Question: I have been fearing becoming a disbeliever. I try to repress such thoughts, and I fear that these thoughts are distancing me from Allah Most High. Are these thoughts merely misgivings for Shaytan?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate,
May Allah reward you for coming sincerely with your question.
These thoughts are misgivings from Shaytan. You are not accountable for them, and they are not indicative of you being distanced from Allah Most High; in fact, the existence of these thoughts may indicate closeness to Allah and the desperation of Shaytan, as explained below.
It is essential that you know and realizes that you are not your thoughts. Thoughts of this sort are introduced to the heart externally. As for bad thoughts, it is very likely that they are from the whispers of Shaytan.
Imam Muslim (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 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 within us 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) 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.
(1) Shaytan whispers doubts into the hearts of those who he has no hope of deceiving, and it is due to his inability to deceive them 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 reason for these misgivings is pure faith or is a sign of pure faith. This opinion was supported by Qadi ‘Iyad. [Al-Nawawi, Sharh Muslim]
(2) Others have understood from this narration that the reluctance that the companions had to tell the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and the dislike they had for such thoughts are signs of pure faith. [Ibid.]
With that being said, you should not worry about yourself nor become anxious about these thoughts. You are not to blame. These thoughts do not affect your Islam. Rather, you should apply the following steps.
(1) Take a basic course in Islamic beliefs. Knowledge of the beliefs of Islam is protection from such doubts and a means of strengthening one’s certainty.
(2) 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 matters of theology or philosophy.
(3) Strive to recite abundantly ‘La ilaha illa Allah.’ The Messenger (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 said, ‘Say, abundantly, La ilaha illa Allah.’” [Ahmad]
I hope this helps,
And Allah knows best.
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani