The Meaning of As-Sirat Al-Mustaqim, the Straight Path
As for the meaning of As-Sirat Al-Mustaqim, Imam Abu Ja`far At-Tabari said, "The Ummah agreed that Sirat Al-Mustaqim, is the clear path without branches, according to the language of the Arabs. For instance, Jarir bin `Atiyah Al-Khatafi said in a poem, `The Leader of the faithful is on a path that will remain straight even though the other paths are crooked.'' At-Tabari also stated that, "There are many evidences to this fact.'' At-Tabari then proceeded, "The Arabs use the term, Sirat in reference to every deed and statement whether righteous or wicked. Hence the Arabs would describe the honest person as being straight and the wicked person as being crooked. The straight path mentioned in the Qur'an refers to Islam.
Imam Ahmad recorded in his Musnad that An-Nawwas bin Sam`an said that the Prophet said,
The Faithful ask for and abide by Guidance
If someone asks, "Why does the believer ask Allah for guidance during every prayer and at other times, while he is already properly guided Has he not already acquired guidance''
The answer to these questions is that if it were not a fact that the believer needs to keep asking for guidance day and night, Allah would not have directed him to invoke Him to acquire the guidance. The servant needs Allah the Exalted every hour of his life to help him remain firm on the path of guidance and to make him even more firm and persistent on it. The servant does not have the power to benefit or harm himself, except by Allah's permission. Therefore, Allah directed the servant to invoke Him constantly, so that He provides him with His aid and with firmness and success. Indeed, the happy person is he whom Allah guides to ask of Him. This is especially the case if a person urgently needs Allah's help day or night. Allah said,
[يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ ءَامِنُواْ بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَالْكِتَـبِ الَّذِى نَزَّلَ عَلَى رَسُولِهِ وَالْكِتَـبِ الَّذِى أَنَزلَ مِن قَبْلُ]
(O you who believe! Believe in Allah, and His Messenger (Muhammad ), and the Book (the Qur'an) which He has sent down to His Messenger, and the Scripture which He sent down to those before (him)) (4:16).
Therefore, in this Ayah Allah commanded the believers to believe, and this command is not redundant since what is sought here is firmness and continuity of performing the deeds that help one remain on the path of faith. Also, Allah commanded His believing servants to proclaim,
[رَبَّنَا لاَ تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْوَهَّابُ ]
(Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower.) (3:8). Hence,
[اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ ]
(Guide us to the straight way) means, "Make us firm on the path of guidance and do not allow us to deviate from it.''
[صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّآلِّينَ ]
(7. The way of those upon whom You have bestowed Your grace, not (that) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray).
We mentioned the Hadith in which the servant proclaims,
[اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ ]
(Guide us to the straight way) and Allah says, "This is for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asks for.'' Allah's statement.
[صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ]
(The way of those upon whom You have bestowed Your grace) defines the path. `Those upon whom Allah has bestowed His grace' are those mentioned in Surat An-Nisa' (chapter 4), when Allah said,
[وَمَن يُطِعِ اللَّهَ وَالرَّسُولَ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِم مِّنَ النَّبِيِّينَ وَالصِّدِّيقِينَ وَالشُّهَدَآءِ وَالصَّـلِحِينَ وَحَسُنَ أُولَـئِكَ رَفِيقاً - ذلِكَ الْفَضْلُ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَكَفَى بِاللَّهِ عَلِيماً ]
(And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad ), then they will be in the company of those on whom Allah has bestowed His grace, the Prophets, the Siddiqin (the truly faithful), the martyrs, and the righteous. And how excellent these companions are! Such is the bounty from Allah, and Allah is sufficient to know) (4:69-70).
[غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّآلِّينَ]
(Not (the way) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray) meaning guide us to the straight path, the path of those upon whom you have bestowed Your grace, that is, the people of guidance, sincerity and obedience to Allah and His Messengers. They are the people who adhere to Allah's commandments and refrain from committing what He has prohibited. But, help us to avoid the path of those whom Allah is angry with, whose intentions are corrupt, who know the truth, yet deviate from it. Also, help us avoid the path of those who were led astray, who lost the true knowledge and, as a result, are wandering in misguidance, unable to find the correct path. Allah asserted that the two paths He described here are both misguided when He repeated the negation `not'. These two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. The path of the believers is knowledge of the truth and abiding by it. In comparison, the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why `anger' descended upon the Jews, while being described as `led astray' is more appropriate of the Christians. Those who know, but avoid implementing the truth, deserve the anger, unlike those who are ignorant. The Christians want to seek the true knowledge, but are unable to find it because they did not seek it from its proper resources.
This is why they were led astray. We should also mention that both the Christians and the Jews have earned the anger and are led astray, but the anger is one of the attributes more particular of the Jews. Allah said about the Jews,
[مَن لَّعَنَهُ اللَّهُ وَغَضِبَ عَلَيْهِ]
(Those (Jews) who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath) (5:60).
The attribute that the Christians deserve most is that of being led astray, just as Allah said about them,
[قَدْ ضَلُّواْ مِن قَبْلُ وَأَضَلُّواْ كَثِيراً وَضَلُّواْ عَن سَوَآءِ السَّبِيلِ]
(Who went astray before and who misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the right path) (5:77).
