In brief, I am suffering from anxiety about my religious commitment and belief. I hope that Allaah will not call me to account for my question, but I am looking for clear answers.
When I look at the Christians and Jews, and even groups who have gone astray from sound Islamic ‘aqeedah (creed), and see how committed they are to their beliefs and sense of happiness and tranquility that they feel – although I do not know whether it is real – I ask myself how can the Muslim be certain that he is following sound ‘aqeedah at the time when the sense of happiness and tranquility may be found in all people, especially since according to psychology it is possible that what you believe in is what gives you a sense of certainty and assurance, even if it is not correct? What is confusing me in particular is the groups that have deviated from Islam such as the Sufis and Shi’ah. I only started to feel this waswaas (whispers) after I became closer to my Lord than before, praise be to Allaah, and I gave up listening to music, and I started to pray qiyaam al-layl (late night prayers) and naafil (voluntary) prayers, and pray for forgiveness.
You have done well to call these thoughts that cross your mind waswaas. It is well known that waswaas comes from the Shaytaan, because the Shaytaan does not want anyone to turn back to his Creator in repentance, regretting (past mistakes) and turning towards what is right and good. Rather he wants to divert people away from religious commitment using all kinds of temptations and specious arguments. If he is unable to do that, he resorts to waswaas and stirring up doubts, to make a person feel anxious and uncertain. Hence you will find that you will not experience this waswaas except after you have given up some sins that he used to make appear attractive to you. When you prevailed over him in this area, he resorted to the weakest of his tricks, which is waswaas. The companions of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) complained to him that they noticed some waswaas that they disliked and did not want to speak of, and he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to them: “Praise be to Allaah Who has reduced his tricks to whispers.” Narrated by Abu Dawood from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Abbaas ; classed as saheeh (authentic) by al-Albaani as stated in Saheeh Abi Dawood.
When he was unable to stop them doing good, he resorted to waswaas.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
Waswaas is something that happens to everyone who turns to Allaah in dhikr (remembrance) etc; it will inevitably happen to him. So he should be steadfast and remain patient, and persist in his dhikr and prayer, and not give up, for by persisting in it he will foil the plot of the shaytaan and “ever feeble indeed is the plot of Shaytaan (Satan)” [4:76].
Every time a person wants to turn to Allaah in his heart, whispers of other matters come to him. The shaytaan is like a bandit; every time a person wants to travel towards Allaah, he wants to intercept him. Hence it was said to one of the salaf (pious predecessors): The Jews and the Christians say, we don’t experience waswaas. He said: They are right! What would the shaytaan do with a ruined house?
Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 22/608
Hence you should not pay any attention to this waswaas, and do not let it form an obstacle on your way towards Allaah.
With regard to what you have mentioned about some of the kuffaar non-Muslims and innovators enjoying a sense of happiness and tranquillity, you did well to say in your question, “but I do not know if it is real.” Many of these pleasures are false, appearing outwardly whilst inwardly the person feels lost and anxious, which can only be dispelled when a person is truly sincere towards Allaah in submitting to Him and pleasing Him.
Here you should pay attention to a number of matters:
1 – The measure of sound ‘aqeedah is not whether one feels at ease or not, rather sound ‘aqeedah is known from what is stated in the Qur’aan and the Sunnah (reports) of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), in accordance with the way of the companions of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). If you are confused about any matter, measure it against the words of Allaah, may He be exalted, the Sunnah of His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and the words of his companions. If you find that the companions of the Messenger of Allaah said that, then you will know that it is true, and anything other than that is false. If you are unable to do that, then ask scholars whose knowledge and method are in accordance with the way of the Sahaabah and the righteous salaf. This is the only true standard.
With regard to the happiness and tranquility that are the result of sincerely seeking the pleasure of one's Lord and following the Sunnah of His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Whoever works righteousness — whether male or female — while he (or she) is a true believer (of Islamic Monotheism) verily, to him We will give a good life”
2 – Feelings of anxiety and pressure are something relative; it varies from one person to another. Sometimes a person may live in the most difficult of circumstances and not experience any such feelings, because he is dead at heart. Do you not see how a blind man may live in the most intense darkness but he does not feel that it is dark? That it because he does not have any sight at all. The same applies to one who is dead at heart; he does not have any feeling of life at all, so he cannot feel a sense of loss at its absence.
But Allaah says, and His word is true (interpretation of the meaning):
“But whosoever turns away from My Reminder (i.e. neither believes in this Qur’aan nor acts on its teachings) verily, for him is a life of hardship, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Resurrection”
The word “dank”(hardship) has been interpreted in a number of ways. In the Tafseer of Ibn Katheer (may Allaah have mercy on him) it says:
i.e., hardship in this world, so he will not feel any peace of mind or ease, rather he will feel constricted because of his misguidance, even if he seems outwardly to be enjoying the luxuries of life, wearing what he wants, eating what he wants, living wherever he wants. But his heart has not found certainty and guidance, so he is in a state of anxiety, confusion and doubt, and he will remain in that state. This is the life of hardship.
Al-Dahhaak said: it refers to evil deeds and provision that comes from haraam (unlawful) sources.
It was narrated that Abu Sa’eed said, concerning the phrase “a life of hardship”: His grave will be constricted for him until his ribs interlock.
It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “ ‘for him is a life of hardship’ refers to the torment of the grave.’” Narrated with a jayyid isnaad (good chain). End quote.
If we assume that a kaafir non-Muslim or evildoer lives a happy life in this world, even inwardly, he is still lacking in the happiness and tranquility that the true believers enjoy, and what awaits him of torment in al-Barzakh (life in the grace) and thereafter is terrible hardship. We ask Allaah to protect us and you from the torment of the grave, and to make us steadfast in adhering to the truth until we meet Him.
Finally, you should strive to do acts of worship and good deeds, and shun the whispers that cause anxiety. You should acquire beneficial knowledge, for it will protect you, by Allaah’s leave, from all sorts of confusion and uncertainty.
And Allaah knows best.