Compiled from the works of Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, Ibn Al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya, and Abu Hamid al-Ghazali
Types of Hearts
Just as the heart may be described in terms of being alive or dead, it may also be regarded as belonging to one of three types; these are the healthy heart, the dead heart, and the sick heart.
The Healthy Heart
On the Day of Resurrection, only those who come to Allah with a healthy heart will be saved. Allah says: “The day on which neither wealth nor sons will be of any use, except for whoever brings to Allah a sound heart. (26:88-89)”
In defining the healthy heart, the following has been said: “It is a heart cleansed from any passion that challenges what Allah commands, or disputes what He forbids. It is free from any impulses which contradict His good. As a result, it is safeguarded against the worship of anything other than Him, and seeks the judgement of no other except that of His Messenger (saw). Its services are exclusively reserved for Allah, willingly and lovingly, with total reliance, relating all matters to Him, in fear, hope and sincere dedication. When it loves, its love is in the way of Allah. If it detests, it detests in the lght of what He detests. When it gives, it gives for Allah. If it witoholds, it withholds for Allah. Nevertheless, all this will not suffice for its salvation until it is free from following, or taking as its guide, anyone other than His Messenger (saw).”
A servant with a healthy heart must dedicate it to its journey’s end and not base his actions and speech on those of any other person except Allah’s Messenger (saw). He must not give precedence to any other faith or words or deeds over those of Allah and His Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. Allah says:
This is the opposite of the healthy heart. It does not know its Lord and does not worship Him as He commands, in the way which He likes, and with which He is pleased. It clings instead to its lusts and desires, even if these are likely to incur Allah’s displeasure and wrath. It worships things other than Allah, and its loves and its hatreds, and its giving and its withholding, arise from its whims, which are of paramount importance to it and preferred above the pleasure of Allah. Its whims are its imam. Its lust is its guide. Its ignorance is its leader. Its crude impulses are its impetus. It is immersed in its concern with worldly objectives. It is drunk with its own fancies and its love for hasty, fleeting pleasures.
It is called to Allah and the akhira from a distance but it does not respond to advice, and instead it follows any scheming, cunning shayton. Life angers and pleases it, and passion makes it deaf and blind (1) to anything except what is evil.
Thisi s a heart with life in it, as well as illness. The former sustains it at one moment, the latter at another, and it follows whichever one of the two manages to dominate it. It has love for Allah, faith in Him, sincerity towards Him, and reliance upon Him, and these are what give it life. It also has a craving for lust and pleasure, and prefers them and strives to experience them. It is full of self-admiration, which can lead to its own destruction. It listens to two callers: one calling it to Allah and His Prophet (saw) and the akhira; and the other calling it to the fleeting pleasures of this world. It responds to whichever one of the two happens to have most influence over it at the time.
The first heart is alive, submitted to Allah, humble, sensitive and aware; the second is brittle and dead; the third wavers between either its safety or its ruin.
1. It has been related on the authority of Abu’d-Darda’ that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Your love for something that makes you blind and deaf.” Abu Daw’ud, al-Adab, 14/38; Ahmad, al-Musnad, 5/194. The hadith is classified as hasan.
“He it is Who sent down As-Sakinah (calmness and tranquillity) into the hearts of the believers, that they may grow more in Faith along with their (present) Faith. And to Allah belong the hosts of the heavens and the earth, and Allah is Ever Al-Knower, All-Wise.” The Holy Quran: 48:4
A servant’s heart may be ill, and seriously deteriorating, while he remains oblivious of its condition. It may even die without him realising it. The symptoms of its sickness, or the signs of its death, are that its owner is not aware of the harm that results from the damage caused by wrong actions, and is unperturbed by his ignorance of the truth or by his false beliefs.
Since the living heart experiences pain as a result of any ugliness that it encounters and through its recognising its ignorance of the truth (to a degree that corresponds to its level of awareness), it is capable of recognising the onset of decay-and the increase in the severity of the remedy that will be needed to stop it-but then sometimes it prefers to put up with the pain rather than undergo the arduous trial of the cure!
Some of the many signs of the heart’s sickness if its turning away from good foods to harmful ones, from good remedies to shameful sickness. The healthy heart prefers what is beneficial and healing to what is harmful and damaging; the sick heart prefers the opposite. The most beneficial sustenance for the heart is faith and the best medicine is the Qur’an.
The Signs of a Healthy Heart
For the heart to be heality it should depart from this life and arrive in the next, and then settle there as if it were one of its people; it only came to this life as a passer-by, taking whatever provisions it needed and then returning home. As the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said to Abdullah ibn Umar, “Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a passer-by.”1 The More diseased the heart is, the more it desires this world; it dwells in it until it becomes like one of its people.
