Sins of the Hearts

Sins of the Hearts
Sins of the Hearts

The command to purify our hearts of sin was an essential Islamic teaching ever since the early stages of the revelation in Makkah. This is known as the 'purification of the soul' (tazkiyyat an-nafs).
Allah said: "He has succeeded who purifies the soul, and he has failed who corrupts the soul." (Qur'an, 91:9-10)
And Allah said: "A day when there will be no benefit in wealth or children, but only in he who comes to Allah with a pure heart." (Qur'an, 26:88-89)
We learn from these verses that our success in the Hereafter depends upon the purification of our hearts in this life. We must purify our hearts from spiritual sins such as greed, malice, envy, arrogance, and worldliness. In their place, we must adorn the heart with spiritual virtues such as generosity, compassion, benevolence, humility, and asceticism.

Purification of the heart was one of the first commands with which Moses (peace be upon him) was sent to Pharaoh.
Allah said: "Go to Pharaoh, for verily, he is a transgressor. Say to him: 'Will you purify yourself'?" (Qur'an, 79:17-18)
Purity of heart is also one of the defining characteristics of Abraham (peace be upon him).
Allah said: "Verily, among his people, was Abraham when he came to his Lord with a pure heart." (Qur'an, 37:83-84)
One of the primary methods we can use to purify our hearts is to perform sincere supplications and prayers according to the prophetic way (sunnah).
Allah said: "He has succeeded who purifies himself, who remembers the name of his Lord and prays." (Qur'an, 87:14-15)
When we exalt Allah and ask for our sins to be forgiven, this removes arrogance from our hearts and makes us humble. When we pray for Allah to guide others, this removes malice and hatred from our hearts and makes us love others for the sake of Allah. When we remember the Hereafter and the Day of Resurrection, this makes us less attached to the world and more inclined to help others.
In this way, the Messenger of Allah would purify his heart every morning and evening by performing supplications and prayers.

Anas ibn Malik reported: "The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said to me: 'O boy, if you are able to remove every morning and evening and rancor from your heart toward anyone, then do so.' Then the Prophet said to me: 'O boy, that is my tradition and whoever revives my tradition, has loved me, and whoever loves me will be with me in Paradise'." (Sunan At-Tirmidhi, 2678)
The ritual prayer is meant to prevent us from committing sins and immoral deeds. Allah said: "Verily, the prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater." (Qur'an, 29:45)
Abu Huraira reported: "A man came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and he said, 'Indeed, so-and-so prays in the night but he steals in the morning.' The Prophet said: 'Verily, it should prevent him from doing that." (Musnad Ahmad, 9486)
The next method to purify our hearts is to give in charity and perform good deeds for others. Allah said: "But the righteous one will avoid Hellfire, who gives from his wealth to purify himself." (Qur'an, 92:17-18)
And Allah said: "Take from their wealth a charity by which you cleanse them and purify them, and invoke blessings upon them." (Qur'an, 92:103)

When we give away our wealth in charity, this removes worldliness from our hearts and envy of what others have and it makes us hope for our good deeds stored in the Hereafter. Charity means not only giving wealth, but also giving people your time, your effort, your work, and even a smile or a kind word.
Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: "The Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said: 'Every good deed is charity. Verily, it is a good deed to meet your brother with a smiling face, and to pour what is left from your bucket into the vessel of your brother'." (Sunan At-Tirmidhi, 1970)
Charity is a duty upon every Muslim, for every person can give something from his wealth, time, and energy. At the very least, Muslims can refrain from harming others and that is also charity.
Abu Huraira reported: "The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: 'Charity is due upon every joint of the people for every day upon which the sun rises. Being just between two people is charity, and helping a man with his animal and lifting his luggage upon it is charity, and a kind word is charity. Every step that you take toward the mosque is charity, and removing harmful things from the road is charity." (Sahih Muslim, 1009)
When a Muslim commits a sin, his or her heart is covered by a stain, but it is removed by repentance and good deeds.

Abu Huraira reported: "The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: 'Verily when the believer commits a sin, a black spot appears upon his heart. If he repents and abandons the sin and seeks forgiveness, his heart will be polished, but if he increases in sin, the blackness increases. That is the covering which Allah has mentioned in his Book: 'Nay, but on their hearts is a covering because of what they have earned,' (83:14)" (Sunan ibn Majah, 4244)
Therefore, a Muslim must continue to perform supplications, prayers, charity, and good deeds until the heart is purified from sin.

