In conversation with Sister Jasmin: Waswasa and Mental Wellbeing (Part 1)
How do you keep satanic whispers at bay? How do you avoid baseless misgivings? How can you improve your mental wellbeing? How can you pursue a life of positivity and hope? Does depression mean you are lacking in faith?
We spoke to sister Jasmin Ahmed, an ‘aalimah graduated from Jamea Al Kauthar and supporter of Inspirited Minds, after asking our followers to raise some questions for this interview. We pray it raises good awareness, and brings solace to those who are suffering. Part 1 of our interview follows.
There are some sufferers who feel that waswasa (baseless misgivings) are not from shaitaan (Satan) but the self, and thus find it difficult to ignore — do you have any advice toward this?
Waswasa literally means the whisper or rustles. In this aspect it is something secretly repeated in the heart, misgivings or delusion. What needs to be distinguished is the difference between the actual clinical diagnosis of OCD and the waswasa.
OCD is a mental condition […] It causes a person to think about something obsessively to the point that they cannot think about anything else. As such this makes an individual dysfunctional and unable to carry on with their lives normally. For this, medication and therapy will be helpful.
On the other hand, waswasa is the negative thoughts instilled in the heart by shaitaan in order to divert you from your ibaadah (worship) and from living your life as righteous believers. The shaitaan constantly attacks you into believing that you may have not completed an act properly, which then leads to time being wasted or to helplessness so ibaadah is completely disregarded. Or the waswasa creates doubts in one’s minds to the point that one may question the existence of Allah. Conclusively, waswasa is a trap of shaitaan to exhaust the Muslims, tire them and discourage them from worship.
We must remember that firstly, we cannot always control nor resist these thoughts, as they are like intruders. As humans with consciousness, it may be impossible to escape. But as long as the waswasa is unwillingly thought of and not put into practice, one will not be held responsible for it.
Is there anything that can help sufferers to differentiate the waswasa from their own thoughts so that it may be easier for them to ignore it?
Waswasa is the constant doubts that cross the mind repeatedly. It is normal for an individual to, for example, perhaps forget the number of time they have done something. In such a case, there is no problem in repeating the procedure to rid oneself of the doubt. But if that thought doesn’t dissipate after the repetition or continues regularly, then this is waswasa. The scholars encourage sufferers to ignore the whispers completely and accept that their ibaadah is complete and there is no need to take further action.
One should know that waswasa is a sign of strong faith […] shaitaan seeks to destroy the strong believers by installing his whispers into their hearts. Hence why it is often in matters of deen that the waswasa take place.
I think that is also a huge give away for sufferers when wanting to differentiate, that they are being tested in matters of faith and so they should place their trust in God’s mercy and ignore, regardless of how strong the doubt may feel, after all, do the scholars not say that the deen is supposed to be easy and that Allah only asks from us what we are able to give and not that which is beyond what we cannot? Or does our deen demand perfection?
Something every believer needs to remember and especially Mental Health sufferers is that the “deen is easy.” Allah simply requires effort on our behalf in exchange for reward. It is not how much a’maal (deeds) that a person does but rather it is the intention and sincerity of his a’maal that is looked at. Do what you can and to the best of your ability, then leave the rest in Allah’s hands. Just remind yourself everyday that Allah loves for you to try.
For the sufferers’ ease, what are one of the best ways then, perhaps from the sunnah, that could keep the shayateen (devils) at bay?
SubhanAllah there are so many different ways we can safeguard ourselves from shaitaan.
- Strive for knowledge. It is the best weapon against all manners of evil as you will learn how to repel the influences of shaitaan and how to cure oneself from it.
- Never overrate the waswasa, ignore it! It is but a weak whisper of shaitaan but if you pay attention to it and obsess over the whisper, it grows in strength.
- When you feel the waswasa, relax yourself. There is nothing more irate to shaitaan than the happiness of a believer. If you become upset and contemplate on the waswasa, it will increase, as will your sorrow.
- Dhikr and duaas. “Verily in the remembrance of Allah, there is contentment of the heart.” Seek His protection from the accursed shaitaan and know that Allah will never leave your side when you carry the Qur’aan in your heart.
May Allah bless the believers who suffer for His sake. I think one thing sufferers may also want to know is if waswasa is correlated with one’s eman (faith), which you briefly touched upon already. Do you have further input in regard to this?
Allahumma aameen. Just like any other illness, waswasa is not something one can control and nor is it something that one is held to accountable for. So your level of emaan has no correlation to whether or not you experience waswasa. Sufferers of the satanic whispers almost always carry the doubt that they must have done something wrong for them to be suffering in this manner. But as believers we need to remember that every aspect of our life has been written for us. We can’t control what is decreed but we can choose how to react to it.
What always comes to mind when speaking of taqdeer (fate) is a quote of Imam Shafi’ee which I think each and everyone of us will find helpful: “My heart is at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me, and that what misses me was never meant for me.”
Sufferers of waswasa should comfort themselves with this … shaitaan knows that they are righteous and he cannot lead them astray by sin. It is for this reason that he attempts to weaken their ibaadah but it is just that, an attempt. And as long as you hold close to Allah, this fortress cannot be penetrated.
Another question was asked more inclined to Mental Health. The person questioned if you can possibly prevent your mind from thinking about what you do not want to think. Have you any advice toward this?
The best way to avoid thinking negatively is the repetition of positive thoughts. Just like dhikr (remembrance of Allah), when we repeat the qualities of Allah to grow closer to Him, by repeating good qualities and attributes of our own, it will help us to embed them in ourselves. So remind yourself that you are a good person. Also know that if these positive thinking techniques are working for you, then they are working only by the will of Allah, and because you had those traits in you already.
Another technique you should try to put into action is forcing yourself to be happy! Don’t contemplate on things that may upset you but get up, get out and go! Do something to distract yourself and you will bring some pleasure to you (within the boundaries of Shari’ah of course).
Jasmin Ahmed is the Arabic Language teacher at Al Huda Primary School, Bolton. She is also a member of the School Leadership Team and as such, plays a pivotal role in the management of the school. She has been teaching Qur’aan and Arabic at primary school level for 4 years and Seeratun Nabi ﷺ, Provisions for the Seekers (Zaadut Taalibeen — a compilation of ahadith) and Arabic to plus 16 year olds for an additional 2 years. Furthermore, she also delivers a number of inspirational lectures to various halaqahs for sisters.
She is an active supporter of Nour DV, a charity organisation dedicated to supporting victims of Domestic Violence. Jasmin has been an Islaamic Advisor for the charity since the initiative started in 2010.
Jasmin Ahmed graduated from the “Sanatain Course” at Jamea Al Kauthar, Lancaster, which is an abridged version of the full Alimiyyah course. This inspired her to further her studies and complete the Alimiyyah Course at Quwwatul Islam, London. The alimah course expands over a period of 7 years in which she covered Aqeedah, explanation of the Quran, ahadith of Rasulullah ﷺ, Islamic jurisprudence, laws of inheritance, Arabic language and grammar, all under the auspicious guidance of various shuyukh such as Moulana Saleem Nawab and Moulana Dawud Ibn Adam.
Originally published at inspiritedminds.org.uk on February 11, 2015.
Salina Ahmed | Inspirited Minds | Correspondent
Salina Ahmed is an activist engaging on subjects pertaining to religion, social issues and politics, the graduate in English Literature and Creative Writing simultaneously holds her passion for words assisting her towards writing pieces of literature on her blog SalinasRiver, and websites to organisations or causes she has contributed to.