A key part of being productive, is about focusing your mind on what’s beneficial and de-cluttering it from unproductive thoughts.
If we can record our inner thoughts and replay them to ourselves each day, we’ll be shocked at how much junk there is and how much brain power we waste on futile things that neither benefit or harm us. These thoughts can be in the form of replaying old “movies” in our heads of things that happened to us in our past or (going to some extreme) future dreams that are never attainable nor part of reality, or keeping thoughts which we’re not happy to reveal to anyone, even having doubts back-biting about people which we needn’t have… all these thoughts need to purged if we want to relieve ourselves and de-clutter our minds.
How do you know if you have so much clutter? Notice your actions and speech. If you recognise them to be very focused, very productive, very thoughtful, and containing less gossip, then your mind is probably more de-cluttered than others! If not, and you see yourself all over the place and your tongue out of control, then your mind surely needs a cleanup exercise.
Unfortunately, we pay little attention to our thoughts and what goes on inside our mind, even though it’s crucial to our well-being, productivity and ultimately how we behave as Muslims.
Ibn Al-Qayyim has a profoundly powerful statement in his book Al-Fawaid, referring to negative and sinful thoughts, he said:
“You should repulse a thought. If you do not do so, it will develop into a desire. You should therefore wage war against it. If you do not do so, it will become a resolution and firm intention. If you do not repulse this, it will develop into a deed. If you do not make up for it by doing the opposite thereof [the opposite of that evil deed], it will become a habit. It will then be very difficult for you to give it up”
“You should know that the initial stage of every knowledge that is within your choice is your thoughts and notions. These thoughts and notions lead you into fantasies. These fantasies lead towards the will and desire to carry out [those fantasies]. These wills and desires demand the act should be committed. Repeatedly committing these acts cause them to become a habit. So the goodness of these stages lies in the goodness of thoughts and notions, and the wickedness of these thoughts lies in the wickedness of thoughts and notions.” [Al Fawaid, Ibn Qayyim]
May Allah be pleased with him! A deep insight into something so subtle. We should all memorize these words and use it whenever we feel unable to control the tsunami of negative thoughts that overtake our minds.
There’s a verse in the Quran that should send shudders through any Muslim’s spine, in which Allah (Subahanahu Wa Ta’ala) speaks of taking into account our inner thoughts, He says:
“To Allah belongeth all that is in the heavens and on earth. Whether ye show what is in your minds or conceal it, Allah Calleth you to account for it. He forgiveth whom He pleaseth, and punisheth whom He pleaseth, for Allah hath power over all things.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, verse no. 284).
In an age, where people are fighting for privacy, some people might find the above verse “intrusive”! But who are we to judge what Allah does?! We’re His slaves and He’s our Master! He can do what He wills. The reason I’m saying this, is because believe it or not, the Companions of the Prophet, also found the above verse difficult to grasp (but in their case, they understood the implication, though we unfortunately, rebel due to arrogance). So they went to the Prophet with a heavy heart regarding this verse, but the Prophet told them “Say, we Listen and we Obey”. As soon as they said that, Allah revealed 2 of the greatest verses in the Quran:
“The Messenger believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in Allah, His angels, His books, and His apostles. “We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His apostles.” And they say: “We hear, and we obey: (We seek) Thy forgiveness, our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys.”
*“On no soul doth Allah Place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Pray:) “Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; our Lord! Lay not on us a burden Like that which Thou didst lay on those before us; Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins, and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our Protector; Help us against those who stand against faith.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, verses no. 285-286)
So, listen and obey and work out how to control your thoughts and Allah will not overburden you.
Here are some simple steps you can follow to de-clutter your mind and control thoughts, but they need to be constantly followed in order to develop a disciplined mind:
Dua – First and foremost, ask Allah for help and guidance on this issue. Remember “You Alone we Worship, and You alone we seek help from”.
Practice focusing your mind – especially during Salat – so that you at least de-clutter your mind, even temporarily.
Listen “into” your thoughts and don’t let them just wave by unnoticed. A strong Muslim is the one who can control his inner self as well as his limbs.
When a bad thought comes, Fight it! And when a good thought comes, act upon it or at least write it down!
Be constantly watchful of your mind, like a predator, always ready to pounce on any unwanted thoughts and cutting evil from its roots.
May Allah (Subahanahu Wa Ta’ala) help us de-clutter our minds and make our thoughts, actions and words sincerely for Him. Ameen.
‘Repeatedly committing these acts cause them to become a habit. So the goodness of these stages lies in the goodness of thoughts and notions, and the wickedness of these thoughts lies in the wickedness of thoughts and notions.’ [Al Fawaid, Ibn Qayyim]