Answered by Sidi Wasim Shiliwala
I read the other day on a fellow Islamic teacher’s Twitter, as a type of saying that the way a person reacts to a test and trial from Allah determines whether or not it is a punishment or a blessing in disguise. I wonder this about my waswasa.
For years I would get doubts about whether I was really praying to Allah or shaytan, astaghfirullah. I think to myself, “Has Allah been punishing me all these years?”
Shaykh Faraz’s advice has always been that we must simply ignore the waswasa. I then start thinking did Allah want me to start taking medication for my problems instead of overcoming them on my own ( they once offered it to me during counseling)? Following your advice, I finally saw myself overcoming the waswasa only to be drawn back by my doubts again.
Please advise me.
Jazakum Allahu Khairan for this question.
Satanic whispering (waswasa) is a serious subject, so I’ll deal with that first before answering your general question:
Ignore Waswasa at All Costs
Before discussing the concept you mentioned, I first want to reiterate Shaykh Faraz’s advice of ignoring Satanic whispers (waswasa). Regardless of one’s spiritual state, they are never helpful, and should never be indulged. In order to improve our relationship with Allah, we must sever all bad thoughts and influences, and waswasa is chief among these.
Shaytan wants you to falter back into a state of worry and anxiety, because he knows that this will make your path to Allah that much more difficult. Allah warns us in the Qur’an that Shaytan is “a clear enemy” (2:168), and Shaytan has himself sworn his enmity of mankind, saying: “I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path / Then I will assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and left…” (7:16-17).
Since he will attack us from all sides, the only way to overcome his ploy is to ignore him altogether and to focus on Allah. As Allah says, “Verily he [Shaytan] has no power over those who believe and rely upon their Lord” (16:99). For guidance on how to effectively do this, please refer to the advice that Shaykh Faraz Rabbani gave you, and also read some of the answers related to waswasa here on SeekersGuidance.
Dealing with Trials
As for the saying you heard about one’s reaction to a trial, the main benefit from it is that it encourages patience and contentment during times of difficulty. If one is patient and steadfast through a trial, that indicates that the trial was for the purpose of removing sins; if one isn’t patient, then that indicates that the trial was a punishment. The chief element is patience, as Allah guarantees us that He is with the patient (2:153)
However, that statement should not make one worry or despair about their past trials. When it comes to our individual cases, we can never be sure as to why a certain difficulty fell upon us, as only Allah knows the reality of His actions.
After all, what we see as trials may not even be trials, as Allah may have given them to us in place of a worse fate. As Allah tells us in the Qur’an, “It may be that you dislike a thing and it is good for you, and that you may like a thing and it is bad for you; Allah knows but you do not know” (2:216).
Because Allah the Exalted is in complete knowledge and control of all things, we cannot assume knowledge of His actions and purposes. Similarly, we also shouldn’t assume that we failed the trial, but rather we thank Allah for easing our burden, seek His forgiveness for any sins we committed, and have high hopes that we did our best and will do better next time.
Never should we despair, for despair is itself sinful. Allah has both commanded and reassured us in the Qur’an: “Oh My servants who have transgressed against themselves [in sin], do not despair of the mercy of Allah! Verily, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, He is the Oft-Forgiving, the Most-Merciful” (39:53).
After trials pass, we should be relieved that they passed. Under no circumstances should we actively wish for difficulties to occur or return, nor should we do anything to facilitate their return. The Prophet (peace be upon him) once met a man who became deathly sick because he asked to be punished in this world for his sins.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) strongly discouraged him from doing this, and told him that he should have asked for the best in this world, the best in the hereafter, and salvation from the hellfire. [Sahih Muslim]
This hadith teaches us that we should never seek punishment but always seek mercy and forgiveness. Rather than hope for trials, we should take advantage of our times of ease to increase our praise and worship of Allah. Above all, we must remember that life itself is a test from Allah and that we must strive to be the best Muslims we can be in all situations.
As the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “How wondrous is the affair of the believer! … If something good happens to him, he gives thanks, and that is good for him; if something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience, and that is good for him.” [Sahih Muslim]
Rather than question the circumstances and wisdom behind your cure, remember that it came from Allah, and be thankful for it! While a believer may reflect on how they could have handled a trial better, they should always rejoice from lifting that trial, as it is tremendous mercy from Allah.
Medication and Relying on Allah
As for whether or not you should continue taking medication is a decision that is best left between you and your doctor. Just as we go to religious scholars for advice on our religion, we go to doctors for advice on our physical and mental health. In all cases, we follow the advice of the experts.
Consultation in serious matters is an emphasized sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him); A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) said that she “never saw anyone consult his companions more than the Prophet (peace be upon him).” [Musnad Ahmad]
If your doctor insists that you take a particular medication, then there is absolutely no problem in taking it. Rather than being punished for anything, you will be rewarded for taking the means to better health. Remember that taking the means is essential to this religion and is a confirmed sunnah of all the Prophets.
Someone once asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about whether relying on Allah means that he should or shouldn’t tie his camel down (so it won’t wander off), and the Prophet (peace be upon him) responded: “Tie it and rely upon Allah.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhi]
The same applies to medicine: if you are sick, you ask for Allah’s help and seek a doctor’s advice; after all, if you get better after taking medicine, then that medicine is merely the means by which Allah cured you. By following the advice of those experts around you, you managed to overcome waswasa – this result is from Allah, so accept this gift from Him and thank Him for easing your difficulty.
Stop Dwelling and Continue Your Spiritual Journey
Above all, remember that what’s in the past is in the past and that our duty as Muslims is to repent for any past mistakes and then work towards improving ourselves. Rather than stress over waswasa or past anxieties, I would advise you to continue working on increasing your acts of worship, religious knowledge, and dhikr of Allah.
Don’t focus on your actions, but focus on Allah the Exalted and how much he has given to you. Be happy and thankful, and invest your time in praising Allah for his favors upon you and sending salawat on the Prophet (peace be upon him).
And when difficulties come – and as long as we are living in this world, we will find difficulties – realize that they are from Allah, and don’t dwell upon why they’re there, but on how you can get past them with excellence. Be ever grateful, because passing such trials with patience and thankfulness will increase your rank with Allah. And regardless of what happens in your life, be ever mindful that, as Allah tells us, “Verily we belong to Allah, and verily to Him we are returning” (2:156).
May Allah continue to aid you and put ease in your life, and increase us all in faith and good works.
Baarak Allahu Fikum,
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani