Striving to be the Best Muslim Overwhelms Me

12 November, 2020
Q Assalamualaikum.

I'm a 21-year-old college student from Sudan. Alhamdulillah, I'm a practicing Muslim. I suffer from anxiety, obsessive thoughts, and the "perfectionist trap" and this definitely is related to what I'm about to say. Lately, I've been going through a very overwhelming phase in my life.

The differences among the scholars regarding Islamic rulings overwhelm and confuse me. From how a woman should dress and whether or not she should work, I'm so worried that whatever choice I make from among these different opinions, I'll be held accountable for it on the Day of Judgement for not choosing the "right" one. As they say, "Comparison is the thief of joy", which can be so crippling even when it comes to piety.

Sometimes I feel like for being the "perfect" Muslim I'd have to be a Niqabi woman who should marry at a young age and become an Islamic scholar. However, I'm aspiring to become a doctor InshAllah and deep down I don't want to wear niqaab. I feel that I'd be better at giving back to society through this career choice.

At the same time, I realize that if everyone in society were to devote their lives to becoming Islamic scholars there would be no societal structure and progression. Who would treat the ill or construct buildings? I know it seems like I just answered my own question, but I struggle with striving to be the best version of myself when there's just so many people doing better than me when it comes to our religion. This puts me down. I'm scared and ironically it's making me feel depressed. What are your thoughts on this matter? Jazāk Allāhu Khayran.

Answer


In this counseling answer:

“As Muslims, we are all obliged to continue to learn throughout our life anyway. Becoming a doctor will not prevent you from doing this. Focus on those things that you can do to please Allah (swt), whether that be progressing to become a scholar or a doctor. Make istikharah and move forward with confidence.”


Wa ‘Alaikum Salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh sister,

You have reached the time in your life where you need to make such important decisions regarding your career. As a good Muslimah, you want to be sure that the choice you make is not the most pleasing to you only, but to Allah (swt) also.

This is an admirable approach to take to get the best of both this world and the next. There are so many things to think about. I understand this can be very overwhelming.

As you said, you have actually done a brilliant job of answering your own question and here’s why.

Profession

You are right: if we were all scholars, who would treat the sick? If Allah (swt) has blessed you with medical knowledge, then use it for His sake. Treat people who are in need of the medical attention that you can provide. This is as important as using knowledge as a scholar.

Striving to be the Best Muslim Overwhelms Me - About Islam

I’m sure you know as sisters, it is better that we seek medical attention from a female doctor if possible. If no Muslimahs trained as doctors then sisters would be forced to see male doctors, or in the worst case, simply choose not to go at all.

Understand also that becoming a doctor does not stand in the way of you also seeking to increase your knowledge about Islam. As Muslims, we are all obliged to continue to learn throughout our life anyway. Becoming a doctor will not prevent you from doing this.

Confusion

It is understandable how you can feel so confused and overwhelmed when you read differing opinions from scholars. The most important thing is to read widely and get these varieties of perspectives. Understand the justifications behind each scholar’s advice.

Pray istikharah and make an informed decision on the matter that you are researching rather than blindly following one opinion. Whilst this will perhaps make you feel more confused, Allah (swt) knows your intention to perfect your religion and you will be rewarded by this good intention to do the best thing.

“The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration was for what he emigrated for.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

Do the best you can do and don’t compare yourself to others. Remember that when you look at someone or talk to them, you only know what you see on the surface. Maybe they’re facing struggles internally. Maybe they are committing sins in private and they are not in a better position than you really. After all, Allah (swt) is the only judge.


Check out this counseling video:


Allah (swt) judges by faith. Just because you see someone having plenty of knowledge, it doesn’t necessarily mean their heart is clean. Even if you are judging them favorably and are not passing negative judgments about them, ultimately, it is only Allah (swt) that sees into their hearts and truly knows everything about them.

“Verily, Allah does not look to your faces and your wealth but He looks to your heart and to your deeds.” (Sahih Muslim)

Being close to Allah

For example, whilst wearing the niqab is a respectable thing to do, just as wearing the hijab and dressing modestly for the sake of Allah (swt), it doesn’t necessarily make them any closer to Allah (swt).

There might be sisters who look outwardly very pious while being involved in sins in private. Likewise, it may be that the sister who is not even wearing hijab is privately involved in beautiful acts that Allah (swt) will reward her with Jannah.

The point is not about how they dress or about how pious they appear to be. The importance is on what is inside – the moral character. To wear hijab, therefore, would not necessarily be the trait that would make someone more perfect in the eyes of Allah (swt). The most important thing is to please Allah (swt) and not others.

Conclusion

Focus on your strengths. Focus on those things that you can do to please Allah (swt) (and not others), whether that be progressing to become a scholar or a doctor. Either way, continue to strive to increase your knowledge of Islam and improve your character for the sake of pleasing Allah (swt). Make istikharah and move forward with confidence.

May Allah (swt) guide you on the best path that will bring you happiness and success in this life and the next. May He (swt) guide you on a path that will be pleasing to Him (swt).

Amen,

***

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 Hannah Morris
Hannah Morris is a mum of 4 and she currently works as Counsellor and Instructor of BSc. Psychology at the Islamic Online University (IOU). She obtained her MA degree in Psychology and has over 10 years of experience working in health and social care settings in the UK, USA, and Ireland. Check out her personal Facebook page, ActiveMindCare, that promotes psychological well-being in the Ummah. (www.facebook.com/activemindcare)