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I Miss a Prayer, but Don’t Feel Guilty; I’m Worried!

Questioner

J

Reply Date

Apr 23, 2017

Question

Assalam u alikum wa Rahmatullah. I am 17 years old boy. I have a problem with masturbation. I previously sent a message to you and alhamdulillah the response helped as this bad habit become much less than before. Thank you for the help. May God help me to leave this completely. But I come across weakness of iman before actually even I had that problem. I used to be a practicing Muslim. I am still doing my 5 times prayer and fast, but in the past when I missed a prayer, I was very scared and could not forgive myself. But now if I might miss one of my prayers, I am not scared like I was in the past. This scares me. Why am I not scared? Please help me. Can you tell me how can I overcome this feeling? Sorry for taking your time.

Counselor

Answer


I Miss a Prayer, but Don't Feel Guilty; I'm Worried!

Answer:

As-Salaamu ‘Alalikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh,

Thank you for taking my time with this very important question!

I hope that you continue to gain strength against your problem of masturbation. Regarding what you see as a problem with your iman, I think that you might be having a different way of looking at your sins. I want to point out to you that you feel very guilty because you don’t feel as guilty as you used to (when you missed your prayer). That too is a way of feeling guilty—just a different way.

You said: “in the past when I missed a prayer, I was very scared and could not forgive myself”. Now, not being able to forgive yourself is not Islam. So many people get this wrong. In psychology, we call this “toxic guilt” where toxic means poisonous. In this case, it means too much of a good thing like eating too much ice cream. Guilt is a necessity of life to keep us from doing “too much” of something that is wrong or letting us know that something is wrong so to stay away from it.

Suffering from Weak Faith

Ibn `Ataa’ on Repentance and Hope

6 Things Repentance Brings to You

Allah (swt) has given us this “shut-off button” to make us stop or repent when we went too far. However, Shaitan will load that shut-off button with the emotional message that also says “you are unforgivable because you did such and such”. Nothing is “unforgivable” except polytheism, and polytheism is associating a partner with Allah (swt), not being weak or making a mistake. If you were missing your prayers because you did not believe in Islam, then you would have reason to be very worried. But, that is not what is going on with you. You are missing them out of weakness and that is “human”. Allah (swt) says that He (swt) loves those who repent again and again. How could we do that if we did not sin?

I am not suggesting that you go out and sin! I am suggesting that when you sin, by mistake or weakness, you feel guilty (as you do) and repent while also recognizing that state-of-being, i.e., one of being penitent, is the state-of-being that Allah (swt) wants us in—in relationship to Him! He wants us humble, in need of Him! So, the best way to get into that state is not to not sin, but to feel guilty when we do sin (by mistake or out of weakness) and then to go to Allah (swt) begging for Mercy and Forgiveness. This shows respect for His Authority.

This misunderstanding about Islam gives us a “disease” in our hearts (with Shaitan promoting it). It comes from a person thinking that if you are a true believer you won’t sin. Then, when a person sins, they feel worthless and hopeless because they think they are not forgivable. People who think this way often become alcoholics because they give up on themselves and life. That idea is not the Islamic formula for belief—repentance (for mistakes and weaknesses) and asking Allah (swt) to help us is the formula for belief in Islam.

So, it may be a good thing on your path to true Islam that you had a change in your feelings so you can get rid of that poison that says you are unforgivable! Now, make tawbah, follow it up with reading more Quran and Hadith, and get to the masjid more to surround yourself with people who remind you not of the bad stuff but of Allah’s mercy—to help you to know that Allah is All-Forgiving!

May Allah (swt) make it easy for you.

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About Nasira S. Abdul-Aleem

Nasira S. Abdul-Aleem, an American, has a BA in English from UC Berkeley and is about to receive an MS degree in counseling psychology (Marriage and Family Therapy - MFT) from the Western Institute for Social Research. For over ten years, Nasira worked as a psychotherapist with the general public and in addiction recovery. For the last few years, she has been a life coach specializing in interpersonal relations. Nasira also consults with her many family members who studied Islam overseas and returned to America to be Imams and teachers of Islam. Muslims often ask Nasira what psychology has to do with Islam. To this, she replies that Islam is the manifestation of a correct understanding of our psychology. Therapists and life coaches help clients figure out how to traverse the path of life as a Believer, i.e., "from darkness into light", based on Islam and given that that path is an obstacle course, according to Allah.

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