Much of our mental distress would be cured if we just brought one Sunnah back into our lives – the Sunnah of Husn Dhann. Husn Dhann can be translated as having good, positive thoughts but its meaning goes much deeper. In Islam, there are two aspects of Husn Dhann.
Husn Dhann Billah means to have good thoughts about Allah (swt) and to expect only the best from Him. Having positive expectations from Allah (swt) acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy – what you expect, you receive. He (swt) says in a Hadith Qudsi:
أَنَا عِنْدَ ظَنِّ عَبْدِي بِي
I am as My slave thinks of Me. [Bukhari]
You must have good expectations from Allah (swt) to be able to fully rely on Him. Sayyid Qutub (rah) said: “The believing heart assumes the best of its Lord, and always expects the best from Him. It expects good from Him in times of ease and times of hardship, and it believes that Allah wants good for him in either situation.”
Similarly, Ibn Qayyim (rah) said: “Most people – in fact, all of them except those protected by Allah – assume other than the truth, and assume the worst. Most people believe that they are deprived of their rights, have bad luck, deserve more than what Allah gave them, and it is as if they are saying: ‘My Lord has wronged me and deprived me of what I deserve,’ and his soul bears witness to this while his tongue denies it and refuses to openly state this. […]
So, dig into your own self: are you protected from this? If you are safe from this, you have been protected from something great. Otherwise, I do not see that you have been saved.”
The concept of Husn Dhann in the context of our relationships means to give people the benefit of the doubt. It is an active form of thinking in which we strive to find not just excuses for other people’s behavior, but to search for and attribute positive reasons to their actions.
In this regard, the famous saying of the Salaf can serve as a guiding principle:
“If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for them. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves.”
The less you jump to conclusions about other people’s intentions, the more they will be inclined to trust you. Just as we don’t like to be judged, neither does anyone else.
Having positive thoughts about others is a beautiful form of worship, as mentioned in a Hadith by the Prophet (saw). So while we make a conscious effort to perform and perfect our daily Ibadah (worship), we should make a conscious effort to develop a positive mindset as well.
Benefit of Husn Dhann
When you have positive expectations from Allah (swt), your heart feels light because it’s not weighed down with anxiety about the future or depression over your present state. You are at peace with what Allah (swt) has chosen for you and are able to move forward in life with confidence.
If you don’t practice Husn Dhann with others, i.e. your automatic thinking pattern is to jump to negative conclusions about them, you harm no one as much as you harm yourself by losing your mental peace. Acting on such thoughts often leads to embarrassment and regret when you come to know someone’s real intention for doing or saying something you had misinterpreted.
Avoid thinking bad of others and you’ll feel an increase in your own inner peace and in the quality of your relationships. What we think, we reveal through our words and actions. Think positive and your actions will reflect that.
Link between Optimism and Husn Dhann
Ibn Qayyim (rah) said: “The one who hopes in Allah should always be optimistic, cautious, and hopeful in Allah’s bounty, expecting the best from Him.”
The concept of optimism and Husn Dhann are closely interlinked. The proven benefits of having an optimistic attitude are also attained when we think positively about Allah (swt). Optimistic people live longer and have healthier lives. Such people are better planners and more successful in different areas of life. Optimists are better at dealing with stress, illness, and other challenges.
Similarly, optimism and thinking good of others are interlinked concepts. Research proves that optimists are happier in their relationships and have longer lasting ones. Idealizing your partner acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy. People tend to behave according to the expectations placed on them.
Cure for Negative Thoughts
The Prophetic cure for negative thoughts is simply to not dwell on them. A thought may pop into your head, but develop the habit of letting it come and go – don’t feed it, don’t let it stay, don’t fret over it.
If you dwell on a bad thought about someone else, you’ll be suspicious of them and inclined to find out more about their actions. You might even go so far as to spy on them and unveil something that was only between them and Allah (swt). And then you will fall into the sin of Gheebah (backbiting) by exposing them.
Allah (swt) links all these actions in the Quran through the following words,
“O you who believe, abstain from many of the suspicions. Some suspicions are sins. And do not be curious (to find out faults of others), and do not backbite one another. ”[49:12]
This is also why the Prophet (saw) warned against negative assumptions in the following words:
“Beware of suspicion, for indeed suspicion is the falsest of speech.”[Tirmidhi]
It’s a vicious circle but the cure is simple – don’t feed the initial bad thought that pops into your mind. Brush it aside and move on.