Saturday, February 20, 2010
Recently my sister shared with me very interesting insight from a book that she is reading entitled “In the Early Hours- Reflection on Spiritual and Self Development” by Khurram Murad *. A very important thing mentioned in this book was that as Muslims we are supposed to be “ETERNAL OPTIMISTS”. This got me thinking about the hype on positive thinking and I realized that this concept is actually very prevalent within Islamic thinking.
The Prophet (SAW) described the Believers in the following words:
“Amazing is the matter of the believer, for all of his affairs are good to him. If a bounty was bestowed on him, he thanks for it, and this is better for him. If an affliction touches him, he observes patience, and this is better for him, and this is only for the believer” (Muslim).
This is a very beautiful hadith because it describes a very high form of positive thinking, and as it points out, this form of positive thinking has been reserved for the believer only. This form of positive thinking focuses on times of happiness as well as times of affliction, and I’m sure that you will agree that it is very difficult to practise this form of positive thinking on a continuous basis. But, with the right intention and with the guidance of Allah, we all have the ability to achieve this.
So, while general mainstream ideas focus on positive thinking to attain physical or material goals; the Islamic ideal of positive thinking is eternal, because one’s positive thinking, attitudes and behaviour is directly related to his/her relationship with the Creator. This form of positive thinking not only allows the individual to think of him/herself in positive terms, but to also think of all situations in positive terms and more importantly it encourages positive thinking about Allah and it leads to acceptance of what Allah has decreed. In this case, thinking positively will not only bring about peace and contentment in this material world, but it will also lead to positive consequences in the hereafter (Insha’allah Ameen).
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) mentioned that even a smile is charity and this further emphasizes the importance of remaining positive. Since our actions directly influence those around us, if we remain positive, this will automatically help others to be positive as well, but if we are negative, then other people will continue to have a negative outlook in life, and thus ailments such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and so on will continue to fester. Islam is a religion which focuses on the well-being of all people, and it is not individualistic. People are taught to be selfless and not selfish and so positive thinking from this perspective has further reaching effects.
The concept of positive thinking is very much a spiritual exercise then, and it is a spiritual exercise which influences the human being on all levels. (In an earlier post we looked at balance and different levels- positive thinking would come into effect on all these levels).
Do the quiz below to find out whether you are an Optimist or a Pessimist:
DO YOUR CLOUDS HAVE SILVER LININGS?
Answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions:
1. Describe a half bottle of water as being half-full rather than half-empty?
2. Enjoy taking risks on a fairly regular basis?
3. Enjoy dreaming about what you might do if you received a lot of money?
4. Go on holiday without booking a hotel beforehand?
5. Feel your motto is to spend today, for tomorrow might never come?
6. Very carefully lock up before going to bed?
7. Feel you are someone who wears rose-tinted glasses?
8. Love getting surprises?
9. Feel that essentially most people are honest?
10. Always have something to look forward to?
11. Feel you sometimes are on a lucky streak?
12. Never feel it just isn’t worth getting up in the morning?
13. Never worry about whether your transport will fail and you will be late for an appointment?
14. Never bother to carry an extra article of clothing “just in case”?
15. Feel surprised when there is a hitch and things don’t work out according to your plan?
16. Feel delighted by the unexpected?
17. Feel things seldom feel hopeless?
18. Feel your future looks inviting?
19. Not care about growing old?
20. Have a hunch that existence will take care of you?
If you have answered “yes” to more than 10 of the questions then you are like most people in your outlook-which means that you are balanced.
If you have answered “yes” to more than 16 then you are decidedly optimistic.
If you have answered “no” to more than 16 then you would do well to take stock of why you are so pessimistic and what can be done about it.
Optimism suggests that we live in the best of all possible worlds, with a tendency to expect the best and see the best in all things. The optimistic person is seen as unusually cheerful and joyous. He or she is highly satisfied with their existence, generally finds life rewarding and is obviously at peace with him-or herself and the world.
By contrast, pessimism expects the worst and sees the worst in all things. The pessimistic outlook suggests that this world is, by its nature, corrupt. Pessimism is often associated with depression, anxiety and low energy. The pessimist is characteristically gloomy and disappointed with his or her existence. For them all clouds are stormy. Pessimists usually have low self esteem, believing that they are unattractive failures.
(Adapted from: Who am I: 101 Ways of Seeing Yourself. By Malcolm Godwin. (2004). United Kingdom: Carroll & Brown Publishers Ltd.)
If you find that you are more prone to negative thinking- Don’t stress, Insha’Allah you have the ability to become more positive. If you are already a positive thinker, there’s always room for growth, and we are all on a continuous journey.
May Allah guide us all!
Insha’Allah in the next post we will look at some guidelines for positive thinking.
Until then, I leave you in peace, May the Almighty shower His Peace, Blessings and Mercy on every single one of us, Insha’Allah Ameen!
*The reference for this book is: Murad, K. (2000). In the Early Hours-Reflections on Spiritual and Self Development. United Kingdom: Revival Publucations. (This book is available for download from: http://www.kalamullah.com/)