Weakness of Faith
Book by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid
Symptoms of weak faith
Causes of weak faith
Curing weak faith
Praise be to Allaah, we praise Him and seek His help and forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allaah from the evil of our own souls and from our evil deeds. Whomever Allaah guides, none can lead astray, and whomever Allaah leaves astray, none can guide. I bear witness that there is no god except Allaah alone, with no partner or associate, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger. “O you who believe! Fear Allaah as He should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islam (as Muslims), with complete submission to Allaah.” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:102 – interpretation of the meaning].
“O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam) and from him He created his wife (Hawwa), and from them both he created many men and women, and fear Allaah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allaah is Ever an All-Watcher over you.” [al-Nisa’ 4:1 – interpretation of the meaning]
“O you who believe! Keep your duty to Allaah and fear Him, and speak (always) the truth. He will direct you to do righteous good deeds and will forgive you your sins. And whosoever obeys Allaah and His Messenger, he has indeed achieved a great achievement (i.e., he will be saved from the Hell-fire and made to enter Paradise).” [al-Ahzaab 33:70-71 – interpretation of the meaning].
The phenomenon of weak faith has become very widespread among Muslims, and many people complain about the hardness of their hearts. So often we hear the words, “I feel hardness in my heart,” “I do not find any joy in worship,” “I feel that my faith has hit rock bottom,” “Reading Qur’aan does not move me,” “I fall into sin so easily.” The effects of this affliction can be seen in many people, and this problem is the cause of every disaster and adversity.
The issue of people’s hearts is an important and sensitive issue. The heart is called qalb in Arabic because it changes so quickly and frequently (taqallub – alteration, variation, ups and downs). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The heart (qalb) takes its name from its constant changes (taqallub). The likeness of the heart is that of a feather at the root of a tree, being turned over and over by the wind.” (Reported by Ahmad, 4/408;Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2364). According to another report: “The likeness of the heart is that of a feather in an empty plot of land, being blown over and over by the wind.” (Reported by Ibn Abi ‘Aasim in Kitaab al-Sunnah. No. 227. Its isnaad is saheeh, see Zilaal al-Jannah fi Takhreej al-Sunnah by al-Albaani, 1/102).
Man’s heart changes constantly, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) described: “The heart of the son of Adam changes more quickly than a pan of rapidly boiling water.”(Ibid., no. 226. Its isnaad is saheeh: Zilaal al-Jannah, 1/102), According to another report: “It changes more than a pot of rapidly boiling water.”(Reported by Ahmad, 6/4; Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 5147).
Allaah is the One Who turns hearts around and controls them. ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas reported that he heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: “The hearts of the children of Adam are as one between the fingers of the Most Merciful, and He turns them in whatever way He wills.” Then he said: “O Allaah, Controller of the hearts, direct our hearts to obey You.” (Reported by Muslim, no. 2654).
Allaah tells us that:
“… Allaah comes in between a person and his heart (i.e., He prevents an evil person from deciding anything)…” [al-Anfaal 8:24 – interpretation of the meaning]no one will be saved on the Day of Resurrection “except him who brings to Allaah a clean heart [free from shirk and hypocrisy].” [al-Shu’ara’ 26:89 – interpretation of the meaning]“those whose hearts are hardened” [al-Hajj 22:53 – interpretation of the meaning] are doomedand the promise of Paradise is for those “who feared the Most Beneficent (Allaah) in the Unseen, (i.e., in the worldly life, before seeing and meeting Him), and brought a heart turned in repentance (to Him).” [Qaaf 50:33 – interpretation of the meaning].
So the believer must check his heart, find out the nature and cause of the problem, and start treating it straight away, before it overwhelms him and destroys him. The matter is of the utmost seriousness, for Allaah has warned us against the heart that is hardened, closed, sick, blind and sealed.
There follows a discussion of the symptoms of weak faith, what causes it and how it may be treated. I ask Allaah to benefit me and my Muslim brothers through this work, and to richly reward all those who have played a part in producing this book, for He is the One Whom we ask to soften our hearts and guide us. He is our Protector, He is sufficient for us and He is the Best Disposer of affairs.
