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اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ
Guide us on the straight path!
(Sūrat al-Hamd, No. 1, Āyat 6)
In this verse we ask Allah ‘azza wajall to guide us towards the straight path. The apparent understanding of this verse is that we are being taught by Allah to say this sentence, and by doing so a change comes about in Allah such that He guides us. However, such an understanding is contrary to the deep Islamic monotheistic understanding of Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā. Based on the understanding of Allah given to us in the Quran and the blessed narrations of the Ahlul-Bayt (peace be upon them), Allah is All-independent and All-perfect, meaning that He has no limits. This necessitates that He is not influenced by us! As He says to the Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam in the narration of mi’rāj: There is no cause to My love, and no limit. (Al-Wāfī, v. 26, p. 142).
How then should the above verse be understood? When we ask someone for something, it means that we seek that thing. On the other hand, the All-perfect and Limitless God is always in the state of giving, for if He were not to be so then this would be a limitation on His part. The only possible limitation is on our part, on the part of the receiver. As another verse of the Quran says:
ۚ أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَسَالَتْ أَوْدِيَةٌ بِقَدَرِهَا فَاحْتَمَلَ السَّيْلُ زَبَدًا رَّابِيًا
He sends down water from the sky whereat the valleys are flooded to [the extent of] their capacity.
With this understanding, the verse takes on a new meaning. It serves as a reminder to us that Allah has already laid out the straight path and is always calling us towards it. We with our actions determine if we can further receive His blessing and be guided towards it or not. The acceptance of this supplication is—at least in part—our own burden, as it depends upon our own actions. By obeying Allah and following the luminous commandments of the sharī’ah, we are taking steps on this straight path and expanding our capacity, allowing ourselves to be further and further guided along this path.
With regards to what exactly the straight path is, some narrations have explained this as being the religion of Allah. In other narrations the straight path has been explained as the personality of Imam Ali (peace be upon him)! For example, it is narrated from Imam Ali al-Ridā (a) that he was asked where Ali (a) is mentioned in the Quran. In response he said: In the words of Allah, “Guide us to the straight path.” It [the straight path] is Ali (a). (Bihār, v 23, p 211)
Whereas in another narration from the Noble Messenger (s) it says: The straight path is the religion of Allah that Gabriel revealed upon Muhammad (s). (Bihār, v 36, p 128). Such narrations can be combined, in that following the religion of Allah is the same as displaying love to Imam Ali (peace be upon him). They are one and the same; there is no difference between the truth, and the Ahlul Bayt (a). In the famous ziyārah al-jāmi’ah al-kabīrah we address the Ahl al-Bayt saying: And the truth is with you and in you and from you and going to you (Al-Faqīh, v. 2, p. 612).
With this deeper understanding the verse can also be seen as a declaration of love towards the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them). We verbally profess this love by reciting this verse, and practically through abiding by the religion of Allah revealed to us through them.
We pray to Allah the Exalted that He guides us to his straight path by giving us the ability to obey the laws of the sharī’ah. and that He instills the love of the Ahl al-Bayt in our hearts, such that we verbally and practically express this love.
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