Symptoms of Ailing Faith
by Kamil Mufti


THE heart is probably the most vital organ in the human body and it might become sick or even spiritually dead without the awareness of its owner. A person with a diseased heart displays lack of sensitivity to sins or remains ignorant of his deviant beliefs. In today's world, most people are preoccupied with the accumulation of material wealth, and very few give even the slightest thought to moral and spiritual values. As a result, modern society is plagued by crime, corruption, moral degradation, greed, violence and insecurity. It is therefore necessary for every Muslim to know the causes of these ailments, and actions that poison the heart. Muslims should also know the potential inlets as well as the cure for the diseases that afflict the heart. So, how can the Iman (faith) of Muslims be strengthened? How can the Muslim mind be purified from innovations and superstitions?

The disease of an ailing Iman has many symptoms, which include:

(1) Committing sins:

Some people insist on committing the same sins over and over again. As a result, repugnance of sins is slowly withdrawn from their heart to the point that they commit these sins openly as described in this Hadith of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam).

"All of my followers will be forgiven except those who commit sins openly. Such is the case of a man commit a sin at night and Allah had his sin concealed till the morning comes. But, he says openly: 'O so and so, I did such and such yesterday.' Allah had covered his sin, but he uncovered the veil of Allah from it." (Related by Al-Bukhari).

(2) Hardening of the heart:

The person reaches a stage where he feels that his heart has turned into a solid rock that is not affected by anything. Allah says: "And yet, after this, your hearts hardened and became like rocks, or even harder." (Al-Baqarah, 2:74). A hardened heart is not affected by anything - even seeing people die and attending funerals would not move it. The person with a hardened heart may even carry a corpse and bury it, yet, he walks in the graveyard as if he were strolling between pine trees!

(3) Performing acts of worship poorly:

Such a person remains absent-minded during prayers and while reciting the Qur'an. He also does not contemplate upon the meaning of the supplications he is making. As a result, he recites them in a monotonous tone void of any reflections. He does not think for a moment about the value of these supplications. He forgets that: "Allah does not accept the supplication from an inattentive, heedless heart." (Related Al-Tirmidhi).

His acts of worship are reduced to hollow movements with no spirit behind them. Allah describes the hypocrites: "And they do not remember Allah but little." (Al-Nisa', 4:142).

A hard hearted person remains indifferent when he does not perform some good deeds and misses those times of worship that have more reward in them. His lack of interest to earn rewards is obvious. Delaying Haj when he is capable of performing it, missing congregational prayers in the Masjid, and even the Jumu'ah prayer are a few examples of this. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) said: "People will continue to withdraw to rows behind the first one until Allah puts them in a back place in Hell." (Related by Abu Dawud).

Furthermore, he does not feel remorse if he misses obligatory duties and does not try to perform the different Sunnah prayers or invocations that he misses. He ignores them, convincing himself that they are only Sunnah!

(4) Lack of tranquillity:

His breast gets tightened, his mood changes, he feels as if he is carrying a heavy load, and he becomes annoyed quickly because of minor things. He gets pestered by the behaviour of the people around him and he does not forgive them easily. He harbours malice towards fellow Muslims over insignificant issues. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) has described Iman to be forgiveness: "Iman is patience and forgiveness." (Related by Al-Tirmidhi). In another Hadith, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) described the believer in the following manner: "He makes friends and is befriended and there is no goodness in (one who) does not make friends or is not befriended." (Related by Al-Tirmidhi).

(5) Verses of the Qur'an have no affect upon him:

The promises, warnings, commands, prohibitions and descriptions of the Day of Judgment do not make his eyes flood with tears, or his heart quiver, or his soul shiver. Consequently, he gets bored and tired when he listens to the recital of the Qur'an!

(6) He is negligent in remembering Allah:

This simple act of devotion becomes heavy upon him to the point that when he raises his hands in supplication, he hastens to fold them up quickly to conclude it. He is not eager to repent to Allah, the Mighty and Glorious, and to make invocations to Him for his needs. Allah describes the hypocrites: "And when they stand up to pray, they stand with laziness and to be seen of men, and they do not remember Allah but little." (Al-Nisa', 4:142).

(7) He does not get angry when the commandments of Allah are violated:

This is because the glowing light of honour in his heart has been extinguished and as a result, his limbs have become numb to repudiate evil. So he does not bother to enjoin good or forbid evil. This is due to a weak heart as indicated by the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam): "Temptations are presented to the heart, one by one. Any heart that accepts them will be left with a black stain, but any heart that rejects them will be left with a mark of purity, until the hearts become one of two types: a dark heart that has turned away and become like an overturned vessel, and a pure heart that will never be harmed by temptation for as long as the earth and the heavens exist." (Related by Muslim).

