We have probably all heard about the rise of “Woke” culture which the urban dictionary defines as “being aware… knowing what’s going on in the community (related to racism and social injustice)”. 1400 years ago, Ali ibn abi Talib (RA) is reported to have said that “People are asleep when alive; they only wake when they are laid in their graves.”
But what does it mean to waken?
In Islam, what does it mean to be guided? And, Why is it important for us to understand what guidance is?
Interesting, the only thing Allah(SWT) directs us to ask for in every communication with him in salaah – in every rak’ah we read in Surah al Fatiha – is guidance. We read “Guide us to the straight path -The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked anger or of those who are astray.” (Quran 1:6-7)
Sadly, its rarely the thing we ask for in our personal supplications – we remember our family, sustenance, physical needs, problems and even ask for the Akhira but rarely do we ask for guidance. This is despite the Prophet(SAW) encouraging us through numerous dua such as:
Abdullah ibn Masood (RA) narrates that the prophet of Allah, Allah send peace and blessings on him used to make the following prayer: Oh Allah! I ask you (to bestow me with) guidance, God consciousness purity and independence. [Sahih Muslim 2721]
Ali (RA) reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said to me, “Say: O Allah, guide me and direct me.”
And in another narration, the Prophet said, “O Allah, I ask you for guidance and direction.” [Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2725]
Where do we find this guidance?
Well, the answer sits in the next line after al Fatiha – in the opening aayaat of al Baqarah, the Quran itself is described, as ‘Huda’ (guidance). Not only to state that this right here is the guidance but also that this those who gain guidance and feel its sweetness are not the lazy or the advocates of evil; but they are the pious and the devout, who spend their all for the sake of Allah.
Allah(SWT) helps only those who want to help themselves.
The Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam was the most guided, the most pious, the most modest, and the wealthiest, had he wanted. Despite that, he had constantly supplicated asking for just that; guidance, piety, chastity and self-sufficiency.
Imam Sa’di (rh) said regarding this duaa in his book, Bahjatul Quloobul-Abraar:
“This duaa is from the most comprehensive and beneficial duaas, since it includes asking Allah for well-being with regards to both the Religion and the world. Thus,
- al-hudaa (the guidance) is beneficial knowledge
- at-tuqaa (i.e. taqwa or piety) is recognising the truth – righteous actions and leaving-off what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden; and this is (asking) for correctness and well-being of a person’s Religion.
- al-’afaafa (abstinence from unlawful)
- al-ghinaa (contentment and sufficiency) which comprises of being safe from (the harms of) the creation and that the heart is not attached to them.
And it also comprises of being content with Allah and what He provides, and seeking whatever will cause the heart to be satisfied with Him. So with this, happiness in this worldly life is completed, and the heart tastes true sweetness and delight – and this is a goodly life.
What is unique about guidance in Islam
- Knowledge is separate from guidance. Today, we are awash with data and information, enabling us to trawl through documented knowledge far easier than those of the past. However, it seems like chaos and confusion reign. While leaders spent this week talking climate change with the UK being quoted as exemplary practise, there are people gluing themselves to the M25 in protest to the lack of government action. Ironically, even they are criticised for delaying traffic which subsequently pumps out more emissions.
Guidance / Wisdom is having the power of discernment and judging properly as to what is true or right.
No doubt, knowledge is a key but its not the whole of guidance. It’s one of the elements to get to the treasure.
- We are dependent on water and food every few hours because there is thirst and hunger. Just as our body needs nourishment, our heart too needs purpose and guidance is the nourishment for it. In fact, our need for guidance is more valuable than our need for oxygen and water as it takes care of us in this life and beyond.
And the only One who can give it to you is Allah(SWT). And the only real way to ask him – is to make wudhu, face Him, leave everything else aside and ask in its proper way. It’s not like asking for food at the takeaway, asking from your family without even looking at them glued to our screens and in another world.
Imagine if you were offered a job – £50 to dig a 5 foot hole while somebody else is offered £50,000 to dig a 5 foot hole, how would they act? Surely, the one who values the prize more would not be distracted by anything, desperate to complete the goal well and collect the reward. The way in which we ask Allah(SWT) is very telling. Which one of your kids do you respond to? The older teenager who isnt really bothered or the persistent one who wont stop asking till you give in. The one who cries and pleads with us? Similarly, we all need to be desperate for guidance for us to achieve it.
- Guidance is critical if you want to get to the right destination, just like Google Maps or Waze. I imagine this like we are all in a maze with high walls and foundations that you cant dig under or climb and at the centre of this maze is our ultimate goal – Allah(SWT). Anyone who has played a maze game knows that it is almost impossible to chance upon your way to the destination – you need guidance at every turn otherwise you can find yourself so far from the destination and unable to backtrack. Interestingly
Sadly, when our life ends in this world, the maze walls drop and you see how far away you were from Allah(SWT). And on the Day of Judgement, we will all be brought before Allah(SWT) to answer why we decided to reject or ignore the guidance despite being given the answer sheet.
- When someone shows you the correct way to something and you remember it, there is no need to get guidance again. However, with this message, by the mandate of Allah(SWT) and the Prophetic guidance, we have to keep asking for guidance. Every few hours, we stand before Allah(SWT) and we ask for one thing – guidance – in our prayers. If guidance was the same as knowledge, you would have to ask for it over and over again. That means guidance is something we can have for a moment but lose the next.
The example is given of an airplane trip. Before taking off, you and the pilot have a very clear destination in mind. The plane takes off at the appointed hour toward that predetermined destination. But in fact, the plane is off course at least 90 percent of the time. Weather conditions, turbulence, and other factors cause it to get off track. However, feedback is given to the pilot constantly, who then makes course corrections and keeps coming back to the exact flight plan, bringing the plane back on course and often achieving the target arrival time. Amazing – . Leaving on time, arriving on time, but off course 90 percent of the time.
This is our analogy with guidance – we need to see the feedback and signs in our life – the challenges and reminders, life’s activities as lessons and our humble acceptance that we genuinely do not know. It takes courage to be vulnerable to this and you often hear of imposter syndrome in professional circles but surely, we who live, breathe and depend on Allah(SWT) are the greatest imposters if we think we have the answers without Allah(SWT).
- Hidayah is a divine gift which Almighty Allah gives to whomever He loves and people should be qualified with piety and Allah fearing in order to gain it. Remember, we can’t own it or hold on to it – we need it again and again for everyone of our life choices.
When we are out and about, there is a billboard. We have a choice to look or not to look. A song starts playing on the radio, we have the choice to listen or switch the channel. An argument starts up with friends or family, we have the choice to stoke the fire or end it. All of my life boils down to choices – do or don’t do, look or don’t look, text or don’t text, post or don’t post, watch the video or don’t watch it.
Guidance is just before you make a choice- turn back to Allah(SWT) – and ask whats the right choice.
Sadly, most of us don’t feel we need this gift – I’ve got my car, house, playstation, phone and toys – what more do I need? In my study of dietetics, I came across the principle that we often over-eat when we are actually thirsty. Shockingly, research shows those with obesity are oftentimes dehydrated. Instead of satisfying our need for drink, we distract ourselves with food. Similarly, our heart is calling out for purpose and a connection with the One who created it, but we distract it with Netflix, Fifa, Bollywood and KSI. Life is not a popularity contest – lets not land it our graves before we get woke to the reality of our greatest need – the need to find Allah(SWT) in this life before we are brought before Him in the next.
- Spend our whole life asking Allah for it as it is not permanent, it is required at every step and every challenge.
- Being Muslim does not mean you are permanently guided. Submitting at one point and saying the shahada was a good choice. What about after that?
If you know about the Qur’anic guidance and Prophetic character but your relationships with your family are horrible, you’re always grumpy and pessimistic, You can be a bad person without knowing Islam and you can be a bad person even after knowing Islam. Learning Arabic or memorising the Quran does not have to change a persons behaviour. Academic study is not a guarantee of a good attitude and good character.
- The chief aim of wisdom is to admit one’s ignorance.