Faith.

There are many who say that it is faith that gives their lives meaning.

What about when instead of bringing peace and balance to our lives, it consumes us instead, stopping us from being able to really be present in the lives of others and enjoy our own lives. Often we have a rush of emaan (faith/belief) at the beginning of finding our faith, for many born muslims, it can be a rediscovering of their faith, through new teaching and new understanding. For new reverts, perhaps a rush of feeling of acceptance and hope.

Just like emaan goes up and down, we come down from this high state, and though it is normal that it will not last long for many, we can struggle at this time with the feeling that we were so high in emaan yet now we are just performing our religious obligations in an almost robotic manner. We feel something is wrong with us. However we should not despair for it is advisable to carry on with our worship even when we don’t feel like it as we are still rewarded and with time our emaan will develop. Islam is a way of life, so when we build our life around it and make our worship part of our day, our deen becomes cemented and it becomes easier for us.

For some, the high is constant, and they can retreat from society, and unknowingly from their duties as a Muslim, and in doing so, stop giving rights to those who have rights over them. Also, the same high we were talking about earlier, is not as fulfilling or spiritually satisfying. This type of behaviour we can refer to as religious Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and refers to when we ‘have’ to do something, we almost have no control over this need and it is often accompanied with the fear of something happening if we do not complete the behaviour, such as praying for example. Remember,

“There is no compulsion in religion”
~ Qur’an 2:256

From the verse above we know that teachings in Islam are clear so that there isn’t a need for compulsion and additionally, intention counts for everything. Whilst there should be a certain fear of Allah SWT that prevents us from doing sinful or harmful things, we should feel at peace when praying or remembering Allah SWT, it should be something we want to do because we look forward to it, the rewards and understanding our reliance on our Creator – it should not be something that makes us feel in any way stressed or takes over our lives. Our free will should always be present, after all we can perform many religious duties but in every act our intention is counted for.

Prayer should be a connection to our Creator, a calmness and peace in the day, something we look forward to and helps balance our lives, it gives us benefit. If it is not helping us then we are possibly not reaping the true benefit of Salah (prayer). Allah SWT did not prescribe salah because he needs it from us but to benefit us, to keep us on the right path, and to give us a reminder five times a day that we are slaves of Him and to remind us of our higher purpose, as it is so easy to be distracted by the affairs of the Dunya (worldly life).

There needs to be an understanding in the Muslim community of religious OCD. Often lack of emaan is addressed in khutbahs but we don’t acknowledge anyone who is leaning the other way. It is so important to recognise this state of mind, because we praise faith in any form but when it is harmful to a person’s wellbeing.

There are many ways to treat religious OCD. Talking therapies such as CBT can be a helpful way of trying to get to the root of the thinking behind the behaviour and how to essentially break the habit of behaviour and install a new mentality and new behaviour that is more beneficial. Counselling may also help as there could be trauma that underlies the OCD and talking through this could help someone understand why they are behaving in the way they are and might help modify and resolve cognitive issues.

Finding faith can be a beautiful thing but it should bring with it peace and not be harmful to us so we should always seek balance. Islam teaches us moderation even in faith, and Allah SWT tells us,

“We have appointed you a middle nation (ummatum wasatun)”
~ Qur’an 2:143

The term ‘wasatan’ which is used here refers to the central point between two extremes and the classical meaning is ‘the best of’ referring to the best of people. So we see that we should neither be too lax nor too excessive in our worship, but instead we should strive to find the balance that brings us peace and contributes to our wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. So, if you ever feel yourself straying away from the middle path, reconnect with your faith and understand what Allah wants from you in that moment.

Faizah Malik

Faizah Malik

Faizah is an English, American Literature and Comparative Literary Studies graduate from the University of Kent at Canterbury. She has a background in Publishing and has worked for Hachette and HarperCollins. She now dedicates her time to writing and running her online business Kenze. She is currently studying Counselling and Psychotherapy at the Convergence College in Milton Keynes and has been involved in arranging workshops for local women to boost confidence and provide support to those who may need it. It is her passion for healing others that motivates her and she hopes to provide a voice through her writing to inspire hope to those who are struggling.

4 Comments

  • Nadeem says:

    Thank you Faizah for sharing “The Tipping of the Scale” – beautifully written and thought provoking.

    I come across this notion with myself and many friends. I have suffered from religious OCD and my anxiety has taken over my life, and therefore affecting my family members.

    Alhumdolilah, I consider myself fortunate that I found good people to support me around 5 years ago and my journey has led me to accepting that as a Muslim I am “trying to Submit” to Allah SWT. This way of thinking has supported me and made me feel less anxious.

    I am grateful that my journey also led me towards the helping profession of counselling others. I am student of CBT Cousnselling and Insha’Allah my intention is to make use of this knowledge for good and to help others.

    It is encouraging to follow Inspirited Minds and your work. It boosts my own emaan by reading your blogs. May Allah SWT shower blessings upon all your staff/volunteers and increase your good efforts. Ameen

    Jzk’Allah Khair

    • Faizah says:

      Salam Brother,
      Jazakallah khair for your kind words and blessings, we appreciate all feedback and I am heartened to hear that you have good support around you and this has helped you in overcoming your anxiety.
      It is also wonderful to hear that you are using your knowledge to help others mashallah May Allah SWT reward and aid you in your endevours. Ameen

  • Babar Ghaznavi says:

    Many thoughts but just a small comment:
    Your ideas on having a “high” of Eeman which then goes down or a person being “hooked” on the high which you compare to a religious OCD. They make sense. However I would say the “middle path” varies for different people. e.g for one it might be that if he prays 3 times a day in the masjid….that’s good and middle path for him. For another person dropping even one salat from the Masjid might seem like a disaster.( I am using the term Salat to signify all the A’maal that he does as part of his “middle path” ).
    In Deen, one of the essentials and that we pray for is Istiqamat or consistency. There is a penalty in dropping Istiqamat also. e.g if you leave one prayer, Allah (SWT) takes away your ability or Taufeeq for the next prayer as He is the one who gives or takes away Taufeeq.

    Thanks for reading my ramble.

    • Faizah says:

      Salam,
      Thank you for your comments and I do see your point. I suppose the point is the effect that our religious OCD can affect other parts of our lives, if someone is neglecting their family for example or their own self care then it can be a cause for concern but I thhinots about knowing what we can manage as Allah SWT does not want religion to be difficult for us and so we should aim to arrive for balance and re checking where we are at sometimes can be a good way to do this.
      As you say, consistency is key here but there may be times we increase our worship out of need and that wouldn’t necessarily be religious OCD, but rather a persons need to connect to the Deen and help through any trials they might be facing. But if we are constantly neglecting our other duties and those who have rights on us then even if we are consistent in this, we may have to reassess.
      I hope that makes sense.
      Please do continue to comment and Jazakallah khair.

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