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.