‘Guide us in the right path’: Prayer for spiritual and worldly progress

Ata-ul-Haye Nasir, Al Hakam
Opening pages from the Quran by Khayr al Din al Mar‘ashi scaled

Allah the Almighty has taught us the following prayer in the Holy Quran:

اِہۡدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِیۡمَ

“Guide us in the right path.” (Surah al-Fatihah, Ch. 1: V. 6)

Commenting on this, the Promised Messiahas said:

“In the prayer, اِہۡدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِیۡمَ, we have been taught that man should seek true insight from God Almighty. For if His grace and bounty do not come to our aid, we, as humble human beings, are plunged in such gloom and darkness that we cannot even make recourse to prayer. Hence, until one derives benefit from the grace of God, which reaches them through the bounty of graciousness (rahmaniyyat), and prays, no fruitful result can be attained.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. 1, pp. 127-128)

Guidance comes from God

The Promised Messiahas once said:

“One cannot find the pathway to guidance until one is bestowed with the grace of God Almighty.” (Malfuzat [1984], Vol. 7, p. 308)

Alluding to this point, in his Friday Sermon on 11 December 1925, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said:

“The source of guidance is God alone. […] There are some who desire to pass through the spiritual stages relying solely on their own reasoning, but this is impossible to achieve. No one can attain the nearness of God merely with the help of their rationality and wisdom. The [human] intellect, knowledge, and philosophy can do nothing, and dependence on them [alone] cannot produce any result, even merely ‘believing’ in a sharia can be of no benefit. Whereas, if one supplicates and fervently prays in front of God, that ‘Guide me as to how I should utilise reason, knowledge, and how I should deduce arguments from the sharia’, then they can take benefit and God Almighty guides such a person and leads them to sirat al-mustaqim [the right path].

“Thus, I advise [members of] the Jamaat that the point that they should keep in mind while arguing about the matters of faith, is that the [spiritual] light comes from God alone, and without the [spiritual] light from Him, our knowledge, reason, or any other strength can never produce any outcome. Therefore, I advise that on such occasions, one is required to supplicate to God, so that He may grant us the [spiritual] light. […] No doubt, the Holy Quran is the Guidance, but only for those who desire to attain guidance from it. […] Hence, the Quran grants guidance, but only to those who strive to follow the sirat al-mustaqim.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol. 9, pp. 385-387)

Mere verbal pronouncements are not enough

The Promised Messiahas has said:

“The door of divine converse and revelation remains open for this Ummah. This door is an ever-present and lasting testimony to the truth of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophetsa. It was to this end that God taught us this prayer in the Chapter Al-Fatihah:

اِہۡدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِيۡمَ۔ صِرَاطَ الَّذِيۡنَ اَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَيۡہِمۡ

“The prayer taught in terms of ‘those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings’ suggests how to seek the excellences of the prophets. Of course, the excellence vouchsafed to the prophets was their true knowledge and understanding of God and this they achieved through direct communion and converse with Him. This is what you also desire. But if you think that though the Holy Quran directs us to offer this prayer, we are not likely to achieve anything from it, or that none from among the Muslims will be privileged to attain this spiritual station and the door to the acceptance of this prayer has been shut to us till the Day of Judgement, then will this not amount to insulting Islam and the Holy Prophetsa? The plain truth is that he who so thinks and believes defames Islam. He fails to understand the spirit of Islam. What Islam emphasises is that mere verbal pronouncement of the belief in the Oneness of God is not enough; one should really and truly understand its full import.” (Lecture Ludhiana, pp. 53-54)

Prophecy about the Promised Messiah’s advent

The Promised Messiahas has mentioned that in this prayer, his advent has been prophesied:

“As a continuation of his spiritual blessings, God has sent unto the world the Promised Messiah – whose advent was essential for the completion of the edifice of Islam. It was necessary that the world should not come to an end until the dispensation of Muhammad[sa] had been granted a spiritual Messiah, as had been endowed to the Mosaic dispensation. This is indicated in the verses:

اِہۡدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِیۡمَ۔ صِرَاطَ الَّذِیۡنَ اَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَیۡہِمۡ

“[‘Guide us in the right path, The path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed [Thy blessings]’ (Surah al-Fatihah, Ch. 1: V. 6-7)] […]

“I am that Messiah. God does what He wills. Foolish is the person who wars with Him and ignorant is the one who objects to his works and considers that they should have been otherwise.” (Noah’s Ark, pp. 23-24) 

In another instance, Huzooras said:

“The Holy Quran begins with the words:

اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّٰہ

“‘All praise belongs to Allah.’ [Surah al-Fatihah, Ch. 1: V. 2]

“This is in order to allude to the name of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. 

