You Cannot Guide Everyone You Love: Between Hope and Despair

The greatest gift any person can be given in this life is unwavering conviction in Allah (‎ﷻ) and His Messenger (‎‎ﷺ). However, sometimes those blessed with this conviction can become overly passionate when calling others, especially those closest to them, to guidance. Indeed, one of the most painful things in this world for a believer to witness is the people they love rejecting faith. In this regard, Allah (‎ﷻ) asks our beloved Prophet (‎‎ﷺ), “Are you going to worry yourself to death over them if they do not believe in this message?” (Qur’an 18:6) [1]. Having a himmah (concern) for others to be guided is indeed prophetic. This concern can only be natural when we believe with certainty in the words of Allah (‎ﷻ): “If anyone seeks a religion other than [Islam] complete devotion to God, it will not be accepted from him: he will be one of the losers in the Hereafter.” (Qur’an 3:85) [1]. How, then, do we balance this concern with the reality that “You [Prophet] cannot guide everyone you love to the truth; it is God who guides whoever He will” (Qur’an 28:56) [1]? While we know that ultimately guidance comes from Allah (‎ﷻ), we cannot deny that it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to find faith with all of the distractions—indeed obstacles—that the modern world has placed between man and his true purpose.

The Unpopular Truth

The truth has never been popular. This should not be surprising to us. The response we commonly hear from skeptics of Islam today is the same as that of skeptics of the past: “These are just ancient fables” (Qur’an 68:15) [1]. Indeed, Allah’s words are timeless, and the Qur’an came down for all times and places. We can therefore only expect that there will continue to be people who will respond in this fashion when Allah’s revelations are recited to them. However, it would be hard to deny that the unprecedented times in which we are living have made this truth more unpopular today than in previous eras; the sanctification of materialism, glorification of pop culture, and spread of secularism across the globe have undoubtedly made religion seem more irrelevant now than ever before. The tragedy is that even Muslims have not been spared of this great fitnah (tribulation).

Calling Muslims To Islam

In Muslim-majority countries today, and perhaps more commonly in Muslim households in the West, it is common to find those born into the faith forsaking their religious beliefs and values (if they ever had any) for the much more enticing “freedom” and “liberty” that the secular world deceivingly offers them, confirming the words of the Beloved (‎‎ﷺ) that “love of the world and hatred for death” will inevitably be plunged into our hearts [2]. One can only appreciate how frustrating this can be for those clinging on to their faith—indeed “like holding onto hot coal” [3]—when calling their secularized Muslim relatives and friends to guidance. As ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb (may Allah be pleased with him) accurately anticipated, “Verily, the bonds of Islam will be undone, one by one, only if there arise people in Islam who never knew the time of ignorance” [4]. Sayyidunā ‘Umar seems to have been alluding to Muslims who would be born into the religion and thus take their faith for granted. This is perhaps why we often find that non-Muslims who convert to the religion are much stronger in their faith than born Muslims who may not have as much of an appreciation for the great blessing of Islam. Nevertheless, guidance is for everyone, and Allah (‎ﷻ) grants it to whomsoever He wills. What is our role, then, in assisting others, whether non-Muslims or born Muslims who may not have any meaningful connection with their faith, in becoming recipients of this Divine guidance?

Conveying The Message With Temperance

One of my dear teachers would often say, “Do not judge other people’s journeys; indeed, each person has their own journey.” What I had understood from this statement was that we are all travelers to the Hereafter. The end of our journey will be (we hope) everlasting bliss in Paradise. In order to reach our destination, we need guidance to help us get there. And finding this guidance, increasing in it, and remaining steadfast upon it until we leave this world is precisely the journey that I believe my teacher was referring to; it is a journey to Allah (‎ﷻ). As such, we can—and should—assist others in their journeys. However, as Allah (‎ﷻ) tells us, “There is no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an 2:256) [1]; we cannot impose our own journey on others, as my teacher would say.

Surely, many of us may recall a time in our own lives when we may not have been as devoted (if at all) as now. Perhaps we, too, at some point succumbed to the temptations of the dunyā (world). As much as we may desire for others to taste the sweetness of faith that we now enjoy, we need to remember that people do not appreciate having their arm twisted into belief—just as we once might not have appreciated this kind of approach from others.

Finding faith is a journey that each person must undertake for themselves. For those of us who have been granted the tawfīq (Divine enablement) to find it, all we can do is provide gentle reminders to those for whom we desire guidance, while supplicating to Allah (ﷻ) to bless them with it as He has blessed us. We must remind ourselves: “You [yourselves] were like that before; then Allah conferred His favor [i.e., guidance] upon you” (Qur’an 4:94) [5]. Indeed, having once been in their position should cause us to grow in forbearance and understanding rather than in harshness and impatience. As Allah (ﷻ) reminds our beloved Prophet (ﷺ), “Out of mercy from God, you [Prophet] were gentle in your dealings with them—had you been harsh, or hard-hearted, they would have dispersed and left you” (Qur’an 3:159) [1]. Truly, this should serve as a reminder for us to be as gentle as possible in our dealings, lest we be amongst those described by the early-twentieth-century Egyptian scholar Moḥammed al-Ghazālī in the following statement: “Verily, the weight of half of disbelief in the world is carried by religious people who made God detestable to His servants” [6].

Thus, Allah (ﷻ) instructs us, “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best” (Qur’an 16:125) [5]. There is a time and place for calling people to guidance, and it is crucial that we remember to do so with wisdom and excellent character—as well as the prerequisite knowledge to do so—while reminding ourselves that ultimately the outcome of all things is with Allah (ﷻ). We will only be questioned about our efforts, while “He is not questioned about what He does” (Qur’an 21:23) [5].

Works Cited:

1. Abdel Haleem, M., 2016. The Qurʼan. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2. Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4297, Book 39, Hadith 7.

3. Jāmi’ al-Tirmidhī 2260, Book 33, Hadith 103.

4. Majmū’ al-Fatāwā, 15/54.

5. Ṣaḥeeḥ International, 2004. The Qurʼān. Jeddah: Abul-Qasim Publishing House.

6. Ghilan, M., 2018. The Religion or the Religious?. [online] Al-Andalus Academy. Available at: <https://alandalusacademy.com/the-religion-or-the-religious/#.YIoYSJNKiuU&gt; [Accessed 28 April 2021].


About the Author: Rami Salah is a writer from Montreal, Canada. He graduated with a master’s in occupational therapy. His interests include Islamic spirituality, poetry, and Arabic. You can follow him here.

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