Quranic Reflection No. 497. Āyat 3:8 – The Persistent Danger of Deviation


رَبَّنَا لَا تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا
Rabbanā lā tuzigh qulūbana b‘da idh hadaytanā
Our Lord! Do not make our hearts swerve after You have guided us
(Sūrat Āli Imrān, No 3, Āyat 8)

In Sūrat Āli Imrān, Āyat 7, Almighty Allah talks about those who are firmly grounded in knowledge, the rāsikhūna fīl-‘Ilm. This group, the most outstanding of whom are the Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam and the Imams ‘alayhimus-salām, believe in the verses that were sent down, both the definitive ones and the metaphorical ones. The verse after it quotes their prayer: O Allah, do not let our hearts deviate after guidance. This prays shows that those who have true knowledge know that they are never immune from deviation unless they receive help from Allah ‘azza wajall.

According to Tafsīr Majma‘ al-Bayān, this supplication could mean some of the following.
1. Do not to take away Your Lutf (grace) that has enabled us to be guided towards You.
2. Do not make us face such difficulties that we falter and move away from You.
3. Do not make our hearts despair of Your mercy which grants us purity.
4. Do not let our hearts turn away from conviction and tranquility.

Despite having knowledge and being guided, the human being is still vulnerable to factors that can make him veer from the right path. These include:
a. Becoming vain and self-absorbed. A danger lurking in knowledge is a superiority complex that makes the person pleased with himself. It can lead to stagnation, blindness to one’s faults, and considering others as inferior. This attitude is known as ‘ujb (self-admiration) and is greatly condemned in Islam.  Imam Ali (a) said: The one into whose heart ‘ujb permeates is destined to be destroyed. [Al Sadūq, al-‘Āmālī, p. 447]
b. Succumbing to the whispers of Shaytān. A person with knowledge and faith is a target for Shaytān who would like to see him deviate. Shaytān tempts him, clouds his perspective, puts doubts in his mind, etc. The Quran says: Surely the Shaytān is your enemy, so take him for an enemy; he only invites his adherents that they may be inmates of the burning fire (Q 35:6).
c. Following personal desires. A person with knowledge can still be a victim of his own nafs. If knowledge is not accompanied with action and self-discipline, inner desires can overcome intelligence. Imam Ali (a) said: Struggle against yourself in Allah’s worship just as one fights one’s enemy, and overcome it just as one overcomes one’s opponent, for the strongest of people is he who has triumphed over his self. (Ghurar al-Hikam, h. 4761)

The recognition of neediness and personal spiritual weakness is a sign of heightened spirituality. The higher the level, the more the degree of spiritual poverty displayed. Thus, the Prophet (s) himself also prayed for constancy in faith. Tafsīr-e Namūneh quotes the following prayer which the Prophet (s) often recited: yā muqallibal-qulūb thabbit qalbī ‘alā dīnik – O Turner of the hearts, make my heart firm on Your religion.

Let this verse remind you that it is not enough to be guided. It is remaining firm on guidance and not deviating that is of utmost importance. Recite this Du‘ā daily so that Allah may protect you from deviation.

Sources: Shaykh Tabarsī, Tafsīr Majma‘ al-Bayān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh.