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Innate Guidance
Junaid bin Jahangir


The following discussion has been taken from the Discussion Forums of Studying Islam (, one of our sister websites. While Jhangeer Hanif1 is the moderator of this discussion, Junaid Bin Jahangir has compiled it for publication in the journal (Editor).



Great care has been taken to make the following discussion fluid for the general readers. The dialogue, moderated by Jhangeer Hanif, has been kept intact in content but structurally modified for the purposes of brevity and clarity. The original discussion, which appears in two separate locations, can be accessed from the course titled ‘Revelation of the Qur’an’ at our sister website ‘’.


 Jhangeer Hanif: The belief that man is not blind as far as guidance is concerned places him in a more responsible position. He should know that he will be questioned about his actions in this life, on the basis of this inherent guidance, even when he has somehow been alienated from revealed guidance.

Aslam: How can we prove that man has been given inherent guidance?

Jhangeer Hanif: This needs no proof. This is why it is innate or inherent. It is accepted across the world with no plausible difference of opinion. Some people, sometimes, deviate from this inherent guidance but mankind has always acted according to the rights and wrongs defined by innate guidance. For instance, all religious and other circles have always condemned lying, oppression, and dishonesty.

Ayesha: Our conscience and faculties of reasoning are our innate guidance.

Jhangeer Hanif: More appropriately, conscience and the reasoning faculty should be considered as tools and not guidance itself. Conscience, in addition, tells us whether what we have done is right or wrong. It is pleased on good actions and keeps condemning us for evil deeds.

Haroon: If every human being has this universal sense, then why did the Roman and Greek civilizations, which spanned centuries, not forbid homosexuality. Also, East Asian cultures, comprising nearly 1/5th of total current population, do not find eating of dogs abhorrent. How do these examples relate with an internal register that is supposed to be universal?

Also, if this sense is so universally acknowledged and agreed upon, why does our conscience ‘die’ if we don’t keep using it? If something is very obvious to me, I should not need practice to maintain its life, for instance, vision.

How do we know that we do not learn this innate guidance? Adults are, to a great degree, shaped by events that happen in their childhood. For example, polygamy would seem odd for a secular American but quite normal for a Saudi Arabian Muslim. These are effects of education and environment. I do agree that there is an inherent, innate human nature, that is changeless and universal, but it is restricted to only a few basic conceptions (family, violence, and spirituality etc).

Ronnie: The vilest of criminals admit knowing wrong from right; however, they do not heed their conscience. It is without a doubt that even things that can be ‘natural’ must be practiced and perfected. People might be born fast for track and field; however, if they don’t train and stay fit that gift will do them no good.

If something is not nourished, it tends to dull or die out. This is not limited to individual situations but rather to entire societies. The Greeks were never as open about homosexuality as is popularly promoted, and so it can be argued whether their innate guidance dulled over time. Homosexuality is pretty much abhorred by almost all societies of the world and has only recently gained acceptance in very few parts of the world. Could it be that moral degradation is taking over thus dulling our sense of guidance? I don’t think this differs much when it comes to people eating certain things, regardless of the population size.

If we have a strong well-trained innate guidance then whatever shortcomings we have, revealed guidance will help. If we have allowed our innate guidance to become blunt then revealed guidance may rattle our senses and get us back into step.

AminahStar: In the case of homosexuality, if one chooses to disregard innate guidance and entertain bad thoughts, one would initially feel bad, and guilt may return one to the correct frame of mind. However, if one persists and ignores that guilt, gradually innate guidance would cease to function. Thus, it is a gradual process that breaks down our innate guidance, and I think a gradual process can also restore it.

As far as polygamy is concerned, I feel that this is part of revealed guidance, not innate guidance.

Haroon: Many of my non-Muslim friends are impressed with Islam, but argue that if all religions stem from the same source, why follow one or the other? If all morality is universally acknowledged, then any religion can ‘remind’?

