How Do I Combat Unwanted Thoughts?
Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
I am 15 years old, and for the past year, I’ve been getting evil unwanted thoughts. It’s always there and always saying things against Allah Ta’ala or Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) and other bad things. I am in my second year of madrasa studies, and it’s a four-year course, and although I go to a madrasa, I still get those thoughts I don’t want. It’s sort of hard to ignore; I always say Istigfar and recite la illaha ilalla muhammad rasul Allah when it comes and try my best to overlook it, but I need help with this; I don’t know what to do to make it go away.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
You must know and understand that you are not your thought. Thoughts of this sort are introduced to the heart externally. Regarding evil thoughts, it is very likely they are from the whispers of Shaytan.
Imam Muslim (may Allah have mercy on him) mentions under the chapter heading ‘Clarifying misgivings (waswasa) in faith and what one should say in they encounter them’ the following narrations.
Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Some of the companions of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) came and asked him, ‘We encounter in ourselves 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 other narration, the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) was 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 he resorts to disturbing one 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 reason for the misgivings is pure faith or is a sign of pure faith. The opinion was supported by Qadi ‘Iyad [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.
You should not worry about yourself or become anxious about these thoughts. You are not to blame. These thoughts do not affect Islam. Instead, you should apply the following steps.
- Take an introductory course in Islamic beliefs. Knowledge of the beliefs of Islam is protection from such doubts and a means of strengthening one’s certainty.
- Be careful not to read the books of philosophical discussions or watch them. One should first have a strong foundation in the fundamental beliefs of Islam before delving into theology or philosophy.
- Strive to recite abundantly ‘La ilaha illa Allah.’ The messenger (may Allah bless him and give him peace) advised the companions, ‘Renew your faith!’ It was replied, ‘O Messenger of Allah! How do we renew our faith?’ He s’id, “Say, abundantly, La ilaha illa Allah.’” [Ahmad]
Hope this helps
And 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’anQur’antudied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anQur’anicsis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.