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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.


 

 

Can We Send Blessings to the Prophet While Picturing Him Before Us?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: I was taught that when we say “assalamu alayka ayyuh al-nabi” it should be with the intention that our prayer is being conveyed by angels to the Prophet.

(a) Is it permissible to believe that we are directly addressing the Prophet in the sense that his soul is present before us?

(b) Can we say it while picturing the Prophet before us?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

I pray you are well.

(a) Leading scholars of the Hanafi school have stated that the formula “ayyuha al-nabi” is not uttered merely to recount an event wherein God sent blessings upon the Prophet (God bless him). Rather, it is stated with the intention that one is addressing the Prophet (God bless him) with blessings. [al-Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah (304)]

The outward purport of the formula “ayyuha al-nabi” implies such an address from the one praying to the Prophet (God bless him) himself. As Imam al-Nawawi stated, “and the one praying addresses him (God bless him) with his statement, ‘ayyuha al-nabi.” [al-Nawawi, Rawda al-Talibin (2:453)]

(b) If one wishes to “picture” the Prophet (God bless him) when stating this formula, this would be acceptable. In fact, some scholars have stated that prophetic practice itself may have entailed extracting an image of his person and addressing it with the formula in question. [al-Shirwani, Hashiya (2:48)]

As for the idea of the “soul being present before us”, then if this is in the manner of picturing or imagining described above, it would be permitted. Similarly, the belief that angels will convey the blessings is also valid and textually established.

Regarding the more controversial belief that soul of the Prophet (God bless him) is present before one when uttering such formula, all that can be said about it is that it is a matter that is possible as numerous scholars have stated. Indeed, the meeting of the various prophets (God bless him) during the Prophet’s (God bless him) night-journey to Jerusalem textually attests to this, in addition to the fact that the mind does not preclude its occurrence.

Does this entail that it is an actual occurrence for each and any individual? Not necessarily although people admittedly have different understandings when it comes to this “presence”, such as the Prophet (God bless him) being “effectively present” on account of being shown our deeds by God [al-Bazzar, Musnad (1:397)], or “present” in a barzakhi sense that is beyond the physical laws and limitations of this worldly realm and of which we possess limited knowledge.

In the end, what counts is the mindfulness and love that imbues our hearts when we utter this formula and all other statements in our prayer. The manner in which the Prophet (God bless him) is made aware of these blessings is ultimately inconsequential and should be of little concern to us; we know he is made aware and we know that his existence is (and, of course, has always been) unlike our own. Most things beyond this are distractions that become an excuse for individuals to engage in pointless polemics.

Please see also: Why do We Send Prayers of Peace & Blessings Upon the Beloved Prophet of God?

And Allah alone knows best.

Salman

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani