The Quran 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 Quran 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 Quran, is a source of both guidance and misguidance? The reason is not in the Quran 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 Quran or be misled by it.
Those who read the Quran with a positive mind, or with a questing spirit, will find the truth in its pages. Such people read the Quran with an open mind. When the Quran 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 Quranic statements are in consonance with their own nature. They instantly, and without any reservations, accept the truth of what is propounded in the Quran.
But there are others who are of a different, a more negative cast of mind, whose reading of the Quran produces different results. They read the Quran 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 Quran, on the basis of which they may claim that the Quran endorses their own personal ideas.
Those who read the Quran 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 state-controlled economy. While he was studying the Quran, 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 mislead by careless misinterpretation of the Quran. 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 Quran 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 Quran was a book of socialist philosophy and that Karl Marx had only reiterated the Quranic philosophy in modern terms.