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Fear of shirk – or OCD thoughts?

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by Fatwa.ca

Question

Salaam,

I apologize for a lengthy post. My question (based on what’s far below) is: are these types of doubts/thoughts valid or is it all something I should not pay any attention to?

Although I am not officially diagnosed with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), I have had OCD symptoms throughout my life in different levels of severity, duration, and type of OCD (e.g. based on thoughts/beliefs and/or rituals). I am currently taking medication for it.

About five years ago, I was stricken with one of the worst moments in my life where I took fear of shirk and hell to the extreme (unwillingly). I lost sleep, was drained of energy, did multiple hours of rituals to disprove the negative thoughts that creeped into my head so I don’t have to act upon it, etc.

To provide you with context, I know that there are different types of shirk–the clear major shirk which is to associate partners with Allah and the lesser inconspicuous types of shirk. I was in constant fear of the latter, to the point where I was not only judging myself (by trying to disprove the extreme thoughts that would come to my mind (e.g. if I said to someone, “eat rice, it will make you stronger”, the extreme thought would respond “oh that’s shirk, only Allah can make you stronger. You have to correct your statement to the person, or else you will go to hell for that.”)) but also taking on a role of “shirk police” where I would feel the need to disprove my intrusive thoughts if a statement someone else said was shirk-like according to my negative thoughts.

For 5 years, I have been well and have avoided such thoughts as it came to me, but they seem to be resurfacing again.

1.  Are these statements of shirk?:

a. “I am proud of myself and have pride in my work. I worked hard on this project.”
b. “Read this book, it will help you understand/recover.”

2. Are these scenarios and examples acts of shirk?:

a. One follows his own evil desires to pleasure himself.
–Intrusive thought’s response: “You are worshipping yourself by following your lusts. So you are committing shirk”

b. One delays salah, but within the permissible time range simply because he/she is busy with work, or because it’s easier to pray 20 minutes later at home, etc.
–Intrusive thought’s response: “You are committing shirk by not praying right now because your work colleagues are around you”

c. Someone said something which you THINK is shirk, but you aren’t even sure of what they actually said or the context they said it in.
–Intrusive thought’s response: “That person has committed shirk. He/she will go to hell and so will you unless you correct that person”

Your insight will be appreciated, InshaAllah. Jazak Allahu Khairan.

Answer:

Bismillāhi Taʿālā

Assalāmu ʿAlaikum Waraḥmatullāhī Wabarakātuh,

Jazak Allahu Khairan for sending your question for clarification. I feel that the fact that you have prior understanding that these are waswās (whispers) of shaytān infused with your potential OCD problem will make a better foundation for you to tackle them.

While I always encourage those suffering from such thoughts to get genuine clinical input so as to be sure that there is no misdiagnosis, inputs to your concerns are as follows.

1.  In matters pertaining to shirk, where you may feel that some shirk may have implicitly seeped into your statement, the easiest prescription is to make Istighfār, recite Shahādah to affirm your belief in Allah, and thereafter forget about the statement completely. The concern of your heart of whether the thought or statement was of shirk, itself shows that there is ingrained Imān within your heart that worries about the monotheistic nature of Allah. Shayṭān exploits this quality and exaggerates it to create the waswasah. So, do not give him the pleasure of putting you in the worry. Attest Shahādah and carry on with your life. To give shaytān’s whispering a second though only pleases him.

2.

a. Every son of Adam a.s is sinful, and best of sinners are those who repent. Desire, lust, lethargy or complacency leading to some disobedience is not shirk, rather a realization a human nature that it slips up at times. The correct response to any sin is to counter it with repentance and not go towards that sin again. Allah Taʿālā loves such repenters who turn to Him in hopes to never commit the sin again.

b. When one attest that an act is permissible, then one should know well that there will be no accountability for the permissible action. Do not give into too much of these thoughts, and instead work on gaining composure to become better in obedience of Allah. Know that you will try and sometime fall short. Expect Allah’s mercy for that, for you are trying. That is sufficient.

c.  It is from perfection of Islam that one does not concern himself with that which does not concern him. Since we are judges over others, turn your focus on yourself and keep trying to better yourself. Do not over diagnose other people’s statements. Most statements have multiple interpretation. As long as we can interpret someone apparent incorrect statement, there is no reason to take then to task for it. More so, when we are not given authority from Allah to police such judgments. If you feel someone’s statements are having negative affect on you, then just limit your interaction and do not worry about them.

And Allāh Taʿālā Knows best,

Wassalamu ʿalaykum,

Mufti Faisal al-Mahmudi

This answer was collected from Fatwa.ca, which is a fatwa portal operated by Mufti Faisal al Mahmudi from Canada. 

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