The healthy heart continues to trouble its owner until he returns to Allah, and is at peace with Him, and joins Him, like a lover driven by compulsion who finally reaches his beloved. Besides his love for Him he needs no other, and after invoking Him no other invocations are needed. Serving Him precludes the need to serve any other.
If this heart misses its share of reciting the Qur’an and invoking Allah, or completing one of the prescribed acts of worship, then its owner suffers more distress than a cautious man who suffers because of the loss of money or a missed opportunity to make it. It longs to serve, just as a famished person longs for food and drink.
Yahya ibn Mu’adh said: “Whoever is pleased with serving Allah, everything will be pleased to serve him; and whoever finds pleasure in contemplating Allah, all the people will find pleasure in contemplating him.”
This heart has only one concern: that all its actions, and its inner thoughts and utterances, are obedient to Allah. It is more careful with its time than the meanest people are with their money, so that it will not be spent wastefully. When it enters into the prayer, all its worldly worries and anxieties vanish and it finds its comfort and bliss in adoring its Lord. It does not cease to mention Allah, nor tire of serving Him, and it finds intimate company with no-one save a person who guides it to Allah and reminds it to Him.
Its attention to the correctness of its action is greater than its attention to the action itself. It is scrupulous in making sure that the intentions behind its actions are sincere and pure and that they result in good deeds.
As well as and in spite of all this, it not only testifies to the generosity of Allah in giving it the opportunity to carry out such actions, but also testifies to its own imperfection and shortcomings in executing them.
The Causes of Sickness of the Heart
The temptations to which the heart is exposed are what cause its sickness. These are the temptations of desires and fancies. The former cause intentions and the will to be corrupted, and the latter cause knowledge and belief to falter.
Hudhayfa ibn al-Yamani, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “The Messenger of Allah *saaws* said, “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, so that hearts are of two types: a dark heart that has turned away and becom 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. The dark heart only recognises good and denounces evil when this suits its desires and whims.” 2
He, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, placed hearts, when exposed to temptation, into two categories:::
First, a heart which, when it is exposed to temptation, absorbs it like a sponge that soaks up water, leaving a black stain in it. It continues to absorb each temptation that is offered to it until it is darkened and corrupted, which is what he meant by “like an overturned vessel”. When this happens, two dangerous sicknesses take hold of it and plunge it into ruin:
The first is that of its confusing good with evil, to such an extent that it does not recognise the former and does not denounce the latter. This sickness may even gain hold of it to such an extent that it believes good to be evil and vice-versa, the sunnah to be bida’ and vice-versa, the truth to be false and falsity to be the truth.
The second is that of its setting up its desires as its judge, over and above what the Prophet *saaws* taught, so that it is enslaved and led by its whims and fancies.
Second, a pure heart which the light of faith is bright and from which its radiance shines. When temptation is presented to pure hearts such this, they oppose it and reject it, and so their light and illumination only increase.
Notes: 1. Al-Bukhari, Kitab ar-Riqaq, 11/233. 2. Muslim, Kitab al-Iman, 2/170 (with different wording).
The intention of a person is not his utterance of the words, “I intend to do so and so.” It is an overflowing from the heart which runs like conquests inspired by Allah. At times it is made easy, at other times, difficult. A person whose heart is overwhelmingly righteous finds it easy to summon good intentions at most times. Such a person has a heart generally inclined to the roots of goodness which, most of the time, blossom into the manifestation of good actions. As for those whose hearts inclide towards and are overwhelmed by worldy matters, they find this difficult to accomplish and even obligatory acts of worship may become difficult and tiresome.
The Prophet (saw) said: “Actions are only by intention, and every man shall only have what he intended. Thus he whose hijra was for Allah and was for Allah and His Messenger, his hijra was for Allah and His Messenger, and he whose hijra was to achieve some worldly benefit or to take some woman in marriage, his hijra was for that for which he made hijra.”(1)
Imam ash-Shaf’i said: “This hadith is a third of all knowledge.” The words, “actions are only by intention”, mean that deeds which are performed in accordance with the sunnah are only acceptable and rewarded if the intentions behind them were sincere. It is like the saying of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, “Actions depend upon their outcome.”(2)
Likewise, the words, “every man shall only have what he intended”, mean that the reward for an action depends upon the intention behind it. After stating this principle, the Prophet (saw) gave examples of it by saying, “thus he the Prophet (saw) gave examples of it by saying, “Thus he whose hijra was for Allah and His Messenger, his hijra was for Allah and His Messenger, and he whose hijra was to achieve some worldly benefit or to take some woman I nmarriage, his hira was for that for which he made hijra.” So deeds which are apparently identitcal may differ, because the intentions behind them are different in degrees of goodness and badness, from one person to another.