There are a number of symptoms of the sickness of weak faith, including the following:
Falling into sin and committing haraam deeds: there are some sinners who commit a sin and persist in it, and some who commit many kinds of sin. When a person commits many sins, sin becomes a habit which he gets used to, and then he no longer feels that it is abhorrent. He gradually reaches a stage where he commits the sin openly, and thus becomes one of those referred to in the hadeeth: “All of my ummah will be fine except for those who commit sin openly, an example of which is a man who does something at night, and when morning comes and Allaah has concealed his sin, he says, ‘O So-and-so, I did such and such yesterday.’ His Lord had covered his sin all night, but he has uncovered what Allaah had concealed.”(Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath 10/486).Feeling that one’s heart is hard and rough. A man may feel that his heart has turned to stone which nothing can penetrate or reach. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Then, after that, your hearts were hardened and became as stones or even worse in hardness…” [al-Baqarah 2:74]. The person whose heart is hard will not be moved by reminders of death or by seeing deceased persons or funerals. He may even carry a dead person to his grave and throw earth into the grave, but when he walks between the graves it is as if he is merely walking between rocks.Not doing acts of worship properly. His mind wanders and he fails to concentrate properly when praying, reading Qur’aan, making du’aa’, etc. He does not think about what he is saying, and he recites the words as the matter of boring habit, if he does these regularly at all. If he has the habit of praying a certain du’aa’ at certain times, according to the sunnah, he does not think about the meaning of what he is saying, and Allaah “does not accept the du’aa’ of one whose heart is heedless of Him.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, no. 3479; al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 594).Laziness and carelessness in performing acts of worship. If he does them at all, they are just empty movements, devoid of any real feeling. Allaah has described the hypocrites thus (interpretation of the meaning): “… and when they stand up for prayer, they stand up with laziness…” [al-Nisa’ 4:142]. This also includes neglecting to make the most of special occasions and times for worship. This indicates that a person has no interest in earning reward, so he may delay going for Hajj although he is able to do so, or fail to go for jihaad when he has the strength to do so, or fail to attend prayers in congregation, or even Salat al-Jumu’ah. The Messenger of Allaah(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “People will keep holding back from being in the first row (of congregational prayers), until Allaah throws them into the Fire.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 679; Saheeh al-Targheeb, no. 510). This kind of person does not feel any remorse or guilt if he sleeps and misses one of the obligatory prayers, or a sunnah prayer that is strongly encouraged, or a wird[regular du’aa’ and dhikr]. He does not want to make it up later, and he deliberately omits doing anything that is sunnah or fard kifaayah (a duty which, if carried out by some of the people, is no longer obligatory on all, but if no-one does it, all are held accountable). So he may not attend Eid prayers (although some scholars say that they are obligatory), or offer the prayers to be said at the time of lunar and solar eclipses, or attend funerals. He does not care about reward at all, which is the opposite of the ideal described by Allaah in the Qur’aan (interpretation of the meaning): “… they used to hasten on to do good deeds, and they used to call on Us with hope and fear, and used to humble themselves before Us.” [al-Anbiya’ 21:90]Another example of laziness in performing acts of worship is the neglect of sunnah actions which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) performed regularly, and praying at night (qiyaam al-layl), setting out early to go to the mosque, and other naafil prayers, such as duhaa, never even occur to him, let alone the two-rak’ahs of tawbah (repentance) and istikhaarah.Tightness in the chest, mood swings and depression, which weigh a man down and make him quick to complain about the slightest thing. He easily gets upset with the people around him, and no longer has any tolerance. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) described faith when he said, “Eemaan is patience and tolerance” (Al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, no. 554, 2/86), and he described the believer as being “one who makes friends and with whom others feel comfortable. There is no goodness in one who does not make friends and with whom others do not feel comfortable.” (Al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, no. 427).Not being moved by the aayaat of the Qur’aan, by its promises of Paradise or its warnings of Hell, by its commands and prohibitions, or by its descriptions of the Day of Resurrection. The one who is weak in faith gets bored when he hears the Qur’aan being recited, and cannot continue reading it. Whenever he opens the mus-haf, he soon closes it again.Not focusing on Allaah when remembering Him (dhikr) or making du’aa’, so dhikr becomes difficult for him, and when he raises his hands to make du’aa’, he quickly lowers them again. Allaah has described the hypocrites (interpretation of the meaning): “… and they do not remember Allaah but little.” [al-Nisa’ 4:142]Not feeling angry when the limits set by Allaah are violated, because the flame of zeal has been extinguished in his heart, so he no longer takes action to stop evil, or enjoins evildoers to do good, or denounces wrongdoing. He never gets angry for the sake of Allaah. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) described this heart ravaged by weakness in the saheeh hadeeth: “The heart will be subjected to trial after trial, and there will appear a black stain on any heart that is affected, which will spread until the heart is completely black and sealed, as it were, so that it will not recognize any good deed or denounce any evil, except whatever suits its own desires.” (Reported by Muslim, no. 144).Love of good and hatred of evil have disappeared from a heart like this; all things are equal to such a person, and he has no motive to enjoin good or forbid evil. He may hear of some evil that is being done on earth, and may accept it; in this case he carries the same burden of sin as one who witnesses evil and approves of it, as the Prophet(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said in the saheeh hadeeth: “If sin is committed on earth, the one who witnesses it and hates it [one time he said, ‘denounces it’] will be like one who knew nothing of it. Whoever does not witness it but approves of it will be like one who witnesses it.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 4345;Saheeh al-Jaami’, 689). This approval, which is an action of the heart, makes him like one who witnessed the sin.Love of fame and prominence, which may take many forms, including the following:
