WhisperingsIn this counseling answer:
•Do not overlook the positive aspects of all the acts of worship that you are able to do, as well as your striving to remain chaste and away from haram relationships.
•I kindly advise you to seek an assessment from a qualified therapist.
•One thing that you can do to decrease these thoughts is not to feed into them when they do come. Let them come and let them pass.
•Imagine that thoughts are hitting the stop sign and bouncing off and going away.
•The problem is not faith, sister. It may be your mental health status regarding anxiety, stress, or another disorder which can be treated.
As salaamu alaykum sister,
Thank you for writing to us with your concerns and worries.
A Pious Muslim
I understand that you are in a crisis right now, and my heart goes out to you as I can imagine the hurt and pain you are going through. Sister, you stated that you pray five times a day and recite Quran. You also listen to lectures and draw inspiration from hearing stories about the Prophet, companions, and other great scholars of Islam.
You further stated you do not have any haram relationships. I can imagine that you are wondering why then, this is happening to you.
You referred to yourself as “not a very good or pious Muslim”. I am wondering why you would say this, based on the true nature of how you really are. Perhaps you are overlooking the good that you strive to do, and the wonderful Muslim that you are. You are striving hard to please Allah as we all should, and that is a very good quality.
Acknowledge our Good Intentions and Act of Worship and Seeking Forgiveness
Sister, in sha’ Allah, do not overlook the positive aspects of all the acts of worship that you are able to do, as well as your striving to remain chaste and away from haram relationships. As you are 25, it is a prime age for testing of these things. It appears to me that you are very strong in your faith and very devoted to Allah and to doing the right thing.
However, I do want to remind you that as human beings we all do sin, and we all make mistakes. We fall short and that is why we strive to please Allah and seek His forgiveness. As you know, Allah is most merciful, and He loves us very much. Allah doeswant us to come to Him for forgiveness when we sin and promises us, He will forgive if we truly repent.
Terrible Intrusive Thoughts
You stated that something terrible has happened in the past month. This happened when you were reading the translation of Quran. You stated that suddenly and out of nowhere, dark thoughts came to your mind, and stated that the thoughts have been increasing and they are frightening. You also indicated that you have never had thoughts like this before, and that they came out of nowhere.
Sister, I’m not sure if you experienced any previous feelings of anxiety, depression or stress. However, sometimes when there are other mental health issues going on, one can have intrusive thoughts. Often, they may be due to obsessive-compulsive disorder / intrusive thoughts (OCD).
OCD is in the family of anxiety disorders. It often does come out of the blue for no reason, and it often does increase in intensity. People who go through this do become very scared and avoid certain behaviors, actions, or things because it is a scary thing. There seems to be no reason for these thoughts, and we don’t know where they are coming from.
Seeking Help & Tips to Overcome Intrusive Thoughts
Sister, I kindly advise you to seek an assessment from a qualified therapist. A therapist would be able to assess you for any anxiety, stress, depression, obsessive compulsive disorders and so forth. Perhaps it is something that needs treatment, or perhaps it is something that you could address on your own. However, I would recommend getting an assessment from a counselor.
One aspect of intrusive thoughts sister is that when they come, they can be scary. Some people have intrusive thoughts of not being safe, thus, they will check the locks on all the doors and windows maybe 10 -20 times or more.
Some people have intrusive thoughts relating to cleanliness and it results in compulsive behavior of excessive hand washing.
Some intrusive thoughts involve a feeling of fear around certain areas such as a certain store, a classroom, etc, so people who experience this will avoid going near these areas where the thoughts initially started.
No doubt that when the thoughts come you want them gone because they are as they are called- intrusive. This means they are unwanted thoughts that are bothersome and frightening, and they intrude upon your normal thought processes.
Check out this counseling video
One thing that you can do to decrease these thoughts is not to feed into them when they do come. Let them come and let them pass. Don’t ponder on them, don’t worry about them, don’t feed into them. It’s like feeding into a fear. The more you think about it the bigger it gets.
