Quranic Reflection No. 537. Ayat 18:51 – Helpers who misguide

وَمَا كُنتُ مُتَّخِذَ الْمُضِلِّينَ عَضُدًا
Wamā kuntu muttakhidhal-mudhillīna ‘adudā
And I do not take those who mislead others as assistants.
(Sūrat al-Kahf, No 18, Āyat 51)

Verses 50 and 51 of Sūrat al-Kahf condemns those who take Shaytān and his people as guardians rather than Allah. They have no role to play in the act of creation and are not worthy of anything.

The idea of following Shaytān, or satanic people, goes against wisdom. Shaytān is an open enemy who has vowed to mislead human beings and works to bring about their downfall. To befriend such a being and follow him is foolish on the part of the human being.

Then Allah ‘azza wajall states that He does not take the help of the shayātīn (plural of shaytān) to run His system. The assistants here do not refer to helpers without whom the work cannot be done, for Allah is free of all need. It refers to the workers through whom the work of Allah is done.  It is against reason that a system that is based on righteousness and progress, takes the shayātīn as workers in it. It would belie the whole purpose of the system. It is thus the Sunnah of Allah (Divine practice) that evil ones who misguide others are not part of His team of workers.

This sunnah of Allah should also be applied to human actions. A group that works together to achieve a righteous goal cannot take as team members those who have devious and corrupt aims of misguiding people. Such people would nullify any progress the group makes. Instead of helping, they would harm. It is important to choose the right people for good work. Those who are virtuous and guided themselves and invite others towards the same. Choosing the wrong people can lead to frustration and defeat; and may even result in the eventual misguidance of the entire group.

In the history of Karbala, we see that when Imam al-Husayn ‘alayhis-salām left Makkah and traveled towards Kūfa, he stopped at many stations and had encounters with different people at these places. The conversations that took place have many important lessons for us. In one of these stations, at a place called Qasr Banū Maqātil, the Imam met ‘Ubaydullāh bin Hurr al-Ju‘fī. Imam invited ‘Ubaydūllah to join him but the man refused his offer. He said he had left Kūfa to avoid meeting the Imam and was not ready to die with the Imam. Although Imam knew of his sinful past, he offered him a path to repentance saying: O friend, you are guilty of sinfulness and error, and God will certainly hold you to account for what you have done, unless you turn to Him, the most Blessed and Exalted, in repentance at this very moment, and pledge your support for me. [Then] you will earn the intercession of my grandfather before God, the Blessed and Exalted. But ‘Ubaydullāh was stubborn in his refusal to change. He then offered his horse to the Imam saying that it was a horse that could accomplish much. Imam turned his face from him and said: We have no need of you, or your horse; I do not take those who mislead others as helpers (Q 18:51). Now leave this place, standing neither with us, nor against us. [Beware] anyone who hears the call of one of us, the Ahlul Bayt, but does not respond to us shall be flung headfast into the hellfire by God (Chronicles, pp. 359 & 360).

As we commemorate the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a) during the days of Muharram, let us take lessons from the story of Karbala and remind ourselves of the Quranic values so evident in it. This verse which Imam recited teaches us the strict criteria that must be in place when searching for helpers of a good cause. It is better not to have helpers, or at least not many helpers, rather than have those who misguide others.

Sources: Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān
Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Muhammad Rayshahrī, Chronicles of the Martyrdom of Imam Husayn, Tr. Abbas Jaffer, ICAS, London, 2020.