Does the phrase, “they may receive guidance” in the Quran indicate that Allah does not know – God forbid –who will receive guidance?

Details of the Question
Does the phrase, “they may receive guidance” in the Quran indicate that Allah does not know – God forbid –who will receive guidance?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Author: Questions on Islam

In the phrases like, "perchance", "maybe", "it is hoped that" written in verses, it is emphasized that people need to think about the messages in the verses and find guidance and the truth through their own will. The importance of following the truths, which are explained, through their own will is stated. We cannot deduce the meaning that Allah does not know who will receive guidance and who will not. Our Lord definitely knows who will receive guidance and who will not.

Besides, one of the reasons why the future is veiled is to make people be in a state of balance between fear and hope because man can lead a stable life only by maintaining the balance between those two states. A person who feels sure that he will enter Paradise thanks to the worshipping he performs may feel conceited. A person who leads a life that is full of sins and feels sure that he will go to Hell may think, “I am already destroyed” and be indulged in sins. The fact that the future is veiled protects the first person from conceit and the second person from hopelessness. If a person who worships throughout his life falls into conceit will be at a loss; a person who commits sins throughout his life might be saved thanks to a sincere repentance even in the last day of his life. The following verse and similar verses in the Quran have an implication like that: “be righteous, that ye may receive mercy.” (al-An’am, 6/155). The phrase, "laall ( maybe/it is hoped that)" expresses hope for those the Quran addresses. That is, it gives us this lesson: “if you do so, you may hope to receive divine mercy but do not feel sure!”

Let us try to explain some verses regarding the issue:

"And We gave Moses the Book, in order that they might receive guidance." (al-Mu'minun, 23/49)

If we examine the phrase “in order that they might receive guidance” closely we can grasp the following meaning: When people learn the Book, they will receive guidance and find the true path. A person who has knowledge finds and should find the true path himself. That is, the Book shows the true path but it is man who will enter that path. Attention is drawn to the illuminating, guiding and motivating aspect of knowledge and the active aspect of man that will apply it. Knowledge makes man walk; it is like the fuel of the engine or the source of light. People that knowledge cannot make walk are people that have petrified and heavy hearts. The hearts of those who do not turn their hearts to the light of guidance become petrified and they do not believe. (Bayraktar Bayraklı, Kur’an Tefsiri, 13/233)

"O ye children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment to you, But the raiment of righteousness,― that is the best. Such are among the signs of Allah, that they may receive admonition." (al-A'raf, 7/26)

“But the raiment of righteousness,― that is the best. Such are among the signs of Allah, that they may receive admonition."If the first part of the verse is considered together with this part, it will be seen that there are two kinds of raiment. The material raiment that covers the parts of the body and the raiment of taqwa that is formed by the feeling of shame and honor.

It is possible to explain the "raiment of taqwa" as follows:People may put on the material raiment that will cover their parts of the body that are necessary to be covered but if they do not have the raiment of taqwa, that is, if they do not have the raiment of feeling ashamed and chaste, they can do bad deeds. The material raiment will not prevent their wrong deeds. However, if they have the raiment of taqwa called feeling ashamed and chaste, they will not commit bad deeds like fornication. Material raiment is important because it covers the parts of the body that are necessary to be covered but the spiritual raiment inside man, that is, the raiment of taqwa formed together by the feelings of shame and chaste, is more important.  

Allah indicates in the verse that the feeling of abstinence called taqwa and chaste are inborn psychological characteristics and that they can be educated, revived and developed only by divine training. Thus, by training feelings, He wants to make sure that the realm of feelings comes to the forefront by stating that man has a garment of taqwa and explaining that its value is more than the outer garment.

Allah states that both the material raiment and the raiment of taqwa are among His signs. The main reason why He explains them is to make man think and receive advice. One of the reasons why what happened to Hazrat Adam (pbuh) and his wife is narrated is to teach people the feeling of shame, the material raiment and the raiment of taqwa. (Bayraktar Bayraklı, Kur’an Tefsiri, 7/94.)

As it is seen, a message to people is aimed by this verse; the importance of the raiment of taqwa is emphasized and people are asked to think through their free will and choose their way. 

The fact that whether people will go to Paradise or Hell is written in their qadar beforehand does not prevent the existence of the free will of people because Allah wrote qadar since He knows with His eternal knowledge what man will do. Man does not do it because it is written in qadar.

The main meaning of qadar is the fact that Allah knows what happened and what will happen. Pay attention that it does not ignore the will of man. To know and to do are separate things. It is Allah who knows and it is the slave who does. Let us give an example regarding the issue:

Our Prophet (pbuh) said nice things about the conquest and the conqueror of Istanbul hundreds of years ago and informed us about it. Istanbul was conquered when its time was due. Was Istanbul conquered because the Prophet (pbuh) mentioned it or did he say so because he knew it would be conquered? If Sultan Fatih had not worked, had not prepared armies and had not fought, would Istanbul have been conquered? It means Allah knew that Fatih would work hard and conquer Istanbul; He informed His messenger about it.   

Qadar has two aspects: Things that are out of man’s will like being born, his parents, his time of death, etc. Man is not responsible for them since he cannot decide about them.

However, he is responsible for the deeds that he decides to do of his own accord. Everybody knows that a person goes to the mosque or to the pub of his own accord. Nobody forces him regarding the issue.

With the expression of a hadith of the Prophet, “every child is born with the nature of Islam.” One of the meanings of the word Islam mentioned in hadiths is high ethics. That is, each person is created with the nature of high ethics and with the characteristic to approve the principles of belief. However, if a person changes that characteristic and accepts the belief of the people of Hell, doing the deeds of the people of Hell, he will definitely be held responsible.

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