Seeking guidance from Allah in all affairs of life is the ultimate route to leading a steady and stable life with a healthy spirit of faith. Seeking guidance to the ways of safety and ending with the triumphant ones is the desire of all righteous believers. In the "Prayer for Covering and Protection," we ask:
"…rank me among the companions of the right hand,
direct me to the ways of safety,
place me in the throng of the triumphant…" (al-Sahifa as-Sajjadiya)
If we lack the correct guidance and result in (God forbid) being among the losing ones, it will truly be a great defeat – it will be the greatest calamity of life, and we will experience a heart-wrenching remorse:
"We seek refuge in Thee from
the most dreadful remorse,
the greatest affliction,
the most wretched wretchedness,
the evil end to the journey,
the deprivation of reward,
and the advent of punishment." (Ibid.)
Guidance and deviation are both dependent upon a servant's will and action. The acceptance of guidance is related with the purity of soul and light of knowledge, while deviation results from corruption and blindness of ignorance. The desire to go nearer to Allah and struggle in His way results in yet more guidance:
"And (as for) those who strive hard for Us, We will most certainly guide them unto Our ways; and Allah is most surely with the doers of good." (Holy Qur'an 29:69)
Both guidance and deviation are increased or decreased, based on the initiatives of servants:
"We relate to you their story with the truth; surely they were youths who believed in their Lord and We increased them in guidance."(18:13)
The fellows of the cave took a great initiative in risking their lives and everything they had. The result of that was increased guidance and mercy from Allah.
"And when a communication comes to them they say: We will not believe till we are given the like of what Allah's messengers are given. Allah best knows where He places His message. There shall befall those who are guilty humiliation from Allah and severe chastisement because of what they planned.
Therefore (for) whomsoever Allah intends that He would guide him aright, He expands his breast for Islam, and (for) whomsoever He intends that He should cause him to err, He makes his breast strait and narrow as though he were ascending upwards; thus does Allah lay uncleanness on those who do not believe." (6:124-125)
The above verses show that the uncleanness and deviation will be the destiny of those who have rejected the Truth in first place. The lack of guidance in this respect is because of aversion to the Truth. Some people argue that if deviation is caused by Allah then what is the fault of man? The answer is that Allah does not misguide or mislead any of His servants; rather, the lack of guidance is because of their preferring the falsehood over the truth. A good reply in this regard has been given in the following lengthy quote:
"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 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, 'We wanted your guidance but you lead us astray.'
It is impossible for Allah to lead someone astray initially since this goes against His wisdom and since nothing comes from Allah 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 [sic] 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 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 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 has said that He will not guide the unbeliever, oppressor,or the sinner." (Faith and Reason)
The other aspect of guidance which we seek to discuss here is the difference between "ways of Allah" and the "Straight Path". Guidance can come through various ways, and all of these ways can lead to Allah; however, the Straight Path is the highest of all of those, and it is the path of those whose servanthood has not been corrupted with injustice or polytheism. Allama Tabatabai discusses in Al-Mizan:
"First: There are various ways to Allah each differing with others in perfection, easiness and smoothness. It all depends on its nearness or remoteness from the basic reality, from the straight path, like the way of submission, of faith, of worship, of purity of intention or of humility before Allah. Some of the ways leading to the opposite direction are disbelief, polytheism, infidelity, exceeding the bounds, committing sins etc. Allah has said: And for all are grades according to what they did, and so that He may pay them back fully their deeds and they shall not be dealt with unjustly (46:19).
"Second: The straight path controls all the ways. Likewise, the people of the straight path (who have been firmly established in it by Allah) do enjoy complete authority to guide the other servants of Allah. Allah says: ...and excellent are these as companions (4:69); Verily, your only Master is Allah and His Apostle and those who believe, those who keep up prayer and pay zakat while they are bowing down (5:55). The last mentioned verse was revealed about Ali, the Leader of the faithful, as al-mutawatir traditions say; and he (peace be on him) was the first to open this door in Islam…"