Experiencing Difficulty Praying
Fatwa No: 83868

  • Fatwa Date:12-3-2002 - Thul-Hijjah 28, 1422
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Question

I am 20 years old and I started to pray 5 months ago. Sometimes bad thoughts come across my mind and my Iman goes down and I become depressed. This feeling happens to me most of the time. Is it normal at the early stages to feel like that?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

Allah has informed us in the Quran of Satan's enmity to His Slaves. Allah Says (what means): {O mankind, indeed the promise of Allah is truth, so let not the worldly life delude you and be not deceived about Allah by the Deceiver. Indeed, Satan is an enemy to you; so take him as an enemy. He only invites his party to be among the companions of the Blaze.} [Quran 35:5-6]

Allah, The Great and Almighty, has stated that Satan makes every effort to seduce and lure the children of Adam  may  Allaah  exalt  his  mention by all means and through all ways.

Allah Says (what means): {[Satan] said, “Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful [to You].”} [Quran 7:16-17]

Allah has mentioned in the Quran that after entrapping people in a net of disobedience and disbelief, Satan says: I have no authority over you. I am innocent of you.

Allah Says (what means):

• {[The hypocrites are] like the example of Satan when he says to man, "Disbelieve." But when he disbelieves, he says, “Indeed, I am disassociated from you. Indeed, I fear Allah, Lord of the worlds.”} [Quran 59:16]

• {And Satan will say when the matter has been concluded, “Indeed, Allah had promised you the promise of truth. And I promised you, but I betrayed you. But I had no authority over you except that I invited you, and you responded to me. So do not blame me; but blame yourselves. I cannot be called to your aid, nor can you be called to my aid. Indeed, I deny your association of me [with Allah] before. Indeed, for the wrongdoers is a painful punishment.”} [Quran 14:22]

Thus, by motive of enmity, Satan seeks to make human beings fall in disbelief by throwing false misconceptions and doubts into their hearts, that cause hesitation and confusion.

The weakness of Eeman is, in fact, a disease that attacks believing hearts. It is one of the most dangerous diseases of hearts due to misdeeds, disobedience, negligence of performing duties, hard-heartedness, breast cramp, change of mood, listening to the Quran in vain and negligence of Thikr (remembrance of Allah) that result from it; i.e. the weakness of Eeman.

A strong Eeman can be achieved by getting rid of the reasons of weakness; among these are the following:

1) Staying away from the surroundings of Eeman, such as congregational prayer, meetings of Thikr of Allah (knowledge, Da'wah, …) and meeting with the righteous. Al-Hassan al-Basri  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said: “Our brothers in Eeman are dearer than our family, since our family remind us of the present life while our brothers remind us of the Hereafter.

2) Absence of good role models and being apart from them. Hence, after the death and interment of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) the Companions  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  them said: “We disapprove of the present state of our hearts since such a state is different from what it was at the time of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ).Al-Bazzar and the narrators of this Hadeeth are the same narrators quoted by Imam Al-Bukhaari or Imam Muslim in their Saheeh.

3) Mixing with the lewd and dissolute people constitutes one of the biggest causes of hard-heartedness.

4) Being very busy with the affairs of the present life. So, the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) dispraised a person in such a state as this, considering him a slave to this present life. He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said: “Wretched is the slave of the Dinar, the slave of the Dirham and the slave of the Khameesah (the striped silk cloak); if he is given anything, he is satisfied, but if not, he is unsatisfied.” [Al-Bukhari]

5) Being engaged with household affairs to the neglect of Allah's obedience. Allah Says (what means): {Your wealth and your children are but a trial, and Allah has with Him a great reward.} [Quran 64:15]

6) Hoping too much for a long life and worldly pleasures. Allah Says (what means): {Let them eat and enjoy themselves and be diverted by [false] hope, for they are going to know.} [Quran 15:3]

In the same vein, 'Ali  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him said: “The thing I fear most for you is following whims and too much hoping for long life. Following whims prevents you from the truth; too much hoping for long life makes you forget the Hereafter.

7) Exceeding the proper bounds concerning food, drink, sleep, talk and mixing with others. Over-eating makes one's mind slow, causes one to find Allah's obedience heavy, and strengthens the devil's sources of power in a human being. Thus, it was said: “Whoever eats much, will drink and sleep very much, and then will lose a lot of reward.

Being excessive in speech hardens the heart; being immoderate in mixing with people prevents one from calling himself/herself to account in privacy in order to manage personal affairs.

Laughing excessively exterminates the essence of the heart's life and causes it to die. Thus, the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said: “Do not laugh too much because excess laughter deadens the heart”. [Ibn Maajah] [Al-Albaani classified this Hadeeth as authentic]

By getting rid of the above-mentioned reasons of weakness of Eeman, and attending meetings that strengthen Eeman, imitating the behavior of the righteous, avoiding the company of the dissolute people, being careless of this world's affairs to the extent that prevents us from the Hereafter, being careful of the trial of children and wife, remembering death and not exaggerating in hoping for a long life, we can strengthen our Eeman. Thus, more obedience and commitment to the Divine teachings means more strength of Eeman; indeed, Eeman increases with good deeds and decreases with evil deeds. Moreover, self-indulgence in doing sins and misdeeds weakens one's Eeman.

Ibn al-Qayyim  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him while commenting on treating such a state of weak Eeman, said: “You are to imagine that you transfer your heart from this world and cause it to live in the Hereafter. Then, you have to occupy your entire heart with the meanings of the Quran, finding out these meanings, pondering over them, comprehending the Quranic message and the cause of its descent. After that, select your portion from the Quranic verses and their effect on the disease of your heart, and when a verse – by Allah's favor – takes lodgings at the disease of the heart, the latter becomes cured, Allah willing.

Such a treatment must be accompanied with appeal to Allah for steadfastness on the right path, the religion of Islam. The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) was used to supplicating Allah with the following supplication: “O Allah! Controller and Changer of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your Religion.” [Ahmad]

In addition, supplicating Allah to renew and to put a new life and vigor into one's Eeman constitutes another step for treating weak Eeman. 'Abdullah Ibn 'Umar  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him reported that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said: “Eeman becomes worn out in one's heart just as a garment wears out, so ask Allah to renew Eeman in your hearts.” [Al-Haakim in his book Al-Mustadrak]

On the other hand, the thoughts that come to one's mind, which one cannot control, will be forgiven, provided that he does not give way to them or act according to them (in word or in action), especially if it is something unlawful. It is a Divine favor upon us (human beings) that Allah does not hold us responsible for our doings as long as they remain in our mind.

Abu Hurayrah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him narrated that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said: “Allah has forgiven my nation for the whispers (or thoughts) that they have as long as they do not speak about it or act according to it.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

There are other Ahadeeth with the same meaning as the above reported by Al-Bukhari and others.

As for issues related to creed, wayward thoughts of evil that arise in our minds in spite of ourselves, and which we find too grave and fearful to mention, let alone to believe in, then this indicates a firm and true Eeman.

Abu Hurayrah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him said: “Some people from amongst the Companions of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) came to him and said: “Verily, we find in our hearts what we consider to be a very serious matter and a great sin to talk about.” The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said: “Do you really feel this?” They replied, “Yes.” He remarked: “That is the essence of correct belief.” [Muslim]

Thus, we advise the inquirer to mention Allah in abundance and to busy himself with what is beneficial in this worldly life and the Hereafter in order to avoid giving in to desires and whispers.

But, if one has some whispers or doubts about faith, then he/she has to stop thinking about them and say: “I believe in Allah.

Allah knows best.

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