Am I Wrong To Believe That Involuntary Thoughts Are Actually Voluntary?

Answered by Mawlana Ilyas Patel


I’ve read an article that mentions that after the revelation of verse 284 of the Surat al-Baqara, some companions went to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and talked to him regarding the accountability of a Muslim for his involuntary thought that crosses his mind. The term “involuntary” has been mentioned in that article.

But I don’t believe that thoughts that cross one’s mind are “involuntary” thoughts; instead, I think such thoughts are voluntary, but they “seem” to be involuntary because these are fast thoughts. So, my question is, did the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) approve of the idea that these thoughts that cross one’s mind are indeed “involuntary,” and am I disbelieving something that I must believe?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

I pray you are well. Thank you for your question.

Yes, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) approved that the human mind can go through two types of thoughts: voluntary and involuntary. The anxiety of the companions was one would be held accountable for involuntary thoughts, just like one would be responsible for voluntary thoughts. So, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) removed this very anxiety that one who has involuntary thoughts will not be held accountable; one has to listen to His commands and obey them. And they say, “We hear and obey” [Quran, 2:284]

Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Verily, Allah has pardoned my nation for what occurs within themselves, as long as they do not speak of it or act upon it.” [Bukhari]

It refers to involuntary thoughts that enter the human heart without choice; they would still keep coming even if one tried to stop them. Imam Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) said what is intended are initial thoughts that are not settled. [Nawawi, Adhkar al-Muntakhaba; Mufti Shafi, Ma’arif al-Quran]

A Reader on OCD and Waswasa (Baseless Misgivings)

May Allah safeguard us from all kinds of evil thoughts, voluntary and involuntary, amin

I pray this helps with your question.
[Mawlana] Ilyas Patel
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Mawlana Ilyas Patel is a traditionally-trained scholar who has studied in the UK, India, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. He started his early education in the UK. He went on to complete the hifz of the Quran in India, then enrolled in an Islamic seminary in the UK, where he studied the secular and ‘Aalimiyya sciences. He then traveled to Karachi, Pakistan. He has been an Imam in Rep of Ireland for several years. He has taught hifz of the Quran, Tajwid, Fiqh, and many other Islamic sciences to children and adults onsite and online extensively in the UK and Ireland. He taught at a local Islamic seminary for 12 years in the UK, where he was a librarian and a teacher of Islamic sciences. He currently resides in the UK with his wife. His interest is a love of books and gardening.