al-Jawziyaa, and Abu Hamid al-Ghazali
The Signs of a Sick Heart
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-|
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
Hudhayfa ibn al-Yamani, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “The Messenger
of Allah salallahu alayhe was-salam 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 become like an overturned
vessel, and a pure heart that will never be harmed by temptation for as long
as the earth and the heavens exist. The dark heart only recognises good and
denounces evil when this suits its desires and whims.” 
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:
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
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
Taken from the Book The Purification of the Soul
1. Al-Bukhari, Kitab ar-Riqaq, 11/233.
2. Muslim, Kitab al-Iman, 2/170 (with different wording).(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)