Good intentions do not change the nature of forbidden actions. The ignorant should not misconstrue the meaning of the hadith and think that good intentions could turn forbidden actions into acceptable ones. The above saying of the Prophet (saw) specifically relattes to acts of worship and permissible actions, not to forbidden ones. Worship and permissible actions can be turned into forbidden ones because of the intentions behind them, and permissible actions can become either good or bad deeds by intention; but wrong actions cannot become acts of worship, even with good intentions.(3) When bad intentsions are accompanied by flaws in the actions themselves, then their gravity and punishment are multiplied.
Any praiseworthy act must be rooted in sound intentions; only then could it be deemed worthy of reward. The fundamental principle should be that the act is intended for the worship of Allah alone. If our intention is to show off,then these same acts of worship will in fact become acts of disobedience. As for permissible deeds, they all involve intentions — which can potenitally turn them into excellent acts which bring a man nearer to Allah and confer on him the gift of closeness to Him.
The Excellence of Intention
Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, said: The best acts are doing what Allah has commanded, staying for away from what Allah has forbidden, and having sincere intentions towards what-ever Allah has required of us.”(4)
Some of our predecessors said: “Many small actions are made great by the intentions behind them. Many great actions, on the other hand, are made small because the intentions behind them are lacking.”
Yahya Ibn Abu Kathir said: “Learn about intentions, for their importance is greater than the importance of actions.”
Ibn Umar once heard a man who was putting on his ihram say: “O Allah! I intend to do the Hajj and Umrah.” So he said to him: “Is it not in fact the people whom you are informing of your intention? Does not Allah already know what is in your heart?”(5) It is because good intentions are exclusively the concern of the heart, that they should not be voiced during worship.
The Excellence of Knowledge and Teaching
There are many proofs in the Qur’an concerning the excellence of knowledge and its tranmission. Allah, the Mighty and Glorious, says:
“Allah will raise up to high ranks those of you who believe and those who have been given knowledge. (58:11)”
And also: “Are those who know equal to those who do not know? (39:9)
Also , in the Hadith, the Prophet (saw) says, “When Allah desires good for someone, He gives him understanding of the deen.”(6) He (saw) also said, “Allah makes the way to the Garden easy for whoever treads a path in search of knowledge.”(7)
Travelling on the path to knowledge refers both to walking along an actual pathway, such as going on foot to the assemblies of the ulama’, as well as to following a metaphysical road, such as studying and memorising.
The above saying of the Prophet (saw) probably means that Allah makes learning the useful knowledge that is sought after easier for the seeker, clearing the way for him and smoothing his journey. Some of our predecessors used to say: “Is there anyone seeking knowledge, so that we can assist him in finding it?”
This hadith also alludes to the road leading to the Garden on the Day of Judgement, which is the straight path and to what precedes it and what comes after it.
Knowledge is also the shortest path to Allah. Whoever travels the road of knowledge reaches Allah and the Garden by the shortest route. Knowledge also clears the way out of darkness, ignorance, doubt and scepticism. This is why Allah called His Book, “Light”.
Al-Bukhari and Muslim have reported on the authority of Abdullah ibn Umar that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “Truly, Allah will not take away knowledge by snatching it away from people, but by taking away the lives of the people of knowledge one by one until none of them survive. Then the people will adopt ignorant ones as their leaders. They will be asked to deliver judgements and they will give them without knowledge, with the result that they will go astray and lead others astray.”
When ‘Ubadah ibn as-Samit was asked about this hadith he said: If you want, I will tell you what the highest knowledge is, which raises people in rank: it is humility.”
He said this because there are two types of knowledge.
The first produces its fruit in the heart. It is knowledge of Allah, the Exalted – His Names, His Attributes, and His Acts – which commands fear, respect, exaltation, love, supplication and reliance on Him. this is the beneficial type of knowledge. As ibn Mas’ud said: “they will recite the Qur’an, but it will not go beyond their throats. The Qur’an is only beneficial when it reaches the heart and is firmly planted in it.”
Al-Hasan said: “There are two kinds of knowledge: knowledge of the tongue, which can be a case against the son of Adam, as is mentioned in the hadith of the Prophet (saw): ‘The Qur’an is either a case for you or a case against you'(8), and knowledge of the heart, which is beneficial knowledge. The second kind is the beneficial kind which raises people in rank; it is the inner knowledge which is absorbed by the heart and puts it right. The knowledge that is on the tongue is taken lightly by people: neither those who possess it, nor anyone else, act upon it, and then it vanishes when its owners vanish on the Day of Judgement, when creation will be brought to account.”
Notes: 1. Al-Bukhari and Muslim 2. Al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Qadar, 11/499. 3. This is illustrated in a hadith recorded by Imam Muslim in his Sahih, in which it is related on the authority of Abu Dharr that the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “You will receive the reward for sadaqa even when you have sexual intercourse with your wives.” The sahaba said, “Will we really be rewarded for satisfying our physical desires?” He replied, “If you have haram intercourse, you will be committing a sin; similarly, if you have halal intercourse, you will be rewarded.” Imam an-Nawawi said, “This hadith clearly shows that permissible actions become acts of obedience if there is a good intentino behind them; sexual intercourse becomes an act of worship if it is accompanied by any one of the following good intentions: keeping company with your wife in kindness, as Allah ta’Ala has commanded; hoping to have, as a result of intercourse, good and righteous offsping; guarding your chastity and that of your wife; helping to prevent haram lustful glances or thoughts, or haram intercourse; and any other good intention.” 4. Tahdhib al’Asma’ li-Nawawi, 1/173. Abu Ishaq ash-Shirazi once entered the mosque to have something to eat, as was his custom, and then realised that he had dropped a dinar. He retraced his steps and found it lying on the ground, but then left it where it was, saying, “Perhaps it is not mine; perhaps it belongs to somebody else.” 5. Sahih, Ja’mi ‘l-‘Ulum wa’l-Hikam, p. 19. 6. Al-bukhari and Muslim. 7. Muslim, 21/17. 8. Muslim, Kitab at-Tahara, 3/99.
“And keep yourself (O Muhammad *saaws* patiently with those who call on their Lord (your companions who remember their Lord with glorification, praising in prayers, etc., and other righteous deeds, etc.) morning and afternoon, seeking His Face, and let not your eyes overlook them, desiring the pomp and glitter the life of the world; and obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our Remembrance, one who follows his own lusts and whose affair (deeds) has been lost.” The Holy Quran: 18:28.
You should know that all acts of disobedience are poision to the heart and cause its sickness and ruin. They result in its will running off course, against that of Allah, and so its sickness festers and increases. Ibn al-Mubarak said: I have seen wrong actions killing hearts, And their degradation may lead to their bcoming addicted to them. Turning away from wrong actions gives life to the hearts, And opposing your self is best for it.
Whoever is concerned with the health and life of his heart, must rid it of the effects of such poisons, and then protect it by avoiding new ones. If he takes any by mistake, then he should hasten to wipe out their effect by turning in repentance and seeking forgiveness from Allah, as well as by doing good deeds that will wipe out his wrong actions.
By the four poisions we mean unnecessary talking, unrestrained glances, too much food, and keeping bad company. Of all the poisons, these are the most widespread and have the greatest effect on a heart’s well-being.
It is reported in al-Musnad, on the authority of Anas, that the Prophet *saaws* said: “The faith of a servant is not put right until his heart is put right, and his heart is not put right until his tongue is put right.”1 This shows that the Prophet *saaws* has made the purification of faith conditional on the purification of the heart, and the purification of the heart conditional on the purification of the tongue.
At-Tirmidhi relates in a hadith on the authority of Ibn Umar: “Do not talk excessively without remembering Allah, because such excessive talk without the mention of Allah causes the heart to harden, and the person furthest from Allah is a person with a hard heart.” 2
Umar Ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “A person who talks too much is a person who often makes mistakes, and someone who often makes mistakes, often has wrong actions. The Fire has a priority over such a freqent sinner.” 3
In a hadith related on the authority of Mu’adh, the Prophet *saaws* said, “Shall I not tell you how to control all that?” I said, “Yes do, O Messenger of Allah.” So he held his tongue between his fingers, and then he said: “Restrain this.” I said, “Oh Prophet of Allah, are we accountable for what we say?” He *saaws* said, “May your mother be bereft by your loss! Is there anything more than the harvest of the tongues that throws people on their faces (or he said ‘on their noses’) into the Fire?” 4
What is meant here by ‘the harvest of the tongues’ is the punishment for saying forbidden things. A man, through his actions and words, sows the seeds of either good or evil. On the Day of Resurrection he harvests their fruits. Those who sow the seeds of good words and deeds harvest honour and blessings; those who sow the seeds of evil words and deeds reap only regret and remorse.
A hadith related by Abu Huraira says, “What mostly causes people to be sent to the Fire are the two openings: the mouth and the private parts.”5
Abu Huraira also related that the Messenger of Allah *saaws* said, “The servant speaks words, the consequences of which he does not realise, and for which he is sent down into the depths of the Fire further than the distance between the east and the west.”6
The same hadith was transmitted by at-Tirmidhi with slight variations: “The servant says something that he thinks is harmless, and for which he will be plunged into the depths of the Fire as far as seventy autumns.”7
Uqba ibn Amir said: “I said: “O Messenger of Allah, what is our best way of surviving?’ He, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, replied: “Guard your tongue, make your house suffice for sheltering your privacy, and weep for your wrong actions.”8
It has been related on the authority of Sahl ibn Sa’d that the Prophet *saaws* said, “Whoever can guarantee what is between his jaws and what is between his le guarantee him the Garden.”9
It has also been related by Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Let whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day either speak good or remain silent.”10
Thus talking can either be good, in which case it is commendable, or bad, in which case it is haram.
