What Do People Usually Think About?
previous chapters, we mentioned that people do not think as they ought
and do not develop their faculty of thinking. Yet here there is an important
point that needs to be clarified. Surely certain things cross one's mind
every moment of one's life. There is almost no moment, save at times of
sleep, that the human mind is utterly blank. However, a great many of
these are useless, "futile" and "unnecessary" thoughts
that are of no avail in one's hereafter, that lead nowhere, and serve
one no good.
If someone tries to remember what he thought during the day and notes
it down, then looks over it at the end of the day, he would see how futile
are most of his thoughts. Even if he were to find some of it useful, he
would most likely be mistaken. For, on the whole, thoughts that seem correct
may not be of any use in the hereafter.
Just as people waste time dealing with futile things in their daily lives,
equally they spend time in vain carried away with futile thoughts. In
the verse "Successful indeed are the believers…who keep aloof from
what is vain…" (Surat al-Muminun: 3), Allah advises people to be
strong-willed in this area. Surely, this command of Allah holds true for
people's thoughts as well. This is because thoughts, unless we control
them consciously, continuously flow through our minds. One unconsciously
jumps from one thought to another. While thinking about the shopping one
will purchase on one's way home, all of a sudden one finds oneself thinking
about the things a friend told one two years ago. This uncontrolled and
useless thinking may go on uninterruptedly throughout the day.
Yet controlling thought is possible. Everyone possesses the ability to
think things that will improve him, his faith, mind, courtesy and his
In this chapter, we will mention what sorts of things heedless people
tend to think about in general. The reason these subjects are told in
detail is so that people who read this book may realise immediately, when
something similar to what is mentioned here crosses their minds as they
go to work or school or while doing something casual, that they are thinking
something useless. Therefore they might take their thoughts under control
and think things that are truly useful for them.
When one fails to control one's thoughts and direct them towards achieving
a good end, one may often feel apprehension or treat events that have
not happened as if they have occurred and become led astray by grief,
distress, worry and fear.
Someone who has a young person studying for a university exam, for example,
may make up scenarios before the exam takes place of what might happen
in the case that his child fails the exam. "If, in the future, my
son cannot find a good job and earn enough money, he will not be able
to marry. Even if he marries, how will he be able to afford the expenses
of a wedding? If he fails the exam, all the money spent on the preparatory
courses will have been wasted and, moreover, we will be disgraced in the
eyes of people. What if my best friend's son passes and my own son fails…?"
These misapprehensions go on and on. This person's son, however, has
not even taken the examination yet. Throughout his life, someone who is
distant from the religion cannot resist such useless worries. There is
surely a reason for it. In the Qur'an, it has been related that the reason
why people cannot be relieved of useless anxieties is their lending ear
to the whisperings of satan:
(Satan:) "Most certainly I will lead them astray
and excite in them vain desires…" (Surat an-Nisa: 119)
As seen in the above verse, he who is occupied with futile anxieties,
who forgets Allah and does not think clearly, is always open to the whisperings
of satan. In other words, if man, deceived by the life of the world, does
not exercise his will-power and act conscientiously and if he lets himself
drift in the course of events, he comes completely under the control of
satan. One of the most crucial patterns of behaviour of satan is his giving
people anxieties. Therefore, all misapprehensions, pessimism and anxieties
such as "what will I do if such-and-such happens" contrived
in the mind are caused by the whisperings of satan.
Allah shows people the way to save themselves from this situation. In
the Qur'an, Allah advises people that when an evil impulse from satan
provokes them, they should seek refuge in Allah and remember Him:
As for those who have taqwa, when they are bothered
by visitors from Satan, they remember and immediately see clearly. But
as for their brothers, the visitors lead them further into error. And
they do not stop at that! (Surat al-A'raf: 201-202)
As stated in the verse, someone who reflects sees what is right, and
someone who does not goes wherever satan drags him.
The important thing is to know that these thoughts will be of no use
to the person and will, on the contrary, hamper him from thinking the
truth, reflecting on important matters, and therefore purifying the mind
from these useless thoughts. Man can think properly only if he frees his
mind from futile thoughts. In this way, he "keeps aloof from what
is vain" as Allah commands in the Qur'an.