Note: The article below belongs to a collection of questions that I received and answered online. This is not intended to, nor should it not be construed as counseling. If you believe that you or someone you know is in need of professional help, please reach out to and consult with your mental health professional for personalized advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions.
I used to love the deen, but now I see it as I imagine a nonmuslim would; I often ask, what’s the point, why does it need to be so strict and complicated. I don’t feel a soul connection with the deen as I used to.
The issue is, I don’t have someone I can sit and speak frankly to about all of this because my community placed me on a pedestal because of how I used to be. They don’t realize I’m not like that anymore. Even if I try to be honest about what I’m feeling now, they unintentionally twist it to be a good thing, because they’ve always had a good image of me. At the same time, I also feel embarrassed to show the truth. So I basically live a facade on the outside of a very practicing and God-fearing muslimah, and have to hide what I feel on the inside. Talking to nonmuslim friends is also not an option because they also have always seen me defending my faith, and I would never want to be the reason someone looks down on Islam.
I have no one I can speak to about how I feel, and so the feelings are not going away. I want to believe that Islam is the sole truth and that everyone knows this in their heart, and that no one is truly happy without it – but I look around and sometimes I think to myself, well, these people look pretty happy to me. I feel torn between two worlds, my old one full of religious muslims and dawah etc. and my new one in which I feel compassion towards the world, want to value individual choices of others, and see religion as a restriction on that.
Bismillah wasalaat wa salaam ‘ala Rasoolillah.
SubhanAllah, so many of us have been through such difficult times in terms of our imaan that may cause us to feel hypocritical because our actions no longer correspond with our internal struggles. And it can be especially hard when people continue to place you on a pedestal. It can be so hard to live up to people’s unrealistic expectations of us- there can be a fear that you will lose everyone if you falter just once and also a sense of loneliness in being unable to confide in anyone. But, remember, do all that you’re doing for the sake of Allah (swt) and realize, “If Allah loves someone He calls (angel) Jibreel and says: ‘I love so-and-so, so you love him.’ Jibreel loves him and calls the other angels in Heaven to love that person. They love him, then his love is made upon earth, and he becomes loved.” (Bukhari & Muslim) It can be incredibly stressful to have people admire and look up to you- and this can be a way that Allah (swt) is testing you to ensure that you remain humble (which it sounds like you have masha’Allah) and can also be a testament to His loving you (I ask Allah to make that true- ameen). I ask Allah (swt) to reward you for reaching out in trying to resolve the dissonance you feel and I ask Him (swt) to alleviate the doubts from you heart and mind and lighten the load on your heart.
Even though you perceive yourself as living a facade because your heart is not being impacted as it used to be by acts of worship, it is still praiseworthy to maintain them masha’Allah. Allah (swt) did not command us to get an imaan rush with every salah, although we should work toward that, rather, He commanded us to pray our five salawaat on time everyday. By doing so, you are obeying Allah (swt) and insha’Allah you’ll be rewarded for that even if you don’t feel it like you used to. Contrary to what many people say, our religion is not simply one of heartfelt feeling; it is also one of action. And actions can strongly impact us as well. There is a clear link, psychologically, between emotions, thoughts and behaviors. When one changes, the other two can be impacted as well. As you maintain your worship of Allah (swt), insha’Allah your thoughts and emotions will also change. However, it may take time and effort. Try to work on changing your thought process about this as well. Consider viewing this struggle as a test from Allah (swt) to see whether you will continue to worship Him despite the emptiness you feel or whether you will stop striving to revive that sweetness of faith. Also, remember that worshipping Allah (swt) is for us, not for Him. Try to remind yourself that you worship Allah (swt) because He is truly the only one that deserves to be worshipped, rather than in an attempt to gain anything. Remind yourself that all you have been given- from the air you breath, to your physical capabilities, to your mind and to the kindness and compassion Allah (swt) has placed in your heart toward others (because you are clearly a very kind-hearted person masha’Allah- it’s easy to tell from the way you presented your concerns)- is bestowed upon you from Allah (swt). So despite your doubts and the feelings in your heart, you realize that you’re praying, fasting, etc. because Allah (swt) deserves this honor.
And even more importantly than this- consistently make du’aa. It sounds like you truly miss that feeling of worship resonating with you and impacting your heart. Pretty much everyone experiences a crisis of faith at some level during the course of their lives (often several times)- it’s difficult not to be impacted by everything we’re bombarded with so much in terms of anti-Islam rhetoric and such a wide variety of moral standards. However, what differentiates one person from another is how they choose to deal with it. Do they give up? Or do they consistently seek Allah’s help? Never doubt that your du’aa will be heard and accepted. It truly makes all the difference.
Looking at non-Muslims and viewing them with compassion is a great thing- both Islamically and psychologically. Our religion does not prohibit valuing and appreciating individual choices; Allah (swt) created us all with free will and it is one of the tests and beauties of being human beings. And even if we disagree with a person’s choice, this does not necessitate devaluing the person him/herself. There are even examples from amongst the companions of the Prophet (saw) where their actions were criticized; however, they as people were still exemplified as role models for us. I remember making more non-Muslim friends than I ever had before when I was doing my Master’s degree. It was a very different experience and I was exposed to the “human side” of issues that a lot of Muslims typically simply ignored (i.e. homosexuality, extreme liberalism in values, a variety of different religions, etc.). You’re right- so many of them looked so happy. And they were! But happiness is relative- we seek not only the happiness of this life but that of the hereafter. And instant gratification and pleasure may make us happy now but does not necessitate happiness later. There is a hadith where the Prophet (saw) said, “The dunya is a prison for the believer and Paradise for the disbeliever” [Sahih Muslim]
One thing that I really took from those years that made a difference for me, personally, was taking the good from the people I encountered and leaving the bad. I differentiated between what was permissible and impermissible Islamically and learned from the experiences others shared with me; however, I drew a line in what I approved of based on our deen. This didn’t mean that I couldn’t empathize with people whose lifestyles I disagreed with- it simply meant that, despite my respect for someone as a person, I could disagree with something they chose to do. Does that make sense?
There are times when we feel far from Allah (swt) but realize that He is never far from us. We know this for a fact because Allah (swt) says, “And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then [tell them] surely, I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he calls on Me. So let them hear My call and let them trust in Me, in order that they may be led aright.” [Surah al-Baqarah 2:186] Hold onto that and realize that this is an opportunity to bring yourself closer to Allah (swt) by relying on Him and trusting Him to guide you and instill happiness within your heart.
May Allah (swt) grant you tremendous peace and happiness and reward you for striving to become closer to Him (swt). Ameen.
Written by : Sarah Sultan, LPC, LMHC
Sarah Sultan is a licensed professional counselor who strives to empower her clients through achieving healthier, more fulfilling lives and relationships while reconnecting with Allah during the healing process. Sarah obtained a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling and has practiced therapy for nearly 10 years. She is an instructor with Mishkah University, where she teaches a course about the intersections between Islam, psychology, and counseling. She is also a Research Fellow with Yaqeen Institute where she focuses her research on a variety of comprehensive and Islamically sound approaches to treating trauma from a spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical perspective.