The last three verses of the Surah "Al-Fatihah" consist of a prayer on the part of man. In other words, Allah(God) has taught
man what to pray for: "Guide us in the right path; the path of those whom You blessed; not of those who have deserved wrath, nor of the strayers." (Quran: 1/4-7)
The best explanation of the word, "guidance" has been
offered by Imam Raghib al-Isfahani in his book "Mufradat al-Quran", which
can be summed up thus: "guidance" signifies leading someone towards
his destination, gently and kindly; while guidance, in the real sense,
issues forth from Allah(God) alone, and it has several degrees.
The First Degree of Guidance
The first degree of guidance is general, and covers everything that
exists in the universe -- plants, animals etc.The creatures which show obvious signs of life but not those of consciousness and reason are considered to be living, but not
rational; whereas, creatures showing the signs of consciousness and
reason, along with those of life, are called rational beings.
these differences in the degrees of consciousness, men and jinn alone,
of all the existents in the universe, have been made subservient to the
injunctions of Allah(God) and accountable for their actions, for they
alone have the necessary consciousness and understanding.
But, it does not mean that other creatures or existents are totally devoid of
life or sensitivity. The Holy Quran is very explicit on this point: "There is nothing that does not glorify Him, but you do not understand their glorification." (Quran: 17/44) Thanks to this general guidance, everything in the universe is performing its function with such marvellous efficiency.
The Second Degree of Guidance
Unlike the first, the second degree of guidance is not general but
particular. It is limited to those creatures which are considered to be
rational, that is, men and jinns. This kind of guidance comes to every
man through prophets and revealed books. Some accept this guidance,
and become believers ; some reject it and become disbelievers.
The Third Degree of guidance
The third degree of guidance is still more particular, being special
to true believers. Allah(God)'s
grace provides a man with internal and external means and
circumstances which should make it easy, and even pleasant for him
to accept and act upon the guidance of the Holy Quran. The scope of the third degree of guidance is
limitless, and its levels indefinite.
All increase in virtuous deeds brings with it an increase in
divine guidance. The Holy Quran itself gives us the promise of such
increase "As for those who are guided, Allah(God) augments their guidance, and grants them their righteousness" (Quran: 47/17)
Keeping in mind the three distinct degrees of guidance, one can
easily see that guidance is a thing which everyone does possess in
some way, and yet no one, not even the greatest, can do without
wishing to attain more of its advanced and higher stages. Hence, of all
the prayers man can address to Allah(God), the most important is the
prayer for guidance, which has been taught to us in the very first
Surah of the Holy Quran; and this prayer is as necessary for the
prophets as for an ordinary Muslim.
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