The Prophet *saaws* said: “Everything the children of Adam say goes against them, except for their enjoining good and forbidding evil, and remembering Allah, Glorius and Might is He.” This was reported by at-Tirmidhi and Ibn Ma’jah on the authority of Umm Habiba, may Allah be pleased with her.11
Umar ibn al-Khattab visited Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with them, and found him pulling his tongue with his fingers. Umar said “Stop! may Allah forgive you!” Abu Bakr replied; “This tongue has brought me to dangerous places.”12
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud said: “By Allah, besides Whom no god exists, nothing deserves a long prison sentence more than my tongue.” He also used to say: “O tongue, say good and you will profit;desist from saying evil things and you will be safe; otherwise you will find only regret.”
Abu Huraira reported that Ibn al-Abbas said: “A person will not feel greater fury or anger for any part of his body on the Day of Judgement more than what he will feel for hi tongue, unless he only used it for saying or enjoining good.”
Al-Hassan said: “Whoever does not hold his tongue cannot understand his deen.”
The least harmful of a tongue’s faults is talking about whatever does not concern it. The following hadith of the Prohet *saaws* is enough to indicate the harm of this fault: “One of the merits of a person’s Islam is his abandoning what does not concer him.”13
Abu Ubaida related that al-Hassan said: “One of the signs of Allah’s abandoning a servant is His making him preoccupied with what does not concern him.”
Sahl said, “Whoever talks about what does not concern him is deprived of truthfulness.”
As we have already mentioned above, this is the least harmful of the tongue’s faults. There are far worse things, like backbiting, gossipying, obscene and misleading talk, two-faced and hypocritical talk, showing off, quarrelling, bickering, singing, lying, mockery, derision and falsehood; and there are many more faults which can affect a servant’s tongue, ruining his heart and causing him to lose both his happiness and pleasure in this life, and his success and profit in the next life. Allah is the One to Whom we turn for assistance.
The unrestrained glance results in the one who looks becoming attracted to what he sees, and in the imprinting of an image of what he sees in his heart. This can result in several kinds of corruption in the servant. The following are a number of them:::
It has been related that the Prophet *saaws* once said words to the effect: “The glance is a poisoned arrow of shaytan. Whoever lowers his gaze for Allah, He will bestow upon him a refreshing sweetness which he will find in his heart on the day that he meets Him.”14
Shaytan enters with the glance, for he travels with it, faster than the wind blowing through an empty place. He makes what is seen appear more beautiful than it really is, and transforms it into an idol for the heart to worship. Then he promises it false rewards, lights the fire of desires within it, and fuels it with the wood of forbidden actions, which the servant would not have committed had it not been for this distorted image.
This distracts the heart and makes it forget its more important concerns. It stands between it and them; and so the heart loses its straight path and falls into the pit of desire and ignorance. Allah, Mighty and Glorious is He, says:
–*< And do not obey anyone whose heart WE have made forgetful in remembering Us- who follows his own desires, and whose affair has exceeded all bounds. (18:28)–<*
The unrestrained gaze causes all three afflications.
It has been said that between the eye and the heart is an immediate connection; if the eyes are corrupted, then the heart follows. It becomes like a rubbish heap where all the dirt and filth and rottennes collect, and so there is no room for love for Allah, relating all matters to Him, awareness of being in His presence, and feeling joy at His proximity-only the opposite of these things can inhabit such a heart.
Staring and gazing without restraint is disobedience to Allah:
-*< Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and quard their modesty; that is more purifying for them. Surely Allah is aware of what they do. (24:30)–<*
Only the one who obeys Allah’s commands is content in this world, and only the servant who obeys Allah will survive in the next world.
Furthermore, letting the gaze roam free cloaks the heart with darkness, just as lowering the gaze for Allah clothes it in light. After the above ayah, Allah, the Glorious and Mighty, says in the same surah of the the Qur’an:
-*< Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth: the likeness of His light is as if there were a niche, and in the niche is a lamp, and in the lamp is a glass, and the glass as it were a brilliant star, lit from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil is well nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it. Light upon light. ‘Allah guides whomever He wants to His Light. Allah strikes metaphors for man; and Allah knows all things. (24:35)–<*
When the heart is a light, countless good comes to it from all directions. If it is dark, then clouds of evil and afflictions come from all directions to cover it up.
Letting the gaze run loose also makes the heart blind to distinguishing between truth and falsehood, between the sunnah and innovation; while lowering it for Allah, the Might and Exalted, gives it a penetrating, true and distinguishing insight.
A righteous man once said: “Whoever enriches his outward behaviour by follwing the sunnah, and makes his inward soul weathy thorugh contemplation, and averts his gaze away from looking at what is forbidden, and avoids anything of a doubtful nature, and feeds soley on what is halal-his inner sight will never falter.”
The consumption of small amounts of food guarantees tenderness of the heart, strenght of the intellect, humility of the self, weakness of desires, and gentleness of temperament. Immoderate eating brings about the opposite of these praiseworthy qualities.
Al-Miqdam ibn Ma’d Yakrib said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah *saaws* say: “THe son of Adam fills no vessel more displeasing to Allah than his stomach. A few morsels should be enough for him to preserve his strength. If he must fill it, then he should allow a third for his food, a third for his drink and leave a third empty for easy breathing.”15
Excessive eating induces many kinds of harm. It makes the body incline towards disobedience to Allah and makes worship and obedience seem laborious-such evils are bad enough in themselves. A full stomach and excessive eating have caused many a wrong action and inhibited much worship. Whoever safeguards against the evils of overfilling his stomach has prevented great evil. It is easier for shaytan to control a person who has filled his stomach with food and drink, which is why it has often been said: “Restrict the pathways of shaytan by fasting.”16
It has been reported that when a group of young men from the Tribe of Israel were worshipping, and it was time for them to break their fast, a man stood up and said: “Do not eat too much, otherwise you will drink too much, and then you will end up sleeping too much, and then you will lose too much.”
The Prophet *saaws* and his companions, may Allah be pleased with them, used to go hungry quite frequently. Although this was often due to a shortage of food, Allah decreed the best and most favourable conditions for His Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. This is why Ibn Umar and his father before him-in spite of the abundance of food available to them-modelled their eating habits on those of the Prophet *saaws*. It has been reported that Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, said: “From the time of their arrival in Madina up until his death *saaws*, the family of Muhammed *saaws* never ate their fill of bread made from wheat three nights in a row.”17
Ibrahim ibn Adham said: “Any one who controls his stomach is in control of his deen, and anyone who controls his hunger is in control of good behaviour. Disobedience towards Allah is nearest to a person who is satiated with a full stomach, and furthest away from a person who is hungry.”
Keeping Bad Company
Unnecessary companionship is a chronic disease that causes much harm. How often have the wrong kind of companionship and intermixing deprived people of Allah’s generosity, planting discord in their hearts which even the passage of time-even if it were long enough for mountains to be worn away-has been unable to dispel. In keeping such company one can find the roots of loss, both in this life and in the next life.
A servant should benefit from companionship. In order to do so he should divide people into four categories, and be careful not to get them mixed up, for once one of them is mixed with another, then evil can find its way through to him:
The *FIRST* category are those people whose company is like food: it is indispensable, night or day. Once a servant has taken his need from it, he leaves it be until he requires it again, and so on. These are the people with knowledge of Allah-of His commands, of the scheming of His enemies, and of the diseases of the heart and their remedies- who wish well for Allah, His Prophet *saaws* and His servants. Associating with this type of person is an achievement in itself.
The *SECOND* category are those people whose company is like a medicine. They are only required when a disease sets in. When you are healthy, you have no need of them. However, mixing with them is sometimes necessary for your livelihood, businesses, consultation and the like. Once what you need from them has been fulfilled, mixing with them should be avoided.
The *THIRD* category are those people whose company is harmful. Mixing with this type of person is like a disease, in all its variety and degrees and strengths and weaknesses. Associating with one or some of them is like an incurable chronic disease. You will never profit either in this life or in the next life if you have them for company, and you will surely lose either one or both of your deen and your livelihood because of them. If their companionship has taken hold of you and is established, then it becomes a fatal, terrifying sickness.
Amongst such people are those who neither speak any good that might benefit you, nor listen cloesly to you so that they might benefit from you. They do not know their souls and consequently put their selves in their rightful place. If they speak, their words fall on their listeners’ hearts like the lashes of a cane, while all the while they are full of admiration for and delight in their own words.
They cause distress to those in their company, while believing that they are the sweet scent of the gathering. If they are silent, they are heavier than a massive millstone-too heavy to carry or even drag across the floor. 18
All in all, mixing with anyone who is bad for the soul will not last, even if it is unavoidable. It can be one of the most distressing aspects of a servant’s life that he is plagued by such person, with whom it may be necessary to associate. In such a relationship, a servant should cling to good behaviour, only presenting him with his outward appearance, while disguising his inner soul, until Allah offers him a way out of his affliction and the means of escape from this situation.
The *FOURTH* category are those people whose company is doom itself. It is like taking poision: its victim either finds an antidote or perishes. Many people belong to this category. They are the people of religious innovation and misguidance, those who abandon the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah *saaws* and advocate other beliefs. They call what is the sunnah a bid’a and vice-versa. A man with any intellect should not sit in their assemblies nor mix with them. The result of doing so will either be the death of his heart or, at the very best, its falling seriously ill.
