INVESTIGATING ALLAH’S STATEMENT:
“The way of those on whom you have bestowed Your grace, not the way of those who earn Your anger, nor of those who go astray.”
This verse emphasizes and adds detail to the meaning of the previous verse. Allah repeats that meaning here, because the Qur’ân employs a style of repetition. Allah says: “Allah has revealed the most beautiful speech; a book, consistent with itself, repeating its teachings” [Sûrah al-Zumar: 23]
Allah’s statement: “The way of those on whom you have bestowed Your grace” refers to those who have attained complete guidance, by Allah’s grace: from among the Prophets, the most pious who have earned the epithet of siddîq, the martyrs, and the righteous.These people are truly the best company.
He then says: “… not the way of those who earn Your anger, nor of those who go astray.”
Those who earn Allah’s anger
These are the people who know the truth but abandon it, including the Jews and others. Allah says: “Should I inform you of what is worse than that as a recompense from Allah? – Those who incurred the curse of Allah and His anger and of whom He made some into apes and swine, and the devotees of false gods. These are the worst in rank and the farthest astray.” [Sûrah al-Mâ’idah: 60]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) has said: “The Jews are the ones who have earned Allah’s anger and the Christians are the ones who are astray.”18
This does not mean that Allah’s anger is limited to the Jews, for Allah says: “If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein, and the anger and curse of Allah are upon him.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 93]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “When someone who seizes the wealth of a Muslim by swearing a false oath meets Allah, Allah will be angry with him.”19
In the story the Prophet (peace be upon him) related about the three people from the Children of Israel – the leper, the bald, and the blind: he said: “Verily Allah is pleased with you and angry with your two companions.”20
This shows that Allah’s anger is for the Jews as well as others. It is for those who were not guided to the straight way, not because of a lack of knowledge, but because of their vain desires. The Jews possess knowledge, but they did not act upon it.
Some of the pious predecessors have said: “The scholars of our people who go astray resemble the Jews.” This is because they have knowledge, but commit errors intentionally and persistently. We should seek refuge with Allah from following their way and falling into their state. Part of being guided is to have a firm intention and a strong determination to do what is right and to abandon falsehood.
Allah mentions those who he is angry with before mentioning those who are astray, because their situation is far more serious and their sin far greater. A person who is astray out of ignorance can be set right by acquiring knowledge. If, however, that person is astray on account of his vain desires, then it is almost impossible for him to remove himself from error.
A person of knowledge who fails to act upon that knowledge actually possesses within himself all the proofs that could possibly be offered to him, therefore this person turns away when these proofs are presented to him.
For example, take a person who smokes. Because he smokes, he becomes concerned with the issue of smoking. He reads about it, and follows the news related to it. He learns about the serious dangers of smoking. He learns about what is contained within the cigarette that he smokes. He learns so much about smoking that he could actually present a very good lecture on the subject. In spite of all this, he continues to smoke. What can be done with this person? The issue at hand is not lack of knowledge. It is simply that this person does not want to give up smoking and has no intention of doing so. This is the most dangerous possible situation.
For this reason, the greatest threat looms over the one who does not act upon his knowledge. The Prophet (peace be upon him) has said: “A man will be brought on the Day of Resurrection and cast into the Hellfire. His haunches will be spilled into the fire and he will go around in it as a donkey goes around a mill. The inhabitants of Hell will gather around him and say: ‘What is your story? Didn’t you used to enjoin upon us what is right and forbid us from doing wrong?’ He will reply: ‘I used to enjoin upon you what is right but not do it myself and I used to forbid you from doing wrong and then engage in it myself.”21 This man was knowledgeable. He knew right from wrong. Moreover, he would enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. But he did not act upon his knowledge, so he earned the punishment that he received.
One of the greatest manifestations of the disobedience of the Jews is that they know the truth but turn away from it and engage in falsehood. This is why Allah mentions those who earn His anger before mentioning those who are astray, saying: “… not the way of those who earn Your anger, nor of those who go astray.”
Those who are astray
These are the people that abandon the truth out of ignorance, like the Christians and others. The Christians are astray out of ignorance. This does not mean that obstinacy and persistence did not subsequently develop within them after some of them overcame their ignorance.
The three ways
We have before us three ways of proceeding. The first of these is the straight way, the way of those on whom Allah has bestowed His grace from among the Prophets, the most pious who have earned the epithet of siddîq, the martyrs, and the righteous. Their way is the way of true knowledge accompanied by correct actions. Allah says: “It is He who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth.” [Sûrah al-Saff: 9] By this He means beneficial knowledge and righteous deeds. This is the straight way.
The second way is the way of those who earn Allah’s anger. This includes the Jews as well as others. They are the ones who know the truth but fail to act upon it.
The third way is the way of those who are astray. These are the people who act, but do so without knowledge. For this reason, some of the pious predecessors have said: “The worshippers among our people who go astray are like the Christians.” The worshippers from among the Muslims who go astray – like the adherents of some Sufi orders who worship Allah in ignorance and in deviant ways – resemble the Christians, because they worship Allah in a manner that is misguided and devoid of knowledge.
This is the great meaning that is conveyed by the words: “Guide us to the straight way, The way of those on whom you have bestowed Your grace.” Though a Muslim has been guided to Islam, in spite of this, he must seek more guidance, which translates into more knowledge and more correct actions as well as divine assistance in everything that he must face in his life. Allah repeats this meaning, saying: “…not the way of those who earn Your anger, nor of those who go astray.” For the first group failed to act upon their knowledge and the second group failed to acquire it.
I would like to finish off by asking Allah to make us among those who are guided to the straight way and to provide us with beneficial knowledge and bless us to perform righteous deeds. May he help us to avoid the way of those who earn his anger and the way of those who go astray.