Desire for leadership without understanding the serious responsibility involved. This is what the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) warned us against when he said, “You will be very keen to be leaders, but you will regret it on the Day of Resurrection, for although it seems easy in the beginning, it becomes a hardship later on [literally: the breastfeeding is a luxury but weaning is miserable].” (The meaning is that at the beginning, leadership brings wealth, power and enjoyment, but later it brings the risk of being assassinated or deposed, and one will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection).(Reported by al-Bukhaari, no. 6729). The Prophet(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) also said: “If you wish, I could tell you about leadership and what it is. Firstly, it is blame; secondly, it is regret; and thirdly, it is punishment on the Day of Resurrection – except for one who is just.” (Reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer, 18/72; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1420). If it were the case that a man wanted to carry out duties and responsibilities, where there is no one better for the job than him, with the intention of doing his best and being sincere and just, as Yusuf (peace be upon him) did, then we could say that this is fair enough. But in most cases it is the matter of a strong desire to lead and put oneself forward although there is a better person, denying the opportunity of leadership to those who are qualified and wanting to be the only one to issue instructions and prohibitions.Loving to sit at the head of gatherings, to monopolize the discussion, to make others listen to one’s words, and to have power. The head of a gathering is the “slaughterhouse” about which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) warned us when he said, “Beware of these slaughterhouses.” (Reported by al-Bayhaqi, 2/439; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 120).Loving to have people stand up when one comes into the room, because this makes the one whose heart is diseased feel great. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever feels happy to have the slaves of Allaah stand up for him, let him occupy his house in Hellfire.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari in al-Adab al-Mufrad, 977; see also Silsilah al-Saheeh, 357).Once when Mu’aawiyah went out to see Ibn al-Zubayr and Ibn ‘Aamir, Ibn ‘Aamir stood up whilst Ibn al-Zubayr remained sitting (according to one report: and he [Ibn al-Zubayr] was wiser and more stable in character). Mu’aawiyah said to Ibn ‘Aamir, “Sit down, for I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say, ‘Whoever likes to have men stand up for him, let him take his place in Hellfire.’” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 5229, and by al-Bukhaari in al-Adab al-Mufrad, 977; al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 357). This kind of person will get angry if the sunnah is followed and people start from the right (and not with him, when passing out refreshments, etc.); when such a person enters a gathering, he will not be happy until someone gets up and gives him his seat, even though the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) forbade this when he said, “No man should make another get up from his place so that he can sit in it.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 11/62).
Stinginess and miserliness. Allaah praised the Ansaar in His Book by saying (interpretation of the meaning): “… and [they] gave them [the muhaajiroon] preference over themselves, even though they were in need of that…” [al-Hashr 59:9]. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) explained that the successful are those who avoid miserliness, and that weakness of faith generates stinginess: “Stinginess and faith never exist together in the heart of the believer.” (Reported by al-Nisaa’i, al-Mujtaba, 6/13;Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2678). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) also described the serious nature of stinginess and its consequences: “Beware of stinginess, for those who came before you were destroyed because of stinginess. It commanded them to be miserly, so they were miserly; it commanded them to cut family ties, so they cut them; and it commanded them to be immoral, so they were immoral.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, 2/324; Saheeh al-Jaami, no. 2678). When it comes to miserliness, the person whose faith is weak can hardly give anything for the sake of Allaah, even when there is an honest appeal and it is quite obvious that his brothers in Islam are suffering the impact of poverty and are stricken by disaster. There is no more eloquent statement on the matter of miserliness than the words of Allaah (interpretation of the meaning):“Behold! You are those who are called to spend in the Cause of Allaah, yet among you are some who are niggardly. And whoever is niggardly, it is only at the expense of his own self. But Allaah is Rich (Free of all wants), and you (mankind) are poor. And if you turn away (from Islam and the obedience of Allaah), He will exchange for you some other people, and they will not be your likes.” [Muhammad 47:38].Not practising what one preaches. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful is it with Allaah that you say that which you do not do.” [al-Saff 61:2-3]. No doubt this is a kind of hypocrisy, and the person whose deeds do not match his words is blameworthy before Allaah and despicable in the eyes of his fellow man. The people of Hellfire will soon discover the reality of the one who enjoins good but does not do it, and forbids evil, but does it himself.Malicious enjoyment of the failures, losses or disasters suffered by one’s brothers in Islam, when the blessings that they had enjoyed are taken away, or when the thing that made another person appear more distinguished than him is gone.Looking at matters in black-or-white terms of whether they are sinful or not, and taking the matter of makrooh lightly. Some people, when they want to do something, do not ask about what good deeds they could do, instead they ask, “Will this be counted as a sin, or is it ‘only’ makrooh?” This way of thinking leads them into the trap of issues that are not clear-cut and deeds that are makrooh, and eventually ensnares them in haraam deeds. The person who