How to Handle Bad Memory Flashbacks

28 September, 2020
Q Asalaam alykum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.

Please help me. I think I have heart problems which are connected to spiritual matters. I almost committed zina last year. I did terrible things when I was in the relationship. I realized everything I did then was bad. I repented and asked for forgiveness from Allah.

I tried as much as possible to stay firm in Islam but I have a problem. Sometimes, everything I did then will come into my mind like a flash. It keeps on coming and coming. Those images keep manifesting in my head. I'm afraid.

I also have terrible thoughts in my mind which makes me feel as if I'm out if the religion. I feel my Imaan is reducing. I keep praying and asking for forgiveness. Is it because Allah is yet to forgive me?

What can I do so those thoughts and images will leave me completely?

Jazakumllahu khayran as you answer my question. May Allah reward you abundantly.

Answer


In this counseling answer:

  • You must realize that although it is the past, it is not what defines you.
  •  Once you have realized you have made a mistake and are seeking forgiveness, you must be certain that it will be forgiven.
  • No human is ever perfect. Even in the Quran, Allah says, Indeed, Allah is ever Pardoning and Competent.” (Quran 4:149).”
  • Remember, a person seeking sincere repentance for a past sin and dedicatedly trying to improve for the pleasure of Allah is better than an arrogant “perfect” Muslim. Because there is no such as a “perfect” Muslim. Some make mistakes and repent, and others simply deny that they have ever made any mistakes.
  • To offset these feelings and thoughts, you need to keep yourself occupied.
  • I suggest that you engage yourself on the path to pursue Islamic knowledge.

As-Salamu Alaikum,

Thank you for placing your trust in our ability to propose a solution to your current situation.

You start off the question stating that you have heart problems related to spiritual matters. I highly suggest that you visit a general physician to ensure that you are not suffering from any underlying heart condition, blood pressure abnormalities or anything else which should be treated early rather than later.

Now, to answer your question about being able to forget the past. Remember, the past can only be forgotten if you genuinely try to forget it.

There is a famous saying:

“No amount of guilt can change the past and no amount of worry can change the future.”

However, I truly understand that it is easy said than done. I am certain that if you follow these few simple steps, and a bit of self-refrainment from going backward in time, you will not only feel relieved from the past but also have a new outlook on life.

How to Handle Bad Memory Flashbacks - About Islam

The past does not define you

You must realize that although it is the past, it is not what defines you. Once you have realized you have made a mistake and are seeking forgiveness, you must be certain that it will be forgiven. No human is ever perfect.

Even in the Quran, Allah says,

“Indeed, Allah is ever Pardoning and Competent.” (Quran 4:149)

The reason Allah says this in the Quran is that Allah knows that humans are prone to sinning, and we are not angels. We learn from our mistakes.

Allah loves to forgive and even in the Quran, He says that He forgives all kinds of sins except shirk:

“Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him, but He forgives other (sins) than that to whom He wills. And whoever sets up partners with Allah has indeed invented a tremendous (unforgivable) sin.” (Quran 4: 48)

Therefore, it is our jobs as sinners to continuously seek the forgiveness of our sins.

Focus on being more productive

It is easy to dwell on the past and not realize that it is what is gone, what is no longer in our control. However, to offset these feelings and thoughts, you need to keep yourself occupied.

In the Quran, Allah says,

“And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember.” (Quran 11:114)

As you can see, in the Quran Allah explicitly states that good deeds can “do away” with misdeeds, meaning that they remove the bad deeds.

However, good deeds should be done for the good intentions.

  1. The intention to please Allah.
  2. The intention to do good to people
  3. The intention to remove the evil deeds that you have done.

You need to find yourself a passion. A passion that will not only render you satisfied but also occupy your mind and prevent you from thinking back into the past.

But the question arises, how do I find out what exactly I am passionate about? How do I know? Remember, your passion should be the answer to these three questions:

  1. What subject could I read 500 books about without getting bored?
  2. What could I do for five years straight without getting paid?
  3. What would I spend my time doing if I had a complete financial abundance to do anything?

Therefore, once you find an activity which successfully fits the three requirements above, then invest time and increase productivity.

Seek knowledge

You mention in your question that you feel that Allah is yet to forgive you and that you feel your Imaan is at its lowest. It is natural to feel that you are not a good Muslim, a bad person, and have less good when you truly realize your mistake.

However, you must simultaneously realize that if you do not offset these feelings with the true knowledge of Allah and Islam, evil thoughts and whispers will house in your mind.

Therefore, I suggest that you engage yourself on the path to pursue Islamic knowledge. Gradually, you will increase your knowledge, and soon you will realize that you are a different person from what you have been in the past.

You will realize man’s susceptibility to errs, sins and mistakes, and realize the power of Allah over the creation and the meaning of life. Knowledge can do wonders.

Remember, a person seeking sincere repentance for a past sin and dedicatedly trying to improve for the pleasure of Allah is better than an arrogant “perfect” Muslim. Because there is no such as a “perfect” Muslim. Some make mistakes and repent, and others simply deny that they have ever made any mistakes.

So, there is no such thing as a perfect line of Imaan. There will always be a high and a low. We must try to be as high as possible without being dragged down by the low days—through the power of true knowledge of Allah.

Learn from the past

The past is always there. When we hold on to the negativity from the past and from the mistakes we have done, we are letting the negativity poison us.

Yes, you have made mistakes, you have done wrong, you have gone against what is right. But realizing that you have made a mistake is the first step towards self-improvement.  It is what indicates that you are genuinely inclined towards repentance and goodness.

Outline what you have learned:

  • Now you will know better than to fall into the trap laid out by the wrong person.
  • You are going to be seeking the company of the righteous
  • You will not be in the wrong company as you have realized that it does more harm than good
  • You must refrain yourself from temptations around the world
  • Losing hope is from Shaitan

Allah says in the Quran,

“So, do not weaken and do not grieve, and you will be superior if you are [true] believers.” (Quran 3:139)

Never in the Quran, or in the sayings of the Prophet Muhammed will you find that you are asked to despair, fall into hopelessness, and isolate yourself constantly thinking about your sins and your weaknesses.


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Thoughts that promote hopelessness are not going to steer you in the right direction. Not only will they distract you from becoming productive from the world but will also distract you from preparing yourself for the afterlife.

When you let these thoughts feel belittled, you are not being aware of the omnipotence of Allah. You are indirectly believing that there is no hope for the future of betterment and are denying that Allah can do almost everything.

Exercise

There is nothing better than exercise to promote productivity, positivity, creativity, and happiness. In research, it is found that people who are regular at exercising are hardly victims of depression, anxiety, sadness or even hopelessness. It also shows that after simply going for a 30-minute walk, individuals are more creative than before they had gone for the walk.

Find peace through prayer 

Allah says in the Quran,

“O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” (Quran 39:53)

 “Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah.  Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.” (Quran 13:28)

In the end, dear sister, nothing is ever in our control. What we must do is realize that Allah holds the power to turn around our lives for the better. I pray that you overcome the anxiety of your past and become the best you can be.

Salam,

***

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.

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About Madiha Sadaf
Madiha Sadaf in an undergraduate student at the University of Ottawa, enrolled in BSc. with Major in Biology and Psychology with Minor in Health Social Sciences.