The Explanation of Guidance

It is said that ‘guidance’ here means clarification and identification, in other words, ‘to inform you of the traditions of those before you of the people of happiness and misery in order for you to follow one group and keep away from the other, just as He, exalted is He, said: “And We guided him to the two high paths.” (al-Balad 90:10) Ali Ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him and Ibn Masud said: ‘[It refers to] the path of guidance and misguidance’ while Mujahid said: ‘[It refers to] the path of happiness and misery; meaning, [Allah] has created mankind upon that, and informed mankind of that; it is all the same. The two high paths refer to the clear paths because of a ‘high path’ is whatever is raised from the earth. So the meaning is: ‘Have We not informed mankind of the path of good and evil and made it as clear to them as two high paths’, however the children of Adam have a share in the ‘guidance’, ‘clarification’ and ‘identification’ in this ayah, and they know it by their intellects.

As for the path of the Prophets, then it is essential that Allah communicates it, just as He said: “This is from the news of the Unseen that We reveal to you that neither you nor your people knew before this.” (Hud 11:49) However this requires that if this meaning is intended then He would have said: ‘Allah intends to clarify for you the traditions of those who were before you, and He would not need to mention ‘guidance’ since the meaning was implied. So considering that he mentioned that He wished to clarify and guide, it is known that this is not the same. So ‘to clarify’ is ‘identify’ and ‘teach’ and ‘guidance’ is ‘the commands and prohibitions’ and the invitation to goodness. Just as He, exalted is He, said: “And for each people is a guidance.” (al-Rad 13:7) in other words, an invitation, inviting them to goodness. Just as He, exalted is He, said: “And indeed you are guiding to a Straight Path.” (al-Shura 42:52) in other words, you are inviting them to it with a call of instruction.

Gardens of Purification by Ibn Taymiyyah Pages 55-57