What Gives the Heart Life and Sustenance
You should know that acts of obedience are essential to the well being of the servant’s heart, just in the same way that food and drink are to that of the body. All wrong actions are the same as poisonous foods, and they inevitably harm the heart.
The servant feels the need to worship his Lord, Mighty and Glorious is He, for he is naturally in constant need of His help and assistance.
In order to maintain the well being of his body, the servant carefully follows a strict diet. He habitually and constantly eats good food at regular intervals, and is quick to free his stomach of harmful elements if he happens to eat bad food by mistake.
The well being of the servant’s heart, however, is far more important than that of his body, for while the well being of his body enables him to lead a life that is free from illnesses in this world, that of the heart ensures him both a fortunate life in this world and eternal bliss in the next.
In the same way, while the death of the body cuts the servant off from this world, the death of the heart results in everlasting anguish. A righteous man once said, “How odd, that some people mourn for the one whose body has died, but never mourn for the one whose heart has died-and yet the death of the heart is far more serious!”
Thus acts of obedience are indispensable to the well being of the heart. It is worthwhile mentioning the following acts of obedience here, since they are very necessary and essential for the servant’s heart: Dhikr of Allah ta’Ala, recitation of the Noble Qur’an, seeking Allah’s forgiveness, making du’as, invoking Allah’s blessings and peace on the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and praying at night.*
1. Da’if hadith, Al-Mundhari, 3/234; and al-Iraqi in al-Ihya, 8/1539.
2. Da’if hadith, at-Tirmdihi, Kitab az-Zuhud, 7/92, gharib; no one else has transmitted it other than Ibrahim ibn Abdullah ibn Hatib, whom ath-Thahabi mentions, 1/43, stating that this is one of the gharib hadith attributed to him.
3. Da’if hadith, Ibn Hibban and al-Baihaqi, and al-Iraqi in his edition of al-Ihya, 8/1541.
4. Sahih hadith, at-Tirmidhi, al-Hakim, ath-Thahabi.
5. Sahih hadith, at-Tirmidhi and Ahmad; also al-Hakum and ath-Thahabi.
6. Al-Bukhari in Kitab ar-Riqaq, and Muslim in Kitab az-Zuhud.
7. At-Tirmdihi, Kitab az-Zuhud; he said the hadith is hasan gharib.
8. At-Tirmdihi in Kitab az-Zuhud with a slightly different wording; he said the hadith is hasan. This wording is reported by Abu Na’im in al-Hilya.
9. Al-Buhhari, Kitab ar-Riqaq, 11/308 and Kitab al-Hudud, 12/113.
10. Al-Bukhari, Kitab ar-Riqaq, 11/308; Muslim, Kitab al-Iman, 2/18. The complete hadith is: “Let whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day either speak good or remain silent; and let whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous to his neighbour; and let whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous to his guest.”
11. THe hadith is hasan and is reported by at-Tirmdhi in Kitab az-Zuhud and by Ibn Majah in Kitab al-Fitan. At-Tirmidhi classifies it as hasan gharib. We have no report of it other than from Muhammad ibn Yazid ibn Khanis.
12. Hasan according to Abu Ya’la, Baihaqi and as-Suyuti. Musnad, 1/201; as-Sa’ati.
13. Sahih, at-Tirmdhi, Kitab az-Zuhud, 6/607; Ahmad, al-Musnad, 1/201; as-Sa’ati, al-Fath ar-Rabbani, 19/257; hadith number 12 in an-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths.
14. Da’if, at-Tabarani, 8/63; al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak, 4/314; Ahmad, al-Musnad, 5/264.
15. Sahih, Ahmad, al-Musnad, 4/132; as-Sa’ati, al-Fath ar-Rabbani, 17/88; at-Tirmidhi, Kitab az-Zuhud, 7/51.
16. Da’if; it does not appear in most of the sources of the sunnah, but is mentioned in al-Ghazzali’s al-Ihya, 8/1488.
17. Al-Bukhari, Kitab al-At’ima, 9/549; and Muslim, Kitab az-Zuhud, 8/105.
18. Ash-Shafi’, may Allah be pleased with him, is reported to have said, “Whenever a tedious person sits next to me, the side on which he is sitting feels lower down than the other side of me.”
Sincerity is the freeing of one’s intentions from all impurities in order to come nearer to Allah. It is to ensure that the intention obedience to Allah are exclusively for His pleasure. It is the perpetual contemplation of the Creator, to the extent that one forgets the creation.
