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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.


Distinguishing Between Thoughts From Ourselves, Shaytan, and Allah

Answered by Shaykh Rami Nsour

Question: How can someone know the difference between thoughts from themselves, (nafs) shaytan, and Allah? For example, your nafs or shaytan can be telling you to respect yourself and do not allow anyone to oppress you and Allah can be guiding you to forgive others indefinitely.

Also, in the case of dreams, how would a person ascertain the distinction? Nafs, shaytan and Allah.

Thank you for any insight.

Answer:

The Spring Source of our actions

All of our actions spring forth from a thought that enters our heart and this is what makes knowing the science of thoughts (khawatir) so important [Muhammad Mawlud, The Purification of the Heart]. One of the most difficult tasks we face in our lives will be in weighing out each one of the thoughts that enters our heart and seeing which one we should follow. The scholars have given us a guideline as to how to tell the signs of the source of thoughts that enter our heart.

The Subtleties of Thoughts

A person may feel that following a thought may be good, but in reality there is much harm and evil buried deep within that thought. This is one of the ways the Shaytan deceives us in a way similar to the story of the Monk Barsisa in Sura 59:16 by wrapping the means to evil in seemingly “good” actions.

We must realize the the Shaytan has declared war on us and thus we should not be hasty in action and we must weigh each thought on the scales of the Sharia. The doors that the Shaytan can enter through the heart are many and yet the angels enter through only one and so we must be very careful [Muhammad Mawlud, The Purification of the Heart].

The Four Sources of Thoughts

There are four sources of thoughts and they are Divine (from Allah), Angelic (from angels), Selfish (from the nafs) and Satanic (from the devil). Divine and Angelic thoughts are characterized by steadfastness (thabat) while Selfish and Satanic thoughts are characterized by fluctuation/change (taraddud).

Divine Thoughts

Divine thoughts come after struggle and worship. There is a coolness that comes with it and there is not one specific way that it comes. The thought increases just as dawn does, in that it is slowly steadily and surely. There is nothing that can stop a Divine thought and the action that is being inspired will definitely be done. This in contrast to an Angelic thought which can be stopped by a Selfish or Satanic thought.

Angelic Thoughts

Angelic thoughts come enjoining only good and will never enjoin evil. Angelic thoughts will try different avenues to get a person to do good. For example, they will enjoin prayer and if the person does not do it then they will give them thoughts to do dhikr and then if that is not done a thought to be silent. There is a coolness that comes with an angelic thought and an expansiveness felt in the heart.

Selfish Thoughts

If a thought of evil enters a person heart but they are not compelled to do it, then it is either a selfish of a satanic thought. A selfish thought is described to be like the false dawn in that it appears suddenly and is very bright to where one would think that the day has begun. But just as quickly as it appears, it goes away and only the darkness of night remains.

Satanic Thoughts

Satanic thoughts are like a wolf trying to attack a flock of sheep in that if the wolf is turned back from one avenue, he will try another avenue. The only goal of the devil is to get a person to sin and he doesn’t care what the sin looks like. So, if one thought for a sin doesn’t work, then he tries something else. Whereas the self only wants to fulfill its desire (shahwa) and thus it will keep coming back to the exact same thing it wants, no matter how many times you turn it away from that.

If you get a thought that you are sure there is good in it and you do not fear any harm to come out of it, then it is either a selfish or devilish thought. This is because some good things can lead to bad such as forbidding evil and it lead to a greater harm. Both the Selfish and Satanic thoughts can be refuted with remembrance of Allah (dhikr) but dhikr is a medicine that will only benefit one you have built up immunity, which here would be taqwa.

The above answer is essentially a direct translation of the section on thoughts from Shaykh Muhammad Mawlud’s book The Purification of the Heart.

As for dreams, Allah knows best, but they too can come from the four sources.

If you are finding difficulty in doing good actions, this is a good sign as the scholars have said, “One of the signs of acceptance of actions is difficulty found while doing them.” Keep trying and do not ever give up. The Shaytan wants us to be in a state of despair and think that we have to give up. There is one scholar in Mauritania who studied the Mukhtasar of Khalil eight times (each time taking about three years) until he felt he finally go it on the ninth time.

He was inspired to go for the final time after almost giving up but he saw an ant trying to carry a huge grain up a hill and fell down eight times and made it on the ninth. He said, “I can’t have less aspiration than an ant.”

Fantacizing About Schoolmates

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Question: Assalam Alaikum. Is it allowed to fantasize about a boy you like in the school?

 

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

Dear Seeker,

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

Generally, we are not held accountable for our thoughts. It is our actions that will count for us or against us. Nonetheless, it is part of Islamic adab to not entertain thoughts of impermissible actions.

However, given the fact that you are young and probably have not had much exposure to members of the opposite sex, you probably find this young man interesting and even fascinating. In a sense, these feelings can be healthy because they might induce you to consider what sort of person you’d find attractive as a marriage partner.

If anything, try to direct your thoughts and feelings in productive ways. Ask yourself why you find this person more interesting than others. Also consider how these fantasies are affecting your spiritual and psychosocial well-being. For example, are you still diligent about praying? Are you still functioning productively?

Finally, ask yourself if you are ready for marriage. Although we live in a culture that encourages people to put marriage off until almost midlife, it is important to respect the feelings you’re experiencing and perhaps begin to lay the ground for life as a married adult.

May Allah reward you,

Zaynab Ansari

Related Answers:

Getting Therapy for Irreligious Thoughts

Are We Held Accountable for Mere Thoughts of Sinning if We Don’t Act on Our Thoughts?

Fantasizing About the Opposite Sex