“Then, it is stated in this chapter:

اِہۡدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِیۡمَ

“‘Guide us in the right path.’ [Ibid., V.6]

“This indicates that when human efforts are exhausted, ultimately one is compelled to turn towards Allah the Exalted. 

“A prayer is all-encompassing only when it seeks every form of good and seeks protection from every kind of evil. Hence, every form of good is implied in the words:

اِہۡدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِیۡمَ

“‘Guide us in the right path.’ [Ibid.]

“Then, the chapter goes on to state:

غَیۡرِ الۡمَغۡضُوۡبِ عَلَیۡہِمۡ وَلَا الضَّآلِّیۡنَ

“‘Not the path of those who have incurred Thy displeasure, nor of those who have gone astray.’ [Ibid., V.7]

“This is a supplication that seeks protection from every evil, even from the trial of the Antichrist. Commentators are in agreement that ‘those who have incurred divine wrath’ (maghdub) refers to the Jews and ‘those who have gone astray’ (dalleen) alludes to the Christians. Now, if there was no underlying secret or deeper reality in this, what would be the purpose of teaching this prayer? Then, such emphasis is laid on this supplication that without it, the formal Prayer is not complete; it is necessary to recite this supplication in every rak’at of the Prayer. The underlying secret in this supplication is that it refers to my era. At present, the right path (sirat-e-mustaqim) is the path that I have shown.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. 3, pp. 26-27)

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The Promised Messiahas

In his Friday Sermon on 13 February 2009, mentioning this point, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa said:

“This prayer prophesied the advent of the Promised Messiahas, it prophesied about the coming of the Promised Messiah from the Muhammadan dispensation, and it also states the commandment to accept the Imam of the Age. Moreover, Muslims need to ponder over this, that the only solution and pathway to improve the deteriorating situation of Muslims and to revive the honour and dignity of the Muslim countries, is to accept this chosen one of Allah Almighty, in accordance with the prophecies of the Holy Prophetsa.” (Khutbat-e-Masroor, Vol. 7, p. 75)

During his address at the Jalsa Salana Rabwah on 26 December 1951, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said that this era is a blessed one as God has sent his prophet [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas], and “this is a blessing which was granted to the Jamaats of the Holy Prophetsa, Isaas, and Musaas, and for this blessing God has taught us the prayer:

اِهْدِنَا‭ ‬الصِّرَاطَ‭ ‬الۡمُسۡتَقِيۡمَ۔‭ ‬صِرَاطَ‭ ‬الَّذِيۡنَ‭ ‬اَنۡعَمۡتَ‭ ‬عَلَيۡهِمْ

[‘Guide us in the right path. The path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed [Thy] blessings.’ (Surah al-Fatihah, Ch.1: V.6-7)]” (Al Fazl, 1 January 1952, pp. 3-4)   

Huzoorra added that in this era, Allah the Almighty has granted Ahmadis the blessing and honour which has always been granted to His beloved people. Therefore, members of the Jamaat needed to be grateful to Allah the Almighty that He granted them this blessed era.

Human knowledge and reason are limited

During his Friday Sermon on 30 May 1924, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said:

“Human knowledge and intellect are very limited, and due to them being limited, sometimes one considers a certain matter beneficial, but in reality, it is harmful to them. Moreover, in some instances, one presumes a certain matter to be harmful, but in fact, it is beneficial for them. […] Alluding to the same situation, God Almighty states:

وَعَسٰۤی اَنۡ تَکۡرَہُوۡا شَیۡئًا وَّہُوَ خَیۡرٌ لَّکُمۡ ۚ وَعَسٰۤی اَنۡ تُحِبُّوۡا شَیۡئًا وَّہُوَ شَرٌّ لَّکُمۡ

“Meaning, ‘But it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you like a thing while it is bad for you.’ (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch. 2: V. 217)     

