Question: this verse (34:50) looks wrong and confusing?
In Sura 34:50, Muhammad is commanded to say the following:
Say: ÂIf I go astray, I go astray only to my own loss; if I am guided, it is by what my Lord reveals to me. He is All-hearing, Ever-nigh.Â Arberry
Say: "If (even) I go astray, I shall stray to my own loss. But if I remain guided, it is because of the Inspiration of my Lord to me. Truly, He is AllHearer, Ever Near (to all things)." Hilali & Khan
Say: "If I am astray, I only stray to the loss of my own soul: but if I receive guidance, it is because of the inspiration of my Lord to me: it is He Who hears all things, and is (ever) near." Yusuf Ali.
قُلْ إِن ضَلَلْتُ فَإِنَّمَا أَضِلُّ عَلَى نَفْسِي وَإِنِ اهْتَدَيْتُ فَبِمَا يُوحِي إِلَيَّ رَبِّي إِنَّهُ سَمِيعٌ قَرِيبٌ
The error in this verse should be obvious to anyone pondering this statement for a little bit. The issue here is not whether, objectively, Muhammad went astray or was guided; Muslims and non-Muslims will continue to disagree about that. This verse is logically wrong, independent of whether Muhammad was guided or not.
My Answer: You have to examine the verse that came before:
34:49 Say: "The Truth has arrived, and Falsehood neither creates anything new, nor restores anything." قُلْ جَاء الْحَقُّ وَمَا يُبْدِئُ الْبَاطِلُ وَمَا يُعِيدُ
The falsehood neither creates new, nor restores anything. So If Muhammad (PBUH) went astray he will not go anywhere (he will be the first to look astray, he will just fold on himself and will not create or restore anything). But if he is holding the truth and he looked guided (thousands of Muslims at his time and 1.3 billion Muslims now can attest to that) it is a proof that he is holding the truth. The verse did not say I will guide myself, because if he looks guided he will guide a lot with him. Verse 50 also mentioned God hear all things and is ever near because this is essential for guidance. So verse 49 is preparing you to understand verse 50. One of the linguistic miracles for those who study the Quran is to express a big idea in few words.