The Qur’an is essentially a book of guidance. Of that, there is no doubt. But there is no sense of compulsion implied. It is up to the reader whether he accepts guidance from the Qur’an or not. A verse in the chapter Al-Baqarah (The Heifer) enlarges upon this point. The translation of this verse is as follows: God does not disdain to give a parable about a gnat or a smaller creature. The faithful know that it is the truth from their Lord, but those who deny the truth ask, ‘What could God mean by this parable?’ He lets many go astray through it, and guides many by it. But He makes only the disobedient go astray. (2:26)
Why is it that the same book, that is, the Qur’an, is a source of both guidance and misguidance? The reason is not in the Qur’an itself. The reason lies in the mind of the reader. It is the mind of the reader that decides whether he will find guidance in the Qur’an or be misled by it. Those who read the Qur’an with a positive mind, or with a questing spirit, will find the truth in its pages. Such people read the Qur’an with an open mind. When the Qur’an states certain facts, they can easily grasp their true meaning, for they find that it is the same thing that they have felt in their hearts all along. In other words, they find that Qur’anic statements are in consonance with their own nature. They instantly, and without any reservations, accept the truth of what is propounded in the Qur’an. But there are others who are of a different, a more negative cast of mind, whose reading of the Qur’an produces different results. They read the Qur’an with their own objectives in view. And their preoccupations become a great obstacle to seeing the true face of Islam. They are not ready to correct their thinking and, consciously or unconsciously, try to find some word or phrase in the Qur’an, on the basis of which they may claim that the Qur’an endorses their own personal ideas.
Those who read the Qur’an with a positive mind, or with a questing spirit, will find the truth in its pages. For example, there was a certain communist who was a great believer in the concept of a state-controlled economy. While he was studying the Qur’an, he came across this verse: Moses said to his people, ‘Turn to God for help and be patient. The earth belongs to God. He gives it to those of His servants whom He chooses, and the future belongs to the God-fearing.’ (7:128)
This example shows how one can be misled by careless misinterpretation of the Qur’an. The above verse had nothing to do with the socialist philosophy of a communist, but there was a word—earth—which the reader, being a communist, easily converted into ‘land’ and from that came to the conclusion that the Qur’an endorses state-owned economy. Without further ado, he formulated the following principle: ‘The land is owned by God, the state is a representative of God, so land should be owned by the state.’ Such was the strength with which this self-styled knowledge imbued him that he proclaimed that the Qur’an was a book of socialist philosophy and that Karl Marx had only reiterated the Qur’anic philosophy in modern terms.