Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally
Question: Assalam alaikum,
I am very very distressed. I have a lot of doubts concerning my religion but I really don’t want to deal with them at all. I have no interest in leaving Islam and I only want to find again my peace of mind.
What can I do to free myself from these doubts?
Answer: Assalāmu ʿAlaykum,
I hope that you are in the best of health and spirits.
Should I Be Worried because my Faith Is Low?
The desire to remain steadfast in one’s faith is praiseworthy. The Qur’an describes believers as those who are afraid, or hate to return to disbelief. That is why it relates them as supplicating:
رَبَّنا لَا تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنا بَعدَ إِذ هَدَيتَنا
Our Lord, do not lead our hearts astray after you have guided us! [Qur’an; 3.8]
It is normal for one’s faith to increase and decrease, depending on a variety of surrounding circumstances. This was recognized early on by Ḥandhala and Abu Bakr – God be pleased with them – companions of the Prophet – peace and blessings of God be upon him. They worried about their potential hypocrisy, because they cannot maintain the level of purity of mind they enjoy in the presence of the Prophet – peace and blessings of God be upon him. He consoled them, saying, “Were you able to maintain the state you are in with me, as well as your remembrance, the angels would openly shake your hands in your bed and when you are about” [Muslim].
Therefore, the fact that one’s internal state ebbs and flows is not the cause for concern. Rather, the important thing is to take the requisite steps that allow one to maintain a sustainable level of faith, as well self-correcting when one starts to slip.
What are the Practical Steps I can take in this Regard?
1. Have a regular daily schedule for reciting to a portion of the Qur’an, even if it is only a few verses. The Qur’an itself promises that reciting it increases faith: “When his verses are recited to them, it increases their faith” [Qur’an; 8.2].
2. Remain constant in your prayers, as prayer is the relationship and connection between a servant and his creator. The Qur’an says, “Seek assistance through patience and prayer; that is difficult except for those who fear” [Qur’an; 2.45].
3. Seek to nurture one’s love of the Prophet – peace and blessings of God be upon him. This is because faith is directly tied to love of the final messenger. He is reported to have said, “None of you truly believe until I am more beloved to him than his parents, children, and all of humanity” [Bukhari, Muslim]. Do this by studying his life and characteristics, and following his noble way.
4. Give regularly in charity, even in small amounts, and especially to causes where you will accrue no foreseeable worldly benefit. Doing so is one of the ways in which a servant demonstrates his trust in God, because they are giving something presently in their hands with the hope that God will recompense them for it later, and that “God will not squander the reward of those who do good” [Qur’an; 12.90].
5. Give thanks to God for the blessings he has bestowed on your life. The Qur’an says, “If you give thanks, I will grant you increase” [Qur’an; 14.7]. The greatest of God’s blessings to be shown gratitude for is faith.
6. Spend time with righteous people, as one’s company affects a person’s internal state. The Prophet – peace and blessings of God be upon him – described this by saying:
The proper comparison of a good and evil companion is to one carrying musk and another working the bellows. If the former does not give you some of it, or you do not buy it from him, at least you might catch a breath of its lovely scent. If the latter does not burn your clothes, you will at least get from him the rancid smell [Bukhari, Muslim].
Do this even if you do not consider yourself at their level, as the point is to spend time with those who will have a positive impact on your state. By the same token, decrease time with people who waste your time or adversely affect your internal state. Imam al-Shāfiʿī – God be pleased with him – recited:
I love the righteous, even though I am not one of them / I hope to acquire through them intercession;
I despise those whose trade is in disobedience / Even though we are the same in terms of wares
7. Pray to God to increase your faith in whatever manner you like. Here is a suggestion:
اللّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ إِيمَاناً يُبَاشِرُ قَلبِي، وَيَقِيناً صَادِقاً حَتَّى أَعلَمُ أَنَّهُ لَا يُصِيبُنِي إِلَّا مَا كَتَبتَ لِي، وَرَضاً بِما قَسَمتَ لي، إِنَّك عَلَى كُلِّ شَيءٍ قَديرٌ
Allāhumma innī asʾaluka iymānan yubāshiru qalbī, wa yaqīnan ṣādiqan ḥattā aʿlamu annahu la yuṣībunī illā mā katabta lī, wa riḍan bimā qasamta lī, innaka ʿalā kulli shayʾin qadīr
Lord, I ask of you faith that envelops my heart; true certitude, such that I realize that whatever befalls me is what you have decreed for me; the satisfaction with what you have apportioned for me; you have power over all things!
These are some suggestions which you can try to implement in your life in a way that is sustainable; however, any course of good action will have this effect, and different people will incline towards different types of good action.
When engaged in this or other good acts, do not pay attention to false misgivings. Live your life in accordance with what you know to be goodness, and rely upon God to grant you the ability to continue to do so.
God alone grants success.