Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem
by Hazrat Maulana Yunus Patel Saheb (Rahmatullahi 'alayh)
AS HUMAN BEINGS, WE KEEP OURSELVES OCCUPIED in something or the other. Our work or whatever activity we are involved in is either good or bad.
If it is bad, then it has to be given up. Sins must be given up. Sometimes a person wants to give up his sins, but complains that he will then have nothing to do. The solution is to replace the bad with the good. He has to have some alternative or substitute – to take the place of sin. But this substitute must be beneficial and virtuous. It must not be futile and useless.
There was an incident of a thief, who used to steal the shoes of the Musallees whilst they were engaged in Salaah, in the Masjid. Allah Ta’ala destined Hidayah (guidance) for him and subsequently he met a pious Shaykh, a Wali of Allah Ta’ala. The thief made sincere Taubah from his sins and even took Bay’ah (pledge of allegiance) at the hand of the Wali.
Although he quit his habit of stealing completely, the habit to still do something had become ingrained and strong in him. Instead of stealing, he would merely mix up the shoes of the Musallees.
Naturally, this angered the Musallees, since it inconvenienced them and delayed their work. On investigation, they found out who was responsible and informed the Shaykh.
The Shaykh, after meeting with the Mureed, who had repented from stealing, questioned him regarding his strange behavior and his causing difficulty to others. The person very honestly told his Shaykh that he had sincerely repented from the sin of stealing but he just had to do something, so he mixed the shoes every time the Musallees came to the Masjid for Salaah. …After a few days, with the Fadhl of Allah Ta’ala and the Duas of the Shaykh, he got out of that habit as well.
If a person does not occupy himself, then as we know: “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop!” Do not let shaytaan enjoy rent-free accommodation in your mind! Do not allow shaytaan any access into your heart!
If a person does not keep himself occupied in good deeds, he is likely to get occupied in bad deeds.
Prior to accepting Islam, during the days of Jahiliyyah (ignorance), the Sahaba-e-Kiraam رَضِىَ الله عَنْهُمْ were involved in all kinds of sinful actions – wine, women, war, singing girls and other Haraam was the order of the day. However, on entering the fold of Islam, all of these vices were replaced with virtues. For example: Music, singing girls and other Haraam entertainment were replaced with the beautiful, enjoyable recitation of the Qur’aan Shareef, Tahajjud Salaah and spending the night communicating with their Beloved Allah Ta’ala. Jihaad was no longer against just anyone and everyone; it was against the nafs, primarily.
In practising on the teachings of Islam and following the noble Sunnah, there is no scope for boredom. The person who tastes the sweetness of Qur’aan Shareef, Zikrullah, Durood Shareef, Dua and Salaah will never be bored.
We take the lesson that sins should be replaced with good and rewarding alternatives, or permissible and lawful substitutes.
Alhamdulillah, in our times, there is so much to keep occupied with. Our ‘Ulama-e-Haq and Mashaa`ikh have many programmes, which, if we attend, we can maintain our Istiqaamah (steadfastness) on Deen. In fact, we should attend these programmes regularly. It will be a means of spiritual nourishment and spiritual health and a fortification against sins. If attending the programmes is not always possible, the same can be audio-streamed, downloaded, etc. The books of our ‘Ulama and Mashaa’ikh are also available whereby we can take benefit and inspiration.
Alhamdulillah, the work of Tabligh, the effort of the Khanqahs, the effort to acquire the knowledge of Deen, the undertakings made to assist the poor, needy and others, etc. have been a means of great goodness and productivity for many – who then channel their energies and time in serving Deen, going out in the path of Allah Ta’ala, benefitting others, becoming involved in relief work – within the parameters of Deen, and fulfilling the true objective of this worldly life.
In fact, the effort of Islaah (reformation) should keep us well-occupied. Hazrat Sufyaan Thauri رَحْمَةُ اللهِ عَلَيْهِ had said: “Rectifying yourself is an endeavour that should keep you very busy.”
Islam is not only about sitting on the Musallah the entire day and night, or just attending programmes all the time. There is a perfectly healthy balance that Deen offers us. Since Allah Ta’ala knows all our needs, He has presented us with the Sunnah, which is fully wholesome and practical, and which preserves the heart, soul, mind and body. We find beautiful guidance in every aspect of life. Since we deprive the nafs of Haraam, we do not have to deprive it of Halaal.
Together with making the effort in good deeds, serving the creation and also seeking to serve this beautiful Deen, we are allowed some recreation and leisurely activities – which will benefit us physically. In fact, if the right intentions are made, these activities will become greatly rewarding.
We are directed towards activities such as swimming, archery and horse-riding. Rasulullah ﷺ said: “Any action without the remembrance of Allah is either a diversion or heedlessness excepting four acts: Walking from target to target (during archery practice), training a horse, playing with one's family, and learning to swim.” 
Hazrat ‘Umar رَضِىَ الله عَنْهُ had also advised: “Teach your children swimming, archery and horse riding.”
Of course, this should not be taken out of context or used to justify Haraam. The Ahadīth encourage these activities, but within the limits and boundaries of Deen and Shari’ah. There is no allowance for immodest dressing, intermingling with the opposite gender or attending sports matches at stadiums where there will be indulgence in all kinds of Haraam. This is obviously not permissible – and for good reason: To protect us from sins.
We should similarly abstain from useless and futile pursuits. Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi رَحْمَةُ اللهِ عَلَيْهِ had said that if a person reflects on his futile acts and statements, he will most assuredly discover that they ultimately lead to sin because there is no futile and nonsensical act whose boundary is not adjoining the boundary of sin.
May Allah Ta’ala grant us the Taufeeq of practising on Deen correctly, of keeping occupied in good deeds, and seeking Allah Ta’ala’s Pleasure at all times.