Do You Get Distressed because of Doubts?
Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Masud Razi Allah Anhu narrates that someone asked the Holy Prophet ﷺ about doubts that what is the ruling about the doubts of Kufr (disbelief) and Shirk (association) that come to a person’s mind? The Holy Prophet ﷺ said, “ذاک محض الايمان”. “These are a sign of Iman (faith).”
Once a Sahabi (Holy Companion) asked the Holy Prophet ﷺ,
“O’ Prophet of Allah ﷺ! Sometimes we get such doubts and thoughts in our hearts that we would rather burn to coal than express those thoughts.” In answer to this question the Holy Prophet ﷺ said the same thing that it is a sign of Iman (faith).
In a Hadith the Holy Prophet ﷺ said,
الحمد ﷲ ّ لذی رد کید الشيطان الي الوسوسه
“Praise to be Allah that He limited the Satan’s trickery and deceit to doubts.” It means that Satan won’t be able to influence a Momin (believer) beyond putting doubts in their mind.
In another Hadith the Holy Prophet ﷺ said;
ان ﷲ تجاوز امتى ما وسوست به صدورها
“Allah Ta’alah will overlook the doubts that will my Ummah’s (community of followers) mind.”
The Two Types of Doubts
There are two types of doubts. The first type is about beliefs, for example, the Satan puts doubts in one’s mind about whether Allah Ta’alah exists (معاذ ﷲ), or whether there is going to be a life after death or not. The Holy Prophet ﷺ himself said about such doubts that as long as your beliefs are correct, no matter how many doubts you get, Insha’Allah a person will not be questioned for those doubts, and neither does a person become a Kafir (disbeliever) because of such doubts. As long as a person is a Momin (believer) in their heart, in their words, and with their actions, these doubts coming to their mind doesn’t harm them. Therefore, a person should not worry about them.
Thoughts about Sins
The other type of thoughts and doubts are those about committing sins, for example, a person gets temptation to commit one sin or the other. Allah Ta’alah has decreed if a person gets thoughts or temptation to commit a sin, they will not be penalized for that thought unless they act on it. If they do act on it, only then they will be penalized for that action.
Whenever a person gets the temptation to commit a sin, the best remedy is to pray to Allah Ta’alah that, “O Allah, I am getting temptations to commit this sin. Please save me from this sin.” That way you will be protected from the adverse effects of thought Insha’Allah.
The Third Type of Random Thoughts
The third type of ruminations is Mubah (مباحpermissible) because these are not thoughts about sins, but these thoughts stop a person from focusing on an act of worship, for example, as soon as we start praying the Salah we start getting thoughts of all sorts. Even though these thoughts, for example, about our job, our family, about our business, are not sinful thoughts in themselves, but because of these thoughts our mind strays from our Salah, and it inhibits us from developing Khushu’ (خشوع). Because these thoughts are coming involuntarily we won’t Insha’Allah be held accountable for and penalized for them, and they will be forgiven.
However, one should make an effort not to think extraneous thoughts deliberately while praying Salah. When you begin your Salah with saying Allah Akbar turn your mind towards Salah. When you are reading Sana, focus on the words of Sana. Then when you start reciting Surah Fatiha, focus on the words of Surah Fatiha. If your mind wanders away involuntarily, then Insha’Allah (God willing) you won’t be penalized for it. However, when you realize that your mind had wandered away, try to focus your attention again on the words of Salah. If a person keeps doing this for a period of time, then these wandering thoughts will Insha’Allah subside over time and Allah Ta’alah will grant that person Khushu (خشوع).
Do Not Underestimate Your Salah
Many people get distressed and anxious because of the random thoughts that come during Salah. As a result, they start thinking that their Salah is soulless, and it just comprises of sitting and standing. We should not undervalue our Salah. It is a great blessing of Allah Ta’alah that He gave us the motivation to pray the Salah. We should thank Allah Ta’alah for it, and should not consider our Salah useless because of these random thoughts. We will Insha’Allah not be penalized for these involuntary thoughts that come without our volition, however, do not deliberately bring unrelated thoughts to your mind during Salah.