“In other words, on some occasions, one utilises certain methods to achieve a positive outcome, however, despite this, the result proves to be unfavourable, and the only reason is that the means that were utilised to obtain a positive result, did not include those methods that were essential to hoping for a positive outcome. […]

“Look, if one builds a house in London structured as per the custom in India, and then hopes to live there with comfort and ease, and desires to spend their life with utmost facility; can they succeed in fulfilling their desire? Not at all. Though they might have built the house with great cleverness, the desire to live there comfortably cannot be fulfilled, since they did not keep in mind those circumstances, which were essential to keep in mind, and those methods were not utilised, which could have given them comfort in that country. Such a house will not be safe from snowfall and will be damaged by its impact, since only houses with steep gabled roofs can remain safe from snow storms. […]

“In the same way, in other matters, one presumes about certain matters in their mind and considers that they will get a favourable outcome, however, the result does not come as they had expected. Therefore, when such is the situation with mankind that they do not always achieve good results by relying on their thoughts, but rather produce unfavourable outcomes on many occasions, what should they do?

“For this, there is only one pathway, and that is what has been told in the words:

اِہۡدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِیۡمَ

“[Guide us in the right path. (Surah al-Fatihah, Ch. 1: V. 6)]

“In other words, one should seek help from God and pray to Him with humbleness that ‘O God, guide me to the right path in every matter – whether it is religious or worldly, so that I may be saved from any mistakes.’ Therefore, God Almighty has taught this prayer, with immense graciousness, to save us from any wrongdoings.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol. 8, pp. 423-424)

Ignorance is the biggest hurdle which halts people from accepting the Truth

During his Friday sermon on 1 February 1924, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said:

“Ignorance is the biggest hurdle which halts people from [accepting] the claims of Hazrat Sahibas [the Promised Messiah], since they say that ‘when the Guidance [the Holy Quran] has already come, what is the need to accept Mirza Sahib?’

“The point that has been indicated in the word ‘اِھْدِنَا’, is that though the Guidance [the Holy Quran] has come, people are unaware of the true essence of that Guidance. We find that there are many who claim to believe in the Quran, therefore, it is God alone Who will tell as to which group from the believers of the Quran is counted amongst the اَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَیۡہِمۡ [‘Those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings’ (Surah al-Fatihah, Ch. 1: V. 7)]. […]

“We are required to pray to Allah the Almighty that He may save us from going astray and enable us to stay firm on the truth. Hence, Surah al-Fatihah tells us that we are in need of guidance at all times. […] Those who become content with their [spiritual] situation are actually the ones who always stumble; however, those who believe that they are always in need of guidance and the help of God, save themselves from stumbling. […] Thus, every Muslim is obliged to pray to Allah the Almighty, ‘Enable me to remain on guidance and O God, I am always in need of your help.’ […]

“When a person continues to seek prayers with sincerity, then Allah surely establishes them on the truth, however, the condition is for them to pray by really considering themselves to be in need of guidance and the help of Allah the Almighty. If their situation is not at such a level, then they desire to trick God [God forbid], and who can be more astray than the one who attempts to trick God? It means that, if one’s nafs is saying, ‘I do not need any guidance’, but they superficially say, ‘I am in need of guidance’, such a person’s prayers are of no avail.

“Therefore, every Muslim is obliged to ponder over the true meanings of Surah al-Fatihah while reading it and to pray for them to stay firm on guidance.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol. 8, pp. 306-308)

The pathway for attaining spirituality

The Promised Messiahas said:

“The state of our spiritual quest does not arch our backs, require us to lengthen our nails, stand in water or sit in seclusion for extended periods of time, freeze our hands in a certain position until they become lifeless, or ruin our physical appearances. By adopting such practices, in their own fancy, there are some who seek to become godly. But I observe that, let alone finding God, these people even cease to remain human beings. However, this is not the manner of our spiritual quest. In fact, Islam has prescribed a very easy way and it is the wide and spacious path that is described by Allah the Exalted as follows:

اِہۡدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِیۡمَ

“‘Guide us in the right path.’

