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Guiding to truth? "Say: 'God - He guides to the truth; and which is worthier to be followed ...?" [Sura 10:35] But how much is left over of this worthiness when we also read: "Allah leads astray whom he pleases, and he guides whom He pleases, ..." [Sura 14:4]. And how do we know in which of Allah's categories of pleasure we fall? How sure can a Muslim be that he is one of those guided right and not one of those led astray?
This issue has already been touched upon in a previous question. The concept of guiding and misguiding in Islam is as follows: God guides to the truth. He presents the signs of His presence and sends messengers to guide mankind. He also is patient, merciful and forgiving. Anyone who sins but repents before his death is forgiven and his sins passed over. Allah also does not take people in their sins right away, rather He provides sustenance and provisions for them in this life in spite of their transgression and continues to allow them to seek forgiveness or repent. Now, as we can see, if someone in spite of all that insists on disbelieving then in this case God gives him rope in order to do as he wishes and transgress as he wishes. He then imagines that God can not take him, is unable to exact retribution, or does not exist. He mistakes patience for weakness and this causes him to emerse himself in further evil out of arrogance. This is how God "misguides" him.
This is why we read in the Qur'an such words as those found in Al-Baqarah(2):26: "Verily, Allah is not ashamed to set for a parable even of a mosquito or above it. As for those who believed they know that it is the Truth from their Lord. And as for those who disbelieved, they say: 'What did God mean by this parable'? He misguides by way of it many and guides by way of it many. And He misguides by it none but those who have deviated(turned away)"
The actual word used is "Fasiqoon" meaning "trespassers" in the sense of "one who has chosen to leave the straight path which is lawful for him preferring to trespass beyond the command of God." These are the people whom God misguides by leaving them to become as immersed in misguidance as they wish. Further detail of this process is given in a number of verses, such as:
"Say: 'Whosoever is [immersed] in misguidance, the Most Beneficent will extend [the rope] for him, until, when they see that which they were promised, either the torment or the Hour, then they shall know who is worst in position and weakest in forces.'" The noble Qur'an, Mariam(19):75
Since God guides whom He wills and misguides whom He will, therefore we need to read more of the Qur'an in order to find the criteria He uses to either guide or misguide. For example:
"..and Allah does not guide those who disbelieve." Al-Maidah(5):91
"..and Allah does not guide the transgressing liers." Ghafir(40):28
"..and Allah does not guide the unjust folk." Al-Bakarah(2):258
"..and Allah does not guide those who deviate." Al-Maidah(5):108
"..and Allah does not guide those who are lying disbelievers." Al-Zumar(39):3
"..Allah chooses for Himself whom He wills and guides unto Himself he who is penitent." Al-Shura(25):13
"..As for those who strive hard in Us (Our cause), We will surely guide them to Our paths. And verily, Allah is with those who excel in good." Al-Ankaboot(29):69
From all of this we see the that the criteria God has set for Himself either to guide or to misguide is for the human to start the process he or she chooses, then He facilitates the completion of that person's choice. The basic message of Islam is that Allah has placed us on this earth and given us a free will in order that we can select for ourselves the path which we choose. No one can force anyone else to be guided and Allah does not force people to enter into heaven. He could if He wanted to, just as He is able to force us to come to judgment in the Hereafter. However, this life is a test, and in all tests one needs to choose their own destiny. He says:
"There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, guidance is henceforth distinct from misguidance. Whosoever disbelieves in all that is worshipped other than Allah, and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold, there is no detachment for it. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower." Al-Baqarah(2):256
So here we have a detailed description of how He misguides them. He does not start the process, however, he gives them their free will and the freedom to chose their destiny. If they chose to turn away then He does not force them back to the truth, rather He allows them to transgress as far as they wish against themselves, giving them as much rope as they want. This is how He "misguides" them. Indeed this is mentioned again, for example in Al-A'araf(7):179 where we read the description of them who were misguided and entered Hellfire:
"they have hearts wherewith they understand not, they have eyes wherewith they see not, and they have ears wherewith they hear not. They are like cattle, rather they are further astray; those! They are the heedless ones."
A similar process is employed by the Almighty with those who seek guidance. He does not force them into guidance, however, if they start the process and follow the signs He has sent down then He increases them in guidance. He says in Muhammad(47):17:
"As for those who accept guidance, He increases their guidance and bestows upon them their piety."
Other similar verses can be researched by the interested student.
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