Cures for the Weakness of Faith and Heart
Becoming aware of the weakness in one’s faith can help one take the next step to cure such weaknesses. This article highlights some of the methods that one can follow to strengthen the Eeman and faith in one’s heart.
Let us remind ourselves that weak faith overshadows the brightness of a heart as we learn from a hadith of the prophet (s):
“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)
A sincere effort on our part can help us repel such darkness, which manifests itself as dissatisfaction in life, depression, and misery. More importantly, a heart clouded by sins is also deprived of Allah’s blessings. Curing the weakness in our hearts, thus, can help us regain the light of faith and can help us make sense of life’s complexities that may be eroding our faith levels.
Developing sincerity toward Allah
One of the key prerequisites for strengthening ones faith is to first develop sincerity toward our Lord, Allah. Without instilling this sincerity and His fear in our hearts, other actions become moot. We can achieve this level of sincerity toward Allah by becoming sincere to Him the way Allah wants us to be sincere. This includes sincerity in faith, sincerity in intention, and sincerity in our fearing Allah, The Exalted. Let us remind ourselves and others that not every act of obedience is sincere unless it is done, both outwardly and inwardly, in a manner which Allah likes. Furthermore, more than just having intentions, our sincerity should reflect in our actions. Allah has described the ones who are sincere in the following verse:
“It is no virtue that you turn your faces towards the east or the west, but virtue is that one should sincerely believe in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Prophets and, out of His love, spend of one’s choice wealth for relatives and orphans, for the needy and the wayfarer, for beggars and for the ransom of slaves, and establish the Salat (prayers) and pay the Zakat (obligatory charity). And the virtuous are those who keep their pledges when they make them and show fortitude in hardships and adversity and in the struggle between the Truth and falsehood; such are the truthful people and such are the pious.”
Ibn Katheer (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “This verse includes a number of great meanings, important principles and sound beliefs.” Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 1/485.
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
A person can have nothing more beneficial than sincerity towards his Lord in all his affairs, along with sincerity of resolve, so he should be sincere towards Him in his resolve and in his actions. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And when the matter is resolved on, then if they had been true to Allah, it would have been better for them” [Surah Muhammad 47:21]. So his happiness lies in sincerity of resolve and sincerity of action. Sincerity of resolve means certain desire to do an action and not hesitating to do it. If his resolve is sincere, all that is left is sincerity of action, which is doing one’s best and striving one’s utmost when doing it , and not letting anything, outward or inward, hold him back from it. Resolve of purpose prevents him from becoming weak-willed and sincerity of action prevents him from becoming lazy or lethargic. If a person is sincere towards Allah in all his affairs, Allah will give him more than He gives to others, and this sincerity results from true love of Allah and true trust in Him. So the most sincere of people is the one who loves Allah most and puts most trust in Him.
Al-Fawaa’id, p. 186, 187
Avoiding environments of sin
We live in a world where immorality lurks all around us in forms to which many of us have become desensitized. Day by day, it is becoming easier to gratify the self by violating boundaries of righteousness. With the self and its pleasure taking precedence, right values are ignored. Evils take on an attractive hue. Listening to songs whose lyrics etch away at our values of truth, watching movies that violate our sense of shame, watching pornographic images that cloak themselves as artistic, violating others rights by gossiping and backbiting, taking undue interest in the lives of celebrities and scandals involving them, are some of the many activities that many indulge in without feeling any remorse or guilt.
We can preserve our values and sense of righteousness by making a conscious effort of distancing ourselves from such environments. To guard our faith and keep it strong, we need to nurture it in the company of the righteous and surround ourselves with good sources of knowledge. Our faith can be strengthened in an environment where people have the courage to distinguish between right from wrong. This practice gradually sets our life on Islamic principles. Al-Hasan al-Basri (RAA) 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.”
Pondering on the meanings of the Quran
Allah the All Knowing has placed the cure for weak faith in the study of the Quran. He says:
“And We send down from the Qur’an that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe…” [Surah al-Isra’ 17:82].
The Quran and its verse used to have a tremendous effect on the Prophet (SAWS). For example, the following verse made him weep the whole night when it was revealed.
“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 Allah (always, and in prayers) standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth (saying): “Our Lord! You have not created (all) this without purpose, glory to You! (Exalted are You above all that they associate with You as partners). Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire!” [Quran: Surah Aal ‘Imraan 3:190-191].
The Quran had a similar effect on the companions of the prophet (SAWS) when they recited it and pondered upon its meaning. Abu Bakr (RAA) a gentle, soft-hearted man, would weep when he led the people in prayer and recited verses from the Quran. ‘Umar (RAA) became ill after reciting the verse (which means): “Verily, the Torment of your Lord will surely come to pass, – there is none that can avert it” [Surah al-Toor 52:7-8]. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 7/406). His sobs could be heard from the back of the congregation when he recited Allah’s words about Prophet Yaqoob (as) in Surah Yousuf (which mean): “He said, ‘I only complain of my grief and my sorrow to Allah…’” [Surah Yousuf:86].
What has a deep effect on one when pondering on the Quran is the Greatness and Might of Allah (SWT). It humbles us before the Most High, the Most Great, the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. Allah is the Most Great (al-‘Azeem), the Watcher over His creatures (al-Muhaymin), the Compeller (al-Jabbaar), the Majestic (al-Mutakabbir), the Most Strong (al-Qawi), the Subduer (al-Qahhaar), the Great (al-Kabeer), the Most Exalted (al-Muta’aal). He is the Living Who does not die. He is All-Mighty, the Self-Sustaining who does not sleep. He knows the fraud of the eyes, and all that the breasts conceal. He has described His vast knowledge in the following verse:
“And with Him are the keys of the ghayb (all that is hidden), none knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is in (or on) the earth and in the sea; not a leaf falls, but He knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry but is written in a Clear Record.” [Surah al-An’aam:59].
Thus, understanding the words of the Quran and paying due heed to them will enhance one’s faith in the All Mighty and remove the weakness from our hearts.
Freeing the heart from the obsessions of this life
Preoccupation with this world is quite apparent around us, with increasing material greed and the desire to acquire more and more. The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Allah, may He be glorified, says: ‘We have sent down wealth for the establishment of prayer and the payment of zakat, 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 Allah will accept the repentance of the one who repents.” (Reported by Ahmad, 5/219; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1781).
The world and one’s preoccupation with it, is to be seen in the right perspective – a means to lead life and maintain relationships as per the guidance provided in the Quran. Allah says:
“And know that your possessions and children are but a trial and that surely with Allah is a mighty reward.” [Surah al-Anfaal 8:28]
Such verses are meant to set our priorities. Due love and care of one’s family within the bounds of what Islam teaches us is a man’s duty, but it should not make him selfish and miserly ignoring the needs of other deserving servants of Allah and also at the expense of remembrance of Allah.
About wealth, the Prophet (SAWS) 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). The Prophet (SAWS) thus urged Muslims to be content with just what is sufficient. He (SAWS) warned those who want to accumulate wealth, with no intention of giving 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)
The Prophet (SAWS) also said: “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)
Avoiding excess in eating, sleeping, staying up late, talking and mixing with people
To cure the weakness of our faith we should also avoid excesses in eating, sleeping, staying up late and socializing. All these activities prevent one from worshipping Allah, making it easy for Satan to lay his trap. Talking too much hardens the heart, and mixing too much with people leaves no time to reflect on one’s own state in solitude. Laughing too much drains life from the heart. The Prophet (SAWS) said in a sahih hadith: “Do not laugh too much, for excessive laughter deadens the heart.” (Reported by Ibn Maajah, 4193; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’).
Regular attendance at gatherings of dhikr
Remembrance of Allah, dhikr, is another means of curing weak faith. Allah says:
“O you who believe! Remember Allah with much remembrance” [Surah al-Ahzaab 33:41].
Allah bestows His Mercy on those who remember Him. The Prophet (SAWS) said: “No people sit together remembering Allah, but the angels surround them, mercy envelops them, tranquility descends upon them, and Allah mentions them to those who are in His presence.” (Saheeh Muslim, no. 2700).
Ibn a-Qayyim said,
“When the heart is nourished with dhikr, its thirst quenched with contemplation and cleansed from corruption, it shall witness remarkable and wondrous matters and be inspired with wisdom.” (The Hardness of The Heart)
Striving to do righteous deeds continuously
Allah says in the Quran:
“Race one with another in hastening towards Forgiveness from your Lord (Allah)…” [Surah al-Hadeed 57:21]
Good deeds draw us closer to Allah, as He (SWT) says: “‘My slave keeps drawing nearer to me with nawafil (supererogatory) deeds until I love him.’” (Saheeh al-Bukhaari, 6137). The Prophet (SAWS) was asked: “Which deed is most beloved by Allah?” He said, “The one that is continuous, even if it is little.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 11/194).
Hoping that one’s deeds will be accepted while fearing that they may not
Even when we perform good deeds we shouldn’t become self assured that these will certainly guarantee our entry into Paradise. Once ‘A’ishah (RAA) asked the Prophet (SAWS) if the reference in the following aayah was to sinners. The verse is:
‘And those who give that (their charity) which they give with their hearts full of fear (whether it has been accepted or not), because they are sure to return to their Lord’ [Surah al-Mu’minoon 23:60]
The Prophet (SAWS) said, “No, O daughter of al-Siddeeq. They are those who fast and pray and give charity while fearing that these deeds will not be accepted from them. (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 3175; al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 1/162).
That is the state of Allah’s muttaqoon (pious) servants. They are far from pride, or self conceit, never allowing complacency to set in. And it is about such of His servants that Allah says (which means):
“Verily, Allah accepts only from those who are al-muttaqoon (the pious).” [al-Maa’idah 5:27].
Doing a variety of acts of worship
To soften our hearts to fear Allah and to see the light of faith, we should strive to do more acts of worship. A man came to the Prophet (SAWS) complaining that his heart was hard. The Prophet (SAWS) said to him, “Would you like your heart to become soft and to get what you want? Show mercy to the orphan, pat his head, feed him from your own food, and your heart will become soft and you will get what you want.” (Reported by al-Tabaraani; there are also corroborating reports. Al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 2/533).
Remembering death often and fearing a bad end
The Prophet (SAWS) has cautioned us against losing ourselves so completely in this life that we fail to remember the inescapable truth of death. He (SAWS) said: “Remember often the destroyer of pleasure, meaning death.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, no. 2307; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1210). Remembering death can put a check on sins and soften the hard heart. Visiting graveyards often can remind a person of death. Remembrance of death puts our whole life in a proper perspective. We know it has to end, but we have no knowledge how soon, and what our fate will be in the life that’s going to begin – the life in the hereafter. This realization should remind us of what our Creator Allah (SWT) Himself has said about life:
“Everyone shall taste death. And only on the Day of Resurrection shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise, he indeed is successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception (a deceiving thing).” [Surah Aal ‘Imran:185]
After realizing the insignificance of this life, it would be foolish to give undue importance to its materialistic aspects which appeal to the heart. Faith should replace love of this world in our hearts.
We need to engage ourselves in regular self-evaluation to renew and strengthen our faith. It enables us to keep a check on our own actions each day, showing where we might be going wrong and enabling us to improve ourselves. And eventually the greatest remedy of all is Dua – calling on Allah; supplicating to Him; humbling ourselves before Him; showing our need for His Mercy and Guidance; confiding in Him our weakness and lapses; and looking up to Him to strengthen our faith.