Question: What is the meaning of Allah’s (awj) misguidance in the Qur`an?
Misguidance is a non-existent entity. Since guidance means to lead someone to a goal, then misguidance is the absence of guidance. In the parlance of the logicians, the relation between guidance and misguidance is privatives and positives (‘Adam wa malakah). In other words, if guidance were to exist in a certain place, then it is impossible for misguidance to exist there (from the same aspect); but if guidance were not there then the absence of guidance is misguidance.
Because of this it is not possible to attribute misguidance to Allah (awj) since it is not possible to give or take something that does not exist. Unlike guidance, which relates both to existence and the law, misguidance relates only to existence and has no relation with the law. This is because Allah (awj) is essentially the Guide, since if this were not the case then the evildoers would bring an excuse before Allah (awj) saying, “We wanted your guidance but you lead us astray.”
Therefore, at the outset, Allah (awj) leads everyone towards felicity, happiness and the right path and in this stage there can be no misguidance. But if someone wilfully does not accept this call and turns his back towards it, then in this case he incurs Allah’s (awj) existential misguidance. Therefore Allah’s (awj) misguiding someone simply means that He cuts off His guidance from him and leaves him to fend for himself, the result of which is that man becomes lost on the path of guidance. Man’s being lost then, is caused by not having Allah’s (awj) guidance - and this is the meaning of existential misguidance.
When we pay attention to the verses of the Noble Book, we find that there are two kinds of Divine guidance: one that is related to the law and the second that is related to existence. Man has both kinds of guidance. This is in contrast to misguidance, which is only existential and does not exist with relation to the Law. This is because Allah (awj) is essentially the Guide, since it is impossible that He be essentially the Lord, the Worshipped, and the Refuge, but not be the Essential Guide. If this were not the case then the evildoers would bring forth an excuse, saying to Allah (awj), “We wanted your guidance but you lead us astray.”
It is impossible for Allah (awj) to lead someone astray initially since this goes against His wisdom and since nothing comes from Allah (awj) except goodness and mercy, He does not lead anyone on an incorrect path from the outset. Rather, His misguidance is a type of punishment. In other words the bad people have gone astray and have been afflicted with misguidance by there own choice. Therefore in reality, initial misguidance is ascribed to the creatures, and the misguidance that is a punishment pertains to the Creator.
In conclusion we can say that Allah’s (awj) misguidance means that He cuts off His mercy and blessings from a person and leaves him to fend for himself; and it is this that results in man becoming lost on the Path. If someone does not accept the guidance of the Law, Allah (awj) will exclude him from His existential guidance. In other words, it is the actions of a disbeliever or an oppressor which cause him not to have Divine guidance. This is in line with the order of creation, which is based on cause and effect. Consequently Allah (awj) has said that He will not guide the unbeliever1, oppressor2, or the sinner.3