When our body is inflicted with a physical illness, we can no longer function as we normally would. Each part of our body plays an integral part in our existence as human beings. Without eyes we cannot see, without limbs, we cannot walk, and without lungs, we cannot breathe. Having an illness puts us into a situation where our routines are turned upside down, and we are no longer able to live comfortably. Everyday, we try to avoid danger and protect ourselves in all situations, out of fear that we may become unwell or sick. However, what are we doing to keep our spiritual heart free from illness and disease? Are we physically fit but spiritually ill?
When contemplating on which bodily organ is the most important, many of us would state it to be the heart. As the organ that dictates the ability for the rest of the human body to function, the death of it leads to the death of the body. Doctors will advise you to eat well and exercise to ensure your heart remains healthy and the advice on the physical health of the heart is vast. The value of a healthy heart is spoken of often, as the Prophet Muhammad said,
“Beware, in the body there is a piece of flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound and if it is corrupt the whole body is corrupt, and hearken it is the heart.” [Muslim]
This hadith echoes the view of many concerning the value of the heart. However, this narration is traditionally interpreted as describing the spiritual heart. The heart that is sound is able to recognize the truth and lead the rest of the organs and limbs towards practicing the actions of truth and faith. A heart that has become diseased can no longer function, making it harder for the truth to be recognized. Just like the sick person becomes vulnerable to infections and diseases that the healthy individual can fight off, the one with a diseased heart is attacked by more whispers and doubts.
It can be easy for an individual to think that their heart is clean. However, many of us suffer from diseases of the heart, making us vulnerable to poor productivity, a lack of focus, and be prone to failure. Without recognizing what these diseases may be, a person cannot actively do actions to clean, medicate and suture the wounds and damage caused by them. These are spiritual illnesses that we have probably all faced at one point, or are currently facing. In this article, I will be discussing four of the most prevalent diseases of the heart, and how to overcome them in sha Allah.
And what prevents their expenditures from being accepted from them but that they have disbelieved in Allah and in His Messenger and that they come not to prayer except while they are lazy and that they do not spend except while they are unwilling. [Qur’an: Chapter 9, Verse 54]
Being lazy in your salah is a recipe for disaster; an individual cannot be successful without completing their obligation of the five daily prayers in the correct manner. A heart and mind which are absent when turning up for our prayers cannot reap the benefits of being in conversation with Allah . This state will continue outside of salah and impact all aspects of our life.
Laziness kills this life and the next – how can we overcome laziness?
As with anything, we cannot hope to accomplish a goal without seeking the help of Allah . The following dua covers all the bases with regards to any spiritual rust that may taint our heart.
I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being over powered by men.’ [Bukhari]
- Pray your salah on time
Salah is the most important commitment in the daily life of the Muslim. Putting it in the position it deserves will help us maintain strong iman that consequently strengthens our heart. What obstacles do you face that prevent you from performing salah on time? Make a list of them and find out how you can overcome them.
- Disrupt harmful habits
Sitting and watching TV, flicking through magazines, swiping through the Instagram – these are some typical, unproductive and damaging habits we have in the modern day. Though we can sometimes gain good from media, on the whole, it can be something that makes us lazier towards our acts of worship. What harmful habits do you have? Work to eliminate them by giving yourself a set time to check your social media. Replace mindless entertainment programmes and films with beneficial documentaries and lectures about Allah’s creation and Islamic knowledge.
- Live a healthy life
Sometimes, being lazy is not a result of being absentminded out of choice. It can be a reflection of the physical state of your health. Ensure you are eating a healthy diet, maintaining good sleep and exercising regularly. By maintaining good health, you are less likely to find yourself feeling tired and demotivated to do simple, daily tasks. Think about small, healthy habits you can incorporate into your life, like restricting junk and sweet foods, and eating more fruits.
Lacking patience with Allah’s Will, being quick when making dua, and wanting things to be in your hands immediately is the definition of being hasty. It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah said,
“It is necessary that you do not become hasty.” It was said: “What does being hasty mean, O Messenger of Allah ?” He said: “When one says: ‘I supplicated to Allah but Allah did not answer me.'” [Ibn Majah]
Haste makes waste – how can we slow down?
We are hasty because we rush to attain fulfillment of our desires in this world. We feel we must rush because if we do not, we will miss out on the opportunity. We push, shove and become oblivious to those around us out of our greed and fear of not having what we need. Yet, the reality is this world is temporary, and that which has our name written on it will be ours if Allah has planned it for us. Our obsession with worldly attainment derails us from our sole purpose of being, and in this delusion, we waste what precious time we have been given by Allah .