There are several Hadiths and reports from the Salaf on this subject. Imam Ahmad recorded that `Adi bin Hatim said, "The horsemen of the Messenger of Allah seized my paternal aunt and some other people. When they brought them to the Messenger of Allah , they were made to stand in line before him. My aunt said, `O Messenger of Allah! The supporter is far away, the offspring have stopped coming and I am an old woman, unable to serve. Grant me your favor, may Allah grant you His favor.' He said, `Who is your supporter' She said, `Adi bin Hatim.' He said, `The one who ran away from Allah and His Messenger' She said, `So, the Prophet freed me.' When the Prophet came back, there was a man next to him, I think that he was `Ali, who said to her, `Ask him for a means of transportation.' She asked the Prophet , and he ordered that she be given an animal.
'' `Adi then said, "Later on, she came to me and said, `He (Muhammad ) has done a favor that your father (who was a generous man) would never have done. So and-so person came to him and he granted him his favor, and so-and-so came to him and he granted him his favor.' So I went to the Prophet and found that some women and children were gathering with him, so close that I knew that he was not a king like Kisra (King of Persia) or Caesar. He said, `O `Adi! What made you run away, so that La ilaha illallah is not proclaimed Is there a deity worthy of worship except Allah
What made you run away, so that Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greater) is not proclaimed Is there anything Greater than Allah' I proclaimed my Islam and I saw his face radiate with pleasure and he said:
The honorable Surah Al-Fatihah contains seven Ayat including the praise and thanks of Allah, glorifying Him and praising Him by mentioning His most Beautiful Names and most high Attributes. It also mentions the Hereafter, which is the Day of Resurrection, and directs Allah's servants to ask of Him, invoking Him and declaring that all power and strength comes from Him. It also calls to the sincerity of the worship of Allah alone, singling Him out in His divinity, believing in His perfection, being free from the need of any partners, having no rivals nor equals. Al-Fatihah directs the believers to invoke Allah to guide them to the straight path, which is the true religion, and to help them remain on that path in this life, and to pass over the actual Sirat (bridge over hell that everyone must pass over) on the Day of Judgment. On that Day, the believers will be directed to the gardens of comfort in the company of the Prophets, the truthful ones, the martyrs and the righteous. Al-Fatihah also encourages performing good deeds, so that the believers will be in the company of the good-doers on the Day of Resurrection. The Surah also warns against following the paths of misguidance, so that one does not end up being gathered with those who indulge in sin, on the Day of Resurrection, including those who have earned the anger and those who were led astray.
The Bounties are because of Allah, not the Deviations
[صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ]
(The way of those upon whom you have bestowed Your grace), when He mentioned His favor. On mentioning anger, Allah said,
[غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ]
(Not (that) of those who earned Your anger), without mentioning the subject, although it is He Who has sent down the anger on them, just as Allah stated in another Ayah,
[أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ تَوَلَّوْاْ قَوْماً غَضِبَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِم]
(Have you (O Muhammad ) not seen those (hypocrites) who take as friends a people upon whom is the wrath of Allah (i.e. Jews)) (58:14).
Also, Allah relates the misguidance of those who indulged in it, although they were justly misguided according to Allah's appointed destiny. For instance, Allah said,
[مَن يَهْدِ اللَّهُ فَهُوَ الْمُهْتَدِ وَمَن يُضْلِلْ فَلَن تَجِدَ لَهُ وَلِيًّا مُّرْشِدًا]
(He whom Allah guides, he is the rightly-guided; but he whom He sends astray, for him you will find no Wali (guiding friend) to lead him (to the right path)) (18:17)
[مَن يُضْلِلِ اللَّهُ فَلاَ هَادِيَ لَهُ وَيَذَرُهُمْ فِى طُغْيَـنِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ ]
(Whomsoever Allah sends astray, none can guide him; and He lets them wander blindly in their transgression) (7:186).
These and several other Ayat testify to the fact that Allah alone is the One Who guides.
The Straight Path (As-Sirat Al-Mustaqim)
Differences in The Ummah and Siratal Mustaqim
And We did not send you [O Muhammad (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم)] except as mercy to the creations of all universes together.
[(Surat Al-'Anbyā' (21:107 - سورة الأنبياء]
Here Allah tells us that He sent Prophet Muhammad (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) as a benevolence to the creatures of the world. So whoever rejects it and denies it, for them Allah says:
[أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ بَدَّلُواْ نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ كُفْرًا وَأَحَلُّواْ قَوْمَهُمْ دَارَ الْبَوَارِ]
[جَهَنَّمَ يَصْلَوْنَهَا وَبِئْسَ الْقَرَارُ ]
Have you not looked at those who repaid God's favours with ingratitude; who pulled their people down to ruin
Hell, where they will roast in the fire? And what an evil repository!
And Allah says, describing the Qur'an:
[قُلْ هُوَ لِلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ هُدًى وَشِفَآءٌ وَالَّذِينَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ فِى ءَاذَانِهِمْ وَقْرٌ وَهُوَ عَلَيْهِمْ عَمًى أُوْلَـئِكَ يُنَادَوْنَ مِن مَّكَانٍ بَعِيدٍ]
Say: "For those who believe it is a guidance and a healing; but for those who do not believe it is a deafness in the ears, and a blindness. They are those one calls to from far away.
Muslim reports in his Sahih that it was said,"O Messenger of Allah, pray against the disbelievers''.
He (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) said:
[إِنِّي لَمْ أُبْعَثْ لَعَّانًا، وَإِنَّمَا بُعِثْتُ رَحْمَة]
I was not sent as a curse, rather I was sent as a mercy.