Seeking Guidance Through Quranic Prayers
“Guide us unto the straight path. The path of those You have blessed. Not of those with whom there is displeasure. Not of those who went astray” (Quran 1:6-7).
If you are consistent with your five daily prayers, you will offer this prayer at least 17 times a day. It is an essentially established part of the Muslim prayer; thereby, I like to call it “the mandatory prayer.” The essentiality of this prayer in our spiritual journey alerts our minds to the importance of approaching Allah with a sincere heart, expressing our inward desire for guidance and our outward readiness for commitment. This prayerful act of the heart is the first step in our walk toward Allah and the first ingredient in nurturing our faith in Allah. In his Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, Philips Zimbardo highlights how external situations, not merely genes and character, could lead many to unthinkable misbehavior settings. Our constant expression of seeking guidance keeps us alert and leads to receiving continuous divine help.
The prayer starts with asking Allah for genuine guidance as indicated by the phrase, “the straight path.” Then it moves on to define the desired path, not by theorizing its principles, but by highlighting the importance of following the footsteps of the blessed and associating ourselves with the masters of the path of guidance: the prophets, the pious and those who follow them. Imam Ibn al-Qayyim remarkably notes that this initial part of the prayer alerts our minds to the importance of spiritual companionship which guards against feelings of spiritual loneliness that could be aroused by the many distractions around us. As we associate ourselves with spiritually like-minded leaders and friends, we start generating a new zest for spiritual living more frequently. The Quran clearly teaches: “O you who believe, be mindful of Allah and be with the honest” (Quran 9: 119). Accordingly, being mindful is not enough. We need to complement our mindfulness of Allah with spiritual companionship.
Lastly, the prayer lists two barriers to real guidance: arrogance and ignorance. Some commentators on this prayer agree that one earns God’s displeasure when one knows the truth but fails to follow it whereas one goes astray when one takes the wrong path due to lack of knowledge. The Quran warns against arrogance as an obstacle to reaching divine guidance: “I will keep distracted from My signs those who behave arrogantly on Earth without any right, and who, even if they see every sign, will not believe in them; they will not take the way of right guidance if they see it, but will take the way of error if they see that. This is because they denied Our signs and paid them no heed” (Quran 7:146).
By Sh. Ahmed Arafat