The average person makes 750,000 decisions in their lifetime. Have you made the right ones so far?
We’re living in a time of vulnerability and uncertainty. While tensions are high during the Covid-19 pandemic, one thing it has let us do is take a step back and deeply reflect on where we’re going in life. Now with Ramadan around the corner, there is no better time to reset our spiritual compass, unlayer ourselves and have a consultation with our hearts on the key decisions that we need to make.
Chances are that you’ve faced some difficult decisions in your life. Some you may regret and others you are still battling with. Whether it is deciding on which career path to take or between two job offers, deciding on a marriage partner, or moving to a new city. Some decisions have a greater impact than others and they aren’t always easy to make. Decision-making is a skill set that needs to be developed like any other
I know exactly how you feel because I’ve been in your shoes before. You feel stuck at a crossroads and are struggling to be decisive and move forward. Your head evaluates the options, your heart is telling you what you desire, and your soul is trying to tell you something else but you are struggling to understand it.
You probably also face times when you’re afraid that your choices do not align with what Allah wants you to do. We all believe we have a fixed path in life and making the wrong choice will lead us down the wrong path.
What you don’t know or haven’t learned yet is that decision making from an Islamic perspective goes far beyond conventional advice. In fact it is so profound it will save you 5-10 years of going through trial and error.
My aim here is to teach you #3 core principles from the Qur’an that have helped me in my life to make sounder decisions. I can only imagine where I’d be right now if I had the right guidance and support at the beginning of my journey.
Principle #1 At The Seat of The Mind Is The Heart
Imam Nawawī said: “The seat of the mind is the heart (al-`aql fi al-qalb) and not the head.”
The majority of us face the same predicament, our mind is telling us one choice to make and our heart is telling us another. We operate on this level because our minds are out of sync with our hearts and vice versa. Think about the decision making process you go through when deciding on a marriage partner. Your mind says that this person ticks all of the boxes but your heart tells you that you do not desire this person. What decision do you make? Do you go with your mind or heart?
We all face this common problem in trying to reconcile our mind and our heart. But what does the Qur’an say about this?
“… they have hearts with which they do not understand …” (7:179)
Over 132 times in the Qur’an Allah uses the word heart when describing people who do or do not understand. This leads us to believe that the heart is the main decision making organ in our body. However, many scholars have mentioned that at the seat of our mind is our heart, meaning that making a decision with our mind OR our heart is not a sound approach. Our decision needs to be balanced.
Principle #2 Use The Intellect In Your Heart
The Quran mentions several special groups of people. If you’re among a special group, you’re worthy of a special award, a special mercy bestowed by Allah. One of these groups of people is what the Quran terms as “Ulul Albab” or the People of Intellect.
“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for Ulul Albab.” (3:190)
Allah has given each one of us a brain, and let us use it in any way we want. Ulul Albab are the people who not only have a brain, but are gifted in knowing how to put it to its correct use. Now in the previous principle we mentioned that it is important to use a balance of your mind and your heart but now we are talking about intellect; so does that mean that we are supposed to use our mind more?
Wrong. The people of sound intellect do not use their mental intelligence but their emotional intelligence. In fact the word Albab is closely linked to the word Lubb which is one of the layers of the heart that is mentioned in the Qur’an. This area of the heart is the one that was often used by the Prophets when making decisions.
How did Musa (AS) decide what to do when he was against the magicians or had to get past the Red Sea when an army was chasing him?
How did the Prophet Yusuf (AS) navigate a series of tricky situations when he was in the well, in the palace and also dealing with his family?
How did the Prophet Muhammad, saws, decide to migrate from Makkah to Madina?
When it comes to making major decisions in life it is important to understand this principle. I used to be an over-thinker and constantly let my mind wander when I was faced with a challenge or a goal, I never looked deep inside of me enough to discover what my heart was thinking about this situation. Note; there is a major learning here. I said what my heart was thinking, not feeling.
Principle #3 Follow Your Heart Is The Worst Piece of Advice Ever
The heart is a complex organ, it does not exist as a singular entity, in fact it is made up of many layers. All of these layers of the heart are mentioned in the Qur’an. One particular ayah in the Qur’an gives us a deep understanding of one of the layers of the heart which we should never use to make decisions.
And the heart of Moses’ mother ached so much that she almost gave away his identity, had We not reassured her heart in order for her to have faith ˹in Allah’s promise. (28:10)
In this ayah in the Qur’an we are told that Musa’s (as) mother is in great distress and is deciding on whether she should give away the identity of Musa or not. The word in the Arabic language used for heart here is Fu’ad. This is the emotional reactor of the heart which becomes overwhelmed with feelings which influences us to make rash decisions. Think back to the example of marrying someone; you meet someone and you instantly desire them and want to spend the rest of your life with them, is this your Fu’ad talking or is it the intellectual part of your heart the Lubb?
This is why following your heart is the worst piece of advice you can listen to, because what happens is that we fall victim to listening to the part of our heart that is easily influenced by the Shaytaan or the emotional reactor the Fu’ad. Cast your mind back to all of the emotionally rash decisions that you have made, those were all made with your Fu’ad. So do you still think following your heart is the right thing to do?
Where to get further information
I’m teaching a free masterclass on The Art of Islamic Decision making, you can join at anytime and here is how you will benefit:
- Real examples of decision making from the stories of the Prophet Yusuf (as) and Musa (as)
- Learn the essential things you must do along with your Istikhara prayer when seeking guidance from Allah
- Walk away with a playbook of tools that equip you to take on any life challenge in the future with confidence and conviction
About the Author
Shahbaz Mirza is the founder of Ramadan Legacy, an award-winning personal growth company that builds practical tools for Muslims to help them overcome their personal challenges and lead a spiritually uplifting life. Ramadan Legacy has impacted hundreds of thousands of Muslims across the world with their mobile app, planners and immersive online masterclasses and in-person workshops. Shahbaz has delivered faith-based personal development workshops to corporates such as Mastercard, PwC, Procter & Gamble and the UK Government Digital Department Service as well as Islamic organisations such as Muslim Association of Britian, Fosis, Mercy Mision and more.
For the past 10-years Shahbaz has risen to the top of his career in the field of strategy consulting, business change and transformation, whilst also studying Islam intensely and gaining multiple diplomas from Cambridge Islamic College and iSyllabus UK. His expertise is studying and synthesizing authentic and deep traditional knowledge into simple tools and frameworks for Muslims to easily implement into their day to day lives.
“So where are you going?” [81:26]