How Do I Stop Thinking Negative Things in My Prayer?

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch

Question

I cannot concentrate on my Salah, and I keep asking for negative things in sujud or before saying salam, or even while standing, such as “death, hell” if I don’t do this,” etc. I feel scared whenever I stand to pray. I found a weak hadith that says missing one Salah has a punishment for one huqb; that’s stressing me out. Will I be punished?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

We ask Allah Most High to ease your difficulty.

The negative things which you are asking for are mere ideas and thoughts from Shaytan. You are not accountable and punished for them.

Please keep in mind the following matters:

Thoughts

You must know and realize that you are not your thoughts. Thoughts of this sort are introduced to the heart externally. Regarding evil thoughts, it is very likely they are from the whispers of Shaytan.

Pure Faith

Imam Muslim (Allah have mercy on him) mentions the following narrations under the chapter heading ‘Clarifying misgivings (waswasa) in faith and what one should say if they encounter them.’

Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) said, “Some of the companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) came and asked him, ‘We encounter in our selves that which one of us would deem to grave to speak of.’ He said, “Do you indeed encounter that?” They said, “Yes.” He said, “That is clear faith.”

In another narration, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked about misgivings (i.e., in faith), and He said, “That is pure faith.” [Muslim]

Scholars have understood the above narrations in two main ways:

  • Shaytan whispers doubts into the hearts of those he has no hope of deceiving. And it is due to his inability to deceive, that he resorts to disturbing them through misgivings. As for the disbeliever, he comes to him as he wishes and not only whispers but toys with them as he wishes. Therefore, the reservation is pure faith or a sign of pure faith. Qadi’ Iyad supported this opinion. [al-Nawawi, Sharh Muslim]
  • Others have understood from this narration that the reluctance the companions had to tell the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) and their dislike for such thoughts are signs of pure faith.

Practical Steps

Continue to pray, as Shaytan’s most significant objective is to turn you away from prayer.

Before the prayer, recite Sura al-Naas.

While praying, ignore any thoughts that may come and focus on what you are reciting.

Take time to learn the meanings of all the invocations of the prayer.

After the prayer, thank Allah Most High for blessing you with the ability to pray.

Lastly, I recommend seeking Islamic knowledge with introductory courses in Islamic law and theology.

Also, check this reader:

A Reader on OCD and Waswasa (Baseless Misgivings)

Consider the Steps Certificate offered through SeekersGuidance.

Hope this helps
Allah knows best

[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.