thinks like this has nothing to stop him from committing makrooh or doubtful deeds so long as they are not actually haraam. This is exactly what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was talking about what he said , “Whoever falls into doubtful matters falls into haraam, like a shepherd who grazes his flock around a place where he is not allowed – he will soon enter it…” (Reported by al-Bukhaari and Muslim; this version narrated by Muslim, no. 1599).When some people ask for a fatwa about something and are told that it is haraam, they ask, “Is it very haraam or not? How much sin is involved?” People like this have no interest in avoiding bad deeds; indeed, they are prepared to commit the first level of haraam and they take small sins lightly, with the results that they they have the guts to transgress even further and violate the limits set by Allaah. For this reason the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “I will certainly recognize people who will come on the Day of Resurrection bringing good deeds as great as the white mountain of Tuhaamah, and Allaah, may He be glorified, will make it like dust in the air.” Thawbaan said, “O Messenger of Allaah, describe them to us and explain this so that we will not unwittingly be among them.” He said, “They are your brothers and they look like you. They pray at night as you do, but if they had the opportunity to violate the limits set by Allaah, they would do so.” (Reported by Ibn Maajah, no. 4245. He said in al-Zawaa’id: its isnaad is saheeh and its men are thiqaat. See also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 5028).So you will find such a person committing haraam deeds without any hesitation or reservation, which makes him worse than the one who does so after pausing and hesitating. Both are in danger, but the former is worse than the latter. This kind of person takes sins lightly as a result of his weakness of faith, and does not think that he has done anything wrong. For this reason, Ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) described the attitude of the believer and of the hypocrite as follows: “The believer sees his sins as if he were sitting beneath a mountain which he fears will fall on him, whilst the sinner sees his sins as if it were a fly passing his nose and he says such-and-such to it” – i.e., he shoos it away with his hand.(Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 11/102; See also Taghleeq al-Ta’leeq, 5/136, publ. by al-Maktab al-Islami).Thinking little of good deeds, and having no interest in doing small hasanaat. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) taught us to pay attention to small acts of goodness. Imaam Ahmad (may Allaah have mercy on him) reported from Abu Juray al-Hujaymi who said, “I came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, we are a desert people. Teach us something by which Allaah, may He be blessed and exalted, will benefit us.’ He said, ‘Do not look down on any act of goodness, even if it is just emptying your bucket into the vessel of one who wants to drink, or speaking to your brother with a cheerful expression.’” (Musnad Ahmad, 5/63; al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 1352).If someone comes wanting to drink from the well, and you lift up your bucket and empty it for him, this is a good deed; even though it appears insignificant, you should not think little of it. The same applies to greeting your brother with a cheerful expression, and cleaning dirt and garbage from the mosque, even if it is as small as a straw. This deed may be the cause of your sins being forgiven, for Allaah will appreciate good deeds of this nature and will forgive sins because of them. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “A man passed a branch of a tree lying in the road and said, ‘By Allaah, I want to remove this out of the way of the Muslims so that it will not hurt them,’ and he was admitted to Paradise.”(Reported by Muslim, no. 1914).There is something wrong with the person who thinks little of simple acts of goodness. It is sufficient punishment for this attitude that he is denied the great advantage described by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “Whoever removes something harmful from the path of the Muslims, one hasanah will be recorded for him, and whoever has a hasanah accepted, will enter Paradise.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari in al-Adab al-Mufrad, no. 593; see also al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 5/387). Mu’aadh was walking with another man, and he picked up a stone from the road. The man asked him, “What is this?” He said, “I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say, ‘Whoever removes a stone from the road, one hasanah will be recorded for him, and whoever has a hasanah, will enter Paradise.’” (al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer by al-Tabaraani, 20/101; al-Silsilat al-Saheeh, 5/387).Lack of concern about the Muslims’ affairs and lack of any involvement whether it be by making du’aa’, giving charity or helping them. Such a person has a cool attitude towards the oppression, suppression and disasters suffered by his Muslim brothers in other parts of the world, and is content merely with his own safety. This is the result of weak faith, because the believer is the opposite of that. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The believer’s position in relation to his fellow believers is like that of the head to the body; the believer feels the pain of his fellow believers as the body reacts to the pain suffered by the head.” (Musnad Ahmad, 5/340; al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 1137).Breaking the ties of brotherhood between two who used to be close. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “No two people are friends for the sake of Allaah or in Islam, but they will be split apart by the first sin (according to another report: they will only be split apart by the first sin) committed by either of them.” (al-Bukhaari, al-Adab al-Mufrad, no. 401; Ahmad, al-Musnad, 2/68; see also al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 637). This indicates the bad effects which may impact upon and even destroy the bonds of brotherhood. This alienation which a man may feel between himself and his brother is a result of the lowering of faith caused by committing a sin, because Allaah causes him to lose his standing in the eyes of His slaves, and so he is in the miserable position of having no respect and misses out on the fellowship of the believers and the protection of Allaah, for Allaah protects those who believe.Not feeling any responsibility to work for Islam and spread this religion, which is unlike the attitude of the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), who as soon as they entered