Is there a hadith stating that it will harm a Muslim if he scrutinizes and thinks a lot? Does it harm a person if he tries to take all kinds of possibilities into consideration?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

We have not been able to find a hadith stating that “it will harm a Muslim if he scrutinizes and thinks a lot”.

However, the following hadiths exist: “Those who scrutinize in words and deeds and who overstep the limits will be destroyed.” (The Messenger of Allah repeated this sentence three times.) (see Muslim, Ilm 7; Abu Dawud, Sunnah 5) “Avoid extremism the religion because those who lived before you were destroyed because they overstepped the limits in the religion.” (Darimi, Siyar 45; Ahmad bin Hanbal, 4/127, 5/318, 330)

The hadiths indicate that the people who overstep the limits in their words and deeds, go too far and act excessively will undergo problems in this world and deserve punishment in the hereafter.

The word "mutanattiun" used in the first hadith is very comprehensive:

-    The people who speak without thinking of the meaning and consequences of the words and without feeling responsible will be punished for their words both in the world and in the hereafter.

-    Those who intervene in the issues that do not interest them and that they do not know well and who speak about the issues that they do not know will be humiliated.

-    Those who talk bombastically, pedantically and by showing off using the words that ordinary people will not understand so that people will say he speaks nicely are included in the scope of this hadith.    

-    Those who talk by changing their natural style of talking and by forcing their throats in order to produce different tones and to impress people are not welcomed; they are criticized.

-    Our religion does not regard it nice to overstep the limits both in speaking and in all kinds of deeds and acts. Islam advises us to preserve moderation and to avoid extremism in everything; it teaches man ways and principles of leading a balanced life.   

Taqwa (piety) is essential in religion. Taqwa consists of obeying Allah’s orders and prohibitions. It is necessary to act meticulously, to scrutinize and to be careful in order to obey those orders and prohibitions.

“Both legal (halal) and illegal (haram) things are evident but in between them there are doubtful (suspicious) things and most of the people have no knowledge about them.” (Bukhari, Iman, 39)

It is indicated in the hadith above that the danger of committing harams for man exists and it is pointed out that Muslims should act carefully and meticulously regarding the issue.

“Leave what is doubtful and do what is clear.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 60)

It is indicated in the hadith above that a believer should have a characteristic that is very meticulous and that scrutinizes.

Phrases meaning “Why do you not think? Do they not try to understand?” in many verses of the Quran call men to think and meditate. The following verse can be given as an example:

“Do they not travel through the land, so that their hearts (and minds) may thus learn wisdom and their ears may thus learn to hear? Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts.” (al-Hajj, 22/46)

The first addressees of the verse are deniers but it is definite that there are lessons to take for believers in it too. 

“A person’s not being engaged in the things that do not interest him shows the beauty and deepness of his belief.” (Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 11)

We should understand from the hadith above that we should be engaged in “things that are useful – in terms of thoughts and deeds”. We should consider this even when we think about something.

“Meditation for one hour is sometimes better than worshipping for one thousand hours.”(Ajluni, 1/310)

We should meditate on the dimensions of the message given by the hadith above.

Having explained the positive aspect of the issue, we can deal with the thought “it will harm a Muslim if he scrutinizes and thinks a lot” mentioned in the question. This point is related to exceeding the limits of taqwa, making things difficult through apprehensions and delusions, and causing trouble by making things difficult in the name of taqwa instead of making things easy. As a matter of fact, according to what is reported from Abu Hurayra, the Prophet (pbuh) said,

"Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded; and gain strength by worshipping in the mornings, the afternoons, and during the last hours of the nights..” (Bukhari, Iman, 29)

Ibn Hajar states the following in the explanation of this hadith: “That is the state of a person who insists on azimah related to the issues for which rukhsah is in question. For instance, a person performs a lot of nafilah worshipping but he cannot fulfill fards properly because of it. The same thing is valid for the state of a person who lengthens tahajjud prayer so much as to risk the morning prayer. Similarly, it may sometimes harm a person to make wudu when it is religiously permissible for him to make tayammum. (Fathul-Bari, the explanation of the hadith in question)

One of the examples Imam Ghazali gives related to such groundless delusions is as follows: “According to what is narrated, a pious person bought something from a man. However, when he heard that the man had bought it on Friday, he gave it back fearing that he may have bought it when adhan for Friday prayer was called.

To act like that is the ultimate point of exaggeration because he gave it back due to a doubt. Piety is good and exaggeration in it is better. However, there must be a limit to it.

Therefore, it is necessary to avoid exaggerations like that; even if they do not harm the person who acts like that, it gives others the idea that it is important to act like that. Then, other people will avoid doing even easier things. Thus, the essence of piety is abandoned. Many people today base their deeds on it.” (Ihya, 2/111)

According to Ghazali, those who act piously based on those groundless apprehensions may be exposed to the threat expressed by the following verse (Ihya, 2/112):

“Say: ‘Shall we tell you of those who lose most in respect of their deeds?- Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they thought that they were acquiring good by their works?’” (al-Kahf, 18/103-104)

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