The quality of our lives depends on our thoughts, by changing our thoughts we change the world around us.

By Nabi Raza Abidi

Modern discourse often trivializes the link between our thoughts and the kinds of lives we live. The most obvious example is that of religious belief and how belief as a private enterprise bears little on worldly or even otherworldly salvation. Why should someone go to hell just for a “belief” is the question that is often asked, subtly but dangerously implying that religious belief is a personal taste like the taste we have for ice-cream.

Our lives depend on the kinds of thoughts we foster. If our thoughts are kind, humble, calm and loving then they will manifest themselves in our lives. The world is chaos and full of turbulence, if our thoughts are drawn into this chaos then our minds will not find tranquility.

Our thoughts are determined by the kind of priorities we have in life. Our goals are what anchor us and they are what determine our sense of fulfillment in life. As Imam Ali (as) taught us, when we prioritize worldly concerns we are guaranteed mental chaos and disappointment because of the inherent unpredictability and ephemeral nature of the world.

When our thoughts are anchored on the image of God, our thoughts are settled on that which is permanent, invariable and eternal. Thoughts become organized and consistent and little if anything in the world can throw a wrench in our thought process once our dedication to the Lord solidifies.

One of the greatest examples is the sacrifice of Imam al-Husayn (as). By any standard, Imam al-Husayn (as) faced the greatest tragedy a person could face in this world: the wholesale slaughtering of his family and friends. Yet the pain the world inflicted on the Imam did not put his thoughts into chaos; a life-time of anchoring his thought process in the divine cosmos guaranteed the serenity of his behavior in the world.

With our thoughts, we not only influence ourselves (health, degree of happiness) and those around us, but we also affect the cosmos. Our positive thoughts impact the world just as much as our negative thoughts do. Think of it, if you know a 1000 people in your life-time, that 1000 people will know another 1000 which means that you are one person away from a million people and two persons away from a billion people.

If there is to be good in the world, it must start with our own thoughts. If there is evil in the world, it must stop with our own evil thoughts. We must not blame the world for the way it is but we must blame ourselves. If Imam al-Husayn (as) changed the course of Islam’s history, he did so with his thoughts and by keeping his heart pure, and that is where we must begin if we want to change the world.

Waʿlaikum as-Salam,
Yours Faithfully
Nabi Raza Abidi
Resident Imam of the SABA Islamic Center
San Jose, California