this religion felt this responsibility straight away, for example, al-Tufayl ibn ‘Amr (may Allaah be pleased with him), who became Muslim and went to call his people to Islam straight away. He was only a new Muslim but he felt that he had to go back and call his people to Islam, and he went and did this, yet nowadays many people wait for a long time after they become committed to Islam before they reach the stage of calling others to Allaah, may He be glorified.The Companions of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), as a result of entering Islam, used to feel enmity towards the kuffaar, and they would disavow themselves of them and draw a clear line. When Thamaamah ibn Athaal (may Allaah be pleased with him), the chief of the people of al-Yamaamah, was taken prisoner, he was held in the mosque, and the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) told him about Islam. Then Allaah caused the light of Islam to shine in his heart, and he became Muslim. He went for ‘Umrah, and when he reached Makkah, he told the kuffaar of Quraysh, “Not one grain of wheat will reach you from al-Yamaamah except with the permission of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).”(Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 8/78). This declaration of opposition to the kuffaar, imposition of economic sanctions and offer of all resources at his disposal to serve the cause of da’wah all took place immediately, because strong faith demands action.Fear and panic when disaster strikes or problems arise. So you will see such a person shaking and losing his equilibrium, with no focus, staring wild-eyed and having no idea what to do when faced with calamity. He is ruled by his fears and can see no way out; he cannot face reality with a strong and steady heart. All of this is the result of weak faith, for if his faith was strong he would be steadfast and he would face the worst disasters with calmness and strength.Excessive arguing and disputing. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said in a saheeh hadeeth: “No people will go astray after having being guided except that they become argumentative.” (Reported by Ahmad in al-Musnad, 5/252; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 5633). Arguing with no proof and for no good reason leads one far away from the Straight Path, and most of people’s futile arguments nowadays are conducted without knowledge or guidance or (reference to) a Book giving light (i.e., the Qur’aan). We have sufficient motive to avoid futile arguments in the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “I guarantee a house in the outskirts of Paradise to the one who forsakes argument even when he is in the right.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, 5/150; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1464).Attachment to this world and rejoicing in it. A person may be so attached to this world that he feels pain if he misses out on some share of it, such as money, power, authority, or housing. He feels that he is unfairly treated because he has not got what others have. He feels more stress when he sees a brother in Islam who has something of this world that he does not have, so he envies him (hasad) and wishes that he will lose that blessing. This goes against eemaan, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Eeman and hasad do not exist together in the heart of the true slave.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, 5/150;Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1464).He talks and thinks in a purely rational manner, devoid of the characteristics of faith. There is hardly any trace of a reference to the Qur’aan and Sunnah, or the words of the salaf (the early generations of Islam – may Allaah have mercy on them), in the way such a person speaks.Going to extremes in the way one cares for oneself, in food, drink, clothing, housing and means of transportation. So you see these people showing excessive interest in luxuries, trying to be sophisticated, buying only the finest clothes, spending extravagant amounts on their choice of housing and spending too much time and money on such unnecessary adornments whilst their Muslim brothers are in the greatest need of that money. This carries on until they sink into the soft life of luxury which is forbidden, as is reported in the hadeeth of Mu’aadh ibn Jabal (may Allaah be pleased with him): when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) sent him to Yemen, he advised him: “Beware of luxury, for the slaves of Allaah do not live a life of luxury.” (Reported by Abu Na’eem in al-Hilyah, 5/155; Silsilat al-Saheehah, 353. A similar version was also reported by Ahmad in al-Musnad, 5/243).
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There are many causes of weak faith, some of which are the same as the symptoms, such as committing sin or being preoccupied with this world. There follows a list of some additional causes:
Keeping away from a faith-filled environment for too long. This causes weak faith in a person. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Has not the time come for the hearts of those who believe to be affected by Allaah’s Reminder (this Qur’aan), and that which has been revealed of the truth, lest they become as those who received the Scripture before (i.e., Jews and Christians), and the term was prolonged for them and so their hearts were hardened? And many of them were faasiqoon (rebellious, disobedient to Allaah).” [al-Hadeed 57:16]. This aayah indicates that spending too much time away from a faith-filled environment leads to weakness of faith in the heart. For example, a person who stays away from his brothers in Islam for a long period, because of travel or work, etc., is going to miss the atmosphere of faith in which he was living and from which his heart gained its strength. The believer is weak on his own but strong with his brothers. Al-Hasan al-Basri (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “Our brothers are dearer to us than our families, for our families remind us of this world, but our brothers remind us of the Hereafter.” If this absence goes on for too long, it creates alienation in the heart, which eventually changes into disdain for that faith-filled atmosphere, which in turn hardens the heart and fills it with darkness, extinguishing the light of eemaan. This explains the complete change of heart on the part of some who travel to other lands on vacation or who relocate for purposes of work or study.Keeping away from the good example of righteous leaders. The person who learns from a righteous man gains beneficial knowledge, does a righteous deed and strengthens his eemaan at the same time; (that leader) takes care of him and passes on to him the knowledge, good morals and virtues that he has. If he keeps away from that teacher for some time, he begins to feel hardness in his heart. For this reason when the Prophet(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) died and was buried, his Sahaabah said, “We looked at our hearts and felt that there had been a deep change.” They felt alienated and lost because their teacher and example(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had died. According to some reports, they were described as being “like sheep on a rainy winter’s night.” But the Prophet(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) left behind great leaders, giants among men, all of whom were qualified to take up the reins of leadership, and some of them became examples to the others. But nowadays the Muslims are in desperate need of examples close at hand to them.Failing to seek knowledge and to be acquainted with the books of the salaf (early generation) and religious books which will uplift and revive the heart. There are many kinds of books which the reader will feel stir up faith in his heart and motivate him to fulfil his spiritual potential, foremost among which is the Book of Allaah, may He be exalted, and the books of hadeeth, followed by the books of scholars who are good at writing about issues that soften the heart and who explain ‘aqeedah (correct belief) in a manner that moves the soul and uplifts the heart, such as Ibn al-Qayyim and Ibn Rajab and others. By ignoring these books and reading only intellectual works, or books of fiqh rulings which do not quote their daleel (evidence), or books of grammar rules and usool (bases of ‘aqeedah), is something that may have the effect of hardening the heart. This is not a criticism of those books per se, it is only a warning to the person who keeps away from books of Tafseer and hadeeth and hardly ever reads them, even though they are the books that bring one closer to Allaah. For example, when one reads al-Saheehayn (al-Bukhaari and Muslim), you feel the atmosphere of the age of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and the Sahaabah, and you feel the breeze of eemaan by sharing the events that happened in their time.The people of hadeeth are the people of the Messenger; even if they did not have the chance to be with him, they are with his words.This problem – keeping away from religious books – clearly has an effect on those who study disciplines which have no connection with Islam, such as philosophy, psychology, social science, etc., disciplines which have been developed far away from Islamic teachings. The same applies to those who love to read fiction and love stories, or who follow worthless news stories in newspapers, magazines and so on.Living in an environment that is filled with sin, so you see one boasting about his latest misdemeanour, another humming popular songs to himself, a third smoking, a fourth reading a pornographic magazine, a fifth cursing and swearing, and so on. As for talk about who said what to whom, gossip, backbiting and discussion about the latest football match, there is no end to it.Some environments remind one only of this world, as is the case in most gatherings and work-places nowadays. Discussions about business, work, money, investments, work-related problems, raises, promotions, assignments and so on take precedence in the minds and speech of most people nowadays.As for what goes on in the home – there is a lot we can say about the disasters and evil deeds that cause the Muslim shame and hurt him deeply. Muslim homes are filled with shameless songs, vile movies, forbidden mixing of the sexes and so on. No doubt in such an environment hearts are stricken with the disease of hardness.Preoccupation with this world, so that the heart is enslaved by it. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “He is doomed, the slave of the dinar and the slave of the dirham” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, no. 2730), and, “All that is sufficient for any one of you in this world is the supply of the traveller” (reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer, 4/78; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2384) – meaning a little of something that will help him to reach his destination. This phenomenon (preoccupation with this world) is very apparent in our own times, when material greed and the desire to acquire more worthless worldly goods have become widespread, and people are now running after trade, manufacturing and shares. This confirms what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah, may He be glorified, says: ‘We have sent down wealth for the establishment of prayer and the payment of zakaat, but if the son of Adam has one valley, he will wish that he had a second, and if he had two valleys, he would wish that he had a third. The stomach of the son of Adam will be filled only with dust (i.e., he is never satisfied) then Allaah will accept the repentance of the one who repents.” (Reported by Ahmad, 5/219; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1781).Being preoccupied with one’s wealth, wife and children. Allaah says (interpretation of the meanings): “And know that your possessions and children are but a trial and that surely with Allaah is a mighty reward.” [al-Anfaal 8:28]and, “Beautified for men is the love of things they covet: women, children, much of gold and silver (wealth), branded beautiful horses, cattle and well-tilled land. This is the pleasure of the present world’s life, but Allaah has the excellent return (Paradise).” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:14]. The meaning of these aayat is that if the love of these things, especially women and children, is given precedence over obedience to Allaah and His Messenger, then it is regarded as being bad, but if the love of these things is within the bounds of sharee’ah, it helps a man to obey Allaah and in this case it is praiseworthy. The Prophet(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “In this world, women and good scents have been made dear to me, but dearest of all to me is prayer.” (Reported by Ahmad, 3/128; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 3124). Many men follow their wives in doing haraam deeds, and allow their children to distract them from worshipping Allaah. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Children are the cause of grief, cowardice, ignorance and miserliness.”(Reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer, 24/241; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1990). When he said that they are the cause of miserliness, he meant that if a man wants to spend for the sake of Allaah, the Shaytaan reminds him of his children, so he thinks, “My children deserve the money, I will leave it for them when I die, so he is miserly in the sense that he refrains from spending it for the sake of Allaah. When he said that children are the cause of cowardliness, he meant that when a man wants to fight in jihaad for the sake of Allaah, the Shaytaan comes to him and says, “You will be killed and will die, and your children will become orphans, lost and alone,” so he stays home and does not go out for jihaad. When he said that children are the cause of ignorance, he meant that they distract a father from seeking knowledge and trying to acquire learning by attending gatherings and reading books. When he said that children are the cause of grief, he meant that when a child gets sick, the parent feels grief; if the child asks for something that the father cannot provide, this grieves the father; and if the child grows up and rebels against his father, this is a cause of ongoing grief and distress.This is not to say that one should forego marrying and having children; what is meant is that one should beware of becoming preoccupied with them and letting that lead one to commit haraam deeds.Concerning the temptation of wealth, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Every nation has its fitnah (trial or temptation), and the fitnah of my ummah is wealth.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 2336; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2148). Eagerness to acquire wealth is more damaging to a person’s religion than the wolf who attacks the sheepfold. This is what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) meant when he said: “Two hungry wolves sent against the sheep do not do more damage to them than a man’s eagerness for wealth and standing does to his religion.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, no. 2376; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 5620). For this reason the Prophet(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) urged Muslims to take just what is sufficient, without hoping for more, which could distract him from remembering Allaah. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “All that you need of wealth is a servant and a means of transportation to go out for the sake of Allaah.” (Reported by Ahmad, 5/290; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2386). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) issued a warning to those who want to accumulate wealth, except for those who give in charity: “Woe to those who want to accumulate wealth, except for the one who says with his wealth, ‘Here! Here! Here!’ (i.e., giving it away) to one on his right, one on his left, one in front of him and one behind him,” (reported by Ibn Maajah, no. 4129;Saheeh al-Jaami’, 7137) – meaning all forms of charity.Hoping for a long life. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Leave them to eat and enjoy, and let them be preoccupied with (false) hope. They will come to know!” [al-Hijr 15:3]. ‘Ali (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “What I fear for you is following your desires and hoping for a long life, for following one’s desires makes a man ignore the truth, and hoping for a long life makes him forget the Hereafter. (Fath al-Baari, 11/236). Another report says: “Four things are causes of doom: dry eyes (i.e., never weeping), a hard heart, hope for a long life and eagerness for this world.” Hoping for a long life generates laziness in worship, procrastination, desire for the things of this world, neglect of the Hereafter and hardness of heart, because softness of heart and clarity of vision can only be achieved by remembering death, the grave, reward and punishment, and the horrors of the Day of Judgement, as Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):“… and the term was prolonged for them and their hearts were hardened…” [al-Hadeed 57:16]. It was said: “Whoever does not hope for a long life will have less worries and his heart will be filled with light, because he calls death to mind and strives to obey Allaah…” (Fath al-Baari, 11/237)Another cause of weak faith and hard-heartedness is eating too much, sleeping too much, staying up too late, talking too much and mixing with people too much. Eating too much makes the brain slow and the body heavy, which prevents a person from worshipping Allaah and makes it easy for Shaytaan to tempt him, as it was said: “Whoever eats too much, drinks too much and sleeps too much, loses a great reward.” Talking too much hardens the heart, and mixing too much with people stops a person from having time to be alone and reflect on his own state. Laughing too much drains life from the heart. The Prophet(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said in a saheeh hadeeth: “Do not laugh too much, for excessive laughter deadens the heart.” (Reported by Ibn Maajah, 4193; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’). Time that is not filled with worship of Allaah also leads to hard-heartedness, as a person pays heed to neither the rebukes of the Qur’aan nor the advice of faith.
The causes of weak faith are many indeed, and it is impossible to list them all, but what we have listed above will give the reader an impression of others which we have not mentioned here. The wise person understands this innately. We ask Allaah to purify our hearts and protect us from the evil of our own selves.
Al-Haakim reported in al-Mustadrak, and al-Tabaraani reported inal-Mu’jam, that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Faith wears out in the heart of any one of you just as clothes wear out, so ask Allaah to renew the faith in your hearts.”(Reported by al-Haakim in al-Mustadrak, 1/4; see also al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 1585. Al-Haythami said in Majma’ al-Zawaa’id, 1/52, “It was reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer and its isnaad is saheeh.”) What he meant is that faith wears out in the heart just as clothes wear out and become old. The heart of the believer is sometimes overwhelmed by clouds of sin, and so it goes dark. This is the picture drawn for us by the Messenger of Allaah(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in the saheeh hadeeth: “There is no heart that is not covered by a cloud like the cloud covering the moon when it is shining, and so it suddenly goes dark, but when it (the cloud) goes away, it shines again.” (Reported by Abu Na’eem in al-Hilyah, 2/196; al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 2268). Sometimes the moon is covered by clouds, which conceal its light, but after a little while they go away, and the light of the moon comes back to light up the sky. In the same way, the heart of the believer is sometimes covered with dark clouds of sin, so its light is veiled, and the person finds himself lost in darkness, but when he strives to increase his eemaan and seeks the help of Allaah, that cloud goes away, and the light comes back to shine in his heart as before.