“Now when Allah the Exalted has taught us this supplication, He has not done so without providing us with the relevant means. Instead, on the one hand, where He has taught us this prayer, on the other hand, He has also provided the means for its acceptance as well.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. 2, p. 67)


Prayer for both spiritual and worldly success

During his Friday Sermon on 30 May 1924, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said that it is wrong to imply that this prayer is only for spiritual success and progress, but rather, this prayer is necessary for worldly success as well, as is evident from the following verse:

کُلًّا نُّمِدُّ ہٰۤؤُلَآءِ وَہٰۤؤُلَآءِ مِنۡ عَطَآءِ رَبِّکَ ؕ وَمَا کَانَ عَطَـآءُ رَبِّکَ مَحۡظُوۡرًا

“To all We render aid — both to these and those — a gift from thy Lord. And the gift of thy Lord is not restricted.” (Surah Bani Israil, Ch. 17: V. 21)

Huzoorra elaborated:

“In other words, [Allah] grants to mankind the kind of ‘life’ they desire, and they are granted the same kind of help for which they ask Him. If one seeks from Him worldly glory and power, He grants them worldly power and might. However, if one seeks His nearness and closeness, He grants them a place close to Him. In short, whichever prayer and help they seek from Him, He grants them.

The key to success is that one should pray to Allah to alleviate any problem they might confront. If one understands this point, then one can be saved from shortcomings, which will lead one to success in all fields. […] Nowadays, if one is advised that they should pray to God and He will solve their problems, they respond, ‘What need is there for us to pray? Do the European people pray for anything? If their problems can be solved without prayers, then our problems will also be solved in the same way.’ […]

“The disbelievers who deny God Almighty, His Messengersa, and the Day of Judgement, are given some respite, and despite their wrongdoings, they are afforded leniency until they exceed all bounds of their mischief, and then at last, they will be retributed. However, on the contrary, the one who fears God Almighty, loves His Messengersa, and believes in the Day of Judgement, is granted success in this world and then, in the Hereafter, entered into paradise. […] The disbelievers are neither retributed at once for their wrongdoings nor deprived of those blessings which He has created for mankind under the law of nature in general. […]

“If a disbeliever does not pray to God Almighty, it does not make them bound to be retributed […] since they have been given respite from committing sins. Thus, they do not come under blame during the time of respite if they do not remember or pray to God. However, if a believer – who believes that God Almighty is the Master of everything, listens to all kinds of prayers, and alleviates the problems of His servants – does not pray, then it makes them rebellious, and their not praying to Him will be considered such a rebellion, which is questionable.

“Prayer [du‘a] is the key to success, the key to the treasure, and the mi’raj [apex] of the believer, and such perfect prayers have been taught in the Holy Quran that are not found in the Vedas, the Psalms, or the Gospels. Moreover, the Holy Quran does not merely teach the prayers, but rather explains their true essence as well. Thus, how unfortunate is the fact that Muslims are negligent in their prayers! […] The situation of the Muslims is such that in addition to abandoning the other commandments of the sharia, they have become negligent with prayers [du‘a] as well. […]

“God Almighty has appointed the Promised Messiahas to tell about the true essence of prayers [du‘a]. Therefore, the way he emphasised prayers and called attention to [the ways to see] their acceptance, is evident in each and every moment of his life. He explained it in detail and demonstrated through his actions, that prayer [du‘a] is the main tool and that this is the key to success. Moreover, in addition to advising the Muslims in regards to the importance of prayer, he also told the other communities that one does not find perfect prayers in their books, since this is a distinctive feature of the Holy Quran alone. And the methods to see the acceptance of prayers that have been taught by Islam, are found nowhere else.

“Now, if we do not utilise the methods that have been taught by the Promised Messiahas to see our prayers accepted, our example will be like the one who sits idle at the boundary of their fields and hopes for the crops to grow, or like the one who builds a house without utilising the appropriate methods to remain safe from the winter and summer. If the members of the Jamaat do not follow the pathway to success that has been taught by the Promised Messiahas, then merely joining the Ahmadiyyat will be of no avail.

“The Promised Messiahas explained in detail the reality of prayer, otherwise, the people were unaware of the true essence of prayer before his advent. […] Now, only that prayer [du‘a] is eligible to be accepted or will lead to success that is made in accordance with its true essence and methods, as told by the Promised Messiahas.

“I advise the members of the Jamaat to pay attention to the subject [mentioned in] Surah al-Fatihah, and seek prayers accordingly, so that God Almighty may guide you to the right path in each and every matter. Moreover, you are required to pray in accordance with the methods taught by the Promised Messiahas, to see acceptance. Otherwise, it would make no difference whether you joined Ahmadiyyat or not. May God Almighty open up the doors to His mercy for us, and grant us a place in his nearness. Amin.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol. 8, pp. 424-428)

During his Friday sermon on 13 February 2009, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa said:

“In the prayer اِہۡدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِیۡمَ, we supplicate – and should do so in fact – that ‘O Allah, guide and lead us to such a path that is good and the one that leads us towards piety, and then enable us to attain piety by following this path.’ […] Therefore, one cannot sit back after seeking this prayer – a believer can never become satisfied [with their spiritual situation] – but rather, they will strive to continue advancing in spirituality, and to achieve new heights in worldly progress as well. Usually, one makes efforts to achieve worldly progress – and they strive hard in fact – however, they do not strive with much vigour in spirituality.

“Anyhow, this prayer mentions both spiritual and worldly endeavours. Secondly, it also rejects celibacy – the people who believe in living as faqirs and breaking all ties with the world – this [prayer] rejects this notion as well. When Allah the Almighty created mankind, He also created boundless blessings. In this prayer, one’s attention has been called towards this as well. It means that, all the blessings of Allah the Almighty have been created for mankind, who have been called the ‘Best of the Creation’. One should strive to attain those [blessings], instead of cutting all ties with the world.” (Khutbat-e-Masroor, Vol. 7, p. 76)

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Acceptance of prayer is a sign of God’s existence

The Promised Messiahas once said:

“Muslims have been urged in Surah al-Fatihah to occupy themselves with prayer and have been taught the prayer: 

اِہۡدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِیۡمَ

“And it has been made obligatory that this prayer is to be offered on five occasions every day. It would therefore be a great mistake to deny the spirituality of prayer. The verdict of the Holy Quran is that prayer comprises a spirituality and that as a result of prayer, a grace descends that bestows the fruit of success in diverse forms. […] At one place in the Holy Quran, God Almighty has declared it as a sign of His recognition that He hears the supplication of distressed ones, as he states:

اَمَّنۡ یُّجِیۡبُ الۡمُضۡطَرَّ اِذَا دَعَاہُ

“[Or, Who answers the distressed person when he calls upon Him. (Surah an-Naml, Ch. 27: V. 63)]

“As God Almighty has declared the acceptance of prayer as a sign of His existence, how can any sensible and modest person imagine that prayer does not result in visible signs of acceptance and that it is only a formal matter that has no spirituality in it? I consider that no one having true faith can commit such disrespect. God, the Glorious, says that just as the true God can be recognised by contemplating on the nature of heaven and earth, in the same way, by observing the acceptance of prayer, one attains faith in God Almighty.” (Ayyam-us-Sulh, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 14, pp. 259-260)

True zeal is required

The Promised Messiahas once said:

“He has urged the seeking of guidance by pointing out that perseverance in guidance is not possible, except through constancy in prayer and humility before Allah the Almighty. Moreover, it also indicates that guidance comes from God Almighty and that mankind can never be guided except when God Almighty guides them and admits them among the guided ones. It further implies that guidance has no bounds and mankind can attain it by means of the ‘ladder’ of prayers. The one who gives up prayer loses their ‘ladder’.” (Karamatus-Sadiqeen, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 7, p. 124)

During his Friday Sermon on 10 August 1923, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said:

“There are many who presume that they have a true zeal to attain [spiritual] guidance, however, they are required to ponder as to whether their eagerness [for spiritual guidance] is as strong as their desire for worldly goods. If one does not have such a zeal, which causes them a loss of appetite and a lack of ease and comfort – as they experience for material aims, then one should realise that they do not have a true zeal [for spiritual guidance]. And in such a situation, one should never expect their prayers to be accepted. However, since this is the purpose behind mankind’s creation, I advise you to inculcate a true zeal and desire for it [spiritual guidance], in order to achieve the objective.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol. 8, p. 161)

May Allah the Almighty enable us to stay firm on the path of guidance, and to show complete obedience to His chosen one, which will eventually lead us to attain His nearness. Amin

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