The Reality and Mystery of Waswasah
A stray thought crossing the mind is not nugatory of veneration for the Ahkaam (Commandments of the Shariah). In fact, that is a sign of perfection in Imaan and hence the Sahaabah (Radhiyallahu anhum) experienced such waswasah. When they submitted this problem to Rasoolullah (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) saying: “Yaa Rasoolallah, we are experiencing such stray thoughts that it is better for us to burn to ashes than express these waswasah,” Rasoolullah (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) queried and stated: “Do you really experience such thoughts? That is clear sign of your Imaan.”
He furthermore said: “Alhamdulillah, Allah Ta’ala has diverted the plot of Shaitaan to waswasah.” His reach fell short of your Aqaaid and A’maal (Beliefs and Practices).
The Ahl-e-Sulook (those who desire the closeness and love of Allah) also experience such wasaawis (plural of waswasah), that committing suicide appears easier to them than going through such thoughts. Those who are ignorant among them even carry out suicide. But the informed Saalikeen exercise Sabr (patience and fortitude).
The mystery and rationale behind these waswasah is that when a Saalik sets out on the path to Allah then Shaitaan becomes extremely vexed. Shaitaan then desires to harm this Saalik. He firstly embarks on a campaign of stopping the Saalik from Namaaz, Roza, Faraaiz and Waajibaat. In this way he schemes to harm the Deen of the Saalik. When he realizes that he has failed in this nefarious plot he plans another strategy. He then satisfies himself with inflicting physical harm and worries. Towards this end he whispers evil and obscene thoughts into the heart of the Saalik.
The Saalik becomes horrified at these stray thoughts and he grieves thinking that his Imaan is deficient. He cannot understand why these thoughts are plaguing him, whereas these thoughts are not at all harmful to his Imaan, yes they are unsettling.
Being unsettled by these thoughts also has an underlying reason to it; a misunderstanding. The Saalik thinks that these wasaawis are produced by his heart; that they stem from his heart, whereas this is wrong. These are the production of Shaitaan. Shaitaan blows these evil thoughts into the heart and mind. The heart is merely the locus and thoroughfare of these stray thoughts.
After understanding and remembering this mystery, Insha-Allah one will find no reason to become unsettled at all. In fact, waswasah will be uprooted because Shaitaan flings waswasah at a person to trouble a person. When this person doesn’t become troubled and unsettled then Shaitaan will give up his waswasah-strike.
Practical Remedy for Waswasah
So the practical thing to do when troubled by waswasah is to recite “A’uthubillahi minash Shaitaanir Rajeem”, for it is proven that these wasaawis are by the meddling of Shaitaan, and with Ta’awwuth (reciting, A’uthu...), in fact with any Zikr, Shaitaan is repulsed.
Furthermore, when one engrosses oneself in Zikr, and complete engrossment in two things at the same time is not possible, then one will not be disturbed by the waswasah. Assuming for a moment that waswasah does not cease even in this case and one is overwhelmed then this is also a type of Mujaahadah (spiritual discipline). There is pure benefit then too. One should, therefore, not become grieved.
A person who concerns himself with repelling waswasah and gaining pleasure from his Ibaadat and Zikr – which is the case with most Saalikeen today – such a person makes Ibaadat and Zikr for personal pleasure. Such a person is not offering his Ibaadat and Zikr for the pleasure of Allah Ta’ala.
The second remedy for waswasah is Zikr in general, as mentioned above. When under a waswasah-attack, engage in Zikr. The Hadeeth says: “When he (the Mu-min) engages in Zikr then Shaitaan retreats. And when he (the Mu-min) becomes forgetful (of the Zikr of Allah Ta’ala) then Shaitaan throws waswasah.”
A Test by Allah Ta’ala
Another hikmat (underlying reason) of waswasah is that it is a test by Allah Ta’ala of the Saalik. The test is to see whether the Saalik’s Ibaadat was for carnal pleasure or steadfastness even under the duress of waswasah; where does his gaze go to when afflicted by waswasah? Therefore, do not become troubled at all with these wasaawis, and continue with your work.
These wasaawis are not nugatory of one’s closeness to Allah Ta’ala. Such a person is close unto Allah.
As matter of fact, these wasaawis are not even in the heart, although they may appear to be so. In actual fact, they are out of the heart. It is like a fly sitting on a mirror. The onlooker may perceive the fly to be in the mirror, whereas it is outside the mirror. Similarly, the waswasah is outside the heart. Where there is Zikrullah in the heart there is no scope for waswasah there. Such a Mu-min’s heart is practically sealed and protected from waswasah.
Similarly, waswasah does not pass through the heart of a Zaakir (one who observes Zikr dutifully). Whatever feeling he gets of waswasah is the reflection of waswasah.
One Buzrug says that as treatment of this malady one should become very happy because this is a sign of Imaan, for Nabi (Alaihis Salaam) said: “That is a clear sign of Imaan.”
A thief breaks into a home when there is some wealth there and hence waswasah is experienced by Saaliheen (pious people). Those who are caught in fisq and fujoor (transgression and shameless acts) are not bothered by waswasah.
The rationale behind becoming happy at the waswasah is that it severs the waswasah. Shaitaan’s desire by striking a person with waswasah is to make the person sad and dejected. So, if instead of that he (the one who experiences waswasah) becomes happy then Shaitaan will give up.
Subhaanallah! What a remedy! You can understand from this the level of perfection in the Ilm of the illustrious Fuqaha and Soofiyah.
(From Al-Ikhlaas Part One of Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi Rahmatullahi Alaih)