Question: It is stated that an elaborate account of wrongs may pollute people’s minds with temptations. On the other hand, we need to make warnings against wrongs in order to avert people from them. How can we strike a balance here?
Answer: It needs to be known that warning that something is evil and giving an alluringly, detailed account of it are different. In order to avert people from attitudes and behaviors that harm the individual and the society and make them feel disgusted by such things, it is naturally necessary to warn people about them. However, such warning should not be too elaborate of an account of the wrong in such a way as to form a clear picture in their minds. A clear picture of certain actions might make some feel tempted toward them. For this reason, in order not to make the opposite of the intended effect, it is better to refer to wrongs concisely, tell about their harms, and then about their negative consequences in this world and the next. For example, while warning a man who immerses himself in sins, it is possible to remind him that he will lose his receptivity of spiritual blessings, not feel delight in devotions, blunt his insight, become unable to activate the latent fine faculties of his heart, or even become totally unaware of them. Such a person will be condemned to a mechanical practice of religion, will know God solely in theory, and will fail to feel the awe of standing in His presence. In short, it is wiser to draw attention to the bad consequences of a sin than giving a detailed account of it.
The Destructive Impact of Negative Connotations
As it is known, Satan takes advantage of certain negative feelings in human nature very astutely, and it is very important not to awaken and trigger them. Too detailed accounts of wrongs might serve as impulses to activate latent negative feelings, which provides a good opportunity to Satan for leading people astray.
We usually associate the issue in question with lusts of the flesh, but narrowing it down is misleading. The points we have made here are true for any wrong people might feel tempted to commit. Let us assume that you are trying to describe how evil hypocrisy is. If you present it in a way to be perceived as an artistic ability, you might unintentionally evoke fondness toward that vice. Accordingly, about all attitude and behaviors within the frame of wrongs, you must adopt a deterrent style and tell how dreadful a punishment the transgressors will face on the Day of Judgment.
Even the issue of associating partners with God requires much sensitivity in this respect. For example, there is no point in repeating the names of certain things asserted as deities instead of God; we may not mention their names at all if necessary. We should refer to such things concisely and lay emphasis on the fact that one might lose an eternal life of bliss and face an eternal life in Hell instead.
The same applies to issues such as rebelling against one’s parents, bearing false witness, theft, slander, and backbiting; we need to build a feeling of resistance toward them in people.
Actually, this method is the way of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. In order to tell what a great gain it is to keep away from disasters of the tongue and extramarital relations, he stated: “Assure me (of the parts) between the jaws and legs, I will assure that you will enter Paradise.”1 As it is seen, the matter is presented in a very discreet and concise way, and the reward to be attained on the condition of behaving oneself is drawn attention to.
Also, it needs to be known that the minds of those who are exposed to too detailed accounts of wrongs may remain adulterated for days, or even weeks. Certain negative things can busy their minds even during worship. For this reason, one must be strong and resolved at taking a stance against such negativities from the very beginning. On the other hand, they should continuously strive to fill their minds with good and beautiful things. So much so that, whenever they open a file in their cortex, they should always meet good words, good thoughts, and good scenes. If anything pollutes their eyes, ears, and minds, or anything negative occurs to their heart involuntarily, they should run to the nearest prayer rug and seek refuge in prayer as a fount of purification, without giving sins an opportunity to survive.
A Pure Mind and a Good End
Particularly in our time, pollution of minds is a serious problem, not only when we go out for shopping or other reasons, but also while we sit at home, the safest haven for believers. In time, accumulation of negative descriptions and sights pollutes a person’s memory and cortex. They occupy that person’s mind and trigger certain negative feelings in human nature. Such pictures pressurize their world of feelings and thoughts, and assert their own desires. When they find the opportunity, they paralyze willpower and lead people to sins that will ruin their eternal afterlife.
In fact, such negative mental pictures accumulate in the subconscious and even begin to pollute dreams. Believers should always be oriented to be pure, even in their dreams. When Muslims follow the example of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and recite his prayers before going to bed, they seek refuge in God and say, “My God, the Trustworthy One! Here I entrust my feelings and thoughts to You. Please do not let them be polluted so that I will not wake up with some impure feelings!” With such considerations, we entrust the horizons of our night to His protection. Believers’ acting sensitively towards this issue bears great importance with respect to their afterlife. It should be known that all of their intentions, prayers, and efforts in this respect are recorded as good, righteous deeds for them. Sometimes such an effort for protecting their imagination from pollution and not letting subconscious impurities pressurize their feelings can be more important than offering a hundred units of Prayer. However, wandering confidently and graciously in pure realms, even in one’s dreams, depends upon giving the willpower its due by adopting a seriously resolved stance.
Keeping away from means that might lead to sin and from thinking of wrongs signify a person’s degree of safety from sins. The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, showed the importance of keeping away from wrongs by praying, “My God, distance me from my errors, as You distanced East from West.”2 Those who sail close to the wind might not find an opportunity to get back to the shore. For this reason, believers must constantly try to keep their minds, thoughts, and feelings pure; they must be alert against the traps of the carnal soul and Satan.
1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Riqaq, 23
2. Sahih al-Bukhari, Dawat, 44