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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.


 

 

Is It Disbelief to Picture God in One’s Mind as Understood by Other Religions?

Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Question: Assalamu alaykum

Is it disbelief for a muslim to denounce christianity by thinking within himself that if God had a son that would imply that God has a genital organ like that of human beings and to bring to his mind the exact image of a human genital organ in the context that God would have that if he had a son?

Answer: As-salamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh.

I pray you are well.

Consolation from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace)

There is nothing to worry about. Finding that you have such thoughts and feelings revolted by them is something which people better than us experienced. Some of the Companions went to the Messenger of Allah and said, ‘We find that we have have thoughts too terrible for us to express!’ He said, ‘Is this really the case?’ ‘Yes!’ they responded, at which he said, ‘That is clear faith!’ (Muslim).

The intent of the hadith is that the disgust at having such thoughts is the appropriate reaction anyone with true faith would have. In fact, the advice of the great Moroccan saint, Mawlana al-Arabi al-Darqawi, is for you to actually feel happy when you have such thoughts (al-Rasaʾil al-Darqawiyya).

Why, you ask? Such thoughts originate from the Devil. He is envious of all humans – especially those who believe in Allah. This is faith that makes you loath these thoughts is a ticket to a place where there is no pain, no sadness, no loneliness, no fatigue, no effort, even: Paradise. Allah has promised it to all believers.

This is why you should be happy. Thanking Allah for your faith will help you much more than worrying about whether it is a sin. If you can’t control a thought you are not questionable for it. Do this and they should disappear.

What to do if they persist

If you do not find any improvement then you should look into some from of therapy, such as those mentioned in this answer. Intrusive thoughts are a form of O.C.D. which can be treated.

May Allah give you the best of both worlds.

Wassalam,
[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 to study and sit at the feet of some of the most erudite scholars of our time.

Over the following eighteen months he studied a traditional curriculum, studying with scholars such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish.

In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years, in Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, Theology, Hadith Methodology and Commentary, Shama’il, and Logic with teachers such as Dr Ashraf Muneeb, Dr Salah Abu’l-Hajj, Dr Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr Mansur Abu Zina amongst others. He was also given two licences of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabr and Shaykh Yahya Qandil.

His true passion, however, arose in the presence of Shaykh Ali Hani, considered by many to be one of the foremost tafsir scholars of our time who provided him with the keys to the vast knowledge of the Quran. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic Sciences, Tafsir, Arabic Grammar, and Rhetoric.

When he finally left Jordan for the UK in 2014, Shaykh Ali gave him his distinct blessing and still recommends students in the UK to seek out Shaykh Abdul-Rahim for Quranic studies. Since his return he has trained as a therapist and has helped a number of people overcome emotional and psychosomatic issues. He is a keen promoter of emotional and mental health.

Am I Sinful for Experiencing Unintentional ‘Images’ of God?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: When I was a child, someone showed me an image (of a person) and said ‘that’s God’. Since that time, I have flashbacks of this image when I think of the name ‘Allah’.

Is there any way that I can remove this image from my mind, and am I sinful for having this image in my mind?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

This is not sinful because they are images that your mind unintentionally produces during these moments.

The important thing is that your belief regarding God is one that recognizes His complete transcendence, that He is not a form, person, or in any way similar to human beings.

I would advise you to continue in your worship and remembrance of God. Eventually, as the heart of an individual is purified through sincere acts of worship, the traces of the world, which include these “images”, will disappear. Try your best to ignore them for now and when they do arise recognize that God does not take you to account for things not completely in your control, such as some of the thoughts you might have.

Salman

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani