Islamic spirituality: Purification of heart from seven diseases & love of Allah.


In his book Ihya’ `Ulum ad-Din
(Revival of the Sciences of
Religion), Imam al-Ghazali says
that every organ of our body has
a function; when it fails to do its
functions, it means it is not well.
The function of the soul or the
spiritual heart is to know its
Creator, to love Him and to seek
closeness to Him. If the heart fails
in this function then we must
know that it is sick.
It is important to know the
ailments that make the heart
weak and sick. In the language
of the Qur’an it is not only the
eyes that get blind; the hearts
also become blind.
“Do they not travel through the
land, so that their hearts may
thus learn wisdom and their
ears may thus learn to hear?
Truly it is not their eyes that are
blind, but their hearts that are in
their breasts.” (Al-Hajj: 46)
The Qur’an has spoken in many
places about the sickness
(marad) of the hearts. Allah says
in the Qur’an:
“In their hearts is a disease; and
Allah has increased their
disease: and grievous is the
penalty they (incur), because
they are false (to themselves)
.” (Al-Baqarah: 10)
When the heart gets sick, it loses
its desire and ability to do right
and good deeds. This affects the
morals and manners of a person
and his/her general behavior.
What are the major diseases that
affect the hearts and how to take
precaution and what are the
cures in case one is affected with
these ailments? Following are
some of the diseases of the
1. Arrogance and conceit (al-kibr
wa al-ghurur)
2. Ostentation (al-riya’)
3. Jealousy or envy, hate and
deceit (al-hasad, al-hiqd, al-ghish)
4. Suspicion (su’ al-zann)
5. Anger (al-ghadab)
6. Stinginess (al-bukhl)
7. Love of jah (power, money,
position and fame)
These are called “diseases of the
heart” (amrad al-qalb) and they
lead to major sins if they are not
controlled and carefully treated.
In the Qur’an and Sunnah and in
the spiritual writings of Muslim
scholars such al-Ghazali and Ibn
al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah we find a
lot of discussion for the
treatment of these ailments.
Arrogance and conceit stem from
egotism and overestimation of
oneself and one’s abilities or
merits. This leads sometimes to
the denial of the Creator as it
happened to Satan. The best
treatment of this disease is to
cultivate modesty. We have to
remind ourselves always that we
are the servants and slaves of
Allah. We totally depend on Him
for our being and existence.
Ostentation is called “hidden
idolatry” (ash-shirk al-khafiyy). It
is a desire to show off and seek
praises from others. It takes
away sincerity and seriousness
to pursue one’s goals and
objectives. When a person
becomes too much involved with
ostentation, he/she becomes
shallow and superficial. It may
also lead to hypocrisy. The best
cure for it is to check the
intention (niyyah) before any
action. A believer must remind
oneself that his/her work is for
the sake of Allah alone.
Jealousy, envy, hate and deceit
stem from the lack of respect,
mercy and love for others. A
jealous person does not like to
see others happy, successful and
prosperous. Very often jealousy
and envy lead to hate, deceit and
violence. The best treatment is to
have positive envy by competing
with others in acts of goodness
and use this as an incentive to
achieve more and do better.
Suspicion comes from lack of
trust and confidence in others.
Allah says in the Qur’an, “Some
suspicion is sin” (Al-Hujurat: 12).
Suspicion creates cynicism and
takes away hope and optimism.
Suspicious persons or cynics are
those who, when they see
actions and hear some words
that have the possibility of being
positive or negative, they take
the negative and evil. Suspicion
sometimes also leads to violence.
It is good to be cautious and
careful, but we must keep our
attitude positive. If we want to
be trusted we must trust others
as well.
Anger is given to human beings
as a mechanism for self-defense,
but if it is not properly controlled
it becomes very destructive. In
the Hadith it is called “fire.” The
Prophet (peace and blessings be
upon him) said that when you
get angry change your
environment, change your
position, and drink some water.
Imam Ghazali said, “Love of Allah
extinguishes the fire of anger.”
Stinginess is a terrible disease.
The Prophet (peace and
blessings be upon him) taught us
to seek Allah’s refuge from
stinginess. Stinginess stems from
selfishness, materialism, and too
much love of this world. It means
lack of care and consideration
for others. It holds people from
fulfilling their duties and
recognizing the rights of others.
It leads sometimes to cheating
and dishonesty. The Prophet
(peace and blessings be upon
him) said, “Be aware of
stinginess. It destroyed many
nations before you. It made
them to shed the blood of each
other and misappropriate what
was sacrosanct.” (Reported by
Love of jah (i.e., the extreme
desire for money, power,
position and fame) is another
major disease of the heart. This
is also called in the Qur’an and
Hadith as “love of this
world” (hubb ad-dunya). In a
Hadith it is reported that the
Prophet (peace and blessings be
upon him) said, “Two hungry
wolves in a herd of sheep are
not as destructive and harmful
as the love of money and
extravagance are for the
religion of a person.” (Reported
by At-Tirmidhi)
The cure for this is to remind
oneself always that this world is
fitnah (a test and trial) and the
real world is the Hereafter.
Spiritual health comes with our
sincere devotion to Allah with
prayers, reading the Qur’an, and
being in the company of good
people. May Allah keep us all in
good physical, mental and
spiritual health. Ameen.”