The Islamic Way of Thinking
By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan for New Age Islam
12 May, 2015
Islam is basically based on thinking. Islam is not a set of rituals. It is not simply a form. Rather, it is a way of thinking. All the teachings of Islam are based on thinking.
Now, what is Islamic thinking?
Put briefly, Islamic thinking is positive thinking. Positive thinking is the central theme in Islam. If you read the Quran, you will find that almost all its verses are based, directly or indirectly, on positivity. For example, the very first verse of the Quran contains praise of God. Alhamdulillah, it says, which means all praise is due to God.
To be able to say that all praise is for God requires complete positivity. Without complete positivity, you cannot say Alhamdulillah.
We live in a world where always, at every moment, we are faced with some negative experience or the other, some unpleasant situation, some kind of provocation. And so, people generally live in protest, in hate, in complaint. Protest, hate and complaint are negative reactions to challenging situations.
In life, one always faces some kind of sad or difficult experience. Your negative reaction to it leads you to nurture negative thinking. Because most people react in this way to these experiences, they live in negative thinking.
So, if you want to say Alhamdulillah in the true spirit of the word, you have to save yourself from negative thinking. If you do not save yourself from negative thinking, your utterance of the word Alhamdulillah will be nothing but lip-service. And God does not want your lip-service. You need to present your gratitude and praise to God with full positivity. If you want to present this kind of gratitude or Alhamdulillah, you have to save yourself from reaction or negative thinking. Otherwise, you will present only lip-service, and not Alhamdulillah in the true sense of the term.
This point is very clear in the Quran and Hadith. Once, a man came to the Prophet and said: “O Prophet, teach me words which I can live by. Do not make them too much for me, lest I forget.” He requested the Prophet to give him a master advice by which he would be able to manage all the affairs of his life. He wanted a key or comprehensive formula of life. He wanted this in a few words.
The Prophet said to the man: La taghzab. It means, “Don’t be angry.” (Muwatta)
“Don’t be angry” is a very important advice. It means don’t get angry even when provoked.
At every moment, we have to face some sad experience—in our family, in our neighbourhood, in our society, in our country, or at the global level. All around us there is sad news, which is reflected in the media. And so, everyone is living in sad experience. When you read the newspaper or turn on the TV, what do you find? Almost only negative news. So, everyone is living in a jungle of negativity. Hence, when the Prophet said, “Don’t be angry”, he teaches us that although we are living in a jungle of sad experiences, difficult situations and provocations, we have to save ourselves from negative reaction.
This was the master advice given by the Prophet to the man.
Put differently, the Prophet said that one must be positive at every moment, that one should convert every negative experience into a positive experience.
If you want true Islamic experience, you have to convert negative experiences into positive experiences.
The Quran says about true believers that they “…restrain their anger and are forgiving towards their fellow men.” (3:134) This refers to people who avoid anger when they face a provocative situation.
Thus, avoidance is the only principle through which we can live in positivity.
This is the true spirit of Islam.
Positive thinking comes from faith in God. We need Divine inspiration at every moment. This is intellectual food or spiritual food. Just as we need physical food for our physical body, we need spiritual or intellectual food for our soul or mind. Without inspiration from God, we cannot obtain spiritual food. You can buy physical food in the market, but you cannot buy spiritual food from a shop. Spiritual food comes from God, through inspiration. If you live in positivity, you will be able to receive inspiration from God. Someone with a negative personality cannot receive this inspiration.
So, positivity is a very important part of our spiritual life. All the verses of the Quran convey this message, directly or indirectly. For instance, the Quran (4:128) says, ‘reconciliation is best’. It means peace is best.
Now, what is peace?
When you are living in a society where everywhere there is injustice and all around you there are provocations, how can you live in peace? The Quran says in absolute terms, in an absolute sense, that ‘reconciliation is best’. How is this possible? You are living in a swamp of negativity. Everywhere there are thorns. Everywhere there is loss and pain. When you are compelled to live in a society where at every moment there are negative experiences, how is it possible to adopt the Quranic formula ‘reconciliation is best’?
The only way to do so is to follow the Prophet’s advice: “Don’t be angry.” The only way to do so is to abandon reaction. The only way to do so is not to respond negatively to provocations.
As the Quranic formula ‘reconciliation is best’ teaches us, the course we need to adopt when faced with a provocation is a peaceful one, rather than a violent one. It is a matter of making a choice. Every time one is faced with two choices or options. You can respond positively to a situation, or you can react negatively. You need to consciously save yourself from the latter course and opt for the former. If you do not do this, you cannot abide by the Quranic formula ‘reconciliation is best’.
The Sufis have a beautiful formula for harmonious social existence. They call it sulh-e kul or ‘peace with all’. This formula is adopted from the Quran. This is a reflection of lofty positive thinking.
People across the world are engaged in violence. If you ask them why they have picked up the gun, they will say, “We want peace, but we want peace with justice. We are deprived of justice. We have been denied our rights. So, we have opted for violent struggle.”
This answer is completely wrong. It is against the Islamic scheme. It is against the law of nature.
According to the law of nature, justice is not part of peace. Justice is a result of your own efforts. Peace opens up opportunities, and if you avail of these opportunities, you can get all that you want, including justice.
God sends you rain and gives you soil. He does not give you crops directly. Rather, by your own hard efforts you work with the rain and the soil and sow seeds and cultivate crops and then harvest them. Similar is the case with peace. Peace does not give you justice automatically. What it gives you are opportunities, which, if you make efforts to properly avail them, can help you secure justice.
So, people who bracket justice with peace, who make peace conditional on justice, are wrong. The phrase ‘just peace’ or ‘peace with justice’ may be correct grammatically, but when you measure it in the light of the laws of nature, it shows itself to be completely false. Where there is violence, there are no opportunities. Violence kills all opportunities. But where there is peace, there are all sorts of opportunities, and if these are availed of, justice and rights and all other things can automatically be secured.
If you cannot have peace and justice together, then what should be done?
You need to follow the natural scheme. In the face of all sorts of provocations, you need to establish peace at any cost, so that, in this way, the doors of opportunities may be opened up.
This is the natural formula. This is the only formula that is in line with the Divine scheme.
But who can adopt this formula? It is only those who think positively. Without positivity, you cannot understand the importance of peace. Nor can you avail the opportunities that peace makes available. Positivity is basic to all kinds of success.
The Quran tells us that reconciliation is best. And the Prophet of Islam provided us with practical examples of this truth. In his life, you find a complete expression of this formula. The Prophet always adopted this formula, throughout his life. And he was successful in the extraordinarily sense of the term.
What was the reason for this? The Prophet’s amazing success was not a miracle. It was not something esoteric or mysterious. Every historian—not just Muslim historians but others, too—admits that the Prophet was a supremely successful person.
What was the formula for the Prophet’s success?
A British Orientalist, E.E. Kellett, opines, “Muhammad faced adversity with the determination to wring success out of failure.”
This is a beautiful expression of positivity, of positive thinking.
When the Prophet said, “Don’t be angry”, it means to convert your anger into forgiveness, your negativity into positivity. In this way, the Prophet was able to convert failure into success, according to this above-mentioned British writer.
And how was he able to do that?
It was through positive thinking.
Positive thinking means converting negativity into positivity.
In this world, positive thinking is the greatest power, the greatest arms. All physical arms are nothing at all compared to it. It is the greatest strength. Through positive thinking, you can convert failure into success.
The success that the Prophet attained was not a miracle. It was not some mysterious thing. It was completely based on a scientific formula—and that is, positive thinking. And so, positive thinking is the Islamic way of thinking.