Quranic Reflection No 584. Āyāt 6:125 – Receiving the Divine Guidance

فَمَنْ يُرِدِ اللَّهُ أَنْ يَهْدِيَهُ يَشْرَحْ صَدْرَهُ لِلْإِسْلَامِ  وَمَنْ يُرِدْ أَنْ يُضِلَّهُ يَجْعَلْ
صَدْرَهُ ضَيِّقًا حَرَجًا كَأَنَّمَا يَصَّعَّدُ فِي السَّمَاءِ  كَذَلِكَ يَجْعَلُ اللَّهُ الرِّجْسَ عَلَى

الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ  

Faman yuridillāhu an yahdiyahu yashrah sadrahu lilislāmi wa man yurid an yudhillahu
yaj‘al sadrahu dhayyiqan harajan ka annamā yassa‘‘adu físsamāi kadhālika yaj‘alullāhur- rijsa ‘alaladhīna lā yuminūn 

Whoever Allah wills to guide, He opens their heart to Islam. But whoever He wills to leave astray,
He makes their chest tight and constricted as if they were climbing up into the sky. This is how Allah dooms those who disbelieve.

[Surat Al-An‘ām: 125]

The verse in discussion addresses an important point that Allah ‘azza wajall mentions
frequently in the Holy Quran. That He chooses to guide whomever He desires. For
example, in Surat al-Isrā, Allah says: Whomever Allah guides is rightly guided, and whomever
He leads astray you will never find them any guardians besides Him (Q 17:97). In Surat al-Nūr,
He says: Allah guides to His Light whomever He wishes
(Q 24:35).

What we understand from these verses is that guidance belongs to Allah. When He
wishes to guide someone towards Him, He opens their heart to Islam, but for those whom
He wills to remain astray, there is no possibility of them finding Islam because Allah
closes that door for them. In fact, Allah gives a beautiful analogy in this verse about
those whom He leaves astray when He says: But whoever He wills to leave astray, He makes
their chest tight and constricted as if they were climbing up into the sky.

Exegetes have given two possibilities to the meaning of this analogy.
1) Ascension towards the sky is in reference to ascension towards the truth, and those
whom Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā chooses not to guide will never find the truth.
2) Those who climb great heights, like a mountain, will find that their breathing
becomes strained. Likewise, those whom Allah does not guide, their journey of life
becomes strained, and they are not able to reach the truth.
In both instances, Allah describes that without His blessings and guidance, one will
never find the truth, i.e., closeness to Allah.
This verse and others like it, raise important questions, such as:

Don’t these verses prove that some of us are compelled to receive His guidance
while others are not?

Doesn’t that strip us away of our free will?

Isn’t this a form of injustice for those whom Allah (swt) does not want to guide?

Doesn’t this render Heaven and Hell redundant?
Scholars explain that the answer to these questions is that the first responsibility for
being guided by Allah falls on the person himself/herself. If we accept the teachings
that Allah has provided for us, work on purifying our hearts and back that up with
sincere actions, Allah will surely guide us, because as He says: Whoever has faith in Allah,
He guides his heart, and Allah has knowledge of all things (Q 64:11).  But if we refuse to
believe, and our hearts are corrupt, and our actions are selfish, then Allah closes the
door of guidance for us, until the time we reform our lives.  But in both
circumstances, we must display the capacity to receive His Guidance.
Those who struggle in God’s Way, face difficulties, and show strength and firmness of
purpose, have been promised guidance. This is justice. But those who persist in sin
and heedlessness, God takes away their possibility of guidance. Their hearts, because
of these deeds, are darkened and they will not be able to succeed in reaching the high
status of closeness to Almighty Allah.

Let this verse remind us that guidance is for those who take the first steps themselves.
Allah always helps those who help themselves.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shīrāzī, Al-Amthal fī Tafsīr Kitāb Allah al- Munzal,
‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzānhttps://www.al-