صراط الذين أنعمت عليهم غير المغضوب عليهم ولا الضالين
The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have earned [Your] anger or of those who are astray. (Saheeh International)
I will render this verse as:
The clear and easy path of those whom you appointed ease and comfort for. Not of the recipients of rage, nor the lost.
Favor / Ni'am
Na'am has been translated as 'favor' by Saheeh International while I translated it as ease and comfort.
It comes from the root ن ع م which literally means softness, gentleness and comfort.
- The sole of the foot was called Nu'aamah.
- The skin covering the skull was also called Nu'aamah from the same root.
- Back in the day, the Arabs knew of a plant that grew on water having very soft leaves. They called this plant Tan'imah which is also from the same root.
- A very soft cloth was called Naa'im.
- A very soft, gentle and comforting wind was called as Nu'aama.
Hence, this root basically means ease, comfort, gentleness and kindness. The skin covering the skull is softer as compared to the the hard skull beneath it as is the sole of the foot. The Arabs used this root to refer to soft clothes, the gentle and soothing wind, and the plant with soft leaves.
The Recipients of Anger
This has a very simple translation for the word anger and does not need any root analysis except that this is an anger that rises for revenge. An anger that rises because of the other crossing bounds (Taj al Uroos, Muhit al Muhit). When used for Allah, this means the anger of Allah because of disobedience to him. Allah does not get angry pointlessly as humans can do so sometimes.
There are some grammatical nuances here.
- This is not a verb. The recipients of anger have been mentioned as an object in the passive form as a noun. Notice the Saheeh International how it translates "Not of those who earned your anger". It uses a verb. While in the ayah, it is a noun, not a verb. Nouns have no time embedded in them and are timeless as opposed to verbs which are bound by time. What difference does this make? It shows that these people existed, exist now and will continue to exist in the future. This group of people will exist timelessly.
- In the Quran, whenever evil is mentioned, Allah is not mentioned alongside it. The most prominent example of this is Chapter 72 : 10. Notice how in the first sentence, the passive form is used with no doer, while the second sentence has the doer 'Their Master' in it with the mention of right course. This is done to show how far away Allah is from evil. Similiarly in this ayah, the passive form is used showing that Allah is so far away from these people he does not even mention himself when they are mentioned.
The Astray / Ḍaaleen
The word Ḍaaleen has been translated as 'The Astray' by Saheeh International and as 'The Lost' by me.
It comes from the root ض ل ل which was used in following ways as mentioned in Mu'jam Ishtiqaaqi:
- To disappear and vanish.
- To bury a dead body.
- For water which runs underneath a stone which sunrays cannot reach.
The basic meaning is to dissapear, vanish and to become lost and hidden from sight. Like the water which runs beneath a stone and the dead body buried inside the ground since they are both not visible to the eye.
In the context of the verse, it means people who have gone so far away from the right path that they are not visible to those who are on the correct path. They have taken a completely different road that turns away from the the correct one and are now out of sight.
But this does indicate sincere intention on part of these people.
Every road leads to a destination. The destination of the correct path is Allah himself. These people who are now lost, did have the intention to go to Allah and be close to him by taking the correct road to him. It is just that they took the wrong road. And are now heading to a destination they did not want to go to.
- In the fourth verse of this chapter, we asked Allah to help us in overcoming the difficulties we will face in the path of his obedience. Allah then calls this path as an easy and clear path on which one can easily travel. This seems like a contradiction. In one verse Allah says this is going to be a path of difficulties and in the next verse he says that it is so easy to travel on it, it is as if the traveler on it swallows it up in a flash.
- The path of Islam has many difficulties, but it is easy for those for whom Allah made it easy for. The people mentioned in this verse. Those for whom Allah made this road easy and comfortable to travel on. When someone receives the help of Allah that we ask for in the fourth verse, it becomes easy to be patient in the face of hardship and pain that we face on this path. We pray to Allah to make us of those people.
- These people are mentioned in the past tense. Showing that such people did exist and stories of such people will be mentioned in the Quran. The reader of the Quran needs to understand these people and what made them qualified to receive this help of Allah. To be like them and to follow them so that Allah may help us as he helped them.
- There is a famous hadith that says that the recipients of anger in this verse are the Jews and the lost are the Christians.
- The recipients of anger are the people who earned the punishment and wrath of Allah be disobeying him knowingly. They knew what Allah commands them to do and yet still disobeyed him. This is the quality mentioned of the Jews. In the Qur'an, Allah will acknowledge the knowledge possessed by the Jews. Their scholors are called as Ahbaar which literally means ink. They are called ink itself. As a testament to their knowledge and their writings. Despite having knowledge, they disobeyed Allah and hence earned his anger and wrath.
- The lost are the Christian. As mentioned above, they had the right intention and the willingness to obey Allah. They just took the wrong path not realizing it does not lead to Allah, their intended destination. These people did not have knowledge. They did not know which path leads to Allah and which does not. In their ignorance, they became lost. Their ignorance lead them to their demise.
- Muslims are told not to be like either of them. They must obey what Allah commands them. They must act in accordance to the knowledge they gain. Otherwise they will earn the anger of Allah. But this then creates a fear of gaining knowledge. What if I gain knowledge and do not act in accordance? I will earn Allah's anger in that case. This may stop one from pursuing knowledge out of fear and so Allah says next that without knowledge, you will become lost.
- We are to gain knowledge and try our best to act in accordance to it. To ask Allah's help to give us the ability to do so. If we fail, then remember that Allah always accepts a sincere repentance for he is the Rahman and the Raheem.
- The Christians are praised in the Qur'an for their actions. They unlike the Jews, had the desire to act and follow God. They just chose the wrong path. They had action but no knowledge. The Jews had knowledge, but no action. The Jews had no desire to obey God.
- This answers the question of 'What is guidance?' It is to act in accordance with the knowledge one gains. This is the preface to the Quran. Act on what you will learn later in this book and you shall be guided. Pray to Allah to make it easy for you how he made it easy on those chosen ones before you. Be not like those with no desire to obey God despite the knowledge they have, nor like those with the desire to obey God yet clueless how to do so.