For example, if we are standing at the edge of a driveway and want to cross the road, we may be fearful of getting hit by a car, even if there are no cars coming. However, we still stand there, thinking of the fear.
If we ensure there are no cars coming, and we just cross, we are fine. However, the longer we stand there and think about all the cars coming and visualize getting hit and all the pain, then of course we are feeding into this thought, and the more fearful we will become. We will remain frozen in our thought processes.
In sha’ Allah, when the thoughts come you can just let it slip through your mind. Give it no power through fear or analyzing it. This method works for some people. The thoughts eventually start diminishing and go away.
For others it may not be effective. Visualizing a huge red stop sign may work as well.Imagine that thoughts are hitting the stop sign and bouncing off and going away.
This is another effective way to decrease the thoughts. Both approaches reinforce the idea of not giving power to these thoughts. It reinforces the fact that these are not a part of your consciousness, and they are not a part of who you are. If these thoughts are a byproduct of stress or anxiety, they should decrease as anxiety/stress decreases. Thus, it is important to know where you are in terms of mental health wellness.
Anxiety, Stress and Mental Health Wellness
You may want to ask yourself: Have I been under stress? Has there been any major life changes? Do I have any symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety and stress are very common, many people have it. Everybody has some amounts of stress no doubt, but if it is not managed correctly it can get out of hand and turn into anxiety or panic disorder or other mental health issues.
Allah is Close to you
Sister, please know that Allah knows your heart. Allah knows your mind, and He knows that you love Him very much and that you do not doubt Him. Allah sees you struggling, and He knows that these intrusive thoughts are not truly what you are about. Allah loves you and He’s most merciful.
You mentioned that even your worship feels like “it is evaporating”. You used to feel strongly connected, and now you feel that Allah is taking away the guidance from you.
Sister, this is a result of the intrusive thoughts and anxiety that is surrounding it. Allah has not taken anything away from you, in fact Allah is probably closer to you now because you are going through a very difficult time that is not your fault.
Your cousin who gave you the advice stating that you’re “going through this because it means you never had faith, you have a weak belief system, you are kafir” is wrong! Everybody at some point in their life experiences a mental health illness. There is no shame in it nor is there anything to feel guilty about. It is just part of the human condition, much like a medical disorder such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
What you’re going through has nothing to do with your faith or your love for Allah but has everything to do with your mental health status. If you address these issues through counseling and prayer, you are going to be on the road to healing in sha’ Allah. Once you have resolved the symptoms that you are going through, your spirituality will be regainedin sha’ Allah.
Intrusive Thoughts During Worship
Sister, as the intrusive thoughts increase while you are in worship, it is only natural that you would want to stop or minimize it. The thoughts are uncomfortable. They are interfering and naturally you feel that if you stop whatever activity you’re doing, the thoughts will go away.
This is a natural response to stop an activity that produces negative effects. The negative effect worship is having is the intrusive thoughts. It’s not that you don’t want to worship, you do, but you just don’t want to experience these horrible intrusive thoughts, sister.
The thing about these intrusive thoughts is that as you know they’re connected to your worship. When you do go to worship, read Quran, or pray and so forth, in the back of your mind you’re probably already thinking “oh no, these thoughts are going to come.” That’s giving power to them.
While it’s natural to fear it will happen again, you’re also giving power to it. Sister, you will not lose Allah. Allah knows you better than anyone. Allah created you. Allah knows your mental state and what you are experiencing, and He is most merciful.
Your faith is strong, sister, or else you would not be writing to us, and you would not be so concerned. People whose faith is weak feel that these intrusive thoughts are normal to contemplate. The thoughts don’t bother them. In fact, some people may even explore further, and go off into another religion.
You, on the other hand, realize that these thoughts are not normal for you. It is scary and upsetting because your faith is so strong.
The problem is not faith, sister. It may be your mental health status regarding anxiety, stress, or another disorder which can be treated. I cannot diagnose you, therefore, I will kindly suggest in sha’ Allah, that you seek counseling as soon as possible to get an assessment.
We wish you the best,
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.