My Thoughts Distract Me During Prayers; Help!

22 September, 2020
Q Salam Aleikom. I’m having a few problems. I have felt far away from Allah for a year or so, and I am so distracted during prayers. It’s like when I start praying I am compulsively thinking of other things.

I have distracting thoughts before I can even catch my mind wandering.

Because of this, I feel like a fraud and I feel like none of my prayers and duaas are accepted. It is driving me away from my deen. I have made duaa to Allah about this issue, but it never seems to get better.

I feel like my heart and mind are rotten and corrupted with shaytaan. I have very low self-esteem, and I suffer from a lot of self-hatred and compulsive thoughts of destroying myself. I feel like I don’t deserve anything in my life and that I don’t deserve jannah, astaghfirallah.

I am recently married and my self-esteem issues are affecting our relationship. I feel I am not good enough for him as a wife and that I will pass my issues onto our future children and will fail as a mother and as a Muslim.

He is an amazing man and is serious about his deen. I am afraid to tell him I am struggling severely with mine.

I don’t tell my husband or anyone about these issues because I am afraid he/they will realize how messed up and hopeless I am and will leave/find someone else.

I know these are all whispers from the Shaytaan, but I’m really struggling to keep my head above water now. I feel pathetic, worthless and useless and that I will never have anything valuable to contribute to anyone.

I was diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder as a teenager and I suffer from panic attacks. I suspect I have OCD because of the intrusive and distracting nature of my thoughts. I have been to counseling and therapy before.

I know it is a sin to doubt Allah’s mercy, but I feel so far away from Him and I feel so rotten inside, no matter how much duaa I make. I feel like a fraud. I keep going on in circles in my head with horrible negative thoughts.

I’m so absorbed in myself and my issues I know I’m falling short in being a wife and a daughter, but I can’t stop. Please advise me.

Answer


In this counseling answer:

• On the issue of distraction during prayers, first of all, establish what causes your anxiety and intrusive thinking. It must be something very strong.

* Also possible that you are consciously trying to block out negative things around you – which may be causing the ongoing distracting and intrusive thinking

• Whenever you feel your mind wandering away, you can bring yourself back at the moment through grounding exercise.

• During your prayer, just focus on the surah you are reciting.

* I can see you are being very critical of yourself. So for now, give yourself some space and accept yourself as you are.

• It’s also important you understand what makes you insecure about the relationship. Why do you think your husband will leave you if he finds out that you are struggling with your faith at the moment?

• Being open, honest and vulnerable in relationships is the secret to any long-lasting and satisfying relationship.

• Start challenging your negative thoughts by writing down the opposite of the negative, self-critical thoughts.


Assalamu Alaikum Sister,

It seems as though you are going through a lot at the moment. You have mentioned that you are distracted and have negative intrusive thoughts that make you impossible to pray with concentration.

Secondly, you have mentioned that you are not comfortable with sharing your concerns with your husband because he is a good Muslim, and he might reject you if he finds out that you are not.

You have also mentioned that you have felt as though you are worthless and are failing as a daughter and as a wife.

While I do not know anything about your past, it seems as though you have been surrounded by people who judged you for who you were, maybe to the point of emotional abuse.

This is why you have internalized it and now you are a harsh critic for yourself.

First of all, establish what causes your anxiety and intrusive thinking. It must be something very strong.

Or it is also possible that you are consciously trying to block out negative things around you – which may be causing the ongoing distracting and intrusive thinking.

Allah is the Most Merciful

Allah SWT is undoubtedly the Supreme Power. He has made the Heavens and the Earth. He is the Creator and Master of the Universe and the Day of Judgment.

He knows everything that goes on in our hearts. He knows the struggles we go through every Day.

He Just but He is also Merciful. He forgives His Believers when they make mistakes or when they error and repent. So, never be weary of His Mercy. He is always there, closer to you than your jugular vein.

In the Quran, Allah SWT says,

“And indeed We have created man, and We know whatever thoughts his inner self develops, and We are closer to him than (his) jugular vein.” (Quran 50:16)

According to a Hadith

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “When Allah completed the creation, he wrote in his book with him upon the throne: Verily, my mercy prevails over my wrath.” [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 3022, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2751]

Sister, the important thing is that you are making the effort of connecting with Allah SWT in prayer despite the entire struggle. Allah SWT knows the intentions behind the action and will reward you for it.

Accept Yourself

Sister, I feel as though you are going through a lot at the moment. Yet, at the same time, you are being very critical of yourself.

For now, give yourself some space and accept yourself as you are. The more you try to change yourself, not only will that be a struggle, but it will also keep re-igniting the critic in you and lead to more intrusive thinking.

Accept that you are a human being with flaws. We as humans are bound to have flaws. Nobody is perfect, and if you keep striving for perfection – you will only get more entangled in the web.

My Thoughts Distract Me During Prayers; Help! - About Islam

Accept yourself as you are, and be compassionate. Other people in your life will only accept you if you accept yourself.

If you keep doubting yourself and think that you are not good enough – others will catch up on it, and tell you the same thing! This will only reinforce your beliefs that you are not good enough.

Accept and Own Your Fears

Sister, awareness and then acceptance is the first step to bring about change in yourself. Instead of fighting against your fears, accept them.

For instance, you can accept that you are afraid of losing your husband. You have mentioned in the post, that you hesitate about sharing your emotions, feelings, and problems with your husband, for the fear that he will leave you.


Check out this counseling video:


I feel that it’s important that you understand what makes you insecure about the relationship.

Why do you think that your husband will leave you if he finds out that you are struggling with your faith at the moment?

Another fear which you mentioned was that you are not a good enough mother, and pass on your anxieties to your children.

I feel as though you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself, and constantly assuming the worst about yourself.

Communicate your emotions to your husband

You have mentioned that you have been married recently, and you are very young. Unfortunately, life does not come with a manual and / or a handbook to live by.

However, sister, it is very important that you understand that being open, honest and vulnerable in relationships is the secret to any long-lasting and satisfying relationship.

Be willing to take the risk of letting your husband know of what you are struggling with, or else you will feel lonely and trapped despite having such a beautiful relationship with your husband.

If you are not willing to let your husband into your inner world, your relationship will become strained and that could also push your husband away.

Whatever feelings you have for your husband, communicate it to him.

When you feel happy with him, let him know – and when you feel as though he could do things differently; do not be afraid to let him know your opinions.

Practice Living in the Moment

The best way to overcome intrusive thinking is to live in the moment. I know it is difficult as the intrusive thinking is automatic, whereas bringing yourself to the moment takes energy and mindfulness.

Whenever you feel your mind wandering away, you can bring yourself back at the moment through grounding exercise.

For instance, ask yourself about what you can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch at the moment.

During your prayer, just focus on the surah you are reciting. If your mind wanders, be gentle with yourself and just be mindful that it wandered off somewhere.

Keep a Thought Journal

Another way of monitoring and keeping in check your unwanted thoughts would be to maintain a thought journal.

Pen down your most pressing thoughts that keep coming back to you. Notice their content – is it positive or negative? Is it self-compassionate or self-critical?

If you find yourself bending towards the negative, self-critical thoughts, start challenging your negative thoughts by writing down the opposite of the negative, self-critical thoughts.

For instance, if your mind wanders and the thought you get is,” I am worthless because I can’t do anything”, write down ’I am capable and worthy because I can love people, be kind to people (add in anything and everything that you are good at)”.

I hope this answers your questions. Wish you all the best in your life.

May Allah be with you.

***

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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