“Guide us to the true Religion, O Allah” - Shaykh Said Afandi al-Chirkawi
Tafsir of ayah 6 of al-Fatiha by Shaykh Said Afandi al-Chirkawi Ad-Daghestani
(اِهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ) “Guide us to the true Religion (Islam), o Allah!”: The meaning of the given ayah lies in the concept that, after one who is praying has asked for help from the Most High, he, as if answering His question “how may I help you?”, asks his Creator “Guide us down the straight path, the path of the true religion”. In other words, in his prayer he is expressing exactly what kind of help he hopes from Allah.
Prayer for the guidance of every one of us down the true path is of the utmost importance, as this is what the prophets, the awliya, and the sahaba all asked for. For example, the prophet Yusuf (pbuh) asked God:
تَوَفَّنِي مُسْلِما “Allow me to die as a Muslim, o Allah”
In the same way, the soothsayers, whom Pharoah had commanded to kill because they believed in the prophet Musa (pbuh), asked the Most High:
تَوَفَّنا مُسْلِمِينَ “Kill us in the state of Islam (i.e. as believers in the One God)”
And the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) likewise asked:
تَوَفَّنا مَعَ اْلاَبْرَارِ “Let us die with the prophets and the salihin and raise us up with them on the day of judgment”
We need to remember that, even if we were to learn all the Islamic sciences and perform worship tantamount to all the good deeds, by no means could we depend on that alone and feel secure. Indeed, Iblis has taken many religious scholars and leaders from the previous peoples off the straight path. Recall, by the way, the story of that very same Iblis, whom the Most High deprived of His mercy, not accepting the righteous deeds which he had been performing for a period of many thousands of years.
It is known, that the more fruit there is on the tree, the lower it hangs towards the ground. Likewise, the more knowledge a person has, the better he knows himself and notices his own sins and shortcomings. Having understood and acknowledged them, he begins to work on his own self cultivation getting rid of them. Comparing his own deeds with the blessings that have been gifted to him by Allah, he doesn’t find anything of his own and recognizes that they all come from the Creator. How could he not then feel ashamed in front of Allah? Those who, having received knowledge, are not able to derive benefit from it are irrational people. They are from those whom Allah has deprived of His help. They are those who deceive themselves. May Allah protect us from them! Their detriment to Islam is 100 times greater than their use to it.
The expression الصراط المستقيم “true path” means “the true religion - Islam”
The Muslim religion is called the true path, in that, the one who strives to get close to the Most High and come to know Him, will have to go through certain parts of the path, upon which he will have to deal with certain hardships which he must overcome.
Moreover, the slave’s turning towards Allah with prayer for guidance to the path of truth has several meanings. One of which is that after coming to know Allah and starting down the true path, the slave must know and observe the limits of every deed, whether it be worldly, or performed for the sake of the hereafter. For example, if some action is not carried out to the necessary level, it will be incomplete and insufficient. Performing the deed above the necessary level would likewise be exceeding the limit. Neither one nor the other is desirable. That is why, reading this ayah, the slave asks his Lord “Guide us, helping us to adhere to the proper standard in everything and in every action.” Observance of the golden mean everywhere and in everything, is a very difficult thing, about which we will speak further, if Allah wills for us to do so.
The Invocation: (اِهْدِنا) “Show us the way!”
is a prayer meaning “O Allah, let us know about Your essence, about Your qualities, and all the things that testify to the fact that every thing has been created by You”, meaning, for instance, the movement of the son and the moon, the interchanging of the day and night, the diversity of flora and fauna in water and on land, the vital functions, behavior, and the structure and laws of the interactions of plants and animals. Reflecting on all this, we find in everything evidence of the existence of Allah, proofs testifying to the fact that everything is created by God.
Likewise, in his invocation “Guide us to the path of truth”, the slave asks Allah to distance him from everything other than Allah Himself, and make him submissive, resorting only to Allah.
By submissiveness, we mean the kind of submissiveness by which God’s slave carries out the commands of Allah, even if He commands him to sacrifice his son, as it was commanded to the Prophet Ibrahim, and is ready to sacrifice his very self, as it was commanded to the Prophet Ismail, or to jump into a river, as it was commanded to the Prophet Yunus, or to become the student of someone of a lower level, even if he is a prophet of a high level, as it was commanded to the Prophet Musa, or to call to goodness, even if he will be killed for that, as it was with the Prophet Yahya, or to show patience, even if he is being dismembered, as it was with the prophet Zakariya. If God’s slave carries out God’s commands, as the prophets carried them out, then that is true submissiveness to Allah and true faithfulness to that path of truth, to which Allah has guided him.
The Groups of People Who are on The Straight Path
Those who are on the straight path fall into different categories based on their level of adherence to the straight path.
То the first category belong those who have righteous (istiqama) intentions, motivations of the heart, and deeds. That is those whose verbal utterances and deeds correspond to the righteous intentions and motivations of their hearts.
To the second category belong those who have righteous intentions in their hearts, and do good deeds, but they say that which is not righteous.
Therefore, the first group are the possessors of a kind of total wellbeing, corresponding to the state of their heart. Those in the second category are those who are next after the first category in terms of wellbeing, inasmuch as the intentions of their hearts and the deeds committed by them are righteous. This for them is sufficient.
To the third category belong those who have deeds and words are righteous, to the exclusion of the intentions of their hearts. It will be considered, that they have some hope to receive benefit from their righteous deeds and words, a hope that, they will not be left without recompense. For example, to such a category may be attributed a good deed, done without any intention to perform it in the name of Allah. The truth is known only to Allah.
There are even a few more categories:
- Those whose hearts and speech are righteous, but not their deeds;
- Those whose speech alone is righteous, but not their hearts or deeds, that is, those who are only righteous in word, but don’t do good deeds or think of doing good;
- Those whose hearts are righteous, but what they do and say does not conform to what is in their hearts;
- Those who perform righteous deeds, but their hearts and speech is not righteous.
As far as the deeds of those of the last four categories are concerned, they receive no benefit from them, only harm.
It is said, that righteousness of speech is not limited to the abstinence of the tongue from slander (Ghibat) and Defamation (Buhtan). The purpose of observing righteousness of speech is the guidance of others to the path of truth, that is, rendering help to others. For example, if someone has learned to pray, and thereafter has taught it to another, then such a person is considered to be observing righteousness in speech. If, when the time for namaz comes, he performs namaz, observing its conditions and performing all of its necessary elements, then he is considered to be observing righteousness in speech, and in deed. Further, if he, having come to know, that the purpose of the performance of namaz, that is, its significance before Allah is huzur, and he performs his namaz with huzur, then he will be considered to be observing righteousness in word, deed, and intention.
How could it not be difficult to adhere to the mean in everything, namely, the observance of righteousness, of which we have spoken above, if the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), after the revelation of Surah Hud said: (شيبتني سورة هود)
“Sura Hud has caused me to age”
In this sura the Most High says these meaningful words: فَاسْتَقِمْ كَمَ اُمِرْتَ“O Muhammad, adhere (strictly) to Islam, act in accordance with it and call the people to it”. In other words “after you have come to know about past communities, about the prophets, your brothers, sent to call these communities to monotheism, about those who believed in those prophets, and about those who didn’t believe in them and who opposed them concerning monotheism, about the hardships these prophets went through while I hadn’t yet made it easy for them, and how they showed patience - you likewise show constancy in righteousness, and call the people to that, which your Lord has commanded you to call.
The Lord commands the Prophet to adhere to the path of truth, not because he left the path, but because He commands him to show constancy and to pay no attention to the polytheists. This is like when a standing person is commanded to stand. The following ayah is likewise from those that make the call to adhere to the mean in everything.
وَلاَ تَجْعَلْ يَدَكَ مَغْلُولَةً اِلىَ عُنُقِكَ وَلاَ تَبْسُطْهَا كُلَّ الْبَسْطِ فَتَقْعُدَ مَلُومًا مَحْسُورًا ~ سورة الإسرا، آية 29
And although this ayah is directed towards the prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) as well, its purpose is the guidance of others, for verily the Prophet never put anything off until the next day. Almighty Allah calls to the Umma, to teach it, just as parents teach their children. This ayah gives us guidance: “In the giving of alms, don’t be like one whose hands are tied, nor be like one, who has completely opened his hands”. In other words: “Don’t give away everything that you have leaving nothing for yourself, since, when you’re left with nothing, you will be overcome with grief.”
In surah Shura it says: (وَاسْتَقِمْ كَمَا أُمِرْتَ وَلاَ تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ)
In this ayah Allah says to the Prophet (May peace and blessings be upon him): “Hold on to the truth, as the message commands, and don’t follow after the polytheists”.
Such proclamations of the Most High to the Prophet correspond to his level of understanding. In a hadeeth the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) explains to the ummah with consideration for the people’s weakness of intellect: “Behave righteously and in accordance to the command of Allah”. We are not strong enough to strictly adhere to the most righteous lifestyle, this only the prophets and the greatest Auliya can do.
The great sheikh Ibn Ataillah says: “Istiqama - that is the need of the slave for Allah in every moment of his life, by which he disavows his own strength and ability.
Another great Sheikh Abu Ali Jurjani says: “Be eager for righteousness (Istiqama) and don’t be eager for miracles (karama), karama - that is what your nafs demands of you, but Allah demands of you righteousness”.
When it was said to the great Sheikh Abu Said that somebody walks on water, he answered “Sure, fishes and storks also move about in the water”. When he was told that someone flies in the air, he answered “and birds also fly in the air”. And when he was told that someone traveled from East to West in the blink of an eye, he said “Well Iblis travels the same way”. Then he was asked “So what do you consider to be a miracle?” he answered “A miracle is the ability to visibly be with the creation and to secretly be with the Creator”.
Really, think about it, has Allah ever said anywhere in the Quran, or the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) any where in the hadeeths that we need to strive to perform miracles? Have you ever heard anything about that? As fоr righteousness, doesn’t that demand from us Islam? To that we must pay special attention.
About that, inshAllah, we will speak in the future, and for now, we will stop at this.
Taken from "Motivation to follow the Quranic appeal" by Shaykh Said Afandi al-Chirkawi. Vol 1.