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I Feel I am Going to Hell Because of My Thoughts

Question and answer details
A (30-female-Australia)
2012/12/04
Salamalaykum....I have been suffering from severe waswas. Ever since I have gotten better at my religion and started practicing my religion I have been getting these ill thoughts about ALLAH (SWT) in my head to the point where I cannot tell anyone what I am experiencing because of embarrassment. I don't know if this is me or the shaytan, I am very confused... I do not leave prayer I always pray and I pray the Sunnah after Fard because my fear my Fard wasn't accepted because of these evil thoughts. Am I going to be judged for these thoughts even though I am not saying them? I feel like I am losing faith and that I am going to hell because of this. Could this be my test from ALLAH? I can't even tell my husband about these thoughts because I don't want to be looked down upon. I always read ayatul kursi and all the surahs when this happens but it still happens. I hate it so much that this is happening to me and I feel lost and do not know what to do now. Looking forward to your reply.
Najma M. Adam, Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
Answer

Wa alaiykum as salaam dear sister,

Thank you for your valuable question. You are not alone in your suffering of waswas and I applaud your courage in coming forward and asking this important question.

First, please do not be critical of yourself because of the thoughts you are experiencing. Sometimes when people have such thoughts, they become very negative, pessimistic, and turn against themselves. Such self-pressure will not help you, especially right now.

From a mental health perspective, what you are describing is part of a group of issues that are classified under the “anxiety” umbrella. You are experiencing obsessive thoughts and each time you act upon them, you are impulsively attempting to calm your anxiety. From an Islamic perspective, waswas has a basis on some religious texts. The main difference between the two perspectives rests in the source of cause – i.e. who is causing these thoughts? For example, in the Islamic framework, shaytan is the culprit. However, from the mental health perspective, the source is biochemical (serotonin levels are low) and not necessarily an external trigger. This does not mean that you caused it, so please do not blame yourself.

We are biological beings and if you have any sense of biology, you understand how it’s a miracle that our bodies function at all! Each cell has a job to do and the whole network of cells and how they communicate is so sophisticated that it’s a miracle we exist at all! This is the marvelous work of the divine. In this intricate system of cells, sometimes things can go off course (for various reasons, including external triggers). Thus, whether shaytan or biochemical, it seems your thoughts are slightly askew. And in this, you are not alone.As humans, this is par for the course. No one is perfect, and we all struggle with something.

The good news for you is that no matter what the source, the remedy is the same. Most important thing is that you do not resist the thoughts or fight them. It is best to acknowledge that they exist and then choose to ignore them.

So, for example, when the thought enters your mind that you have not performed wudu correctly, acknowledge that you are having this thought and then picture a big sign that says STOP. As soon as this sign pops up in your head, you are to stop thinking about it and continue with whatever you were to do next. So, for example, if you have already done the wudu and are about to pray, continue with prayers. At any point during prayers you have doubt that you have not pronounced something correctly, not done the right number of fard or sunnah prayers, just picture the stop sign and then continue as if you did everything correctly. Thus, if you were to pray four fard and your thoughts tell you that you prayed three, picture the stop sign and then assume you prayed four. If you want to continue to Sunnah, fine, if not, that’s ok too.

The STOP sign technique is used often in the mental health field for conditions related to anxiety/waswas. It takes a lot of practice so please be patient. Do not give up and just continue. Over time, you will find specific thoughts will dissipate.

Also, I encourage you highly to talk to a mental health specialist about your situation. Talking about what is happening with you can uncover a full history that can prove extremely useful in providing effective treatment based on your particular circumstances.

Please do not be ashamed or think that God is punishing you or will condemn you to hell. Such thinking is exacerbating the difficulties you are already experiencing. Remember that in Islam, niyaah (intention) is extremely important. In other words, if your intentions are to pray, Allah acknowledges this and gives you credit for just having such thoughts. Know that Allah is merciful, loving and Just and that he will not forsake you. Trust in the Almighty and strive to do your best without trying to be perfect. Allah understands it is humans who complicate things. Always seek his protection, do not abandon prayers over these thoughts, and please talk to a qualified mental health professional also.

Good luck, sister.

 

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About the Counselor:
Najma M. Adam, Ph.D., L.C.S.W. is the Director of Adam & Associates Counseling Services, Inc. Dr. Adam has many years of experience and has taught at several universities in the Chicagoland area. She actively conducts research and publishes. She received her Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work and her Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration. Further information about her can be found at www.adamandassociates.com.

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