Struggling to Maintain Faith and Practice After Opening the Door to Doubts

Answered by Dr. Bano Murtuja

Question: I struggle to to practice Islam and to keep my faith for an extended period of time. There were a few years of my life when I prayed five times a day and believed truly in God, but I opened the door of doubt and have not been able to close it since. At the same time, moments of grief over take me when I long to connect to Allah, or I’ll be fully emerged in my hedonism and I’ll hear mentioned the name of our Prophet, and my eyes will well with tears. So I will try to practice again for a while only to awake one morning and find it gone. This cycle repeats itself a few times a year, and I am finding it more and more unbearable, to the point of utter despair.

Ever since I opened the door to doubt my rational and analytical self dominates. In these past few years I’ve read and studied lots of philosophy and social theory, read a lot of literature and history, and science and psychology. All of it though, points to void, and an uncaring universe, and other than personal interest and comfort—I can see no “rational” reason to do anything.

Sometimes it’s all so dark that only the strength of the biology that hardwired me to feel my responsibility as pater familias keeps me from cashing out now. I indulge in sinful, hedonistic, and high-risk behavior to try to wipe all this from my mind. Unless I am in a good period, where I am praying and believing, I can’t go more than a day or two without getting high on pot, or drinking, or taking some drug if I can get my hands on it. I write nihilistic poetry, and debate people who believe in things, perhaps so I can try to make myself sure of the meaninglessness of life—and feel content, and superior even.

Then it’s all not enough. I fall into depression and long to fear Allah again, to have hope in Him. And I miss the guidance of our Nabi Kareem. But I don’t have the energy to do much about it, or if I do for a while, it will weaken with poor company or out of wanting to feel a part of my non-Muslim family. Or I’ll just awake one morning and I would rather do anything than pray.

As of the past few weeks I am praying, and have sincerely re-said my shahada, but I’m afraid I am totally lost… I would love to be able to fully believe again.

Answer: As salam alykum

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.

The first thing to mention is that acting against the prescripts of Islam does not itself take you out of the fold of Islam. As your belief in God and His Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) remain, then you remain a Muslim. With this in mind, your question in relation to your marriage and children does not apply.

When it comes to our faith, it is very common to experience highs and lows in the level of faith you have and the degree of connection you feel to God. Often the lows in our faith are an opportunity to re-double our efforts to attain a connection. As our reward is proportional to the struggle, the motivation to regain the connection is a genuine blessing.

There are a number of practical steps you can take to assist you in maintaing consistency:

[1] Keep your acts of worship to the required acts. When we are experiencing a high in our iman we can set ourself targets that become difficult to maintain when we are experiencing difficulty. When struggling to maintain consistency we should aim for small acts that we are able to do so continuously.

[2] When you miss a consistent act at a particular time, make it up during the day. This will help train your self. If you’re going to perform the act regardless then it may as well be performed at the allotted time.

[3] Make dua and remembrance. God Most High says, “Truly it is in the remembrance of God that hearts find rest” (The Qur’an, 13:28). He also says, “And if My servants ask thee about Me – behold, I am near; I respond to the call of him who calls, whenever he calls unto Me: let them, then, respond unto Me, and believe in Me, so that they might follow the right way.”

[4] Make sincere repentance for your actions. Once you have done so you should have complete faith in His forgiveness. Have a good opinion of Allah. Know that if He has inspired you to ask for forgiveness He will forgive. Allah loves those who ask for repentance, and tells us as much. To be loved by Allah is an incredible station. To be one who asks for repentance and joins that fold is a true blessing. The trial of people knowing your sins should not be taken as the removal of protection.

[5] Do not allow lapses in consistency to cause you to lose hope in God. The important thing is that you sincerely intend to step away from bad action. Sidi Salman gives a very comprehensive answer on how reliance on needs can impact the hope you have in God. This can be found here: Good Deeds & Salvation: Putting Our Works Into Perspective

[6] Once you have stepped away from your post mistakes, you should also step away from the company you kept, and those who consistently remind you of the mistakes. Good companionship is an essential step in ones spiritual development. I am not suggesting a permanent break. It is difficult to do so when one is emotionally vested. However, until you are strong enough to be the one who influences and not the one who is influenced, it is important you protect yourself.

May Allah (Exalted be He) grant you ease and facilitation in all your affairs.