Thoughts Permissible to have during Salah
We have been commanded to deliberate about the meaning of Quranic verses when reading Quran Karim. If during Salah a person reflects upon the verses of Quran Karim and is thinking about it, it is permissible and is a part of Ibadah (act of worship). It is permissible to think any thoughts during Salah which are part of Ibadah, with one’s volition. However, thoughts which are not Ibadah, for example, how should I increase my income, how do I spend my money, we should not bring these thoughts into our mind with our own volition. If they come into our minds during Salah without our volition, they are not disruptive to developing Khushu (خشوع). However, when a person becomes aware that such extraneous thoughts are coming, and starts deliberately thinking about them, this is impermissible. So, when a person becomes aware of such extraneous thoughts during Salah, they should start concentrating on the words of Salah again.
This Sijdah (Prostration) is only for Allah
Once a person said to Hazrat Dr Abdul Hai Rehmatullah Elaih, “Hazrat I am very worried because my Salah are of no use. When I perform Sajdah (act of prostration during Salah) my mind gets flooded with all sorts of dirty thoughts. What use is such a Sajdah? It is like just hitting your forehead on the ground.” Hazrat Dr sahib said, “What do you think about the quality of Sajdah you do?” He said, “Hazrat, it is a very dirty and impure Sajdah because of the dirty thoughts I get during it.” Hazrat Dr sahib said, “How can do you such an impure Sajdah in front of Allah Ta’alah because the Sajdah we do to Allah Ta’alah should be a very pure one. Why don’t you do this impure Sajdah to me?” The person said in surprise, “Hazrat! What are you saying? How can I do Sajdah in front of you?” Hazrat Dr sahib RE said, “So have you realized now that your Sajdah is only for Allah Ta’alah? No matter how imperfect it is, and how much dirty thoughts you are getting during it, you still cannot bow in front of anyone else except Allah Ta’alah. Therefore, your Sajdah is pure, and Insha’Allah all the impure thoughts you are getting during it against your will, will not harm it.”
Benefits behind Doubts in Salah
There is wisdom in people like us experiencing doubts in Salah too. If we didn’t get these doubts and extraneous thoughts at all, prayed every Salah with full Khushu خشوع and Khuzuخضوع, and did not get any thoughts in Salah except those of Allah Ta’alah, then the risk would be whether we would start getting thoughts of grandiosity ( تکبّر), and believing ourselves to be superior than others. Allah Ta’alah knows best which status is appropriate for which person. Therefore, there is blessing for us in having these involuntary thoughts too.
Difference between Thoughts of Bad and Good Deeds
The summary of this Hadith is that a person is not accountable for thoughts that come into their mind without their volition. However, it is Allah Ta’alah’s great blessing that Allah Ta’alah has decreed that if a person gets thoughts about committing a sin, and even if he got some inclination to do it, but had not formed a full intention, then until that stage it will not be counted as a sin. In fact, if thoughts of sin kept coming into his mind again and again, but he kept trying to dismiss those thoughts and did not act on them, he will be rewarded for refraining from that sin.
As for good deeds, Allah Ta’alah has set the rule that if a person thinks about doing a good deed and has not made a firm intention, even then Allah Ta’alah grants him Thawab (eternal reward) for that good deed. For example, if a person intends that if I get a chance to do Jihad in Allah’s way I will participate in it and wants to earn Shahadah (martyrdom), for such a person the
Holy Prophet ﷺ has said in a Hadith;
سئل الشهادە بصدق قلبه کتب الشهداء و ان مات فراشه
“If a person desires martyrdom with sincerity of intention then Allah Ta’alah will count him among martyrs even if he dies on his bed.”
So, the rule about good deeds is that Allah Ta’alah rewards us with Thawab even before we have formed a firm intention, and the rule about sins is that Allah Ta’alah does not make us liable for them until we firmly decide to commit a sin. This is Allah Ta’alah’s blessing upon us.
