The Holy Qur'an

Key Word Analysis of Ihdinaṣ-Ṣirāṭ al-Mustaqīm

اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ

Guide us on the right path

(7) Key Word Analysis

(اِهْدِنا ihdinā[Guide us] is derived from هدَى [guidance]. It is said:

هَداهُ إِلى الطَّرِيقِ: بَيَّنَهُ لَهُ

He guided him to the path [he made it manifest to him];

هَدَى الْعُرُوسَ إِلَى بَعْلِها:زَفَّها إِلَيْهِ

He led the bride to her husband;

هَدَى فُلَانًا : تَقَدَّمَهُ

He led him.

It is also said:

جاءَتِ الْخَيْلُ يَهْدِيْها فَرَسٌ أَشْقَرُ أَيْ يَتَقَدَّمُها

the horses came, led by a red horse running in front.[1]

Thus, the word هدى (hudā) has three meanings: (1) to show the way; (2) to lead somebody to the way; (3) to accompany someone to their ultimate destination by leading the way.  

In the Holy Qur’an, the word هِدايَة (hidāyah) also has several meanings. One of the meanings is to instill the ability to do something and set that thing in motion. For instance, the Holy Qur’an says:

أَعْطَى كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلْقَهُ ثُمَّ هَدَى

That is to say, Allah the Exalted gave unto everything its proper form and then guided it to its proper function.[2]

The second meaning of the word hidāyah to be found in the Holy Qur’an is to invite towards guidance. For instance, Allah states:

وَجَعَلْنَا مِنْهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَهْدُونَ بِأَمْرِنَا

And We made from among them leaders, who guided the people to the Torah by Our command [3]

The third meaning of the word hidāyah is to lead someone to their destination as the Holy Qur’an states that those that will enter paradise will say:

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي هَدَانَا لِهَذَا

All praise belongs to Allah Who guided us to heaven and enabled us to reach it.[4]

Similarly, it also means to create affinity with the straight path as it states in the Holy Qur’an:

وَمَنْ يُؤْمِنْ بِاللَّهِ يَهْدِ قَلْبَهُ


And whoever believes in Allah completely, Allah the Exalted creates in their heart an affinity for guidance and so they begin to have a liking for good deeds.

This verse cannot mean ‘showing the right path’ because the believer has already found their path. Another meaning of hidāyah in the Holy Qur’an is success. In Sūrah an-Nūr, Allah mentions the hypocrites and says that although they affirm that if they were called for jihad, they would certainly go out to wage it, yet their actions are contrary to this. Then Allah says to these hypocrites, ‘Do not swear on oath. Instead show your obedience through your actions for Allah is well-aware of your actions’. Then Allah says ‘O Messenger, tell them, “Submit to Allah and His Messenger. If you disobey, in spite of this injunction, then you are responsible for your actions, and the Messenger is responsible for his. And remember that وَإِن تُطِيعُوهُ تَهۡتَدُواْۚ if you would obey the Messenger in respect of this injunction, you would suffer no loss, and would succeed.”’[6] Thus, the Holy Qur’an mentions:

الَّذِينَ اهْتَدَوْا زَادَهُمْ هُدًى 


Those who benefit from the guidance which God Almighty has bestowed on them are granted ever more guidance from Allah the Almighty.

The Holy Qur’an also makes it clear that hidayāh  is not the name of any one particular thing, rather there are unlimited levels to it.  At every level, there is another higher stage. Those who become the recipients of the grace of Allah the Almighty, are introduced into one stage of it after the other.

(صِراط ṣirāṭrefers to a path. This word is written with both ص and س i.e. صِراط ṣirāṭ or سِراط sirāṭ and refers to a clear path. Thus, there is an Arabic idiom سَرَطْتُ الطَّعامَ which means I swallowed the food with ease.  Moreover, a good and smooth path is called ṣirāṭ because a traveller, as it were, eats his way through the path.[8]

(مُسْتَقِيم mustaqīm) is derived from اِسْتِقامَة istiqāmah. In the Mufradāt [a dictionary of Qur’anic terms authored by the renowned 11th century scholar Imam Raghib] it states:

اَلْاِسْتِقامَةُ يُقالُ فِي الطَّرِيقِ الَّذِي يَكُونُ عَلى خَطٍّ مُسْتَوٍ، وَبِهِ شُبِّهَ طَرِيقُ المُحِقِّ نَحْوَ اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ

‘That is, the word istiqāmah refers to that path which is straight. For this reason, the path of the individual who is upright is also referred to as mustaqīm.’ [9] Therefore, this is the same meaning of mustaqīm found in the verse اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ.


[1] Aqrab-ul-Mawārid fī Fuṣaḥ al-‘Arabiyyah wa-al-Shawārid

[2] The Holy Qur’an, 20:51.

[3] The Holy Qur’an, 32:25.

[4] The Holy Qur’an, 7:44.

[5] The Holy Qur’an, 64:12.

[6] ‘And they swear by Allah their strongest oaths that, if thou command them, they will surely go forth. Say, ‘Swear not; what is required is actual obedience in what is right. Surely, Allah is well aware of what you do.’ Say, ‘Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger.’ But if you turn away, then upon him is his burden, and upon you is your burden. And if you obey him, you will be rightly guided. And the messenger is not responsible but for the plain delivery of the Message.’—The Holy Qur’an, 24:54-55.

[7] The Holy Qur’an, 47:18.

[8] Mufradāt

[9] Mufradāt