Does Islam Teach Us to Ignore Our Feelings?

downloadFor many Muslims, Islam can appear to be a religion that teaches us to subjugate our feelings for the sake of truth and being a “good Muslim.” We are often taught that feeling that certain religious practices are hard (such as praying and fasting) or feeling depressed about one’s life are signs of weak faith in Allah (swt). Many verses in the Holy Quran teach us to be “obedient” to Islamic teachings as well as to those in authority. So does this mean that Islam wants us to ignore our feelings that do not fit into the “obedient” category?

If we search the Quran and Hadiths, we will find that Islam does not expect us to ignore our feelings and actually encourages us to face our negative feelings so that we can overcome them and be more sincere Muslims. Consider the following Quranic verses and hadiths:

A man once said to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “The laws of Islam are too heavy for me, so tell me something that I can easily follow.”

The Prophet replied: “Let your tongue be always busy with the remembrance of God.”
(Recorded in Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 4, Number 99)

As we can see from this blessed hadith, the Prophet (s) did not rebuke people for admitting that religion can seem hard sometimes. The Prophet accepted this man’s feeling that sometimes religion can seem difficult, and then he gave the man some hopeful advice.

And consider this verse about Maryam (r):

And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, “Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.” But he called her from below her, “Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream. And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates. (The Holy Quran 19:23-25)

Maryam (r) expressed her pain and suffering in an honest way, and Merciful Allah (swt) does not chastise her for this, but He comforts her with a stream and fresh dates.

The Prophet (pbuh) experienced negative emotions at times, and Allah (swt) offered him comfort and guidance.

Then perhaps you would kill yourself through grief over them, [O Muhammad], if they do not believe in this message, [and] out of sorrow (Holy Quran 18:6).

Your Lord (O Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) has neither forsaken you nor hated you. And indeed the Hereafter is better for you than the present (life of this world) And verily, your Lord will give you (all good) so that you shall be well-pleased. (The Holy Quran 93: 3-5)

Our beloved Prophet (pbuh) experienced feelings of grief and sorrow, and Allah (swt) acknowledged his negative feelings and did not scold him for having such feelings.

In the field of counseling, acknowledging one’s feelings is an extremely important step in self-improvement. As Muslims, rather than ignoring our negative feelings, we should recognize them for the sake of self-improvement. We should strive to find solutions to our problems and to practice being patient and grateful, for the sake of Allah (swt).

When you are experiencing positive or negative feelings, remember to remember Allah (swt). If the feelings are positive, give thanks to Allah (swt). If the feelings are negative, turn to Allah (swt), call on Him, and find ways to positively cope with those feelings, rather than ignoring or denying them.

What are your thoughts about recognizing one’s feelings?

4 Comments

  1. Aadil Mohamed

    Bismillahirrahmanirraheem.
    Assalamualaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu.

    This topic is very close to my heart. This was a well needed post especially for the second and third generation children in Western countries that have come from a Desi culture. Obedience is the key word and any questions are a straight sign of disobedience. This is how I left Islam but God willed be to come back and I am back with the faith of a convert inshaAllah. Many youth theses days ask questions with replies being given to ‘ask for forgiveness, you have angered Allah (SWT)’ and ‘you are a disbeliever/hypocrite’. This is completely and utterly wrong for a few reasons. 1) It drives many youth away fro the beautiful deen. 2) Allah (SWT) tells us not to blindly follow our forefathers and Allah (SWT) also tells us to ponder over the verses not to superficially read. 3) Just because you ask questions, it does not make you a disbeliever or hypocrite and it is very wrong and serious to call someone this without solid evidence. 4) Just because you may have faith and you have found it in your own personal way, it does not mean that your children are on the dame level of eman. Remember when you asked questions. And if you say that you have never asked questions the that means your ‘faith’ is a blind imitation or you are lying. The best of men and the best of women both asked questions and both sometimes despaired but we are all human and we need a calmness in our minds (answered questions) and a calmness in our hearts (faith in Allah (SWT)).

    JazakAllahu khayr. Allahu alam.
    Assalamualaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu.

    Reply
    1. Sheima (Post author)

      JazakAllah khair for your excellent comment!

      Reply
  2. Saleha Abdullah

    Sheimajon,

    You nailed it, sometimes it does seem like islam teaches us that it’s wrong to feel down. Actually I can’t really say islam, I should say muslims. Speaking from personal experience many muslims have shot me down if I even begun to share any sadness or negative feelings I was having. I was always told I was being ungrateful, to hush up and count my blessings, or to not even speak the words! Your examples have softened my heart and given me such a warmer perspective. Jazak ALLAH khair sister..really really good stuff!!

    Reply
    1. Sheima (Post author)

      Dearest Saleha,
      Thank you for sharing your heart and for your kind words. I agree that Muslims seem to encourage us to deny or cover up our negative feelings, but that is not what Islam teaches. We all feel sad and other low feelings and we should deal with them in honest and positive ways.

      Reply

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