- Have patience
Practice having patience. By being patient you are much more likely to contemplate and think about a situation, rather than heading straight in. Nothing comes instantly and, unless we practice patience, we will only find ourselves living in distress.
“And you do not resent us except because we believed in the signs of our Lord when they came to us. Our Lord, pour upon us patience and let us die as Muslims [in submission to You].” [Qur’an: Chapter 7, Verse 126]
- Be grateful
Look at what you have and say Alhamdulilah. We often find ourselves being hasty because we want more. We forget to acknowledge and be happy with the things that we are blessed with because we constantly want more. Stop and contemplate about what is in your life and sincerely thank Allah for it, before seeking more.
- Contemplate the pros and cons
Before entering into a situation, purchase or complaint, think of the positives and negatives of your potential action.
Will it benefit me? Does it cause harm to myself or anyone else? What will I achieve from this? Are all the terms halal? Is there any sin in this?
This is a case of using the aql (intellect) that Allah has bestowed upon us. Ponder the situation beforehand, pray istikhara, then practice patience by leaving it to the Will of Allah . Taking these steps is a smart way of reducing your hastiness, and ending up in a situation you may later regret.
3. Misplaced Love
Ibn Taymiyyah describes ‘ishq, passionate love, as:
“Passionate love is a psychological sickness, and when its effects become noticeable on the body, it becomes a sickness that afflicts the mind also. Either by afflicting the mind by the likes of melancholy, or afflicting the body through weakness and emaciation.”
Having a strong love for that other than Allah leads the heart to turn away from His remembrance and for the individual to be at risk of being hurt from the one he loves other than Allah loves. Our hearts are yearning for a connection; passionate love causes us to connect and love something that does not belong in our heart. This could be another person, a job, a country, even a football team! This causes humans to find happiness in things other than Allah – many expect to be fulfilled after getting married or getting their dream job. But when we find true contentment and peace from knowing and loving Allah , nothing can disappoint us.
Irrational love is dangerous – how can we love correctly?
- Fear and know Allah
Fill your heart with Allah ! Remembrance and knowledge of Him , love for Him and fear of Him . Acknowledging what His position should be in your life is key. Understanding Tawheed and the position Allah holds in relation to mankind is essential in tackling the issue of passionate love. When we know Allah and His Attributes, His Power and His Mercy, we become in awe of Him and that gives us a special kind of strength and serenity.
- Notice the faults of creation
When you love something or someone other than Allah , constantly remind yourself of the faults they have. This is a constant reminder of how the creation is not perfect and the Creator is. This removes infatuation and the blinded vision we may have when feeling love towards something – this brings us back to reality!
“And heal the breasts of a believing people, and remove the anger of their hearts.” [Qur’an: Chapter 9, Verse 14-15]
Anger is a dangerous emotion that can lead a person to commit actions they deeply regret later on. It is the product of a heart that has become weakened and detached from Allah . A person can react, say and do things that are harmful to themselves and to others. The whispers of Shaytan can find anger rips through a person like a fire – it is destructive, leaving scars and wounds behind.
Fight the fire – how can we cool down anger?
- Sit down
The first piece of advice that Rasul Allah gave us was to sit down when feeling angry,
Narrated AbuDharr : The Messenger of Allah said to us: “When one of you becomes angry while standing, he should sit down. If the anger leaves him, well and good; otherwise he should lie down.”[Abu Dawud]
When you find yourself overcome by anger, practice the guidance given by the Prophet Muhammad . This will help prevent the anger from progressing and help to calm yourself down.
- Ask yourself why
Pondering why you may find yourself angry in a particular situation can help you target how to prevent it occurring again. Once you have found the cause, remove it by staying away from that particular trigger or dealing with the predisposing factor.
- Find alternative challenges
Anger is an emotion; when exhibited in its true form it can be disastrous. However, emotion can be channeled into productive and valuable tasks and projects. If something, in particular, makes you angry, such as the state of your community or relationship problems, use your emotions to rectify the issues and, in sha Allah, you will find your anger begin to subside.
These are just a few of the illnesses of the heart that the scholars have discussed. A sound heart is the source of well-being, contentment and productivity, and we should aim to work on our hearts as much, if not more, as we do our physical hearts.
Ponder over the obstacles you encounter with regards to the spiritual state of your heart. Now tell us, how do you work on healing those heart diseases? Let us know down below!