When sins are mentioned, many people only think of corporeal sins, in oblivion to the graver sins, which are the sins of the hearts. Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said: “Know that when sins are mentioned, what comes first to many people’s minds are Zina (fornication or adultery), theft, and the like, believing that it is beneath a noble person to commit them. However, these poor people do not know that most rational human beings do not steal nor commit Zina, even if they were living in a state of Jaahiliyyah (the pre-Islamic era of ignorance) and disbelief in Allah... There are many branching kinds of sins, such as those related to misguidance in matters of faith, religious innovations which are of the same nature of arrogantly causing mischief on the earth, (blameworthy) pride, vanity, envy, self-conceit, and Riyaa’ (doing good to impress people rather than to please Allah). Such sins are committed by those who agree upon the obligation to avoid abominable acts of immorality.”

 The Oneness of Divinity

The gravity of the sins of the heart:

The sins of the hearts are graver and more dangerous than corporeal sins, and this is why the erudite scholar Ibn Hajar Al-Haytami may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him in his book Az-Zawaajir ‘an Iqtiraaf Al-Kabaa’ir, discussed the major sins of the hearts before discussing the manifest major sins that are committed by the limbs and senses. He justified this by saying: “Chapter One: the inward major sins and their consequences. I discussed them first because they are more dangerous and their committers are the most despised and wicked sinners, and because most of these sins are more common and easier to commit, and they beget more bitter consequences. A person is hardly free of some of these sins and therefore some scholars said: The major sins committed by the heart are graver than the major sins committed by the limbs and senses because they both entail dissoluteness and injustice (on the part of the sinner), the major sins of the hearts devour the good deeds and warrant successive severe punishments...”

Ibn Al-Qayyim may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said: “The prohibition of the sins of the heart is more emphasized than the prohibition of Zina, consumption of Khamr (intoxicants), and other manifest major sins.”

Those sins sicken the heart, and the sicknesses and misery of the heart are more grievous than the sickness and misery of the body.


Categories and Examples of the Sins of the Heart:

Ibn Al-Qayyim may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him mentioned that the sins of the heart are of two kinds:

The First: is sins that amount to Kufr (disbelief), such as doubt (in Allah), hypocrisy, Shirk (associating partners with Allah in worship), and their consequences.

The Second: sins that are considered acts of disobedience but do not amount to Kufr, and they are of two kinds:

First: Major sins: Ibn Al-Qayyim listed as examples of these sins: Riyaa’, arrogance, self-conceit, (blameworthy) pride, vanity, the despondency of the mercy of Allah, despair of relief from Allah, feeling secure from the Makr (scheming) of Allah, rejoicing at the harm that befalls Muslims, gloating about their misfortune, love for immorality to spread among them, envying people for the bounties bestowed by Allah upon them and wishing that they should be deprived of them.

He added: “and the consequences of these sins whose prohibition is more emphasized than Zina, consumption of Khamr and other manifest major sins. The righteousness of the heart and the body can only be attained by avoiding them and repenting of them, otherwise, the heart would be corrupt. If the heart is corrupted, the body will essentially be corrupt ... These acts may be minor sins or major ones with regard to the heart, according to how strong and harsh or how light and subtle they are.”

What attests to the statement of Ibn Al-Qayyim that sins of hearts, in general, are graver than the manifest sins is the Hadeeth of the Prophet sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) that reads: “If you were not to commit sins, I would have feared for you what is graver; arrogance.” [Al-Bayhaqi] He sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) also said to his Companions and to his Ummah after them: “My biggest fear for you is the minor Shirk: Riyaa’.” [Ahmad]

Second: Minor sins: Ibn Al-Qayyim may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him gave an example of such sins the lust for what is prohibited and wishing to commit it. He said: “Among the minor sins are the desire for prohibited things and wishing for them, and the strength of desire varies in young and old age according to the different levels of the doers. The desire for Kufr and Shirk is itself Kufr, the desire for Bid‘ah (religious innovation) is Fisq (dissoluteness), and the desire for major sins is disobedience to Allah. If a person gives up the fulfillment of such desire for the Sake of Allah despite his ability to fulfill it, he shall be rewarded, and if he gives it up because he is unable to fulfill it after exerting effort towards that end, he deserves the same punishment of the one who actually fulfills it…”

 The Articles of Faith

The texts of the Quran and Sunnah indicated the validity of the view of the scholars regarding the prohibition of committing these sins. Among the Quranic verses that prove the prohibition of some of the sins of the heart are the following:

Allah, The Exalted, Says (what means):

·                       {Then did they feel secure from the plan of Allah? But no one feels secure from the plan of Allah except the losing people.} [Quran 7:99]

·                       {He said, “And who despairs of the mercy of his Lord except for those astray?”} [Quran 15:56]

·                       {Indeed, no one despairs relief from Allah except the disbelieving people.} [Quran 12:87]

·                       {O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sinful.} [Quran 49:12]

·                       {… thinking of Allah other than the truth - the thought of ignorance.} [Quran 3:154]

Among the Ahaadeeth of the Prophet sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) in this regard are the following:

He sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: “He who has in his heart the weight of an atom of arrogance shall not enter Paradise.” [Muslim]

He sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) also said: “Do not ask about three: a man who contends with Allah regarding His cloak or His wrapper, for His cloak is pride and His wrapper is might; a man who is in doubt about Allah; and he who despairs of the mercy of Allah.” [Ahmad]

He sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: “It is enough evil for a Muslim to hold his fellow Muslim in contempt.” [Muslim]

He sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) also said: “The major sins are: Shirk (associating partners with Allah in worship), the despondency of getting relief from Allah, and despair from the mercy of Allah.” [Al-Bazzaar]

It is evident in these texts that these sins of the heart incur punishments on their doer and qualify him for reprehensible descriptions.

