The Heart is Never Void of Thoughts – Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah

When you reject an idea that comes to you, that which is after it would be rejected. But when you accept it, it would be a wandering thought, then it would prey upon the will, and with the help of the thought, they would use the body. If it is difficult to be used, they would both turn to the heart with hope and lust, and you would direct it to what is desired.

It is a well known fact that reforming ideas is easier than reforming thoughts, and reforming thoughts is easier than reforming will, and reforming will is easier than amending the evil of a deed, and amending it is easier than putting an end to habits.

The best medicine therefore, is to preoccupy yourself with things that concern you, away from that which does not concern you, because thinking about things that do not concern you is the beginning of all evil things. Whoever thinks about that which does not concern him, would miss that would concerns him, and he would be preoccupied with something that contains no good, far away from the best thing for him.

Therefore, thoughts, ideas, will and intention are the best things you should reform in yourself, because they are your characteristics and your reality, with which you can be closer to or away from your Lord, without whose nearness and Pleasure, you would never find happiness. And all misfortunes are because of your being away from Him and His displeasure with you. Whoever is low and despicable in his ideas and the domain of his thoughts, would be the same in the rest of his concerns.

Be careful not to make it possible for Satan to control your thoughts and will for he would ruin them for you to the extent that it would be very difficult for you to make them right. He would throw upon you all kinds of harmful scruples and thoughts. He would come in between you and your thoughts and that which benefits you. And what is more, it is you who would be helping him against yourself, by making it easy for him to possess your heart and your ideas; so he gains control of them over yourself.

Your likeness to him is as the likeness of the owner of a mill in which, good grain is ground. Then a man came to him with a load of soil, dung, coal and scum in order to grind them in his mill. If he rejects him and does not make it possible for him to throw that which is with him in the mill, he would be able to continue grinding that which is useful for him. But if he makes it possible for him to throw them into the mill, they would ruin the grain that is in it, and the mill itself would be ruined.

That which Satan throws into the heart is usually one of the following thoughts: thinking about things that exist, if they were other than the way they are now. About things that have not existed, if they were to exist, how they would be. About things that can be thought about such as immorality and prohibited things. Illusory imagination that has no reality at all or about null and void things. That which cannot be perceived like the kinds of things that have been kept secret from his knowledge. He would throw these ideas into him that would not come to an end, and make them the center of his concern an thought.

The remedy for this is to preoccupy your thoughts with knowledge and concepts that are useful for you, regarding the Oneness of Allah and His Rights, and about death and its aftermath like Paradise and Hellfire. Also it is important to preoccupy yourself with learning the problems of deeds and the ways to avoid them.

You should preoccupy yourself with will and intention and that which is useful for you and reject that which harmful.

According to the most knowledgeable people of Allah, wishing for treason and preoccupying yourself with it, is more harmful to the heart than treason itself. You can find this is the example of a king. Among the King’s retinues and servants is one who would like to betray him and his heart and thoughts are full of this, yet at the same time he serves him and performs his duties. If the kings comes to know his secret and intention, he would hate him so profoundly that he would punish him with what he deserves.

He would be more hated to him than a man who is far away from him, and has committed some crime, but whose heart is with the king, and does not contain any wish for treason. The first one leaves it due to being weak and busy with that which he is doing, while his heart is full of it, but the second one commits these crimes, while his heart is void of any treason or desire to do it. Therefore, he is better than the first one.

In general, the heart is never void of thought. It is either concerned with a duty concerning the Hereafter or worldly pleasures.

We have previously mentioned that the mind is like a mill that runs with that which is thrown into it. If some grain is thrown in, it would run with it. And if glass, pebbles, or dung is thrown in, it would run with it too. It is Allah, the Almighty Who is the Lord, the Owner and Manager of that mill. He has appointed an angel to throw in it that which is beneficial to run with it and Satan throws that which harms it.

The angel visits it one time, and Satan visits it at another time. The grain that the angel throws is an indication of goodness and belief in the promise. And the grain that Satan throws is an indication of evil and disbelief in the promise.

The mill runs according to the grain. And the owner of the harmful grain would not be able to throw it except if he finds the mill void of useful grain, and the one who is running it has neglected it and turned away from it. By then, he would take the initiative to throw that, which he likes.

In general, if the one who runs the mill abandons it and gives up taking care of it by not throwing useful grain, the enemy would find the way to ruin it and run it with that which he has. And the way to reform this mill is by being preoccupied with that which concerns you. And as for its destruction, it is by being preoccupied with that which does not concern you.

How excellent the statement of a wise man is, as he put it: when I found that worldly pleasures are more likely to spoil that Hereafter, and saw that it is bound to be ruined, I turned away from it all to that which people of understanding do not differ in opinion.

Shafiq bin Ibrahim said,

“The door of success has been closed against the creation due to six matters:

  1. Their being preoccupied with grace without being grateful.
  2. Their interest in knowledge and neglecting action.
  3. Rushing to sin and delaying repentance.
  4. Being attracted by the company of the righteous but failing to follow their deeds.
  5. This worldly life is turning away from them, while they strongly desire it.
  6. The Hereafter is drawing near to them, while they are turning away in heedlessness.”

I Say, the source of that is lack of desire for (Paradise) and lack of fear of Hellfire, as well as weakness of certainty and insight and disgrace and lowness of the self, and exchanging that, which better for that which is lower. Otherwise, if the self was truly noble and great, it would not accept such lowness.

Therefore, the source of all good with success is from Allah and His Will. And this is also the source of nobility of the self and its greatness. And the source of evil is its lowness and pettiness. Allah, the Almighty said in the Glorious Qur’an:

Indeed he succeeds who purifies his ownself. And indeed he fails who corrupts his ownself” (Qur’an 91:9-10)

That is to say that the successful one is he , who honors it, invests it by obeying and performing all that Allah ordered. And the unsuccessful one is the one who belittles it and degrades it by disobeying what Allah has ordered.

Therefore, honored servants are only pleased with the highest, best and most praised matters. But the inferior servants hover about lowness and fall upon them just as a fly falls upon the dirt.

The honored and high self does not accept wrongdoing or immorality, theft or treason, for it is greater and higher than them. And the despised and low self is the opposite of that, for every self inclines to that which suits and resembles it. The following verse illustrates this fact:

Say (O Muhammad to mankind): Each one does according to Shakiltihi (i.e. his way or his religion or his intentions, etc.) (Qur’an 17:84).

That is to say that everyone performs deeds according to that which suits and corresponds to him. He performs deeds according to the way that coincides with his character and nature. Everyone follows his way, his faith and habits that he got used to and was created with.

Therefore, the immoral person performs deeds according to that which resembles his way of life, as repaying grace with sins, and turning away from the Benefactor. And the believer performs deeds according to his way of life, as being grateful to the Benefactor, showing his love and praise to Him, making himself loved by Him, being shy of Him, observing Him, glorifying Him and exalting Him.

Source: Al-Fawaid by Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah
Pg. 292 – 297

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