Quranic Reflection No. 413. Ayat 28:50 – Following personal whims

وَمَنْ أَضَلُّ مِمَّنِ اتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ بِغَيْرِ هُدًى مِنَ اللَّهِ
Waman adhallu mimmanittaba‘a hawāhu bi-ghayri hudan mina-llāh
And who is more astray than him who follows his desires without any guidance from Allah
(Sūratِ al-Qasas No.28, Āyat 50)

In this verse following certain personal desires and whims is directly linked to being astray. In fact, it is the reason behind being astray. Desires can be a thick curtain over the eyes of the intelligence, refusing to let the light of wisdom in. It is interesting that this verse condemns those desires which are not in line with any guidance from Allah ‘azza wa-jall. This shows that there are some desires which incline towards good and virtue, that which Allah subhānahu wa-ta‘ālā has commanded. They lead a person towards truth and perfection. But it is the whims that are not based on any solid guidance which cause the downfall of the human being.

Desires have been placed inside human beings so they may continue life on earth. Desires and emotions such as anger, love, attachment to the self, family, wealth, etc. all have a place and purpose in life. But sometimes these becomes excessive and transgress natural bounds. They take control of the mind and makes it submit. Men then loses the choice to act appropriately in line with his status as the khalīfa of Allah (swt). It is like the flood of desires, unstopped by any dam of guidance, sweeps him away.

In another verse of the Quran, Almighty Allah talks about such people: Have you seen him who has taken his desire to be his god? (Q25:43). Desire, for these people, is worshiped, obeyed at all costs. Logic and reasoning have no effect on such people. It is not that there is something wrong in the logic presented to them. Rather it is because of the veils of personal desires which are a barrier.

Certain desires can make a person so attached to something that he loses the ability to discern. He becomes subjective and is blind to the truth. That is because a clear perception of the truth cannot be derived when there are emotional attachments to wrong. Such a disease is a huge affliction to the soul. It is becoming common today in a world which glorifies and indulges in desires. Imam Ja‘far al-Sādiq ‘alayhis salām taught this Du‘ā to the believers for clarity of thought and to stay away from following desires:

اللَّهُمَّ أَرِنِي الْحَق حَقًّا فَاَتِّبَعَهُ، وَأَرِنِي الْبَاطِلَ بَاطِلًا وفَاَجْتَنِبَهُ، وَلَا تَجْعَلْهُ عَلَيَّ مَتَشَابِهًا فَأَتَّبِعَ هَوَايَ بِغَيْرِ هُدىً مِنْكَ
Allāhummā arinil-haqqa haqqan fa-attibi‘ahu, wa-arinil-bātila bātilan fa-ajtanibahu, walā taj‘alhu ‘alayya mutashābihan fa-attibi‘a hawāya bighayri hudan mink.
O God! Show me the truth as the truth so I follow it, and falsehood as falsehood do I stay away from it; and let them not seem similar to me, for if this happens then I will follow my own desires without guidance from You.
(Bihar al-Anwār, v.86, p.120).

Many Hadith say that verse 28:50 refers to one who refuses to follow a Divinely appointed leader who guides towards the truth, and instead follows his own personal opinions and ideas. According to Imam al-Sādiq (a) the interpretation of this verse is ‘a person who takes his opinion as a god without guidance of an Imam, from the guided Imams’ (Tafsir Namūneh taken from Tafsir Nūr al-Thaqalayn). Such a person rejects God sent guidance and attaches importance to himself and his opinions. The essence of guidance is to follow God’s plan for humankind, revealed through His Prophets, taught by leaders appointed by him and scholars well versed in these teachings.

Let this verse remind us of the serious consequences of following personal whims not based on any guidance. Many people follow their personal whims without much thought. It is easy to do so and brings gratification while opposing it takes hard work and discipline. But a human being looks for long term gain. He has a vision for what he wants to become. The path towards perfection cannot be attained by succumbing to personal whims and desires. Keep yourself safe from the deluge of desires by reciting this verse often.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Ihttp://www.alketab.org/