Islam Question and Answer - Psychological Counselling
I'd like to know if there is a way to distinguish the wassasa that is coming from the shaytan, and the wassasa coming from the nafs, and can we know which is coming out of which? And if it is coming out of the nafs, are we going to be punished even if we reject it?.
Praise be to Allaah.
The waswaas which people experience is not all of the same
type or degree, either in terms of the type of sickness or in terms of its
source and effect.
The kind of waswaas which tempts a person to listen to or
look at haraam things or to commit immoral actions, and makes such things
appear attractive to him, comes from three sources: the nafs or self which
is inclined to evil (cf. Yoosuf 12:53), the devils among the jinn, and the
devils among mankind.
Allaah says, describing the first source, which is the nafs
(interpretation of the meaning):
“And indeed We have created man, and We know what his
ownself whispers to him. And We are nearer to him than his jugular vein (by
Allaah says, describing the second source, which is the
devils among the jinn (interpretation of the meaning):
“Then Shaytaan (Satan) whispered to him, saying: ‘O Adam!
Shall I lead you to the Tree of Eternity and to a kingdom that will never
And Allaah says, describing the third source, which is the
devils among mankind (interpretation of the meaning):
“Say: I seek refuge with (Allaah) the Lord of mankind,
2. The King of mankind —
3. The Ilaah (God) of mankind,
4. From the evil of the whisperer (devil who whispers evil
in the hearts of men) who withdraws (from his whispering in one’s heart
after one remembers Allaah).
5. Who whispers in the breasts of mankind.
6. Of jinn and men”
So these waswaas may come from the jinn or from the sons of
Adam (human beings).
See question no. 59931
What happens to a Muslim regarding his wudoo’ and prayer,
where he does not know how many times he washed during wudoo’ or how many
rak’ahs he did in prayer, comes from the Shaytaan. If he seeks refuge with
Allaah from the Shaytaan, Allaah will suffice him against him. But if he
gives in to him and responds to the waswaas, the Shaytaan will gain power
over him, and that waswaas will become a chronic problem. This is what is
called al-waswaas al-qahri (overwhelming waswaas). This kind of waswaas – as
one of those who are specialized in this field said – “is a sickness which
befalls some people like any other kind of sickness. It refers to repeated
thoughts, movements, ideas or notions which are of a loathsome nature that a
person would ordinarily reject and strive to resist. He also realizes that
they are wrong and have no meaning, but there is something that is pushing
him towards them and he usually fails to resist them. The strength of these
waswaas may vary, so much so that they appear – to non-specialists – to be
very strong and it seems that the sick person is doing that willingly. This
kind of waswaas may also affect a person in his worship and in his worldly
The waswaas of the Shaytaan may be dispelled by seeking
refuge with Allaah.
The waswaas that comes from one’s own self may also be
dispelled by seeking refuge with Allaah, and by strengthening the connection
between a person and his Lord by doing acts of worship and obedience and by
giving up evil things.
As for al-waswaas al-qahri (overwhelming waswaas), it is a
kind of sickness as stated above.
The difference between the waswaas that comes from the
Shaytaan and the waswaas that comes from the nafs is subtle, as was quoted
by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) from some of
the scholars. He said:
Abu Haazim made a
comparison between the waswasah caused by the nafs and that caused by the
Shaytaan, and said: Whatever your nafs hates for your nafs is from the
Shaytaan, so seek refuge with Allaah from it. And whatever your nafs likes
for your nafs is from your nafs so forbid it to it.
Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 17/529, 530
i.e., the nafs usually whispers concerning things which are
connected to its whims and desires, which people usually like.
