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al-Tahwiyyah: Pt 12- How Allah guides and misguides

He gives guidance to whomever He wills, protects them and keeps them safe from harm as an act of grace. And He leads astray whomever He wills, abases them and afflicts them out of His justice.

يَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَعْصِمُ وَيُعَافِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ فَضْلاً، وَيُضِلُّ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَخْذُلُ وَيَبْتَلِي عَدْلاً
The life of this world has been created beset with trials and tribulation. This is something Allāh, Exalted is He, intended and with great wisdom. Allāh stated that He: ‘created death and life to test which of you is best in action’,[1] and that: ‘We created man from a mingled drop to test him, and We made him hearing and seeing’.[2] This clarifies that this life is simply a test in order to see who will adhere best to Allāh’s Commands and stay true to their faith in Him. The principle of testing faith is central to the religion and is manifest in every sphere of the Shari’ah. It is present in matters of theology and doctrine, just as it is manifest in matters of law and conduct.

The principle of testing faith comprises of a number of dimensions, of them is:

1) Allāh affording His creatures the ability and means to overcome these trials and tribulations. He tests them, but is also Just. He did not leave them helpless, without power to pass the tests that are to come their way. This means that human beings and the jinnkind have the ability to choose how they live their lives and deal with these tests. This indicates that they have a God-given free will.

2) Allāh is the All-Wise and the Most Just, He will reward people for remaining true to their faith in difficult times and punish those that turn away in rebellion.

3) As Allāh is the Creator, the Master, and in control of everything; what He has given to his creatures of a free will, only operates within the parameters of His Own Irresistible Will. This clarifies that the free will of people is bound to the Will of Allāh. This is how we understand His Words: ‘And you do not will except that Allāh wills. Indeed, Allāh is ever Knowing and Wise’.[3]

Guidance is what one needs to succeed in life and it comes only from Allāh, Exalted is He. If Allāh so willed to guide someone, none could misguide him; and if Allāh willed that someone would be misguided, none could guide him. The Prophet (SAW) used to ask in his supplications: ‘O mover of hearts, make firm our hearts towards obeying You. O turner of our hearts! Turn our hearts towards Your religion.’ Anas asked the Prophet (SAW): ‘O Messenger of Allāh! We believe in you and in what you have brought. Then do you still fear for us?’. The Prophet (SAW) was teaching us that guidance comes only from Allāh and that seeking the guidance of Allāh is part and parcel of a believer’s life, he implores Allāh for it in every prayer when he says: ‘Guide us to the Straight Path’.[4]

The author said: ‘He gives guidance to whomever He wills…as an act of grace’, which clarifies that had Allāh Willed He could have dictated who would be guided and who would be misguided, however, Allāh guides people out of His grace (fal). Many people are confused about how it is that Allāh misguides some people out of justice. The answer is simple, yet, it should be made clear from the outset that the matter of being guided is far from arbitrary or a case of favouritism, Exalted and Elevated is Allāh from such.

Allāh placed inside of every human being an internal moral compass (firah) that gives a call from within to adhere to good and abhor evil. He then sent Messengers to call the people to His religion and adhere to His prescriptions; thus guiding them further. And He placed signs in all creation that point to His existence and Lordship.

The ways (subul) in which Allāh guides people are many and that is from His grace (faḍl). The accepting and submitting to His guidance is also from His grace. When people turn away from Allāh, He too turns away from them and leaves them to descend into the darknesses of misguidance, for: ‘When Allāh desires to guide someone, He expands his breast to Islam. When He desires to misguide someone, He makes his breast narrow and constricted as if he were climbing up into the sky.’ Allāh said about the Children of Israel: ‘So when they deviated, Allāh made their hearts deviate. Allāh does not guide people who are deviators.’[5] With these words, we gain insight into the reason why Allāh has Decreed misguidance for certain people. It was because of their unwillingness to devote themselves to Him that made them deserved of misguidance. Allāh said about the hypocrites of Madinah: ‘Among them are those who listen to you and then, when they leave your presence, say to those who have been given knowledge, ‘What was that he just said?’ They are those whose hearts Allāh has sealed up and who follow their own desires.’[6] Wretched were their schemes, and heinous were their words of ridicule: ‘What was that he just said?’ referring to the Messenger (SAW), and so Allāh misguided them by sealing up their hearts.

The Qur’ān asserts in clear terms that Allāh does as He Wills; for He is: ‘the Doer of whatever He Wills’[7] and this indicates in a general sense the words of the author: ‘He gives guidance to whomever He wills’. Furthermore, Allāh said: ‘Had We so willed We could have given guidance to everyone’[8], clarifying that Allāh’s guidance is more than simply showing human beings right from wrong and granting them access to revelation, as this has already been afforded to all of mankind after the advent of the last Messenger (SAW) with the Qur’ān. The Qur’ān states: ‘When Allāh desires to guide someone, He expands his breast to Islam’, which reveals another dimension to the matter of guidance. Likewise misguidance is more than simply allowing human beings to commit sin and disobey His commands. The Qur’ān spoke about the believer who entered paradise and said: ‘Had it not been for the grace of My Lord, I should have certainly been among those brought there’[9] referring to the inhabitants of the Hell Fire. Both of these verses clarify that: ‘Allāh sends astray whom He wills and He guides on the Straight Path whom He wills.’

The reality of Allāh’s guiding and misguiding man is found in His words in the Quranic chapter al-Layl: ‘As for him who gives [to others] and is conscious of God’; meaning the person who used his god-given ability to adhere to Allāh’s commands,: ‘and confirms the Good’; meaning whilst he was believing in Allāh’s Oneness,: ‘We will pave his way to Ease’; such a person will be guided by Allāh to do more good deeds that will ultimately enter him into paradise. These verses illustrate that Allāh is indeed guiding people and that His guidance is based on the will of the person. If the person turns to Allāh in devotion, Allāh in turn responds with guidance and opens the way for goodness for that person. The more devoted and sincere a person becomes, the more Allāh guides him and eases the path ahead for him to do more good deeds and earn his place in paradise. It is because he sought out guidance that Allāh guided him; and then: ‘for those who accept guidance, He increases their guidance, and bestows on them their piety.’[10] which is additional guidance to act more righteously. This is all from the grace (faḍl) of Allāh and His Justice (‘adl).

Conversely, when a person turns away from Allāh, Allāh turns away from him and leaves him to stray. The verses of the Quranic chapter al-Layl continue: ‘But he who is a greedy miser and thinks himself self-sufficient’; in contrast to the first person, this person was turning away from Allāh’s Commands and Guidance, ‘and denies the Good’; disbelieving in Allāh’s Oneness, ‘We will pave his way to Difficulty’[11]; based on his turning away from Allāh, neglecting His commands, not desiring His guidance, Allāh will in turn misguide him by making it easier for him to commit sins, misdeeds, and shameful actions.

The Prophet (SAW) taught this belief to his Companions. Ali (RA) said that they were once sitting with the Prophet (SAW) when he said: ‘There is not a single one of you except that his seat has been written (already) in paradise or in the hellfire’. They responded: ‘O Messenger of Allāh, shall we not then surrender ourselves to that?’, the Prophet (SAW) answered them: ‘No! Work (i.e. do good deeds), for everyone will be eased towards what he was created for’, and then he recited the aforementioned verses of al-Layl. His response to their question was to a) affirm that they must strive to do good deeds, and b) what they do will impact directly on how Allāh will guide them and pave a way for them ultimately into paradise.


The above mentioned elucidation on how Allāh guides and misguides His creatures is based on a holistic view of the Divine Decree (qadar) of Allāh as explained in the Qur’ān and the Sunnah. The way in which the Sacred Texts speak of Allāh’s Decree is truly profound and yet simple and logical. However, if one focuses on certain aspects of the textual evidences, or perceives them from only one dimension they will misunderstand the whole concept of Divine Decree (qadar). For instance, if some people were to simply focus on those textual evidences that confirm that Allāh guides and misguides people, they would conclude that human beings in reality have no free will. This is in fact the position taken by the ancient sect known as the Jabriyyah. This sect believes that the human being has no free will and has no ability to choose how he acts. For them, whatever a human being does was dictated upon him by Allāh and he has no control over what he does.

Conversely, if people focus on the fact that human beings have a free will and neglect the fact that the will of creatures is bound to and operating within the Will of Allāh, they will affirm free will in an extreme autonomous sense. This is also the position of another historical sect known as the Qadariyyah. They believe that human beings have complete control over their deeds and hence Allāh has no control over what they do. This led them to believe that they create their actions and bring them into existence. The Prophet (SAW) called them the “Majoos” of this nation (ummah). This is because they believe that human beings create their actions which places them as creators alongside Allāh, which is similar to the doctrine of the “Majoos” who believe that light and darkness create beside Allāh.

Ahl al-Sunnah glorify Allāh and exalted Him above anything that is evil. Behind every command and decree is His Supreme Wisdom. The issue of punishing the sinner is a matter of justice and can easily be appreciated as such; for how could an evil person, who disobeys Allāh, be treated like a believer, who strives to devote himself to Allāh in obedience. Allāh’s punishment befalls the sinner in many ways, both in this life and in the hereafter. In this life he is punished by being led further and further astray; ultimately being distanced from Paradise and drawn closer to a fate in the Hellfire. The believer who obeys is not treated the same, he is rewarded and part of that reward is to be guided by Allāh ever more. This is the holistic understanding of the sacred texts relating to guidance, and it all points to the Supreme Justice and Grace of Allāh. This belief sets the scene of how Allāh created us and gave us life in order to test us. It is a belief that inspires and motivates a person to hasten to believe and obey his Creator and to strive in overcoming difficulties with faith and reliance in Him, Exalted is He.

The Mu’tazilites were unable to reconcile between the fact that Allāh had given choice to man, yet at the same time guided or misguided him. For them, if Allāh guided a person He was being unjust to the other person who was being deprived of guidance. It can only thus be said that Allāh is guiding all people, in the sense that He gave them all an intellect that can distinguish between right and wrong, and Revelation which made clear God’s prescriptions. Thereafter, the matter is down to them; if they believed in Allāh, the Last Day, and performed good deeds they would enter paradise. If they chose to do evil and turn away from Allāh, they would be misguided on their own accord and Allāh had no share in their misguidance.
In their opinion, those who are misguided created their acts of misguidance themselves and followed through with those acts; so then, those actions were not created by Allāh as how would it be possible that He creates misguidance Himself, when it is incumbent upon Him to guide people?
The response of Ahl al-Sunnah was that the Qur’ān and Sunnah speak of two types of guidance; Allāh guides people by showing them the right path through Revelation, and this guidance He has given to all human beings; moreover Allāh has created all human beings with an internal moral compass (fiṭrah) and an intellect (‘aql) which makes man inclined to believe in Him, do good, and abhor evil. This general sense of guidance was alluded to in His words: ‘Mankind! a clear proof has come to you from your Lord. We have sent down a Clear Light to you.’[12] The internal moral compass (fiṭrah) and reason of man can recognise the blatant truth of this Revelation and is moreover inclined to accept it. 

Secondly, when Allāh said to His Messenger (SAW): ‘You cannot guide those you would like to but Allāh guides those He wills’,[13] referring to his dear uncle Abu Tālib, indicates guidance in another sense, and that is the internalizing, inwardly accepting, and submitting to the general guidance of Allāh. Allāh asserts in clear terms that He is the only One who guides in this sense of the word by expanding a person’s: ‘breast to Islam’. [14]

As for those who are misguided, they were misguided because they rejected the guidance of Allāh in the first place, going against the internal moral compass (fiṭrah) Allāh endowed in them; thus Allāh debases them further due to their initial sin of rejecting His general guidance and suppressing the call from within. Allāh, Exalted is He, is not unjust in the least to anyone. Only when people turn away from Him, does He then misguide them. Such as the case of the Children of Israel: ‘… when they deviated, Allāh made their hearts deviate. Allāh does not guide people who are deviators.’[15]

In this way did Ahl Sunnah adhere to the middle-way, asserting that only Allāh can guide without any injustice on His part, and yet man has choice in life. True are the words of the All-Mighty: ‘Whoever Allāh guides is truly guided. But if He misguides someone, you will find no protector for them to guide them rightly.’ [16]

Points of Benefit

1) Without exception, Allāh’s misguidance of people is in response to their rebellion. In each of the thirty-one Quranic verses which mentions that Allāh misguides people, the Qur’ān either explicitly states that He misguides transgressors, the unjust, those who belie His signs, and so on, or the preceding verses clearly refer to such people. For instance, Allāh says in the 7th verse of al-Baqarah: ‘Allāh has sealed their hearts and their hearing, and over their eyes is a veil; and horrendous suffering awaits them’ after He mentioned: ‘those who are bent on denying the truth’ in the 6th verse. One of the clearest verses that explains why Allāh misguides is that of the Quranic chapter al-Naḥl wherein Allāh says: ‘As for those who do not have iman in Allāh’s Signs, Allāh will not guide them and they will have a painful punishment.’ [16:104]

2) When we turn away from Allāh, we make ourselves vulnerable to suffering, pain, and misfortune. One should not consider misguidance in a limited way, confined only to a corruption of faith and conduct. Misguidance is of many types and from them is misfortune in one’s well-being and quality of life. Allāh spoke of a town that were beset with financial misfortune, explaining: ‘If only the people of the cities had had faith and god-consciousness, We would have opened up to them blessings from heaven and earth. But they denied the truth so We seized them for what they earned.’ [7:96]. We ask Allāh to save us from misguidance and keep us firm upon His religion. 

Notes: Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad’s explanation of al-Aqeedah al-Tahawiyyah will soon be published as a hardback book. Islam21c have exclusive rights to share extracts from the book for its readers, and will be posting certain sections of the book on a weekly basis. The book: al-Aqeedah al-Tahawiyyah, is a short text outlining the aqeedah of Ahl al-Sunnah in short statements. Each extract posted is a complete explanation of any one of those statements. Edited by Asim Khan



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[1] Q. Al-Mulk, 67: 2.
[2] Q. Al-Insān, 76: 2.
[3] Ibid
[4] Q. Al-Fātiha, 1: 5.
[5] Q. Al- Ṣaff, 61: 5.
[6] Q. Muhammad, 47: 16.
[7] Q. Al-Burūj, 85: 16.
[8] Q. Al-Sajdah, 32: 13.
[9] Q. Al-Sāfāt, 37: 57.
[10] Q. Muḥammad, 47: 17.
[11] Q. Al-Layl, 92: 5-10.
[12] Q. Al-Nisā, 4: 174.
[13] Q. al-Qaṣaṣ, 28: 56.
[14] Q. Al-An’ām, 6: 125.
[15] Q. Al-Ṣaff, 61: 5.
[16] Q. Al-Kahf, 18: 17.


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About Shaikh (Dr) Haitham Al-Haddad

Dr. Haitham al-Haddad is a jurist and serves as a judge for the Islamic Council of Europe. He has studied the Islamic sciences for over 20 years under the tutelage of renowned scholars such as the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia as well as the retired Head of the Kingdom's Higher Judiciary Council. He specialises in many of the Islamic sciences and submitted his doctoral thesis on Islamic jurisprudence concerning Muslim minorities. Shaikh Haitham is highly respected having specialised knowledge in the field of fiqh, usul al-fiqh, maqasid al-shari'ah, ulum al-Qur’an, tafsir, aqidah, and fiqh al-hadith. He provides complex theories which address the role of Islamic jurisprudence within a western environment whilst also critically re-analysing the approach of Islamic jurists in forming legal rulings (ifta’) within a western socio-political context. He has many well known students most of whom are active in dawah and teaching in the West. The shaikh is an Islamic jurist (faqih) and as such is qualified to deliver verdicts as a judge under Islamic law, a role he undertakes at the Islamic Council of Europe as Islamic judge and treasurer. Dr Haitham al-Haddad also sits on various the boards of advisors for Islamic organisations, mainly in the United Kingdom but also around the world.

One comment

  1. Hassan Radwan

    So why interfere at all?

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