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Positive Thinking & Faith: Are They Compatible?

21 March, 2017
Q Salam ‘Alaykum. I have heard that Positive Thinking, Emotional Freedom Techniques and NLP help you change yourself, be more successful, healthy and happy in life. Basically, we have to convince ourselves that we are great, happy, healthy, and will be a better person in every aspect. Personally, I’ve tried it, and it seems to work. But I wonder whether it is haram to think this way as we have to rely on Allah for anything right, and these techniques are based on the repetition of positive thinking like ``I am great, I am happy, I have success in anything I do, etc.’ It’s like we anticipate the results before doing something while we should just say in sha’ Allah every time without knowing the result in advance. I have been also using it for my faith which is very weak; sometimes, I feel my heart is empty (May Allah forgive me). I convince myself that I am a great Muslim. I ask Allah to help me, and I even learn du’aa’s in Arabic for sadness, stress, etc., but I haven’t seen the results yet.

Answer

Answer:

As-Salamu `Alaykum,

Repetition of positive thoughts or affirming thoughts is like the dhikr (remembrance) of Allah (swt). In the same way we repeat the attributes of Allah (swt) to grow closer to Him, we also repeat our own attributes to help us grow closer to them. For example, when one repeats “Allahu Akbar” over and over, the person is not actually giving that attribute to Allah, nor does it imply that it was not there before. In the same way, when you repeat, “I am a great Muslim” over and over, you are not bringing something about that is not true and you are not inventing things; you are simply bringing yourself closer to those things that are within yourself – your potentials. Additionally, one must remember that although we can be given the illusion of control, it is not control we are taking; it is a choice we are making to reach closer to those good things Allah (swt) has put inside of us.

In the Qur’an, it’s said,

“For whoever wills among you to take a right course. And you do not will except that Allah wills – Lord of the worlds.” (81:28-29)

So, it is clear that nothing happens without His will. If you were not created with success, happiness, goodness, and strong faith as a Muslim, no amount of positive thought would bring you there. Perhaps, the answer to your prayer was in you finding this method. Prayers are rarely answered in the way we expect them to be.

If the positive thinking techniques are working for you, then they are working only by the will of Allah (swt), and because those traits were in you already, you just needed to grow closer to them.

The Cherry Tree

You can also think of it this way: Pretend that you woke up every morning and said (instead of a positive thought), “I am so tired. I wish I could sleep one more hour”. You would imagine over time that you were so sleep deprived. You might become obsessed with it, and you might even start trying to find ways to get more sleep. You would become focused on your lack of sleep that which you did not have. You would wake up each day in a very bad mood.

Now pretend, instead, that when you wake up every morning, you look out the window and notice the lovely cherry tree in the front lawn. You notice how it changes colors with the seasons, and how it is so beautiful every morning with different birds and the way the sun raises behind it.

In the second case, you would imagine that you must be the luckiest person on earth to wake up every morning to such beauty. You would start the day with love and joy in your heart.

Looking back, however, we can see that both things are true. You did need an extra hour of sleep every day, and the cherry tree is beautiful. But the one that becomes “true” and “alive” in your life is the one you focus on. It does not matter that each are equally real. What matters is what you focus on.

In the same way, when you choose to focus on the positive, you bring it to the surface. It was always there. You just didn’t notice the “cherry trees” of positive attributes you had before, because you were too busy focusing on the lack of sleep.

Positive thinking really just helps you see what is already there or what Allah (swt) has already put into your path.

There is a famous saying that says, “Acquire knowledge even if you have to travel to China”. This honors the fact that people speak and think in different ways, and that there is wisdom in many methods and cultures. Thus, what makes a tool wrong is not that it is from a source outside the Qur’an. What would make a tool wrong is if it went against something in the Qur’an.

In this case, we already know that nothing can come about without the will of Allah (swt) and that we will find the path that is easy for us and the one we are meant to be on. Positive affirmation is helping you to find your path and grow closer to it. The fact that is it working is by the will of Allah (swt), for if He did not will it to work, it would not.

When you recite affirmations and participate in positive thinking techniques, you can add In sha’ Allah to the end. Many people perceive this to mean that they are putting their affirmation into the hands of Allah (swt) to decide. However, since many things are predestined, this is not the case. When one says “In sha’ Allah”, it is a way to remind us that things happen with the will of Allah (swt) and for us to remember to be thankful for that. It is not meant to discourage us and make us think that we cannot choose to take one path over another.

Positive thinking and reciting affirmations is a way to reach out to the goodness that is already within you and bring that to the surface “by the will of Allah (swt)” who placed it there to begin with.

Therefore, it is not haram to use positive thinking and affirmations. And one can also realize that it does not cancel out one’s positive thinking and affirmations by putting “In sha’ Allah” at the end of them.

Salam,

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About Dr. Karima Burns
Dr. Karima Burns has been counseling as a Home-path for over 9 years. From the U.S. she is a doctor in Naturopathy, a Master Herbalist, and teaches with inspiration from the Waldorf school. She uses art, health and education to heal others.