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
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
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 frequent
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
legs, I 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
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 his 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
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
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 heart of 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.
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 guard their modesty; that is
more purifying for them. Surely Allah is aware of what they do.
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.
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
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
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
Rewards for actions come in kind. Whoever lowers his gaze from what Allah has
forbidden, Allah will give his inner sight abundant light.
Too Much Food
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
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 fil
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 ontrols 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,
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
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
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 eing 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 he Prophet, may Allah bless him and
grant him peace, and praying at night.*