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Sins of the Imagination

Ustadh Salman Younas is asked about imaginings resulting from the words and ideas of others or to hadiths, and what these  might entail with regard to one’s faith.

 

Question:

 
Assalam alaykum wa rahamt Allah wa Barakatuh.

All I want to know is whether this way of imagining is sinful and the scale of sin for each case I described. And the case when it is a kind of normal reflex of the mind. When I think about something I hear on a Christian TV channel, like God needed to become a child in order to save mankind, I think within myself that this is extremely absurd because it would imply that God has passed through a female vagina and an image of an vagina that I may have seen in a biology book or somewhere else appears in my mind.

When I take ghusl I may remember that the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, did it the same and I may imagine a nude man. I may read hadiths that say that the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, was helped with water or stones by such and such a Sahabah during his personal needs in the toilet, and I may imagine a person half nude or full nude cleaning himself in the toilet.

I may read a hadith that says the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, was sick and I may imagine an old man with gray hair that is helped to stand up and drink medication on his bed.

I may think about death and a horrible image of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, or sahabah in the shape of a scary human skeleton appears to my mind saying to me this what the most beloved person on earth has become. Or I read a hadith that the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, slept with his wife and an image of a man symbolizing the prophet appears kissing and having intercourse with a woman. And it comes to me naturally as part of the normal process of thinking.

Is this manner or way of thinking and imagining sinful and what is the scale of sins for each case I described? What if a feeling of sexual pleasure abruptly appeared? Am I obliged to block this feeling of pleasure immediately to not otherwise I nullify my Islam? Am I also obliged to block immediately all those images even if I don’t have bad intentions or bad feelings in relation to them?
 

Answer:

 
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

To clarify at the outset, none of what you have described entails a nullification of faith, or kufr. You should remove this possibility from your mind altogether.

Similarly, such thoughts and images that come to your mind suddenly are not in and of themselves sinful. In an authentic tradition, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “God has overlooked (i.e. forgiven) for my community that which crosses their minds so long as they do not act upon it.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

For images to come to one’s mind when reading or hearing about certain things is natural to human beings. Sometimes, what one imagines is appropriate and blameless, while on other instances it is inappropriate. In the latter case, we are not held to account for uncontrolled and sudden thoughts that occur in the mind, but we should dispel them once they occur.

Thus, if you read something about the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, such as his manner of taking a bath, and an image of a naked man comes to mind, this is not sinful but you should try and divert your thoughts away from imagining this. Especially when it comes to thoughts of a potential sinful nature, such as sexual thoughts, it is even more necessary to move on from these thoughts as soon as they occur by seeking God’s refuge.

With that said, you need to be careful not to obsess over this as it may put you in a state of perpetual anguish and cause severe misgivings. As I mention above, thoughts of this nature are simply part of our being human. You should not dwell too much on it.

Salman

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


 

 

Bringing to Mind Graphic Blasphemy

Shaykh Jamir Meah explains the rulings on blasphemous thoughts presented to one in discourse.

Can there ever be a cause that makes the bringing to mind of very graphic blasphemy (insulting images and actions of God that are very grave with sexuality and humiliation) permissible or halal? Like when it is sent to a scholar?

Does the simple fact that you read my question not mean that you imagined what you read – at least the sentences or maybe the entire act – in context?

It is possible to listen to, or read something, and understand the gist of what is being said without vividly imagining it in one’s head, particularly absurdities.  

If an image is inadvertently conceived in the mind, then it does require that it fall under a ruling of “permissibility,” etc., especially if it is discarded afterwards. One is not accountable for thoughts that occur unintentionally or that are presented to one without one seeking them.  

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, Allah forgives my nation those [evil inclinations] their souls may whisper or suggest to them, as long as they do not act (on it) or speak.” (Bukhari)

Certain images may be presented to scholars when listening to people’s psychological issues or when studying and refuting erroneous theological beliefs, or for example, therapists when treating patients with various disturbing thoughts. 

In these cases, it is permissible to listen, read, attempt to understand and discuss what is being said, with the intention of confronting the issues people are struggling with and finding a solution, or in order to expose and disprove false beliefs. Indeed, it may be obligatory to do so and rewarded as such. However, even here, one limits oneself to what is necessary to fulfill the need at hand, and not enter into and engage in blameworthy discussions. And Allah knows best.  

Warmest salams,

Jamir

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Types of Thought, Blasphemy, and Sin

Shaykh Farid Dingle is asked about the categories of thoughts and what to do when one has blasphemous thoughts or imaginings.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I heard that there are three kind of thoughts. Intentional thoughts, innocent thoughts, and thoughts due to disease. If someone were to imagine blasphemy would he commit a major sin or minor sin?

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Dear questioner,

It is true that thoughts can be of different types and different origins.

Some thoughts may be purely divine, in that they are thoughts of the divine oneness (tawhid), or thoughts of Allah’s perfections. Others are angelic, and these are thoughts that encourage one to do good actions. Some are just neutral, like thoughts about what a word might mean or where you are going to park you car. Another group are evil thoughts, which are either demonic, such as intentions to disobey Allah or deny Him, or egotistic, such as the drive for fame and food.

Another way to categorize thoughts as well is to look at how far one has followed that thought. Some thoughts, whether good or evil, are merely passing thoughts. For example, a believer might have a passing thought to commit a sin, or that Allah doesn’t exist, and seeks refuge from the Devil and ignores it and thereby earn reward with Allah.

The next level would be to dwell on the issue, and waver back and forward about doing a good or bad act. This is a deeper level of interaction. With good deeds, one shouldn’t waver, but rather go ahead and do it even if it seems paltry.

The stage after this is resolve (hamm). Here the slave resolves, for example, to get up for the night vigil prayer (tahajjud), or resolves to steal. Allah be our refuge!

By resolving to do something good, one actually earns a reward with Allah before even doing it. Ibn Abbas narrates that the Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him peace, said “Whoever resolves (hamma) to do a good deed, and then does not do it, Allah will write it down as one complete good deed. If he resolves to do a good deed and then does it, Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, will write it down between ten and seven hundred fold, or many more. If he resolves to do a bad deed and then he does not do it, Allah will write it down as one complete good deed. And if he resolves to do a bad deed and then does it, Allah will write it down as one bad deed.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

So, yes there are different levels of thoughts, and they do have different moral weights, but we are not held accountable for passing thoughts if we acknowledge those that are bad and discard them immediately.

As for the categorizing a bad thought into a major or minor sin, there is no practical benefit in it. The differentiation between major and minor sins is a purely theological debate, and only has any significance in court when the judge is looking to see who is or is not an upright witness.

If a Muslim plays with sinful thoughts, they should just seek forgiveness and that is it. They should not linger on whether or not it is a major or minor sin.

I would also be wary of visiting websites of Muslims who do not abide by traditional Sunni scholarship. We love and respect all people and all Muslims, but we should only take our religion from those who represent traditional Sunni Islam.

I pray this helps.

Farid

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.