At the beginning of the year, my social media pages are always filled with influencers speaking about how I can make 2023 the best year of my life. In more recent years, these posts have transitioned from simple motivational speeches to focus more on the idea of manifestation. While some circles practice manifestation as a goal-setting technique, others see it very similar to witchcraft and magic. So where did manifestation begin?
CAN MUSLIMS MAKE VISION BOARDS WITHOUT COMMITTING SHIRK?
According to a Washington Post article, the concept of manifestation started to take off in the 19th century’s New Thought movement. But, the trend really took off with the 2006 documentary titled The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. I listened to the audiobook version of the film during the pandemic and was surprised by how outlandish some of its “proven techniques” really were.
On the other hand, I’m a huge believer in goal-setting and positive thinking. I’ve loved making vision boards for the last few years, but my 2022 vision board came true in a way I could never have imagined. I had a section of my board dedicated to traveling where I put pictures of the Eiffel Tower to represent my favorite city, Paris, and a picture of two friends at Disneyland.
Did I summon my dream trip just by staring at pictures of it every day?
Later that year, I had the opportunity to travel to France and Disneyland Paris with one of my best friends. When I made the vision board, I had no idea this would even be a possibility, so I began to wonder if there was any truth to attracting what you focus on. I kept that vision board beside my bed and looked at it daily. Did I summon my dream trip just by staring at pictures of it every day?
More importantly, if I was starting to believe in manifestation, was that allowed in Islam? Or was it the kind of magic and witchcraft I had always been warned to stay away from as a child? I spoke to Sister Tahera Kassamali, a religious advisor at the Islamic Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat of Toronto about this topic.
Is there a halal way to use manifestation?
Islamically, there is a lot of content in which we learn about having positive assumptions. It’s called husn al-dhann in Arabic. When you are doing work and assume that God will help you to do your best and you go into it with that type of positive assumption about yourself and the abilities that God’s given you, then yes, we do believe that it works.
There is a hadith al-qudsi (a statement from God said to the Prophet) that says “I am as My servant thinks of Me. If he thinks good of Me, he will have it.”* When you have firm confidence in God or in your abilities given to you by God then you must have a strong conviction that things will work out in the best way possible because that’s what God has intended for me.
One of the popular phrases in relation to manifestation on the Internet is “you are the creator of your own universe.”
Where does Islam stand on that idea?
In Islam, everything is linked to God. You’re not creating your own universe or your own world or your own life, for that matter. It’s God who created you and He is the ultimate controller. In the Quran, it says: “There is nothing for man except what he strives for (53:39).”
God has promised that if you put in the effort, He will give you those results. But you’re not the creator of your own life or work or universe. In fact, there is a poem by Imam Ali (a.s.) that says: “You assume you are a small entity, but within you is the entire Universe.” The universe within you is the creation of God.
I find that a lot of times Western thought or maybe this type of atheist or agnostic thought is very much self-oriented and Islam is not like that at all. It’s completely different. It’s all about God, the self is a reflection of God – it is a manifestation of God. The good that you’re able to do, the light that you spread in this world, is a reflection of God’s light. It’s all very much linked to God, so you’re not doing it yourself, it’s God working through you.
Many manifestation techniques involve asking “the Universe” for what you want, which seems really similar to prayer if you just replace the word universe with God.
What is the difference between manifestation and dua?
When we make dua, we’re making it to a being that we’re so connected to, it’s like we’re a part of Him. God says He breathed into us and that’s how we got our souls.
In manifestation, you are asking the universe, but it’s almost like the universe is separate from you, they’re two different entities. When we speak to God, it’s really like we’re a part of God, so there’s a much deeper connection.
When people speak to the universe, it’s a vague concept, it’s very external.
Another difference would be that when we connect with God, we believe in a God who has all these qualities, the asma ul-husna that God has. When people speak to the universe, it’s a vague concept, it’s very external. It’s another entity that doesn’t have these qualities of mercy, kindness, compassion, and justice, which we believe that God does. It’s like when you talk to your parents about something or you talk to an outsider. When you are talking to your parents, there is closeness, understanding, and attachment. When talking to an outsider, who may be very wise perhaps, there is a missing ingredient. Similarly, there is intimacy when you speak to God and you can’t get that with the universe.
*There are various translations of this hadith. This is a common one.