Weakness of Faith
The phenomenon of weak faith has become very widespread among Muslims, and many people complain about the hardness of their hearts. So often we hear the words, “I feel hardness in my heart,” “I do not find any joy in worship,” “I feel that my faith has hit rock bottom,” “Reading Qur’aan does not move me,” “I fall into sin so easily.” The effects of this affliction can be seen in many people, and this problem is the cause of every disaster and adversity.
This is a sign of weakness of faith and this is when Allah SWT sends His wrath on a people, as the communities before us have experienced.
Faith is the heart. According to a report: “The likeness of the heart is that of a feather in an empty plot of land, being blown over and over by the wind
Man’s heart changes constantly, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) described: “The heart of the son of Adam changes more quickly than a pan of rapidly boiling water.”
Allaah is the One Who turns hearts around and controls them. ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas reported that he heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: “The hearts of the children of Adam are as one between the fingers of the Most Merciful, and He turns them in whatever way He wills.” Then he said: “O Allaah, Controller of the hearts, direct our hearts to obey You.”
So the believer must check his heart, find out the nature and cause of the problem, and start treating it straight away, before it overwhelms him and destroys him.
Symptoms of weak faith
There are a number of symptoms of the sickness of weak faith, including the following:
Falling into sin and committing haraam deeds: there are some sinners who commit a sin and persist in it, and some who commit many kinds of sin. When a person commits many sins, sin becomes a habit which he gets used to, and then he no longer feels that it is abhorrent. He gradually reaches a stage where he commits the sin openly, and thus becomes one of those referred to in the hadeeth: “All of my ummah will be fine except for those who commit sin openly, an example of which is a man who does something at night, and when morning comes and Allaah has concealed his sin, he says, ‘O So-and-so, I did such and such yesterday.’ His Lord had covered his sin all night, but he has uncovered what Allaah had concealed.”
Example – smoking -> house -> car -> outside -> don’t care who sees
Feeling that one’s heart is hard and rough. A man may feel that his heart has turned to stone which nothing can penetrate or reach. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Then, after that, your hearts were hardened and became as stones or even worse in hardness…” [al-Baqarah 2:74]. The person whose heart is hard will not be moved by reminders of death or by seeing deceased persons or funerals. He may even carry a dead person to his grave and throw earth into the grave, but when he walks between the graves it is as if he is merely walking between rocks.
Not doing acts of worship properly. His mind wanders and he fails to concentrate properly when praying, reading Qur’aan, making du’aa’, etc. He does not think about what he is saying, and he recites the words as the matter of boring habit, if he does these regularly at all. If he has the habit of praying a certain du’aa’ at certain times, according to the sunnah, he does not think about the meaning of what he is saying, and Allaah “does not accept the du’aa’ of one whose heart is heedless of Him.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, no. 3479; al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 594).
Laziness and carelessness in performing acts of worship. If he does them at all, they are just empty movements, devoid of any real feeling. Allaah has described the hypocrites thus (interpretation of the meaning): “… and when they stand up for prayer, they stand up with laziness…” [al-Nisa’ 4:142].
Another example of laziness in performing acts of worship is the neglect of sunnah actions which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) performed regularly, and praying at night (qiyaam al-layl), setting out early to go to the mosque, and other naafil prayers, such as duhaa, never even occur to him, let alone the two-rak’ahs of tawbah (repentance) and istikhaarah.
Tightness in the chest, mood swings and depression, which weigh a man down and make him quick to complain about the slightest thing. He easily gets upset with the people around him, and no longer has any tolerance. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) described faith when he said, “Eemaan is patience and tolerance” (Al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, no. 554, 2/86), and he described the believer as being “one who makes friends and with whom others feel comfortable. There is no goodness in one who does not make friends and with whom others do not feel comfortable.”
Not being moved by the aayaat of the Qur’aan, by its promises of
Paradise or its warnings of Hell, by its commands and
prohibitions, or by its descriptions of the Day of Resurrection. The one who is
weak in faith gets bored when he hears the Qur’aan being recited, and cannot
continue reading it. Whenever he opens the mus-haf, he soon closes it again.
Not focusing on Allaah when remembering Him (dhikr) or making du’aa’, so dhikr becomes difficult for him, and when he raises his hands to make du’aa’, he quickly lowers them again. Allaah has described the hypocrites (interpretation of the meaning): “… and they do not remember Allaah but little.” [al-Nisa’ 4:142]
Not feeling angry when the limits set by Allaah are violated, because the flame of zeal has been extinguished in his heart, so he no longer takes action to stop evil, or enjoins evildoers to do good, or denounces wrongdoing. He never gets angry for the sake of Allaah. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) described this heart ravaged by weakness in the saheeh hadeeth: “The heart will be subjected to trial after trial, and there will appear a black stain on any heart that is affected, which will spread until the heart is completely black and sealed, as it were, so that it will not recognize any good deed or denounce any evil, except whatever suits its own desires.”
