Shaykh Yahya Rhodus reflects on the act of consideration, of thinking things through before you act, and how it is framed in the Qur’an and Sunna.
The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said:
التأني من الله والعجلة من الشيطان
Consideration is from Allah and haste is from the devil. (Bayhaqi)
We find an alternative narration of the hadith narrated by Tirmidhi. They are similar in meaning and language as well. Another version reads: “Having clarity about things (or making sure that one knows the true nature of something) is from Allah.” So be clear about things and make sure you know about things before you judge them.
The word ta’ni stems from the root in the Arabic language a’na/ya’ni and it connotes the idea of maturing, becoming ripe, and that also in relation to time: “The time for something has come.”
If we look at these two nouns a’na and ta’ni translated here as consideration or deliberation, but it also has meanings of preservation and patience.
Think before You Act
The idea behind this hadith is that we think about things well before we do them. If we think about things that we do, we are conscious. We have an intention behind things that we do. When I do things – fully considered before I do it – it is not impulsive. That is, we do things in a thoughtful, careful, unhurried way – over a period of time as opposed to quickly – and with sensitivity to others. All of these meanings are packed in to this one Arabic word.
Even the other narrations that have these other words for example “al tabayun.” This is when things become clear, its to ascertain and seek to ascertain something.
This word tathabut means to consider carefully. As we will see there is a verse that relates to this. Lets look at some of the meanings and benefits of this hadith. We must see this hadith and all the hadith of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, as advice of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace: “There is no good except that He told us about it. And there is no evil except that He warned us from it.”
If It Is from Allah It Is Good
Here this is a great blessing. Our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is informing us of our reality and anything that is from Allah must be good and anything that is from the devil must be evil.
The meaning from this sense is that Allah is pleased with it and He will reward for it. And the intellect is the distinguishing feature of the children of Adam. In other words, to act in accord with the intellect is to act according to what is pleasing to Allah.
To not do so is to fall short and it is to fall victim to the plots of the devil. What we are warned about here is ‘ajala. This translates as haste.
Let’s think for a moment about haste and the nature of our nafs, our lower soul. One of the contentions of Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad is “Haste is usually the consequence of sloth not of diligence.”
Often times when we are hasty, if we would tear back the layer and see what’s really taking place deep within the heart, it is because we are spiritually lazy. We don’t want to take the time necessary to look into, to ascertain, to carefully consider what it is we should be doing.
The Irony of Fate
The irony of this whole thing is, in our attempt to be hasty and to get things done quickly, often times it causes more problems for us and we end up having to put in more energy as a result and thus that we have the English proverb, “Haste makes waste.”
In other words we don’t really save time by working too fast. By hurrying, you will make mistakes, and you have to take extra time either correcting what you did wrong or to do the job again. And there is a similar proverb in Arabic that says: “How many times did haste actually make you waste more time.”
We know that this is a part of how we are, Allah says in Sura al Anbiya 21:7: “Man was created of haste. I shall show you my signs so do not demand that I hasten.”
This is the way Arabs say, “If someone is so generous it is as if they have been created from generosity and because human beings are constantly and continuously so hasty is that it is as if we have been created from haste.”
This is a part of the human experience but our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is giving us this overarching principal. Its general application covers so many different aspects of our lives. We are going to speak about:
- 1. Decision making
- 2. Judgements
- 3. Worship
Deliberation before Decision
As for decision making, this is one of the most important that aspects of this hadith, how it is that we make decisions. Even though there is lots of research and lots of books that are coming out that get into a lot of details of when we need to make quick decisions and when we need to make very thoughtful decisions.
The general principal of this hadith and how that applies to the vast majority of our affairs.
We are encouraged to really think things through before we make a decision. In other words, haste will prevent consideration and prevent deliberation. What we mean by consideration and deliberation more importantly is reflecting on the end result of things and that will require intellectual strength.
What is going to be the end result of what I do?
Ibn Khayyim comments on this hadith. He notes that haste leads someone to putting something in its improper place. It could potentially prevent much good and bring about much harm and it is a trait of character that stems from an imbalance.
Desire Matures through Deliberation
It is a desire for things to happen before their time, this is where we could take it back to the linguistic root of the word ‘ana ya’ni’ which is to mature, to become ripe. There are certain things that you cant do at other than its given time. That you try to pick a fruit too early, its not going to taste right, likewise if you try to give something to someone too early that maybe they are not ready to receive it. And so forth and so on.
Things have an appropriate time and that one of the companions said: “If we try to be hasty, what will end up happening is we will constantly be afflicted with remorse.”
At this level of decision making we are considered to think things through and to deliver it. And we have been gifted with istikhara and praying the prayer whereby we can come to know whether this is something we should do or not. This all takes time.
Implications of Consideration
Often times we find people don’t reflect on the consequences of things. They don’t reflect on the potential outcomes especially that in many of the modern innovations that we have, such as genetic engineering, cloning and many different types of technology.
We are playing with things that we do not know the result of. These things are going to be. But just because it is possible doesn’t mean that we should do it. This is also interlinked with impatience and the way of life these days that is unsustainable.
The reality is that we have more access to knowledge now in many ways than we did previously. Outward forms of knowledge. We don’t have a way to process that knowledge and from here we can understand another contention of Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad: “Today we grow up quickly but into something childish.” It is as if we are like children. This is the nature of children, to act impulsively.
This hadith also applies to our interactions with people. Allah says in Sura al Hujurat 49:6: “O you who believe, if a fasiq comes to you, ascertain. Verify what he is saying. You might afflict a person through ignorance and thus be remorseful for what you did.”
Damage Done By Incomplete Information
How many times have people brought us that part of the story that if we were to look into the entire story we wouldn’t have had the same opinion? How many times have fights broken out or bad opinions resulted in a damaged relationship as a result of people telling other people things.
Or bringing them other news about other things that people have done, or said or of that nature. It is what Allah is speaking to the people of faith: If someone who cant be trusted comes to you, with some type of news, ascertain what they are saying and verify it and make sure that we don’t fall into something that we shouldn’t as a result.
Here being hasty in terms of viewing other people and understanding the situation and judging between a husband and his wife trying to resolve a dispute between them we need to deliver it.
Hasten to Worship, Not Through
Also it applies to worship. If we are hasty, there is something about the celebrity culture that we live in the instant gratification of the nafs that goes along with that, the people then also apply this to the religious sphere.
People often times prefer to be entertained. They don’t want to roll up their sleeves and do the real work, to do service, and to work on their lower self and to struggle.
People are also quick when they learn just a little, they want to have a platform where they can speak to other people and so forth.
In previous times it was expected that people were grounded in knowledge, before they do this. There was an idea of mastery and we know that some have estimated that it would take 10,000 hours to master anything. This is one the tricks of Shaytan in worship as well. He wants us to hasten in our worship, do it quickly and get it over with.
There are two types of haste:
- 1. Blameworthy haste is doing something before its time. Doing something without proper deliberation and consideration.
- 2. Praiseworthy haste is doing something in its right time. “Hasten to the forgiveness of your Lord.” “Indeed they used to hasten to do good things.”
This is something that is praiseworthy: to hasten to do good. In other words that you were motivated to take on a life in learning and worship and do what is right. But when it comes to decision making and our interaction with people and worship and learning, the words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, apply.
Consideration is really important here, there are times we have to respond in a split second. There are times we need to respond quickly. But the general principle is we need to deeply consider the things before we do them. We need to deliberate before we act.
This is from God. This will lead to the pleasure of God. It will lead to Him rewarding us.
May Allah give us tawfiq and bless us to be people of consideration and deliberation and be people who receive the divine contentment.
The Content of Character podcast is brought to you by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus of Al-Maqasid Institute, and powered by SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary. Listen to this episode in full on the SeekersHub website, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Android, or RSS.