Following your Whims/Desires

Often the religion of Islam in the West is associated with limited freedom or infringement of rights. The argument is that the laws set in Islam prevent us from living a life that we desire.

The alternative presented to us is the lifestyle where anyone can choose to do whatever they like as this is the freedom that one deserves to have.

The problem with this approach is quite simple. We are designed and created by the one who has set the laws. This means that not only do we perform an act of worship to the one who has created us, but by following the laws set by Allah SWT, we are actually functioning as a creation of His in the correct manner in which He designed us to function.

By going against this function, we are not only sinning but we are malfunctioning as humans and this becomes apparent when we analyse the problems that the hedonistic lifestyle they promote causes in people.

Dear brothers and sisters, following our whims or our desires is not a sin in Islam. We are all allowed to dream, to have goals and to pursue those goals and dreams. However, the only rule to that is that it does not contradict the laws stated by Allah SWT through His Messenger SAWS.

In fact, no Prophet or Messenger has ever been permitted to follow their desires or whims when it goes against the laws set by Allah SWT. This is a key lesson that has been taught to us through various accounts relayed in the Quran.

The imam reminded us of the following references to illustrate this point.

The first was from Sura An-Najm, ayat 3 spoke of whims and this, when understood in context from the beginning of the sura, is Allah SWT explaining that even the Prophet Muhammad SAWS is following the directions and guidelines stated by Allah SWT and not his own desires or whims. It’s translated to say:

By the stars when they fade away! Your fellow man is neither misguided nor astray. Nor does he speak of his own whims.

And the imam referenced ayat 26 of Sura Saad in which Allah SWT speaks of another Prophet in reference to personal whims over Allah SWT’s commandments and instructions. It is translated to say:

˹We instructed him:˺ “O David! We have surely made you an authority in the land, so judge between people with truth. And do not follow ˹your˺ desires or they will lead you astray from Allah’s Way. Surely those who go astray from Allah’s Way will suffer a severe punishment for neglecting the Day of Reckoning.”

And thirdly, the imam reminded us in Sura Nisa, ayat 135 that Allah SWT directly instructs us not to follow our whims or desires if they contravene the laws of Allah SWT. It is translated to say:

O believers! Stand firm for justice as witnesses for Allah even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or close relatives. Be they rich or poor, Allah is best to ensure their interests. So do not let your desires cause you to deviate ˹from justice˺. If you distort the testimony or refuse to give it, then ˹know that˺ Allah is certainly All-Aware of what you do.

And finally, the imam spoke of the following hadith which is translated to say:

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “None of you [truly] believes until his desires are subservient to that which I have brought.”

Dear brothers and sisters, the point of the reminder today is that there is nothing in our religion that stops us from being ambitious, having dreams, pursuing goals in this life.

However, we must always remember that the sole purpose of our time here is to worship Allah SWT and to return to Him with our account in the best possible condition. If our goals and our desires threaten that then we must re-evaluate why it is that we are pursuing desires which take us further away from the pleasure of Allah SWT and the purpose of our existence.

The reminder concludes with three practical applications of today’s reminder that we can take away.

  1. Firstly, we should not blindly pursue any whim that comes into our mind without careful thought on whether it is right as a believer to pursue it. This means that we don’t work on knee-jerk reaction to every whim, we ponder, we think, we seek counsel if need be and then we pursue it if it is worth us pursuing.
  • Secondly, we should not allow the attraction of our desires and whims overlook their harm to our worship of Allah SWT. Dear brothers and sisters, the thing with whims and desires is that they appear so tempting and alluring when they are first thought of. It takes a strong mind and a faithful heart to turn away from such an attraction but that is what is expected of a believer and so this is the level to which we must work.
  • And finally, we should remember that Allah SWT did not put us here to be like monks. To have desires and dreams is what makes us human and we should encourage and support each other to follow our dreams. But the best of us are those who encourage and support each other to follow their dreams but advise and warn one another if the desires and dreams aren’t in accordance with the commandment of Allah SWT.
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