Ronnie: Not all religions stem from the same source. Studying the sources of other religions indicates that they have been modified with time. Indeed other religions may remind but that doesn’t mean all religions correct the deviation. Also, religion isn’t only guidance for morality; there is the element of belief. Therefore, believing wrong may mislead one from the correct path.

Jhangeer Hanif: Your individual sense of right and wrong is not isolated from your society; but it does not mean you are completely dependant on your society since you also have the divine spark within your soul as it was instilled within the first couple.

AminahStar: In the case of eating unappealing items, I don’t think our innate guidance helps us distinguish right from wrong, and so we must rely on revealed guidance.

Jhangeer Hanif: If we have to rely on revealed guidance in matters of food, why do we not find an exhaustive list of the forbidden and allowed items? Why does the Holy Qur’an claim that all good things have been made lawful for us, without ever explaining them?

Ayesha: The very fact that an exhaustive list of good things has not been given makes some of the things debatable. Thus in the absence of clear prohibition, should not eatables be left to the taste and preferences of a society?

Jhangeer Hanif: ‘They ask you (O Muhammad) what is made lawful for them. Say: (all) good things are made lawful for you’. ( the Qur’an, 5:4)

You may note in this Qur’anic verse that the stress is on allowing all good things that man usually eats. The Holy Qur’an only prohibited those things about which there was doubt, for instance, pork, carrion and blood. Even in these times, a majority of people do not adorn their dining tables with ‘vultures’ or ‘donkeys’ cooked in corn oil!

I understand there is some deviation, but it does not have the support of all mankind and can be traced to some point of history back where it originated. For instance, people know that ‘Mini Skirts’ have not always been worn in the west. A few decades back, western ladies wore as much a proper dress as any practicing Muslim lady would want to.

AminahStar: In an article called Natural Food-Meat and Human Evolution found at it states ...As a result, ‘meat’ for our distant ancestors, was anything that moved - birds, rodents, lizards, turtles, grubs, animals of all kinds. This article also claims that larger animals were not introduced in to the human diet until recently in human history. Therefore, can it really be assumed that our distant ancestors were guided by conscience to eat certain meats and not others?

Jhangeer Hanif: You may get this picture by reading such evolutionary hypotheses but certainly human history and religious scriptures give a quite different picture. We know from the Holy Qur’an and other scriptures that both Adam (sws) and Eve (sws) interacted with the Almighty. Do you think they were like animals and ate like beasts? Of course, not!

Our ancestors were guided people and they were one single community. It was only with the passage of time that they differed on various matters and so the Almighty sent His Prophets to guide them. Thus, how can we rely on divine guidance to the exclusion of innate guidance when we are not given a complete list of forbidden things?


The discussion on innate guidance was channelled through the examples of edibles, homosexuality, dress code and polygamy. Each individual starting from Adam and Eve have been endowed with innate guidance. Thus, since the first couple was under the direct guidance of the Almighty, unusual behaviour, no matter how significant, in terms of eating or sexual preferences can be categorized as a deviation. Another important point mentioned was that while this innate guidance needs constant nurturing, divine guidance can return the astray to the right.

Many will not agree with the above, especially those who uphold evolutionary concepts over and above religious scriptures. A rebuttal might be formed along the lines of mutation as a cause of genetic change. Perhaps a question on homosexuality emerging from quite normal and religious backgrounds might be a cause of concern as well. Hence, the readers are encouraged to make up their own mind on this subject.

However, for the compiler one thing remains quite clear - the inevitable journey, which everyone must take. Before that stark consideration all ifs and buts lose their ground, and one cannot but feel helpless. It is such a realization that keeps one bound to the law despite the trying inability at times to grasp the full intent of the scriptures. Thus, no matter whether we agree with the above explanations or not, given the imminent path, we must stand our moral ground and return to the right at each instance of failure.







1. The points elaborated by the moderator are entirely based on the research works of Mr Javed Ahmed Ghamidi.

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