Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research

Clinicians, Imams, and the Whisperings of Satan

Waswâs al-qahri, which means ‘overwhelming whisperings’ in Arabic, is a complex mental health disorder found in Muslim populations. Waswâs al-qahri is a presentation of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that is not included in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM)[1] or International Classification of Diseases (ICD) for several reasons including lack of research, diagnosis overlap and insufficient recognition of spiritually-based diseases by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Muslims who suffer from  waswâs al-qahri unwillingly take everyday acts of worship, like washing for prayer (wudu), or prayer itself, to extreme lengths. Obsessions are rooted in fear that their acts of worship are inadequate and that the acts must be repeated until perfect. Perpetuated by irrational fears and catastrophic thinking, these acts of worship become a source of anguish instead of spiritual nourishment.

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Najwa Awad

FELLOW | Najwa Awad is a psychotherapist who is passionate about helping Muslims heal, grow, and thrive after adversity. She has over a decade of experience providing online and in-person counseling to children, adults, and families at her practice, Amanah Family Counseling. Najwa also enjoys giving workshops to destigmatize mental illness, address current mental health issues within the community, and promote psychological health from an Islamic perspective.