Extreme Waswasa in All My Acts of Worship

24 January, 2017
Q As-Salamu `Alaikum. For about a year now, I have been suffering from waswasa. I doubt whether my recitation was correct, if my wudhu' was valid, or if I’m clean enough to pray. I try to use the "hear or smell rule" regarding doubts about passing wind, but I feel I smelt something. I fear my sins are too bad and that they will not be forgiven, and my past prayers will not be accepted due to very serious reasons that cause a lot of sins. I also fear going to hell, and I am worried Allah will not accept my prayers. I am starting an important year in school, and I do not wish these doubts to affect me. Prayer has become a chore. I hope you can help; it will be greatly appreciated. JazakAllah.

Answer

Answer:

As-Salamu `Alaykum Sister,

Waswasa is a very uncomfortable state of anxiety with obsessive thinking and rumination. These fears and doubts enter our minds because we forget the truth about how merciful our Allah (swt) is. I hope that the approaches and suggestions that I give are helpful to you. You deserve to enjoy your time with Allah (swt). This time with Allah (swt) is a gift from our Creator to His creation, and my prayer is that you are able to receive the wonderful benefits of your practice.

There are many different interventions for anxious thoughts. However, I will only make a few suggestions for the two different situations that are making you anxious for now. Try them and see if they help.

Your first situation is about wondering if your status with Allah (swt) is good, and if you can start living your life as a “normal” Muslim without worrying about if you are “good enough”.

First, if you are able to go to counseling, this would help you. I would recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy where you can examine the progression of your beliefs and self-talk and how distorted perceptions may be at the root of some of your troubles. When you work with a therapist and re-discover your original self, the soul that Allah (swt) created, you find you are good. Then you discover how and where certain thoughts and behavior patterns were formed that led to the sin you are worried about.

The beauty of this is that you realize your original innocence, and you have a chance to embrace that part of yourself and that you are still this very same individual who was innocent before distorted perceptions and misguided conclusions led to bad decisions. This is psychological and emotional cleansing. You will learn that you are good in the sight of Allah (swt) because you have cleared up the thinking and behaviors that caused you to sin. You will be more confident and not be so worried.

For your worries about wudu’ and salat try dhikr; remember Allah (swt) frequently. For prayer, use a prayer clock. The Azan will call you to prayer and you will know it is time to make wudu’. Keep a chart on your wall that lists the wudu’. Do your wudu’, then look at the chart. If you missed something, you can easily do the wudu’ again because you are right there with your cleansing water. If you do this for several weeks, eventually the wudu’ will become such a habit for you, you will no longer wonder if you did this correctly. By using the prayer clock and the chart, you won’t need to worry at all about whether you did your wudu’ correctly. If you are unsure about whether you know how to do your wudu’, you can easily look this up on the internet as there are several websites that show you how to do the ritual bath correctly.

As for passing wind, I’m not a scholar, but I believe you are correct. You can either ask a scholar or look this up on the internet to see if the hear and smell test you mentioned is correct. You would likely feel a physical sensation if you are passing wind. If you are passing a lot of gas, you might want to look into your diet and see if your stomach is having difficulty with something you are eating regularly. If something is upsetting your stomach, then that food is not healthy for you to eat. This is Allah’s mercy in showing you that you are making yourself ill. Praise Allah (swt) for all Merciful revelations.

Remembering Allah (swt) will also quiet your mind. This will help train your mind so that when you are practicing salat, you will be able to shift your focus away from the cares of this world and use your recitations to quiet your mind. If you shift your practice to this state of mind, you will experience a benefit from salat that will actually make you want to do it more. Once you begin to experience salat as regenerating instead of a chore, you will want to do this, and it will actually become pleasurable for you. True spirituality is joy.

As for your worry about your recitation, perhaps you can find a friend at the mosque or in your community center and practice. Or, perhaps you can use a tape recorder and record you favorite recitations and play them as you fall asleep, then practice them when you are not performing salat. You can also find them on many websites. If you record them, you can possibly use them during prayer until you have confidence in yourself. Choose the short ones that are easy to remember. I found this website to be very helpful. It has the recitations in Arabic and English and also has the recordings of the recitations so that you can memorize by listening and practicing easily. It can be fun, too.

Remember Allah (swt) is Most Merciful. Allah (swt) does not need our prayers; prayer is for us. It isn’t something to worry about; it is something to learn how to do so that we can regenerate our soul. When we take this view, we don’t criticize ourselves for making mistakes. Mistakes are simply opportunities to correct and eventually we get one more thing “right”.

For every part of our spiritual practice that we finally master and do correctly, we experience a new kind of joy and liberation. So, we practice, that’s all. Practice, and practice without worry, because with this good attitude and focus, eventually we get better and better and our lives simply improves as a natural result.

I pray some of my ideas are helpful for you. Don’t give up. You are a very beautiful creation of Allah (swt) and I appreciate your light.

Salams,

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About Dr. Bachmeier
Dr. Bachmeier is a clinical psychologist who has been working in the mental health field for over 15 years. She is also a former adjunct professor at Argosy University, writer, and consultant in the areas of mental health, cultural, and relationship issues.