Sincerity is a condition for Allah’s acceptance of good deeds performed in accordance with the sunnah of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. Allah has commanded this in the Qur’an:
“And they have been commanded to worship only Allah, being sincere towards Him in their deen and true. (98:5)”
Abu Umama has related that a man once came to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said, “What of a man who joined us in the fighting, his intention being for fame and booty?” The Prophet said, “He recieves nothing.” The man repeated the question three times and each time the Prophet said, “He receives nothing”. Then he said, “Allah only accepts actions that are intended purely for His pleasure.”(1)
Abu Sa’id al-Khudri related that the Prophet (saw) said in his khutba during the farewell pilgrimage, “Alla will bless whoever hears these words and whoever understands them, for it may be that those who pass on this knowledge are not those who will understand it the best. There are three things concerning which the heart of a believer should feel no enmity or malice: devoting one’s actions to Allah, giving counsel to the Imams of the Muslims, and being loyal to the majority.”(2)
What is meant here is that these three things strengthen the heart, and whoever distinguishes himself in them will have a heart purified from all manner of deceit, corruption and evil.
A servant can only free himself from shaytan through sincere devotion, for Allah tells us in the Quran that Iblis said to Him:
“Except those of Your servants who are sincere. (38:83)”
It has been related that a rigtheous man used to say, “O self, be devout and you will be pure.” When any wordly fortune, in which the self finds comfort and towards which the heart inclines, intrudes upon our worship, then it impairs the purity of our efforts and ruins our sincerity. Man is preoccupied with his good fortune and immersed in his desires and appetites; rarely are his actions or acts of worship free of temporary objectives and desires of this kind. For this reason it has been said that whoever secures a single moment of pure devotion to Allah in his life will survive, for devotion is rare and precious, and cleansing the heart of its impurities is an exacting undertaking.
In fact, devotion is the purifying of the heart from all impurities, whether few or many, so that the intention of drawing nearer to Allah is freed from all other motives, except that of seeking His pleasure. This can only come from a lover of Allah, who is so absorbed in contemplation of the next world that there remains in his heart no place for the love of this world. Such a person must be devote and pure in all his actions, even in eating, drinking and answering the calls of nature. With rare exceptions, anyone who is not like this will find the door of devotion closed in his face.
The everyday actions of a person who is overwhelmed by his or her love for Allah and the akhira are characterised by his love and they are, in fact, pure devotion. In the same way, anyone whose soul is overwhelmed by love for and preoccupation with this world, or status and authority, will be so overwhelmed by these things that no act of worship, be it prayer or fasting, will be acceptable, except in very rare cases.
The remedy for love of this world is to break the worldly desires of the self, ending its greed for this world and purifying it in preparation for the next world. This will then become the state of the heart and sincere devotion will become easier to attain. There are a great many actions where a man acts, thinking they are purely intended for Allah’s pleasure, but he is deluded, for he fails to see the defects in them.
It has been related that a man was used to praying in the first row in the mosque. One day he was late for the prayer, so he prayed in the second row. Feeling embarrassment when people saw him in the second row, he realised that the pleasure and satisfaction of the heart that he used to gain from praying in the first row were due to his seeing people seeing him there and admiring him for it. This is a subtle and intangible condition and actions are rarely safe from it. Apart from those whom Allah has assisted, few are aware of such delicate matters. Those who do not realise it only come to see their good deeds appearing as bad ones on the Day of Resurrection; they are the ones referred to in Allah’s words:
“And something will come to them from Allah which they had never anticipated, for the evil of their deeds will become apparent to them. (39:47-48)”
And also: “Say: Shall We tell you who will lose most in respect of their deeds? Those whose efforts were astray in the life of this world, while they thought that they were doing good works. (18:103-104)”
Yaqub said: “A devout person is someone who conceals things that are good, in the same way that he conceals things that are bad.”
As-Sousi said: “True devotion is to lose the faculty of being conscious of your devotion; for someone who identifies devotion in his devotion is a person whose devotion is in need of devotion.” To contemplate devotion is to admire it, and admiration is an afflication; and that which is pure is whatever is free of all afflictions. This means that one’s deeds should be purified from any self-admiration concerning the actions they entail.
Ayyub said: “It is much harder for the people of action to purify their intentions than it is to execute any of their actions.”
Some people have said: “To be devout for a short while is to survive for ever, but devotion is rare.”
Suhail was asked: “What is the most difficult thing for the self? He said: “Devotion, when the self does not have the good fortunre of being endowed with it.”
Al-Fudayl said: “Forsaking action for the sake of other people is to seek their admiration. To act for the sake of their admiration is to associate others with Allah. Devotion is when Allah frees you from both of these states.
Notes: 1. Sahih, an-Nisa’i, Kitab al-Jihad, 6/25; al Hafidh ibn Hajar, Fath al-Qadir, 6/28. 2. Sahih, Ibn Ma’jah; also Ibn Hibban, Marwarid adh-Dham’an, p.47, on the authority of Zaid ibn Thabit.
source : themodernreligion.com