Bringing Thoughts is a Sin
Someone once asked Hazrat Thanvi RE, “Hazrat, when I stand for Salah I start getting all sorts of extraneous thoughts, and it worries me that my Salah is useless.” Hazrat Thanvi RE replied, “Coming of extraneous thoughts during Salah is not a sin, bringing of these thoughts is a sin.” What he meant was that if these thoughts are coming without your volition it is not a sin, however, if you start bringing these extraneous thoughts deliberately during Salah then that is a sin.
The Cure for Extraneous Thoughts in Salah
The cure for extraneous thoughts and doubts in Salah is to ignore them completely. If a person continues to ignore them, then over a period of time they stop coming. Our duty is that when we start praying the Salah we try to focus on the words we say. Hazrat Thanvi RE has clarified that Salah is required in itself. A person should not belittle his Salah just because he gets extraneous thoughts in it.
A number of people who pray Salah regularly complain that previously they used to feel good praying Salah but now they don’t enjoy it anymore. The answer is that Salah has not been made compulsory for our enjoyment or pleasure, that is not its purpose. It has been made compulsory as way of us expressing our devotion and submission to Allah Ta’alah. If one enjoys Salah, it is a blessing from Allah Ta’alah, but if a person doesn’t enjoy it but keeps praying it observing all the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet ﷺ, then there will be no reduction in the merits and rewards he will get for that Salah.
Praying Salah without Pleasure
Rather, if a person doesn’t get pleasure in praying Salah, and had to pressure himself to perform it, for that person there will be an even greater reward. It is because his heart did not feel motivated to pray Salah, but he forced himself to pray it purely for the sake of pleasing Allah Ta’alah and in obedience to Allah Ta’alah’s commands, and in the absence of any other intention or motivation.
Therefore,Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Ganguhi
Rehmatullah Elaih used to say that I congratulate the person who never got pleasure in praying Salah, but still kept praying it, for two things. Firstly, because if he didn’t get pleasure in praying Salah but still kept praying it, then Insha’Allah (God willing) he will be rewarded for the extra effort as well, and will Insha’Allah get more thawab. And secondly, if he got pleasure in praying Salah there might have been a doubt that he is praying Salah for that pleasure. But if he doesn’t get any pleasure then that doubt is removed, as it means that he is praying it purely to obey Allah Ta’alah’s command and there would be more Ikhlas (purity of intention) in that Salah. He will get even greater reward for that Salah.
Feeling Happy About Doubts
In the Hadith the Holy Prophet ﷺ has told us that these doubts are a sign of Iman (faith) and Allah Ta’alah has decreed that these doubts are not a sin. Hazrat Thanvi RE has interpreted this Hadith as meaning that a Muslim won’t be held accountable for actions that are beyond their control. In fact, it is being suggested that a Momin (believer) should feel happy when they get these thoughts. It is because if these doubts are coming without a person’s intention, and he is not acting on these thoughts, then they should feel happy about these doubts as according to the Holy Prophet ﷺ they are a sign of Iman.
We are Accountable for Intentional Thoughts
However, one needs to keep in mind that ruminations are those thoughts which come into a person’s mind without their intention. On the other hand, if a person deliberately thinks about sinful acts, or forms an intention to commit a sin, it is not a rumination, it is a mental act, and such mental acts are sins too. Therefore, a person should not worry about ruminations that come into his mind without his intention, but should not deliberately bring thoughts of sin into his mind.
Changing the Direction of One’s Thoughts
The other way of avoiding useless thoughts and ruminations that come to a person’s mind is to become busy in some activity. These unwanted thoughts do not go away by trying to resist them. They go away when a person becomes busy with something else. There is a prayer the Holy Prophet ﷺ has taught for this purpose and which we should recite often;
“O Allah! Please convert the thoughts coming into my mind into Your fear and Your remembrance. And please change the direction of my thoughts and my wishes towards those things that please You, and may my heart only be attracted towards those things that You like.”
May Allah Ta’alah accept this prayer for all of us.
وآخر دعوا ان الحمد ﷲ رب العالمين