In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

How to handle obsession

I am sure we can all relate to an experience when our mind was completely pre-occupied with a repeated thought, a deep desire, a "dream world" or fantacy we have created for ourselves. For some, it may be the deep desire to be with someone they have a "crush" on, the feeling of wanting something desperately or being hooked on a particular activity or thought. No matter how hard you try, you can’t clear your head and simply forget about what is on your mind. The attachment and feelings seem to grow deeper and deeper, eating away at your other thoughts, disturbing your daily routine, dominating your attention at work or school and even interfering with your ability to eat and sleep. This "dream" creates a world and reality for itself in your mind. You begin to live under the shadow of your obsession. Your words, actions, and feelings become dictated by what you have created in your mind. Your obsession causes you to experience big mood swings from intense anxiety and depression to brief periods of great joy. The most dangerous part of all, you begin to lose touch with reality. You may even become distracted from remembering God and begin to compromise your religious duties as you exceed the limits of appropriate conduct. You take for granted the blessings of health, family, and God because nothing else matters than the realization of your obsession. In a way, your obsession can grow to become a form of addiction, something you just can’t let go of and must have in order to remain in one piece. As your mind revolves around this dream world, the rest of your life can slowly crumble away. If you are going through this experience, you should know that there is a way out; a way in which you can turn a helpless situation into a learning experience that will make you a much stronger person. You will need to do your share of work since there is no such thing as a quick-fix solution. However, you can rest assure that the reward for your effort will be awesome!

Before you can find out what to do, you need to understand why this obsession starts and how it grows. In the Quran, we read that every person is born with a Jinn companion. A Jinn is a descendant of the devil whose job it is to promise you things that look or feel good in order to pull you in the opposite direction from God. You can think of this companion like that devil character that pops up next to someone’s shoulder and constantly tries to invite them with whispers. We all get crazy thoughts that come and go through our minds. These thoughts can come from our Jinn companion who whispers temptations and entices us with bait. The whispers alone are not as dangerous as when you begin to think seriously about the whispers and even consider acting on them. Once the whisper becomes an intention, you are hooked! The seed has been planted in your mind and you begin giving it water and fertilizer with your thoughts. From there, it begins to grow as a function of how much time you spend on the thought. You should know that your Jinn is powerless over you (17:64-65, 14:22). Your Jinn only invites, entices and promises you anything that grabs your attention. You are the one who gives your Jinn power by accepting the invitation. Once you invite your Jinn inside, he’s ready to have a feast.

Why would God allow your Jinn to make these false promises to you? The answer is simple. God is testing you to see if you will give in to your weakness and listen to the promise or turn to God for strength, support and guidance. In 29:2-3, God informs us that everyone will be tested to reveal their true convictions. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. You may say that you believe in God but you need to prove yourself. You prove yourself by being tested. Passing the test is as simple as blocking out the whispers when they come to you. Failing is just as simple as listening to the whispers and acting on them.

What can you do to get over your obsession and prevent it from taking root in your mind?

  1. Whether you are currently dealing with an obsessive thought or are being tempted by one, the first thing you need to do is seek refuge in God as soon as the thought enters your mind. In 23:97-98 we read, “Say, ‘My Lord, I seek refuge in You from the whispers of the devils. And I seek refuge in You, my Lord, lest they come near me.’”

    You may not be able to block the whisper from happening, but you have the power to prevent it from entering and growing. You need to be strong in your resolve not to dwell on the thought that comes to your mind. Try to block it out as soon as it re-surfaces. Seek refuge in God by reciting the two verses each time you feel the urge to think about your obsession. When you start to block out the thought, it will be harder and harder for it to penetrate your mind. After a while, your Jinn will know that you are much too strong to be tempted and will give up. However, it’s no time to let your guards down. Just when you think you have won the war, your Jinn may start another battle by trying to entice you with a different invitation. Block it out. If you don’t give water to the seed that your Jinn is planting, it will never grow.

  2. Turning to God is your greatest protection and best solution. In addition to seeking refuge in God, you need to increase your faith, prayers and worship. When the obsession or temptation is strong, you need to turn to God even more. Pray to God for support, guidance, strength and patience. God is the most powerful support! In 2:186 we read, “When My servants ask you about Me, I am always near. I answer their prayers when they pray to Me. The people shall respond to Me and believe in Me, in order to be guided.” Try to remember God as often as possible.
  3. You will also benefit greatly from reading the Quran. You should read as often as possible. Try to read every day, even if it's only a few verses (especially at dawn and at night). God informs you that the Quran contains mercy and healing for anything that troubles your heart (10:57).
  4. You should continue to observe your religious practices. Your Contact Prayers (Salat) and obligatory charity (Zakat) are great defenses against your obsession. In 29:45 we read, "You shall recite what is revealed to you of the scripture, and observe the Contact Prayers, for the Contact Prayers prohibit evil and vice. But the remembrance of God (through Salat) is the most important objective. God knows everything you do.
  5. Force yourself to be with people who reverence and worship God. When you surround yourself with people who are trying hard to please God, you will have great moral support. They don’t have to know about your obsession. The fact that you are in their presence will help a great deal since it means less time alone to think to yourself. Also, turn to your friends and close relatives and share your feelings with them if you are comfortable. It helps to get things off your chest. Don’t be alone and let the thoughts build up.
  6. Meditate on the attributes of God and on the Hereafter. Think about why God has created you. Your main goal and focus should be to work hard to redeem yourself and prepare for an eternal paradise which is awesome! This life is short and you don’t want to be distracted by something that you can not take with you in the end. The tradeoff is much too costly for your soul and future. God is the One who controls your every breath and heartbeat. Do you want to please God or your desires?
  7. Don’t engage in things that fuel your obsession. For example, if your mind is occupied with sexual thoughts, you should not be watching inappropriate movies or magazines. You should subdue your ideas and break away from the things that add to your temptation.
  8. Keep a well-balanced life. Keep yourself occupied by exercising, playing sports, taking on hobbies or pursuing other interests. You don't want to allow your energy and creativity to be bottled up so that your obsession can feed on it. Keep a journal and write about your feelings on a daily basis.
  9. Turn to God for forgiveness and repent to Him if you feel you have done something that goes against His teachings. In 2:160 we read, "As for those who repent, reform, and proclaim, I redeem them. I am the Redeemer, Most Merciful.
  10. Don't lose hope and never give up! If you feel bad about what you have done or you think there is no chance, think again. In 22:15 we read, "If anyone thinks that GOD cannot support him in this life and in the Hereafter, let him turn completely to (his Creator in) heaven, and sever (his dependence on anyone else). He will then see that this plan eliminates anything that bothers him.” When you read 39:53, you begin to appreciate God's great mercy: "Proclaim: 'O My servants who exceeded the limits, never despair of GOD's mercy. For GOD forgives all sins. He is the Forgiver, Most Merciful.’"

God has created you to seek His approval and forgiveness, not to seek your personal desires and pleasures. When your priority becomes to please God, you will experience great pleasure in everything without the drawbacks you feel when you are obsessed. It’s hard work but worth every effort. You will feel great about yourself and about the steps your are taking. Keep in mind that God is with you to support every step you take. The reward for your effort is awesome!

[32:17] You have no idea how much joy and happiness are waiting for you as a reward for your (righteous) works.