The reality is that many people are heedless of these sins of the heart at the levels of knowledge and action, and accordingly they do not recall them when renewing their repentance of the sins they have committed. As a result of this ignorance and heedlessness, the heart may become stained with these sins while the person carrying this heart is distracted and heedless. The heart might become sick or even die while its carrier is unaware. An Arab poet said (what means): “A dead person does not feel the pain of a wound.”

Ibn Al-Qayyim may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said: “Most of the people who avoid tangible sins and evil deeds committed by the limbs and senses are actually committing sins that are equally grave or graver or less grave, but it does not occur to them that they are sins requiring their repentance! Their disdain of the perpetrators of major sins and holding them in contempt, they're reveling in their own good deeds, reminding people of their favors over them as reflected in their actions, their inward urge to be glorified for their good deeds, and the consequences of all these actions are more hateful to Allah and distance them further from Him than the major sins committed by those other people.”

It is feared that the one who is heedless of the sins of the heart should be included in the Saying of Allah (which means): {And there will appear to them from Allah that which they had not taken into account. And there will appear to them the evils they had earned, and they will be enveloped by what they used to ridicule.} [Quran 39:47-48]

They may also be a reason for having a foul final stage of life; Imaam Ibn Rajab may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said: “A foul final stage of life is caused by an inward wickedness that is hidden from people.”

Among the means to attain safety from the sins of hearts:

Whoever wishes to avoid falling into the sins of the heart should preoccupy his heart with acts of obedience that are performed by the heart, such as the love of Allah and His Messenger sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) Ikhlaas (devotion of intentions and deeds exclusively to Allah, The Exalted), reliance on Allah, fear of Him, hope in Him, patience, contentment with His Decree, gratitude to Him, truthfulness, Hayaa’ (bashfulness), repeatedly turning to Him in repentance, … etc. These deeds are an invincible barrier that prevents the one whose heart is filled with them from falling into the sins of the hearts. Below are some helpful means in this regard:

Reciting the Noble Quran with contemplation and reflection:

Ibn Al-Qayyim may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said: “Nothing is more beneficial to the heart than reciting the Quran while contemplating and reflecting upon it; it yields love (of Allah), longing (for Him), fear (of Him), hope (in Him), repeatedly turning to Him in repentance, reliance (on Him), contentment (with His Decree), delegation (of all one’s affairs to Allah), gratitude (to Him), and patience, and all other states in which the life and perfection of the heart can be attained.”

The erudite scholar As-Sa‘di may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said: “Contemplating the Quran enhances the knowledge and proofs of faith, strengthens the will of the heart and prompts a person to carry out the good deeds of the hearts such as reliance on Allah, Ikhlaas and devotion to Him, which is the essence of faith.”

Constantly remembering Allah:

Ibn Al-Qayyim may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said: “Whoever wishes to earn the love of Allah, The Exalted, let him remember Him abundantly.”

Allah, The Exalted, Says (what means): {Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah's hearts are assured.”} [Quran 13:28]


Seeking religious knowledge:

Allah, The Exalted, Says (what means): {Only those fear Allah, from among His servants, who have knowledge.} [Quran 35:28] Whoever seeks knowledge with the intention of benefitting from it and refining his ‘self’, such knowledge will help him fear Allah and glorify Him.

Supplication and humbling invocation:

One of the supplications that the Prophet sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) used to recite was: “Allaahumma inni As’aluka Qalban Saleeman (O Allah, I ask You for a sound heart).” [Ahmad and At-Tirmithi]

 Hastening to repentance:

One should hasten to repent, in compliance with the words of Allah, The Exalted (which means): {And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.} [Quran 24:31]

In conclusion, the salvation of a Muslim depends upon the purification of the heart and soul from vices and adorning the heart with virtues. Purification is achieved through performing sincere supplications, prayers, and acts of charity toward others. We must remember that we will be judged on the Day of Resurrection according to the purity of our hearts and the righteousness of our deeds.
Abu Huraira reported: "The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: 'Verily, Allah does not look at your appearance or wealth, but rather He looks at your hearts and actions." (Sahih Muslim 2564)

We ask Allah, The Exalted, to purify our hearts from whatever does not please Him, and the last of our call shall be: Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.

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