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Monday, April 03, 2006

Disturbed by waswaas (whispers from the Shaytaan) and evil thoughts

Question:

When I do Salah or intend to do good deeds I often get very evil thoughts in
my mind. When I concentrate in Salah, and try to focus on the meaning of the
words, evil thoughts enter my mind, which make evil suggestions about
everything including Allah. I feel very frustrated and angry about this. I
know that none forgives sins except Allah alone, but because of my thoughts
I feel that there is nothing worse than to have evil thoughts about Allah.
After Salah I ask Allah's forgiveness, but feel very bad because I want to
stop these evil thoughts, but I can't stop them. These thoughts spoil my
enjoyment of Salah, and also make me feel as though I am doomed. Please
advise me.


Answer:

Praise be to Allaah.

Evil whispers during prayer and at other times come from the Shaytaan, who
is keen to misguide the Muslim and deprive him of good and keep it far away
from him. One of the Sahaabah complained to the Messenger of Allaah (peace
and blessings of Allaah be upon him) about waswaas during prayer, and he
said: "The Shaytaan comes between me and my prayers and my recitation,
confusing me therein." The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of
Allaah be upon him) said: "That is a devil called Khanzab. If he affects you
seek refuge in Allah from him and spit drily to your left three times." He
[the Sahaabi] said, I did that and Allaah took him away from me. (Narrated
by Muslim, 2203)

Proper focus (khushoo') is the essence of prayer. Prayer without proper
focus is like a body without a soul. The following are two of the things
that help one to develop the proper focus:

1 _ Striving to think about what you are saying and doing, pondering the
meanings of the Qur'aan, dhikr and du'aa's that you are reciting; bearing in
mind that you are conversing with Allaah as if you can see Him. For when the
worshipper stands to pray, he is speaking to his Lord, and ihsaan means
worshipping Allaah as if you are seeing Him, and knowing that even though
you cannot see Him, He sees you. Every time a person experiences the
sweetness of prayer, he will be more inclined to do it. [?]. This depends of
the strength of one's faith _ and there are many means of strengthening
one's faith. Hence the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
said, "Of the things of your world, women and perfume have been made dear to
me, and my joy is in prayer." According to another hadeeth he said, "Let us
relax, O Bilal, with prayer," and he did not say, Give us a break from it.

2 _ Striving to ward off the things that may distract you during prayer,
namely thinking about things that are irrelevant or distracting. Waswaas
affects each person differently, because waswaas has to do with a person's
level of doubts and desires and the degree to which a person is attached to
other things or is fearing other things.

(From Majmoo' Fataawa Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah, 22/605)

With regard to what you say about the waswaas reaching such a great level
that you have begun to experience waswaas that makes you think about Allaah
in ways that are not appropriate, these are evil whispers from the Shaytaan.
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

"And if an evil whisper from Shaytaan (Satan) tries to turn you away (O
Muhammad) (from doing good), then seek refuge in Allaah. Verily, He is the
AllHearer, the AllKnower"

[Fussilat 41:36]

Some of the Sahaabah complained about the waswaas that was bothering [?]
them. Some of the companions of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings
of Allaah be upon him) came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be
upon him) and said to him, `We find in ourselves thoughts that are too
terrible to speak of.' He said, `Are you really having such thoughts?' They
said, `Yes.' He said, `That is a clear sign of faith.'" (Narrated by
Muslim). (Narrated by Muslim, 132 from the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah).

Al-Nawawi said in his commentary on this hadeeth: "The Prophet's words,
`That is a clear sign of faith' means, the fact that think of this waswaas
as something terrible is a clear sign of faith, for if you dare not utter it
and you are so afraid of it and of speaking of it, let alone believing it,
this is the sign of one who has achieved perfect faith and who is free of
doubt."

And it was said that what it means is that the Shaytaan only whispers to
those whom he despairs of tempting, because he is unable to tempt them. As
for the kaafir, he can approach him in any manner he wants and is not
restricted to waswaas, rather he can play with him however he wants. Based
on this, what the hadeeth means is that the cause of waswaas is pure faith,
or that waswaas is a sign of pure faith. See also question no. 12315

The fact that you hate that and your heart recoils from it is a clear sign
of faith. Waswaas happens to everyone who turns to Allaah by reciting dhikr
etc. It is inevitable, but you have to be steadfast and patient, and
persevere with your dhikr and prayer, and not give up, because in this way
you will ward off the plot of the Shaytaan. "Ever feeble indeed is the plot
of Shaytaan" [al-Nisa' 4:76 _ interpretation of the meaning]. Every time a
person wants to turn to Allaah, waswaas brings other matters to mind. The
Shaytaan is like a bandit: every time a person wants to move towards Allaah,
he wants to block the way. Hence when it was said to one of the salaf that
the Jews and Christians say, "We do not experience waswaas," he said, "They
are speaking the truth, for what would the Shaytaan do with a house in
ruins?"

(From Fataawa Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah, 22/608).

The remedy:

1 _ If you feel that you are being affected by this waswaas, say, "Aamantu
Billaahi wa Rasoolihi (I believe in Allaah and His Messenger)." It was
narrated from `Aa'ishah that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of
Allaah be upon him) said: "The Shaytaan comes to one of you and says, `Who
created you?' And he says `Allaah.' Then the Shaytaan says, `Who created
Allaah?' If that happens to any one of you, let him say, Aamantu Billaahi wa
Rusulihi (I believe in Allaah and His Messenger). Then that will go away
from him."

(Narrated by Ahmad, 25671; classed as hasan by al-Albaani in al-Saheehah,
116).

2 _ Try to stop thinking about that as much as possible, and keep busy with
things that will distract you from it.

Finally we advise you to keep on turning to Allaah in all situations, and to
ask Him for help, and to beseech Him, and to ask Him to make you steadfast
until death, and to cause you to die doing righteous deeds. And Allaah knows
best.

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