Islam: Sins of the Hearts

 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 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.”

Islam: 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 hearts are graver than the major sins committed by the limbs and senses because while they both entail dissoluteness and injustice (on 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: 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, and 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…”

Islam: 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 is 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 of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people.} [Quran 12:87]

·                       {O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin.} [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, the 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 mean): {And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.} [Quran 24:31]

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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