Some of the scholars pointed out another important
difference, which is that the waswaas that comes from the Shaytaan makes sin
appear attractive until the Muslim falls into it; if the Shaytaan is unable
to achieve that, he moves on to another sin, and if that does not work he
moves on to a third, and so on. He does not care about making the Muslim
fall into a particular sin, rather what he cares about is making the Muslim
disobey his Lord, and it is all the same to him whether he makes him do
something that is forbidden or omit something that is obligatory, for all of
it is sin and disobedience. As for the waswaas that comes form the nafs, it
is what urges the person to commit a specific sin and repeatedly seeks to
make him do it.
The Muslim will not be punished for the waswaas that comes
from the Shaytaan or from his own nafs, so long as he does not speak of it
or act upon it. But he is commanded to resist it, and if he neglects to
resist it and goes along with it, then he will be punished for that
He is commanded not to pay any attention to the waswaas of
the Shaytaan, and to proceed on the basis of the smaller number (of rak’ahs)
in prayer if he is not sure how many he has done. He is commanded to seek
refuge from the Shaytaan and spit drily to his left three times if the
waswaas of the Shaytaan comes to him whilst he is praying. He is commanded
to keep company with good people and avoid bad people. Whoever is negligent
with regard to any of these matters will fall into the traps of his nafs
which is inclined to evil, or will respond to the devils among the jinn and
mankind, in which case he will be punished.
As for overwhelming waswaas, it is a kind of sickness – as
mentioned above – so the Muslim will not be harmed by it and Allaah will not
punish him for it, because it is beyond his control. Allaah says
(interpretation of the meaning):
“Allaah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has
keep your duty to Allaah and fear Him as much as you can”
And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
him) said: “Allaah will forgive my ummah for whatever crosses their minds so
long as they do not speak of it or act upon it.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari,
4968; Muslim, 127
The one who is tested with this kind of waswaas must always
read Qur’aan and recite the dhikrs prescribed in sharee’ah, morning and
evening. He must strengthen his faith by doing acts of worship and shunning
evil. He must occupy himself in seeking knowledge, for although the Shaytaan
may gain power over a worshipper, he cannot gain power over one who has
The Shaytaan may come and whisper evil things to a Muslim
about Allaah, or His Messenger, or His sharee’ah, things that the Muslim
hates and does not approve of. The fact that he resists these waswaas and
hates them is a sign of the soundness of his faith. So he should strive to
control his nafs (jihad al-nafs) and not respond to the one who calls him to
Ibn Katheer (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
The phrase: “and whether you disclose what is in your own
selves or conceal it, Allaah will call you to account for it” [al-Baqarah
2:284 – interpretation of the meaning] means that even if He brings you
to account and questions you, He will not punish you except for that which a
person is able to ward off. As for that which he cannot ward off, such as
the waswaas of the nafs, no one is accountable for that, and hating evil
waswasah is part of faith.
Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 1/343
Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz (may Allaah have mercy on him)
Waswaas and ideas may cross a person’s mind, especially to do
with Tawheed and faith; will the Muslim be punished for that?
It is narrated in al-Saheehayn and elsewhere that the
Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
“Allaah will forgive my ummah for whatever crosses their minds so long as
they do not speak of it or act upon it.” Agreed upon. And it is narrated
that the Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them) asked the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) about the kinds of waswaas and
thoughts referred to in the question crossing their minds. He (peace
and blessings of Allaah be upon him) replied: “That is a clear sign of
faith.” Narrated by Muslim. And he (peace and blessings of Allaah be
upon him) said: “The people will keep on wondering until it is said, ‘This
was created by Allaah, but who created Allaah?’ Whoever experiences any of
that, let him say, ‘Aamantu Billaahi wa rusulihi (I believe in Allaah
and His Messengers).’” Agreed upon. According to another report: “Let him
seek refuge with Allaah and stop it.” Narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh.
Tuhfatal-Ikhwaan bi Ajwibah Muhimmah tata’allaq bi Arkaan
al-Islam (question no. 10).
In the answer to question no.
62839 you will find important
information on waswasah and the remedy for it.
In the answer to question
no. 25778 we have described the remedy for one who is worried about waswaas
and passing thoughts
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