So the desire of enjoining good and forbidding evil disappears from a sick heart. Good and evil are the same to it.

Rather, the person may even be happy to hear about the corruption that is being committed on earth. His unfortunate soul forgets that the sin upon him is the same as the sin upon the person who witnessed the evil and approved of it, as the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) said: "When a sin is committed on earth, the one who witnessed it and hates it is like one who was absent from it, and the one who was absent from it but was pleased with it (after he found out about it), it is like he witnessed it." (Related by Abu Dawud).

Since being pleased with the sin is a deed of his heart, it makes the sin upon him equal to the sin of the one who witnessed it.

(8) He loves to be in gatherings and be engrossed in talking:

He tries to impose his view on others and likes the discussion to centre around him. Gatherings in which idle talk takes prominence are considered like slaughterhouses from which the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) warned us when he said:

"Watch out for the slaughterhouses (meaning) gatherings." (Related by Al-Bayhaqi).

(9) He is arrogant:

He likes people to stand up for him when he enters to meet them because feeling great gratifies his diseased soul, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) said: "The one who is pleased that the slaves of Allah stand up for him, then let him be assured of his place in the Fire." (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad).

Mu'awiyah Ibn Abi Sufyan entered upon two companions of the Prophet, Ibn 'Amir stood up and Ibn Zubayr sat down. Seeing this, Mu'awiyah said to Ibn 'Amir: "Sit down, because I heard the Messenger of Allah say: "The one who loves that another man stand up for him, then let him rest assured of his sitting place in the Fire." (Related by Abu Dawud).

A similar example is that he will get angry at a person who applies the Sunnah and starts shaking hands with people on his right hand side. Also, when he enters a gathering, he is not satisfied unless someone else, already sitting, gets up so that he may sit in his place despite the fact that he is forbidden to do so by the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam):

"Let not a man make another one stand for him thesit in his place." (Related by Al-Bukhari).

(10) Stinginess and greed:

Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) has praised those who spend their wealth for good causes and at the same time blamed those who are miserly. In the Qur'an Allah has praised the Ansar for the way they gave preference to the Muhajirun (Muslims who migrated from Makkah) over themselves: "But they (Ansar) give them preference over themselves even though they were in need of that (the booty). And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be the successful." (Al-Hashr, 59:9).

Allah has clarified that the successful ones are those who protect themselves against stinginess. Without doubt, weakness of Iman is born from stinginess as the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) said: "Iman and covetousness can never come together in the heart of a slave." (Related by Al-Nasa'i).

Concerning the dangers of stinginess and its effects upon one's soul, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) explained it to be: "Beware of covetousness, because the ones before you perished because of covetousness. It induces them to be miserly so they became misers and it induced them to break the ties (of kinship) so they broke it and induced them to commit sins so they committed sins." (Related by Abu Dawud).

A greedy person also has a weak Iman. He scarcely spends anything for the sake of Allah even if he is called to donate in charity when his Muslim brothers are hungry and afflicted by hardships. There is nothing clearer in this matter than the Book of Allah: "Behold! It is you who are called to spend freely in Allah's Cause: but even among you are such as turn out to be niggardly! And yet, he who acts niggardly in Allah's Cause is but niggardly towards himself: for Allah is Rich, and you are poor. And if you turn away from Him, He will cause other people to take your place, and they will not be the likes of you." (Muhammad, 47:38).

(11) He falls into doubtful matters:

When he perform an action, he does not ask if it is an act of righteousness but rather will it earn him any sin or not. This is exactly what the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) informed us of: "But he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all about grazing therein. Truly, every king has a sanctuary, and Allah's sanctuary is His prohibitions." (Related by Muslim).

When such people ask for a fatwah (Islamic ruling) about something, and find out that it is forbidden, they do not give up. They want to know how severe the prohibition is. How many sins does he earn if he commits it? He is not concerned to stay away from evil and sinful deeds, rather he is inclined to take the first step towards haram things by belittling the burning effects of sins which run him the risk of committing haram, and remove the screen between him and the sin. This is why the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) said: "Know that some people from my Ummah will come on the Day of Judgment with good deeds like the white mountains of Tihama, but Allah will make them scattered dust." Thawban said, 'O Messenger of Allah, describe them to us, clarify them to us, so that we may not be one of them without knowing it! He said: "They will be your brothers, and from your people, and they will take from the night as you do (meaning prayers, etc), but they are a people who, when they were alone with the prohibitions of Allah, violated them." (Related by Ibn Majah).

