Quranic Reflection No 571. Āyat 17:9 – Guidance of the Quran 


Holy Prophet (s): The month of Ramadan is a month in which Allah has made fasting obligatory on you, so whoever fasts in it with faith and mindfulness (ihtisāban) becomes free of his sins like the day his mother gave birth to him. (Rayshahrī, Shahrullāh fil-kitāb wal-sunnah, H 38)


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إِنَّ هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ يَهْدِي لِلَّتِي هِيَ أَقْوَمُ

Inna hādhal-qur’āna yahdī lillatī hiya aqwam

Indeed, this Quran guides to what is most upright (Sūrat al-Isrā, No 17, Āyat 9)

This verse describes the Quran as leading towards that which is upright. The word ‘aqwam’ is from ‘qiyām’, which means to rise. When a person wants to carry out something he will rise to do it. To rise is to get ready for action. It is the opposite of sitting which could denote laziness, lethargy, and inactivity. In the state of standing a person is most in control of himself and can be more active than in other states. The word is used for people who do an action well, do it continuously, and establish the action for themselves and others around them. Hence, we see that believers are described as yuqīmūnas salāt – those who establish prayers, the Arabic word being from the same root word as qiyām. 

Aqwam in this verse is a superlative, meaning the firmest and most upright. The Quran leads the believer to that which is the most correct in making him fulfill the goal of his creation. The fact that the Quran is described as guiding to that which is the most upright could be an indication on how guidance came down in various stages. It was sent through other books and scrolls that were revealed to previous Prophets but the most complete and most upright is the one in the Quran. This verifies the belief in the Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam as the Seal of Prophethood and the Quran being the final message sent for humanity.

The object of the adjective ‘upright’ has not been mentioned in the verse but is understood from context and from the Hadith of the Ahlul Bayt ‘alayhimus-salām. It is the religion or the nation which the Quran guides. The verse declares that the Quran guides towards a religion or a nation that is most upright and is firm on the straight path. In another verse the Quran says: Say, ‘Indeed my Lord has guided me to a straight path, the upright religion, the creed of Abraham, a Hanif, and he was not one of the polytheists.’ (Q 6:161)

Tafsīr-e Namūneh gives the following understandings of the word aqwam in this verse:

  • free of falsehood
  • invites towards action
  • mobilizes the forces of the human being
  • is in harmony with the nature of man
  • guides towards spiritual and material success
  • covers all aspects of social needs

In Nahjul Balāgha, sermon No.147, Amīrul Mu’minīn Imam Ali (a) encourages the people to seek guidance from the Quran saying: O people, he who seeks counsel from Allah secures guidance and he who adopts His word as guide is led towards what is most upright.

During the holy Ramadan when we spend more time with the Quran, let us remember this quality of the Quran. It will inshā’Allāh lead us to that which is most upright and make us part of the religion that God is pleased with.

Sources: Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr Nūr