Book of guidance
By Haider Zaman
Besides being a book of guidance (2:2), the Holy Quran is also a book of wisdom and knowledge (36:2). This is evident, among other things, from the most scientific, yet easily comprehensible, way in which the Quran guides us towards a definite goal.
The entire scheme of guidance has been summed up just in one verse which says "Who has created and then proportioned: Who has measured and then guided" (87:2,3). The words "created" and "proportioned" in the verse imply the creation of human beings in the best possible form (95:4), a form that could suit the objectives of their creation.
The word "measured" in the verse implies that Allah took calculated account of both the capabilities and frailties with which human beings were born so as to devise a proper scheme for their guidance. The word "guided" implies the provision of appropriate guidance.
The rationale for guidance is manifest from the verses which say: "He it is who made you vicegerents in the earth" (6:165) and "does the man think that he will be just left to himself" (75:36).
What is spelled out by these verses combined, is that human beings were created to act as Allah's vicegerents on earth for which they had to be provided necessary guidance with a view to attain the desirable level of development - the level that could enable them to discharge their responsibilities as Allah's vicegerents in a befitting manner.
The desirable level of development has been explained by the Quran thus: "In fact the one who repents and does righteous deeds returns to Allah as he rightly should" (25:71). Return to Allah means submission to the Will of Allah. The highest level of development has been explained with reference to Hazrat Ibrahim which could be total submission to the Will of Allah and doing righteous deeds (4:125). These two levels have been further explained by the Quran as people on the right hand (having attained the desired level of development) (56:8) and people being foremost in the race (having attained the highest level of development (56:10) and supplemented by reference to two kinds of paradises (55:46,62) and the principle of recompense, namely, that for all there will be ranks according to what they do (46:19).
The Quran also tells us about the inclinations of human soul that have direct bearing on the levels of development. One is the inclination towards doing wrong and evil deeds, termed as Nafs-i-Ammarah (12:53).
The other is towards realization and repentance i.e. to realize immediately if one does something wrong, that what he has done is termed as Nafs-i-Lowwamah (75:2). The third is towards doing good and righteous deeds, termed as Nafs-i-Mutmainnah (89:27) also called the soul at peace.
These inclinations of the soul are in turn influenced by two elements. One of them consists of frailties and weaknesses common to all human beings. They are: inability to resist lust (4:27,28), leaning towards injustice and unfairness (14:34), hastiness (17:11) ingratitude (17:67), contentiousness i.e. not prone to accepting one's own faults or shortcomings (18:54), niggardliness i.e. reluctance to part with what one has (17:100) and anxiety (70:19,20).
These frailties influence these inclinations in the sense that they activate Nafs-i-Ammarah and suppress the other two inclinations of the soul. For example, inability to resist lust, leaning towards unfairness, and contentiousness activate Nafs-i-Ammarah and thereby impel one to do wrong and evil deeds.
At the same time they suppress Nafs-i-Lowwamah and Nafs-i-Mutmainnah as a person under the influence of these frailties neither repents over whatever wrong he does nor is he ever inclined to do any good or righteous deeds.
The other element having direct impact on these inclinations consists of faculties that the human beings have been endowed with. They are: the hearing, sight, affection and intelligence (16:78), mercy and love (30:21), the ability to make distinction between right and wrong in regard to one's own conduct (91:8) and above all the provision of guidance (76:3) (20:123,124).
There exists direct relationship of cause and effect between the criteria of desirable level of development, namely, repentance and doing of righteous deeds, and the three inclinations of the soul as described above.
A person repents over whatever wrong he does and vows not to do any wrong again only when his Nafs-i-Lowwamah is activated and Nafs-i-Ammarah is suppressed or controlled.
Repentance in this context involves two things. One is the activation of Nafs-i-Lowwamah because the person realizes his fault or mistake and reproaches himself for it.
The other is the suppression of Nafs-i-Ammarah because repentance involves not merely the expression of regret over the wrong done but also firm determination of not doing any wrong again which implies nothing but suppression of Nafs-i-Ammarah.
Repentance without solemnly undertaking not to repeat any wrong cannot be treated as repentance. Likewise, a person is impelled to do righteous deeds only when his Nafs-i-Mutmainnah is activated.
Repentance in the true sense could be reflective of three things. One is firm faith in the existence and Unity of Allah and in the fact that Allah is All-knowing and takes note of every thing one does.
The other is the fear of Allah. The person repents over what he has done because he knows that Allah is well aware of what he has done and will duly requite him for it. The third is the faith in the graciousness and compassion of Allah, that Allah will certainly forgive him if he sincerely repents over what he has done and vows not to do any wrong again.
Pardoning of Adam (A.S) when he did that which he was forbidden to do (7:23) and of Moses (A.S) when he killed a person by chance (28:16) and of Yunus (A.S) when after deserting his mission he was swallowed by a fish, after repentance, could be the best examples in this regard. One thing which was common in the expression of their regret was the unequivocal admission that it were they who had wronged themselves.
Thus, in order to attain the desirable level of development, Nafs-i-Lowwamah and Nafs-i-Mutmainnah have to be activated and Nafs-i-Ammarah has to be suppressed or controlled to a desirable extent if not to be completely suppressed (the occasion for repentance arises when one does something wrong).
In other words, Nafs-i-Ammarah has to be controlled to avoid the commission of major sins at least if it is not possible to avoid the commission of all the sins. The Quran treats the persons avoiding the worst of sins, not all the sins, as being rightly guided (42:37).
The suppression of Nafs-i-Ammarah and the activation of other two inclinations of the soul will depend largely on how we make use of the faculties that Allah has bestowed on us and the guidance He has provided us.
Hazrat Yusuf controlled his lust and thereby Nafs-i-Ammarah when he perceived the Divine argument (12:24). He was helped by four elements in perceiving the Divine argument and avoiding what he was invited to do.
They were the use of reasoning and conscience coupled with guidance that enabled him to know that what he was invited to do fell in the category of major sins and its outcome. The other was the fear of Allah that impelled him to refrain from doing that which he was invited to do.
The use of appropriate faculties coupled with guidance and the fear of Allah on the one hand and firm faith in the Mercy and Magnanimity of Allah, on the other, could be of great help in activating Nafs-i-Lowwamah and Nafs-i-Mutmainnah.