One of the most important principles which must be understood in order to treat the problem of weak faith is that faith increases and decreases, or waxes and wanes. This is one of the basic principles of the ‘aqeedah of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa’ah, who say that faith is something to be spoken in words, to be believed in in the heart, and to be put into action. Faith increases with obedience and decreases with disobedience. There is evidence for this in the Qur’aan and Sunnah, for example, Allaah says (interpretation of the meanings): “… that they may grow more in Faith along with their (present) Faith…” [al-Fath 48:4] and “… Which of you has had his faith increased by it? …” [al-Tawbah 9:124]. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it by his hand (by action), and if he cannot, then by his tongue (by speaking out), and if he cannot, then by his heart (by feeling that it is wrong), and that is the weakest of faith.” (Al-Bukhaari, Fath, 1/51).
The effects of obedience and sin, which increase and decrease faith respectively, are well known from observation and experience. If a person goes out walking in the market-place, where he looks at uncovered women wearing make-up, and hears the shouting and idle talk of the people, then he goes to the graveyard and stops to think and let his heart soften, he will see the difference between the two environments and how quickly his heart changes.
Another factor in this discussion is the words of one of the salaf: “One of the signs of proper understanding is when a slave takes care of his eemaan, and pays attention to what decreases it, and knows when it increases and when it decreases, and recognizes the temptation of Shaytaan when he comes to him.” (Sharh Nooniyah Ibn al-Qayyim by Ibn ‘Eesa, 2/140).
It is important to know that if a decrease in faith leads to one neglecting one’s duties or doing haraam deeds, this slackening is very serious and one must repent to Allaah and start to do something about it at once. If it does not lead to neglect of duties and doing haraam deeds, but just makes a person fall short in doing mustahabb (recommended) deeds, for example, then a person still needs to know how to sort himself out and correct himself until he returns to the proper level of energy and strength in worship. This is what we learn from the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), “Every deed has energy and strength, and then this energy and strength is followed by a slackening, so who’s slackening is in accordance to my Sunnah he will be fine, and who’s slackening is to other than that [i.e., doing unlawful or forebidden deeds] he will be doomed.” (Reported by Ahmad, 2/210; Saheeh al-Targheeb, no. 55).
Before we discuss how to treat the problem of weak faith, there is something we should note: many of those who feel that their hearts are hard look for an external solution, hoping that they can rely on others, even though it is within their reach – if they want – to take care of themselves by themselves. This is how it should be done, because eemaan is the relationship between the slave and his Lord. Below, we will discuss a number of ways prescribed by Islam by means of which the Muslim can deal with his weakness of faith and hardness of heart, after he puts his trust in Allaah and resigns himself to the fact that he faces a struggle to achieve his goal:
Pondering the meanings of the Qur’aan, which Allaah has revealed to explain everything and as a Light by which He guides whomever He wills of His slaves. There is no doubt that it contains a powerful and effective cure. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And We send down from the Qur’aan that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe…” [al-Isra’ 17:82]. The method of treatment is to think and ponder its meanings.The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to ponder the meanings of the Book of Allaah and recite it when he stood in prayer at night (qiyaam al-layl). On one occasion, he stood in prayer at night and recited one single aayah from the Book of Allaah whilst he was praying, and he did not go any further than that (one aayah) until morning. The aayah in question was (interpretation of the meaning): “If You punish them, they are Your slaves, and if You forgive them, verily You, only You, are the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.” [al-Maa’idah 5:118]. (Reported by Ahmad, 4/149; see also Sifat al-Salaah by al-Albaani, p. 102).He (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to ponder the meaning of the Qur’aan, to the greatest extent. Ibn Hibbaan reported in his Saheeh with a jayyid isnaad from ‘Ataarah, who said: “‘Ubayd-Allaah ibn ‘Umayr and I entered upon ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) and ‘Ubayd-Allaah ibn ‘Umayr said: ‘Tell us of the most wonderful thing you saw on the part of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).’ She wept and said, ‘He got up one night (to pray) and said, “O ‘Aa’ishah, leave me to worship my Lord.” I said, “By Allaah, I love to be near you, and I love what makes you happy.” He got up, purified himself and stood up to pray, and he kept weeping until his lap got wet, then he wept and kept weeping until the ground got wet. Bilaal came to call the adhaan for him, and when he saw him weeping, he said, “O Messenger of Allaah, are you weeping when Allaah has forgiven all of your sins, past and future?” He said, “Should I not be a thankful slave? This night some aayaat have been revealed to me, woe to the one who reads them and does not think (about their meaning). Among them is (interpretation of the meaning): Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding, those who remember Allaah (always, and in prayers) standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth…” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:190-191].”’” (Al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 1/106). This indicates that it is obligatory to ponder the meaning of these aayaat.The Qur’aan speaks of Tawheed, and contains promises of reward, threats of punishment, rules and regulations, reports, stories, etiquette and good morals, and its effects on the heart are various. Some soorahs fill the heart with fear more than others, as is indicated by the hadeeth of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), “(Soorat) Hood and it