So, you will find him engulfed in forbidden things without any protection or shielding, and this is more evil than the one who commits them but with some reluctance. These people commit sins with ease as a result of their ailing Iman and do not see their act to be an evil one. This is how Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud (radhiallahu anhu) described the way of believer and a hypocrite perceive sins: "A believer sees his sins as if he were sitting under a mountain, fearing it might fall upon him, while a sinner sees his sins as a fly passing over his nose, so he gets rid of it with his hand." (Related by Al-Bukhari).

(12) Belittling good deeds:

There is lack of concern on the part of the sick at heart to perform small deeds of righteousness contrary to what the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) has taught us when he said: "Do not belittle any small act of kindness even if it is to pour water from your bucket into the vessel of the one who asks for it or to talk to your brother with a cheerful face." (Related by Ahmad).

So acts that appear to be minor should not be underestimated. Hence, meeting a fellow Muslim with a smiling face and removing trash and dirt from the Masjid - even as little as a straw - entails great rewards. It may be that a small deed becomes a reason for the forgiveness of major sins. Allah thanks His slave for these small deeds and forgives him. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) said: "Once, a man saw the branch of a tree in the middle of a road. So, he said, 'By Allah, I will remove this from the path of the Muslims so they may not be burt.' For this action, he was put in Paradise." (Related by Muslim).

Mu'adh Ibn Jabal was once walking with someone. He removed a pebble from the way. The man asked Mu'adh why he did that. Mu'adh answered him: "I heard the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) say: 'One who removes a stone from the way has a good deed written for him, and one for whom a good deed is written shall enter Paradise.'" (Related by Al-Tabarani).

(13) Not caring about the affairs of Muslims:

A person with a sick heart does not react to the needs of Muslims by making supplications, giving charity, or offering assistance. He does not care if his brothers are afflicted by a hardship in any part of the world such as being overwhelmed by the enemy, being persecuted, or being stricken by disasters. It is enough for him that his conditions are good! This is because of his ailing Iman. A believer is the opposite of that as described by the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam): "A believer feels pain for the believers, just as the body feels distress over what is troubling the head." (Related by Ahmad).

(14) He is deprived of friendship of brothers:

The Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) said: "Two persons who became friends for the sake of Allah do not separate except because of a sin committed by one of them." (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad).

This is a proof of the evil effects of sins: it breaks the ties of brotherhood. This alienation that a person finds between himself and his brothers is sometimes the result of a decline in Iman which results from committing sins. So the love others have for him dwindles.

(15) Showing grief and fear when afflicted by a hardship or when in difficulty:

Such a person is often found to be shaky in offering obligatory duties, unbalanced, absent minded, lost and fidgety. He is not able to face reality with unwavering limbs and a firm heart. All of this is due to ailing Iman.

If the Iman were strong, he would have been firm and faced the greatest of hardships with strength and steadfastness.

(16) Disputing and arguing unnecessarily:

Much engagement in these habits hardens the heart as the Prophet said: "A people never went astray after being upon guidance except through disputes." (Related by Ahmad).

So, argumentation without proof and proper intention takes one away from the Straight Path. These days, most people argue falsely and without knowledge or guidance. It is enough for them to leave this bad habit after knowing what the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) said: "I guarantee a house in the outskirts of Paradise to the one who gives up arguing even if he were on the right side." (Related by Abu Dawud).

(17) Attachment to worldly life:

He is so materialistic that he feels anguish when something of this life, like wealth, honour, status, etc is taken away from him. He feels as if he has been injured badly because he did not get what others did. His feeling of injury becomes stronger and he feels rejected on seeing his Muslim brother get of this world which did not reach him. Envy takes root in his heart so he wishes that this bounty be taken away from his brother. This is what Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) warned us against: "Never can Iman and envy come together in the heart of a slave." (Related by Al-Nassa'i).

(18) His speech is void of the etiquette of the Qur'an and Sunnah:

The signs of Iman are absent from him. You will barely find in this person's speech quotations from the Qur'an, or Sunnah, or the sayings of the early pious generations of Muslims.

These are some of the symptoms of a weak faith. By becoming aware of the symptoms, one has made the first step towards the remedy.