Doubts in Worship- Why and How to Reduce Them

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-Each time I perform ablution for prayer, I spend so much time in that; sometimes half an hour, even 2 to 3 hours sometimes. Have I washed all the organs? Have I left any spot unwashed? Have I closed the water tap? These doubts compel me to repeat the process so many times.

The same goes for prayer. There are times I have to repeat each salah five to six times. Have I recited the surahs with perfect tajweed? What if I didn’t? Was my salah valid? Other unnecessary thoughts came to my mind while I was praying, so let me pray again and again until my salah is perfect.-

This is the confession of a sister suffering from a type of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Although less common than mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, OCD is also very widespread. In fact, statistics show that in the USA, every 1 in 40 people suffers from some type of OCD.

What is OCD?

According to American Psychiatric Association, Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which time people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions). The repetitive behaviours, such as hand washing, checking on things or cleaning, can significantly interfere with a person’s daily activities and social interactions. (

The confession that I have included at the beginning of the article is of a patient also suffering from a type of OCD that is related to acts of worship, on which I will be focusing on in this article.

This type of OCD is surprisingly very prevalent in Muslim communities. The victims face a lot of hardships in completing the very basic acts of worship that it even interferes with their daily functioning. Some spend hours trying to perfect their wudoo, while others spend their whole day in perfecting their salah. Others are greatly disturbed by any evil thoughts that come to their mind. Of course, every Muslim would be disturbed by the waswaas of shaytan but the disturbance goes to such a great extent that it interferes with their whole day and whole life. They get scared that they are not good enough, that they will be punished for those whisperings and repeatedly try to erase those thoughts from their mind, sometimes in vain.

Why does this happen?

Shaytan plays a HUGE role in disturbing people suffering from OCD in worship. The devil is always trying to mislead people by whispering waswaas into the hearts. Likewise, he makes people doubt their acts of worship so much that it results in OCD.

Uthman b. Abu al-‘As reported that he came to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and said:

Allah’s Messenger, the Satan intervenes between me and my prayer and my reciting of the Qur’an and he confounds me. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: “That is (the doing of a) Satan (devil) who is known as Khinzab, and when you perceive its effect, seek refuge with Allah from it and spit three times to your left. I did that and Allah dispelled that from me.” (Muslim, 2203)

The shaytan always tries to overpower humans and make them lose control over their own selves by giving persistent waswaas. This is the main reason that some people have OCD in their worship because shaytan tries utmost to get one away from acts of worship and create doubts in their heart so that they drift away from Islam or remain in a state of unease.

Let us refer to the Quran and Sunnah to know what an easy religion Islam actually is, and that we will not be held accountable for evil thoughts and doubts unless we act upon it.

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The religion (of Islam) is easy, and whoever makes the religion a rigour, it will overpower him. So, follow a middle course (in worship); if you can’t do this, do something near to it and give glad tidings and seek help (of Allah) at morn and at dusk and some part of night”. (Al-Bukhari)

This hadith tells us about the ease in Islam and not to overburden ourselves. If you cannot do something perfectly, just try your best and it will be all right.

Allah says in the Noble Quran:

“Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity.” (Surah al-Baqarah: 286)

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Allah will forgive my ummah (followers) for any insinuating whispers that may cross their minds, so long as they do not act upon it or speak of it.” (Al-Bukhari)

How can we avoid it?

A person suffering from OCD can become physically, psychologically and emotionally drained, and unable to perform daily tasks with ease. So the question is how can we reduce this impact and improve our mental health?

Firstly, it is very important to see a psychotherapist or counsellor is the situation is very worse. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness; in fact, it is because of your strength that you finally had the courage to go and see a counsellor and ask for help. The counsellor may give you CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) to change your mindset about life and how you perceive things.

Secondly, one of the most helpful things that you can do is to keep someone near you if you are doing wudoo or salah, who will assure you that you washed all your organs correctly and that you performed salah correctly, with the correct number of rak’ah, and who will stop you from repeating the task again because of doubts that you have. Make sure that you are stopped from repeating it again.

Most importantly, continue doing dhikr, making du’aa and reading the Quran. Trust me, this can have the greatest impact on your life and you, even YOU, maybe amazed at how your life changes.

Let me state a few verses and ahadith that can boost your will and help you be more optimistic.

If you are suffering from evil whisperings which makes you doubt your religion or issues of aqeedah even, just read this beautiful hadith.

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “Some of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and said to him, ‘We find in ourselves thoughts that are too terrible to speak of.’ He said, ‘Are you really suffering from that?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘That is a clear sign of faith.’” (Muslim)

Subhanallah, the prophet is telling that suffering from those thoughts itself is a sign of faith. So rejoice to know that your heart is not dead and you will not be held accountable unless you act upon those whims and desires.

Also look at this beautiful ayah which is an amazing du’aa which you can make frequently.

“Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned. “Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us, and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people.” (Al-Baqarah: 286)

Also Surah Al-Nas:

“Say, “I seek refuge in the Lord of mankind,

The Sovereign of mankind.

The God of mankind,

From the evil of the retreating whisperer –

Who whispers [evil] into the breasts of mankind –

From among the jinn and mankind.” (Al-Nas:1-6)

Keep on seeking refuge in Allah from the accursed Shaytan. Do not let him overpower you. If you let him, he will take hold over you and make you weak. Be strong, and know that Allah is always with you, that Allah will reward you for the acts of worship and if you are completing them with hardship, there is even more reward.



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