and does not withhold from him means which can keep him away from sinning.

The perfect kind of such guidance is that by which God makes His servant taste the sweetness of good and the bitterness of evil. It i s obvious that such guidance, which facilitates the path of success, does not conflict with or does not negate man's free will. Therefore the meaning of this verse is: God sheds His favor on His servant by providing him with all the means of success to whoever He wants and deprives those He wants of His favors and leaving such a person to himself (to do whatever he likes).

But it should be clear that the will of Allah is not random; it is in accordance with the entitlement of man to get guidance or misguidance. Man makes himself eligible of God's favor by following and accepting the call of the divine prophets.

وَالَّذِينَ اهْتَدَوْا زَادَهُمْ هُدًى وَآتَاهُمْ تَقْوَاهُمْ

"And (as for) those who follow the right direction, He increases them in guidance and gives them their guarding (against evil).,,” (Muhammad, 47: 17)

Since guidance and good sense (Taufeeq) of God has stages, when God grants His favor and the servant accepts it thankfully, he becomes entitled to a higher rank. Likewise it is also possible that a man by his inclination to evil may make himself eligible for misguidance and deprivation.

Other interpretations of this verse are also there, but for now this should suffice.

Sayyid Abdul Husayn Dastghaib