What Does “Unguided” Mean in the Surat al-Duha?

Answered by Shaykh Anas al-Musa


What is meant by Allah’s saying: “Did He not find you unguided then guided you?”?


In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful,

This verse, mentioned in Surat al-Duha, “Did He not find you unguided then guided you?” [Quran, 93:7] is part of Allah’s recounting of His favors upon the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). The verse might appear to suggest that the Prophet was astray before receiving revelation. It raises the question: Was the Prophet in a state of misguidance before his prophethood and then guided by Allah?

To address this, it’s important to understand the context and meaning correctly: The term “unguided” in this verse cannot be interpreted as the opposite of “guidance” in the conventional sense, as Prophets are divinely protected from such states. The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) never engaged in disbelief. Scholars like Qadi ‘Iyad have clarified that Prophets are safeguarded even before their prophethood from ignorance about Allah and His attributes, and they do not harbor any doubts in these matters. This protection is evident from their birth and is evident in their upbringing in the faith of monotheism. [Qadi ‘Iyad, al-Shifa]


The term “unguided” in the verse does not mean disbelief or that the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was following the religion of his people, as the Prophets are divinely protected from such states. Even Mu‘tazilites argue that this is logically implausible, as it would cause aversion. [Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb; Zuhayli, al-Tafsir al-Munir]

The term “unguided” here refers to being unaware of the rulings of the Sacred Law. Allah guided His Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to these rulings and their details. In other words, the Prophet was unaware of the Sacred Law and the most accurate beliefs, and then Allah guided him to these, as mentioned in the verse,

“And so We have sent to you (O Prophet) a revelation by Our command. You did not know of (this) Book and faith (before). But We have made it a light, by which We guide whoever We will of Our servants.” [Quran, 52:42] [Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb; Zuhayli, al-Tafsir al-Munir]

Or, it means the Prophet was perplexed by the beliefs surrounding him and was then guided to the best religion and methodology, meaning he was previously unaware of the Sacred Law and the secrets of religious knowledge, which are known only through revelation. This verse supports this interpretation:

“So if one of the women forgets, the other may remind her.” [Quran, 2:282] [Shinqiti, Daf‘ Iham al-Idtirab; Qattan, Taysir al-Tafsir]

Refuting Its Other Meanings

Imam Razi, in his Tafsir, mentioned that some people believed the Prophet initially followed the religion of his people and was then guided by Allah and made a Prophet. They based their argument on these verses:

“You did not know of (this) Book and faith (before).” [Quran, 42:52]

And “Though before this you were totally unaware (of them).” [Quran, 12:3]

Razi refuted this view, stating that while it’s logically possible for someone to be a disbeliever and then be granted faith and prophethood, the textual evidence indicates this did not happen, as in the verse:

“Your fellow man (Muhammad) is neither misguided nor astray.” [Quran 53:2]

The verse “So be steadfast in faith in all uprightness (O Prophet)—the natural Way of Allah which He has instilled in (all) people. Let there be no change in this creation of Allah. That is the Straight Way, but most people do not know.” [Quran, 30:30] indicates that the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was naturally inclined to this upright religion. It is known that his parents did not Judaize, Christianize, or make him a Magian. Rather, he remained on his innate nature until Allah sent him as a Messenger, and this is supported by the fact that the first revelation occurred while he was worshiping in the cave of Hira, indicating his adherence to his innate disposition. [Shinqiti, Daf‘ Iham al-Idtirab]

Various Interpretations of “Unguided”

The books of Tafsir (Quranic exegesis) have relayed various interpretations of the term “unguided” in the verse. From them are:

  • “Unguided” in terms of knowing the landmarks of prophethood and the rulings of the Sacred Law, guided to them by Allah. In other words, the Prophet was unaware of the guidance and criterion revealed to him, and Allah guided him to it and made him a leader for it.
  • He was “unguided” as a young child in the valleys of Mecca, and Allah returned him to his grandfather Abdul Muttalib.
  • When traveling with Maisara, a servant of Khadija, Satan seized the reins of his camel, leading him astray from the path. Gabriel came and returned him to the caravan, a blessing from Allah.
  • He was found among people who were unguided, and Allah guided him to monotheism.
  • “Unguided” means forgetful, as in the verse: “ (أنْ تَضِلَّ إِحْدَاهُمَا) So if one of the women forgets…” [Quran, 2:282]
    During the Night of Ascension, he forgot what to say due to awe, so Allah guided him on how to praise, leading him to say, “I cannot enumerate Your praise.”
  • He was found inactive, unknown, and unrecognized. Allah guided people to him, so they came to know him.
  • Arabs call a solitary tree in the desert “unguided.” It’s as if Allah said: Your land was like a barren desert with no tree bearing the fruit of faith in Allah except for you. You were a solitary tree in the desert of ignorance, so I found you “unguided” and guided creation through you. This is akin to the saying, “Wisdom is the believer’s lost property.”
  • He was “unguided” in the knowledge of Allah when he was a child, as Allah says: “And Allah brought you out of the wombs of your mothers while you knew nothing.” [Quran, 16:78]
    Allah instilled in him intellect, guidance, and knowledge, so “unguided” here means devoid of knowledge, and not having wrong beliefs.
  • He was “unguided” in prophethood, not aspiring to it or contemplating it, as the Jews and Christians claimed prophecy was limited to the Children of Israel. Allah guided him to a prophethood he never aspired to.
  • “Unguided” regarding the Qibla. He wished for the Kaaba to be his Qibla but didn’t know if it would happen. Allah guided him with the verse: “Indeed, We see you (O Prophet) turning your face towards heaven. Now, We will make you turn towards a direction (of prayer) that will please you.” [Quran, 2:144] [Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb; Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir fi ‘Ilm al-Tafsir; Qurtubi, al-Jami‘ li Ahkam al-Quran; Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Ta’wil; Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Ibn Kathir; Qari, Sharh al-Shifa; Alusi, Ruh al-Ma‘ani; Mawsu‘at al-Tafsir al-Ma’thur]


The term “unguided” in the verse does not mean the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was idolatrous before being guided to monotheism or on an incorrect path. Rather, it refers to the perplexity that touches the hearts of the sincere, in their hope for people’s salvation, seeking the way to what they were guided to – rescuing the perishing and guiding the astray. Allah guided His Prophet to what his insight sought by choosing him for His message and selecting him to establish His law. [Qattan, Mabahith fi ‘Ulum al-Quran]

May Allah‘s peace and blessings be upon our master and Prophet, Muhammad, and upon his family and companions.
[Shaykh] Anas al-Musa

Shaykh Anas al-Musa, born in Hama, Syria, in 1974, is an erudite scholar of notable repute. He graduated from the Engineering Institute in Damascus, where he specialized in General Construction, and Al-Azhar University, Faculty of Usul al-Din, where he specialized in Hadith.

He studied under prominent scholars in Damascus, including Shaykh Abdul Rahman al-Shaghouri and Shaykh Adib al-Kallas, among others. Shaykh Anas has memorized the Quran and is proficient in the ten Mutawatir recitations, having studied under Shaykh Bakri al-Tarabishi and Shaykh Mowfaq ‘Ayun. He also graduated from the Iraqi Hadith School.

He has taught numerous Islamic subjects at Shari‘a institutes in Syria and Turkey. Shaykh Anas has served as an Imam and preacher for over 15 years and is a teacher of the Quran in its various readings and narrations.

Currently, he works as a teacher at SeekersGuidance and is responsible for academic guidance there. He has completed his Master’s degree in Hadith and is now pursuing his Ph.D. in the same field. Shaykh Anas al-Musa is married and resides in Istanbul.