Once we have understood and are aware of the dangers of destructive doubts, our next strategy is to stay clear of them and not pay attention to them. If you know, for instance, that a certain youtuber is an ex-Muslim who constantly speaks about doubts concerning the Qur’an, the Sīrah, Islamic law, etc. then stay away from that person’s channel. This was the advice that was given to the scholar, Ibn Qayyim by his teacher, the 14th century erudite polymath, Ibn Taymiyyah, as Ibn Qayyim himself writes,
“After I began to present to him one allegation after another, Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah be pleased with him, advised me as follows: ‘Do not allow your heart to be a sponge for every doubt and allegation so that it drinks them up and is moistened with nothing else. Instead, make your heart like solid glass; doubts pass over its surface but do not settle on the inside. Thus, the doubts are seen through the clearness of the glass, but are repelled by its firmness. Otherwise, if you allow your heart to drink every doubt you encounter, it will end up affirming them,’ Or he said something to that effect. I do not know of any advice that has brought me greater benefit in fending off doubts than this one.”1
Thus, if one is susceptible to destructive doubts affecting their heart then it only makes sense to avoid exposure to shubuhāt until one’s heart is strong enough to deal with them. It must be remembered that this is not giving credence to destructive doubts as if they are valid or have an intellectual basis. They are NOT valid and do NOT have an intellectual basis because they only resemble (‘tushbihu’) the truth but are not the truth. Remember, shubuhāt are not strong. We just have weak hearts.
The avoidance of factors that would undermine one’s imān is clearly articulated by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. In many strongly corroborated eschatological ḥadīth reports, the Prophet speaks about the coming of the False Messiah (al-Masīḥ ad-Dajjāl). The False Messiah is the greatest tribulation that could potentially decimate a person’s imān as the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ states,
“Nothing between the creation of Adam until the establishment of the Hour is a greater tribulation than the affair of the False Messiah.”2
The advice from the Prophet regarding such a tribulation is the following,
“Whoever hears news of the False Messiah, let him flee from him. By God, a man will go to him considering himself a believer, but will instead follow him because of doubts he will present.”3
Thus, we can see that the Prophetic advice is to run away from destructive doubts, especially if we recognize that our heart is too weak to handle the flood of shubuhāt presented to it (as would be the case with the advent of the False Messiah).
If one finds that the heart is at the beginning stages of exposure to destructive doubts, just before the doubt has settled in and started its pillaging of one’s imān, this strategy would take on an additional component. Not only should a person stop and turn away from the situation that is causing destructive doubts, but also they should seek the protection of Allāh and affirm their belief in Allāh. This has been expounded upon by the Prophet ﷺ in the following narration:
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said, “Satan will come to one of you and he will say, ‘Who created this and that?’ until he says to him, ‘Who created your Lord?’ When it comes to this, let him seek refuge in God and stop such thoughts.” In another narration, the Prophet said, “Let him say: I have faith in God.”4
Again, it must be remembered that shubuhāt are not strong but rather it is our hearts that are weak. Even in this case where the Prophet ﷺ is mentioning a doubt regarding a creative chain of events, it is noteworthy that he did not offer a syllogistic response highlighting the impossibility of an infinite regress of creative processes5, but instead put forth a spiritual cure i.e. seeking refuge in God and affirming one’s belief in God.
1> Jawziyya, Ibn Qayyim al-. مفتاح دار السعادة و منشور ولاية العلم و الارادة. Vol. 1. Mecca: Dar Alam al-Fawa’id, 2010. , Pg. 395
2 Qushayrī, Muslim ibn al-Ḥajjāj. Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2946
3 Sijistānī, Abū Dāʼūd Sulaymān ibn al-Ashʻath. Sunan Abu Dawud: 4319 (Ṣaḥīḥ)
4 Bukhārī, Muḥammad ibn Ismāʻīl. Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī: 3102. Qushayrī, Muslim ibn al-Ḥajjāj. Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 134
5 For more on this, see Tzortzis, Hamza Andreas. The Divine Reality: God, Islam and The Mirage of Atheism (Newly Revised Edition). Sapience Institute, 2019., Pg. 110-112