Love of fame and prominence, which may take many forms, including the following:
Desire for leadership without understanding the serious responsibility involved. This is what the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) warned us against when he said, “You will be very keen to be leaders, but you will regret it on the Day of Resurrection, for although it seems easy in the beginning, it becomes a hardship later on [literally: the breastfeeding is a luxury but weaning is miserable].”
Loving to sit at the head of gatherings, to monopolize the discussion, to make others listen to one’s words, and to have power. The head of a gathering is the “slaughterhouse” about which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) warned us when he said, “Beware of these slaughterhouses.” (Reported by al-Bayhaqi, 2/439; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 120).
Loving to have people stand up when one comes into the room, because this makes the one whose heart is diseased feel great. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever feels happy to have the slaves of Allaah stand up for him, let him occupy his house in Hellfire.”
Stinginess and miserliness. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) explained that the successful are those who avoid miserliness, and that weakness of faith generates stinginess: “Stinginess and faith never exist together in the heart of the believer.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) also described the serious nature of stinginess and its consequences: “Beware of stinginess, for those who came before you were destroyed because of stinginess. It commanded them to be miserly, so they were miserly; it commanded them to cut family ties, so they cut them; and it commanded them to be immoral, so they were immoral.”
Not practising what one preaches. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful is it with Allaah that you say that which you do not do.” [al-Saff 61:2-3].
Malicious enjoyment of the failures, losses or disasters suffered by one’s brothers in Islam, when the blessings that they had enjoyed are taken away, or when the thing that made another person appear more distinguished than him is gone.
Looking at matters in black-or-white terms of whether they are sinful or not, and taking the matter of makrooh lightly. Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said , “Whoever falls into doubtful matters falls into haraam, like a shepherd who grazes his flock around a place where he is not allowed – he will soon enter it…”
When some people ask for a fatwa about something and are told that it is haraam, they ask, “Is it very haraam or not? How much sin is involved?” People like this have no interest in avoiding bad deeds; indeed, they are prepared to commit the first level of haraam and they take small sins lightly, with the results that they they have the guts to transgress even further and violate the limits set by Allaah.
For this reason the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “I will certainly recognize people who will come on the Day of Resurrection bringing good deeds as great as the white mountain of Tuhaamah, and Allaah, may He be glorified, will make it like dust in the air.” Thawbaan said, “O Messenger of Allaah, describe them to us and explain this so that we will not unwittingly be among them.” He said, “They are your brothers and they look like you. They pray at night as you do, but if they had the opportunity to violate the limits set by Allaah, they would do so.”
Thinking little of good deeds, and having no interest in doing small hasanaat. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) taught us to pay attention to small acts of goodness. Imaam Ahmad (may Allaah have mercy on him) reported from Abu Juray al-Hujaymi who said, “I came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, we are a desert people. Teach us something by which Allaah, may He be blessed and exalted, will benefit us.’ He said, ‘Do not look down on any act of goodness, even if it is just emptying your bucket into the vessel of one who wants to drink, or speaking to your brother with a cheerful expression.’”
Lack of concern about the Muslims’ affairs and lack of any involvement whether it be by making du’aa’, giving charity or helping them. Such a person has a cool attitude towards the oppression, suppression and disasters suffered by his Muslim brothers in other parts of the world, and is content merely with his own safety. This is the result of weak faith, because the believer is the opposite of that. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The believer’s position in relation to his fellow believers is like that of the head to the body; the believer feels the pain of his fellow believers as the body reacts to the pain suffered by the head.” (Musnad Ahmad, 5/340; al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 1137).
Breaking the ties of brotherhood between two who used to be close. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “No two people are friends for the sake of Allaah or in Islam, but they will be split apart by the first sin (according to another report: they will only be split apart by the first sin) committed by either of them.”
Not feeling any responsibility to work for Islam and spread this religion, which is unlike the attitude of the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), who as soon as they entered this religion felt this responsibility straight away, for example, al-Tufayl ibn ‘Amr (may Allaah be pleased with him), who became Muslim and went to call his people to Islam straight away. He was only a new Muslim but he felt that he had to go back and call his people to Islam, and he went and did this, yet nowadays many people wait for a long time after they become committed to Islam before they reach the stage of calling others to Allaah, may He be glorified.
Fear and panic when disaster strikes or problems arise..
Excessive arguing and disputing. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said in a saheeh hadeeth: “No people will go astray after having being guided except that they become argumentative.”
Attachment to this world and rejoicing in it. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Eeman and hasad do not exist together in the heart of the true slave.”
Going to extremes in the way one cares for oneself, in food, drink, clothing, housing and means of transportation. Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) sent him to
advised him: “Beware of luxury, for the slaves of Allaah do not live a life of
Causes of weak faith
There are many causes of weak faith, some of which are the same as the symptoms, such as committing sin or being preoccupied with this world. There follows a list of some additional causes:
Keeping away from a faith-filled environment for too long. This causes weak faith in a person. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Has not the time come for the hearts of those who believe to be affected by Allaah’s Reminder (this Qur’aan), and that which has been revealed of the truth, lest they become as those who received the Scripture before (i.e., Jews and Christians), and the term was prolonged for them and so their hearts were hardened? And many of them were faasiqoon (rebellious, disobedient to Allaah).” [al-Hadeed 57:16].
The believer is weak on his own but strong with his brothers. Al-Hasan al-Basri (may Allaah have mercy on him) 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.”
Keeping away from the good example of righteous leaders. The person who learns from a righteous man gains beneficial knowledge, does a righteous deed and strengthens his eemaan at the same time; (that leader) takes care of him and passes on to him the knowledge, good morals and virtues that he has. If he keeps away from that teacher for some time, he begins to feel hardness in his heart. For this reason when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) died and was buried, his Sahaabah said, “We looked at our hearts and felt that there had been a deep change.” They felt alienated and lost because their teacher and example (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had died. According to some reports, they were described as being “like sheep on a rainy winter’s night.” But the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) left behind great leaders, giants among men, all of whom were qualified to take up the reins of leadership, and some of them became examples to the others. But nowadays the Muslims are in desperate need of examples close at hand to them.
Failing to seek knowledge and to be acquainted with the books of the salaf (early generation) and religious books which will uplift and revive the heart.
This problem – keeping away from religious books – clearly has an effect on those who study disciplines which have no connection with Islam, such as philosophy, psychology, social science, etc., disciplines which have been developed far away from Islamic teachings. The same applies to those who love to read fiction and love stories, or who follow worthless news stories in newspapers, magazines and so on.
Living in an environment that is filled with sin, so you see one boasting about his latest misdemeanour, another humming popular songs to himself, a third smoking, a fourth reading a pornographic magazine, a fifth cursing and swearing, and so on. As for talk about who said what to whom, gossip, backbiting and discussion about the latest football match, there is no end to it.
Preoccupation with this world, so that the heart is enslaved by it. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “He is doomed, the slave of the dinar and the slave of the dirham” and, “All that is sufficient for any one of you in this world is the supply of the traveller”
Being preoccupied with one’s wealth, wife and children. Allaah says (interpretation of the meanings): “And know that your possessions and children are but a trial and that surely with Allaah is a mighty reward.” [al-Anfaal 8:28] and, “Beautified for men is the love of things they covet: women, children, much of gold and silver (wealth), branded beautiful horses, cattle and well-tilled land. This is the pleasure of the present world’s life, but Allaah has the excellent return (
[Aal ‘Imraan 3:14].
Concerning the temptation of wealth, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Every nation has its fitnah (trial or temptation), and the fitnah of my ummah is wealth.”
Hoping for a long life. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Leave them to eat and enjoy, and let them be preoccupied with (false) hope. They will come to know!” [al-Hijr 15:3]. ‘Ali (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “What I fear for you is following your desires and hoping for a long life, for following one’s desires makes a man ignore the truth, and hoping for a long life makes him forget the Hereafter.
Another cause of weak faith and hard-heartedness is eating too much, sleeping too much, staying up too late, talking too much and mixing with people too much. Eating too much makes the brain slow and the body heavy, which prevents a person from worshipping Allaah and makes it easy for Shaytaan to tempt him, as it was said: “Whoever eats too much, drinks too much and sleeps too much, loses a great reward.” Talking too much hardens the heart, and mixing too much with people stops a person from having time to be alone and reflect on his own state. Laughing too much drains life from the heart. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said in a saheeh hadeeth: “Do not laugh too much, for excessive laughter deadens the heart.” Time that is not filled with worship of Allaah also leads to hard-heartedness, as a person pays heed to neither the rebukes of the Qur’aan nor the advice of faith.
The causes of weak faith are many indeed, and it is impossible to list them all, but what we have listed above will give the reader an impression of others which we have not mentioned here. The wise person understands this innately. We ask Allaah to purify our hearts and protect us from the evil of our own selves.