Thinking is Like Breathing ( It Cannot be Stopped) – 5 Stages of Thoughts

Struggling Against Evil Inclinations, Thoughts And Desires

It is known that actions are originally thoughts which occur in the mind. These thoughts then turn into desires. Thereafter, these desires become firm intentions and, finally, these firm intentions are transformed into actions. From this you could conclude the importance of thoughts. If there is correctness of thoughts, then desires and actions will be correct and, similarly, if there is corruption in thoughts, then this will lead to evil desires and actions. According to the Hadith Sharif, Allah Ta’ala overlooks thoughts as long as these thoughts are not given practical expression.

There are five stages in thoughts, viz.

  1. Hâjis – This is a thought which in the beginning produces no reaction in the nafs.
  2. Khatir – If one fails to eliminate the hajis thought and it establishes its presence in the nafs, but the nafs does not give it practical expression, then this thought enters the Khátir stage.
  3. Hadithun nafs – In this stage the nafs ponders whether it should put into action or negate the thought which has established itself without giving preference to any side.
  4. The law regarding these three stages is that there is no punishment if the thought is evil and no reward if the thought is good.
  5. Hamm – In this stage the nafs partially inclines to one side (i.e. whether to commit or shun the act). In this stage reward is given if the thought is good and punishment if evil.
  6. ‘Azm – In this stage a decision is made to give practical expression. Reward and punishment are applicable to this stage as well. (Shariah and Tasawwuf)

Man cannot cause death to his thought nor can he put a stop to it because thoughts are like breath, without which a person cannot live. Therefore, it is essential to remedy and rectify thoughts. This is more simpler than rectifying desires and actions. To rectify evil thoughts in the beginning is much more easier than to discontinue them after they have been established. For this reason, the famous spiritual heart surgeon, Ibne Qayyim (Rahmatullahi alaihi) has advised us: “Save yourself from establishing shaytân in the house of your thoughts because he will ruin and destroy it to such an extent that it will be difficult to repair it. Shaytán will fling at you various types of destructing temptations and thoughts and he will intervene between you and beneficial thoughts.”

Hereunder follows some ways whereby thoughts could be rectified:

  1. Absolute knowledge that Allah Ta’ala is surely acquainted and aware of these thoughts. To realise that like our actions, our thoughts also have to be according to the Pleasure and Command of Allah Ta’ala.
  2. To realize that evil and bad thoughts produce nothing except regret, shame and disgrace and nothing is achieved by them. They are like a hungry person who thinks of food and drink which he cannot eat or drink.
  3. An ardent desire to remove and repulse these evil thoughts from the mind gradually, and to replace it by creating good thoughts, like reflecting and pondering in the Blessings and Bounties of Allah Ta’ala on mankind. To think of the vices of the nafs and the shortcomings of A’mâl and ways of rectifying it. To think of ways and means of calling people towards goodness. To ponder about Jannah, Jahannum, death and the horrors of the Akhirah and to think about ways of living an upright life.

The following incident quoted by Maulana Siddique Ahmed Saheb Mudda Zilluhu illustrates how a student of Din rectified his evil thoughts: A divine narrates that a student was studying in the city of Dehli. This student lived in a masjid. In that locality, a young lady was on her way to visit some of her relatives when, incidentally, a riot broke out. The young lady could not find any place of refuge except this masjid. The night had already set in. When the student saw this young lady he excused himself and ordered her to leave the masjid. He told her: “It is not appropriate for you to remain here because if the local people see you here, then this will be a cause for my disgrace. They will remove me from the masjid and this will cause harm to my studies.” The young lady explaining her condition said: “A riot has broken out in the locality and if I leave the masjid I fear that I would be dishonoured.” The student kept quiet and asked her to sit in one corner.

Thereafter the student returned to his room and engaged himself in studying the whole night. While studying he continuously placed his finger tip on the flame of his lamp. The young lady carefully observed this. At the break of dawn the student told the young lady: “The riot has subsided and the road is safe. Let me take you to your home.” The young lady said: “I will not return home until you reveal to me the secret for repeatedly placing your finger tip on the flame of your lamp.” The student said: “You should not concern yourself with that”. Nevertheless, the young lady persisted with her request. The student finally said: “Shaytân repeatedly whispered into my heart and encouraged me to do evil with you. Hence, I placed my finger tip on the flame and addressed myself thus: When you cannot bear the heat of the fire of this world, then how will you ever bear the painful fire of Jahannum. Allah Ta’ala, through His Grace, protected me.”

Hearing this the young lady returned to her home. She was the daughter of a wealthy person and she was about to be engaged to the son of another wealthy person. After this incident she refused the proposal and said: “I desire to marry a certain student who lives in such and such a masjid.” Her parents and relatives tried to convince her and many began entertaining bad thoughts about her. When she observed this, she explained to them the whole incident and said: “I will only marry him because he has the fear of Allah Ta’ala in his heart and whoever fears Allah Ta’ala cannot cause harm to anyone.” Finally, she was married to that student and he became very wealthy.’ (Adaabul Muta’allimeen, pg 23)