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.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath 10/486).
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]. This also includes neglecting to make the most of special occasions and times for worship. This indicates that a person has no interest in earning reward, so he may delay going for Hajj although he is able to do so, or fail to go for jihaad when he has the strength to do so, or fail to attend prayers in congregation, or even Salat al-Jumu’ah. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “People will keep holding back from being in the first row (of congregational prayers), until Allaah throws them into the Fire.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 679; Saheeh al-Targheeb, no. 510). This kind of person does not feel any remorse or guilt if he sleeps and misses one of the obligatory prayers, or a sunnah prayer that is strongly encouraged, or a wird [regular du’aa’ and dhikr]. He does not want to make it up later, and he deliberately omits doing anything that is sunnah or fard kifaayah (a duty which, if carried out by some of the people, is no longer obligatory on all, but if no-one does it, all are held accountable). So he may not attend Eid prayers (although some scholars say that they are obligatory), or offer the prayers to be said at the time of lunar and solar eclipses, or attend funerals. He does not care about reward at all, which is the opposite of the ideal described by Allaah in the Qur’aan (interpretation of the meaning): “… they used to hasten on to do good deeds, and they used to call on Us with hope and fear, and used to humble themselves before Us.” [al-Anbiya’ 21:90]
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.” (Al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, no. 427).
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.” (Reported by Muslim, no. 144). Love of good and hatred of evil have disappeared from a heart like this; all things are equal to such a person, and he has no motive to enjoin good or forbid evil. He may hear of some evil that is being done on earth, and may accept it; in this case he carries the same burden of sin as one who witnesses evil and approves of it, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said in the saheeh hadeeth: “If sin is committed on earth, the one who witnesses it and hates it [one time he said, ‘denounces it’] will be like one who knew nothing of it. Whoever does not witness it but approves of it will be like one who witnesses it.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 4345; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 689). This approval, which is an action of the heart, makes him like one who witnessed the sin.
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].” (The meaning is that at the beginning, leadership brings wealth, power and enjoyment, but later it brings the risk of being assassinated or deposed, and one will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection). (Reported by al-Bukhaari, no. 6729). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) also said: “If you wish, I could tell you about leadership and what it is. Firstly, it is blame; secondly, it is regret; and thirdly, it is punishment on the Day of Resurrection – except for one who is just.” (Reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer, 18/72; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1420). If it were the case that a man wanted to carry out duties and responsibilities, where there is no one better for the job than him, with the intention of doing his best and being sincere and just, as Yusuf (peace be upon him) did, then we could say that this is fair enough. But in most cases it is the matter of a strong desire to lead and put oneself forward although there is a better person, denying the opportunity of leadership to those who are qualified and wanting to be the only one to issue instructions and prohibitions.
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.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari in al-Adab al-Mufrad, 977; see also Silsilah al-Saheeh, 357). Once when Mu’aawiyah went out to see Ibn al-Zubayr and Ibn ‘Aamir, Ibn ‘Aamir stood up whilst Ibn al-Zubayr remained sitting (according to one report: and he [Ibn al-Zubayr] was wiser and more stable in character). Mu’aawiyah said to Ibn ‘Aamir, “Sit down, for I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say, ‘Whoever likes to have men stand up for him, let him take his place in Hellfire.’” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 5229, and by al-Bukhaari in al-Adab al-Mufrad, 977; al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 357). This kind of person will get angry if the sunnah is followed and people start from the right (and not with him, when passing out refreshments, etc.); when such a person enters a gathering, he will not be happy until someone gets up and gives him his seat, even though the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) forbade this when he said, “No man should make another get up from his place so that he can sit in it.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 11/62).
Stinginess and miserliness. Allaah praised the Ansaar in His Book by saying (interpretation of the meaning): “… and [they] gave them [the muhaajiroon] preference over themselves, even though they were in need of that…” [al-Hashr 59:9]. 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.” (Reported by al-Nisaa’i, al-Mujtaba, 6/13; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2678). 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.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, 2/324; Saheeh al-Jaami, no. 2678). When it comes to miserliness, the person whose faith is weak can hardly give anything for the sake of Allaah, even when there is an honest appeal and it is quite obvious that his brothers in Islam are suffering the impact of poverty and are stricken by disaster. There is no more eloquent statement on the matter of miserliness than the words of Allaah (interpretation of the meaning): “Behold! You are those who are called to spend in the Cause of Allaah, yet among you are some who are niggardly. And whoever is niggardly, it is only at the expense of his own self. But Allaah is Rich (Free of all wants), and you (mankind) are poor. And if you turn away (from Islam and the obedience of Allaah), He will exchange for you some other people, and they will not be your likes.” [Muhammad 47:38].
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]. No doubt this is a kind of hypocrisy, and the person whose deeds do not match his words is blameworthy before Allaah and despicable in the eyes of his fellow man. The people of Hellfire will soon discover the reality of the one who enjoins good but does not do it, and forbids evil, but does it himself.
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. Some people, when they want to do something, do not ask about what good deeds they could do, instead they ask, “Will this be counted as a sin, or is it ‘only’ makrooh?” This way of thinking leads them into the trap of issues that are not clear-cut and deeds that are makrooh, and eventually ensnares them in haraam deeds. The person who thinks like this has nothing to stop him from committing makrooh or doubtful deeds so long as they are not actually haraam. This is exactly what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was talking about what he 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…” (Reported by al-Bukhaari and Muslim; this version narrated by Muslim, no. 1599). 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.” (Reported by Ibn Maajah, no. 4245. He said in al-Zawaa’id: its isnaad is saheeh and its men are thiqaat. See also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 5028).
So you will find such a person committing haraam deeds without any hesitation or reservation, which makes him worse than the one who does so after pausing and hesitating. Both are in danger, but the former is worse than the latter. This kind of person takes sins lightly as a result of his weakness of faith, and does not think that he has done anything wrong. For this reason, Ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) described the attitude of the believer and of the hypocrite as follows: “The believer sees his sins as if he were sitting beneath a mountain which he fears will fall on him, whilst the sinner sees his sins as if it were a fly passing his nose and he says such-and-such to it” – i.e., he shoos it away with his hand. (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 11/102; See also Taghleeq al-Ta’leeq, 5/136, publ. by al-Maktab al-Islami).
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.’” (Musnad Ahmad, 5/63; al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 1352). If someone comes wanting to drink from the well, and you lift up your bucket and empty it for him, this is a good deed; even though it appears insignificant, you should not think little of it. The same applies to greeting your brother with a cheerful expression, and cleaning dirt and garbage from the mosque, even if it is as small as a straw. This deed may be the cause of your sins being forgiven, for Allaah will appreciate good deeds of this nature and will forgive sins because of them. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “A man passed a branch of a tree lying in the road and said, ‘By Allaah, I want to remove this out of the way of the Muslims so that it will not hurt them,’ and he was admitted to Paradise.” (Reported by Muslim, no. 1914).
There is something wrong with the person who thinks little of simple acts of goodness. It is sufficient punishment for this attitude that he is denied the great advantage described by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “Whoever removes something harmful from the path of the Muslims, one hasanah will be recorded for him, and whoever has a hasanah accepted, will enter Paradise.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari in al-Adab al-Mufrad, no. 593; see also al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 5/387). Mu’aadh was walking with another man, and he picked up a stone from the road. The man asked him, “What is this?” He said, “I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say, ‘Whoever removes a stone from the road, one hasanah will be recorded for him, and whoever has a hasanah, will enter Paradise.’” (al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer by al-Tabaraani, 20/101; al-Silsilat al-Saheeh, 5/387).
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.” (al-Bukhaari, al-Adab al-Mufrad, no. 401; Ahmad, al-Musnad, 2/68; see also al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 637). This indicates the bad effects which may impact upon and even destroy the bonds of brotherhood. This alienation which a man may feel between himself and his brother is a result of the lowering of faith caused by committing a sin, because Allaah causes him to lose his standing in the eyes of His slaves, and so he is in the miserable position of having no respect and misses out on the fellowship of the believers and the protection of Allaah, for Allaah protects those who believe.
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.
The Companions of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), as a result of entering Islam, used to feel enmity towards the kuffaar, and they would disavow themselves of them and draw a clear line. When Thamaamah ibn Athaal (may Allaah be pleased with him), the chief of the people of al-Yamaamah, was taken prisoner, he was held in the mosque, and the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) told him about Islam. Then Allaah caused the light of Islam to shine in his heart, and he became Muslim. He went for ‘Umrah, and when he reached Makkah, he told the kuffaar of Quraysh, “Not one grain of wheat will reach you from al-Yamaamah except with the permission of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 8/78). This declaration of opposition to the kuffaar, imposition of economic sanctions and offer of all resources at his disposal to serve the cause of da’wah all took place immediately, because strong faith demands action.
Fear and panic when disaster strikes or problems arise. So you will see such a person shaking and losing his equilibrium, with no focus, staring wild-eyed and having no idea what to do when faced with calamity. He is ruled by his fears and can see no way out; he cannot face reality with a strong and steady heart. All of this is the result of weak faith, for if his faith was strong he would be steadfast and he would face the worst disasters with calmness and strength.
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.” (Reported by Ahmad in al-Musnad, 5/252; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 5633). Arguing with no proof and for no good reason leads one far away from the Straight Path, and most of people’s futile arguments nowadays are conducted without knowledge or guidance or (reference to) a Book giving light (i.e., the Qur’aan). We have sufficient motive to avoid futile arguments in the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “I guarantee a house in the outskirts of Paradise to the one who forsakes argument even when he is in the right.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, 5/150; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1464).
Attachment to this world and rejoicing in it. A person may be so attached to this world that he feels pain if he misses out on some share of it, such as money, power, authority, or housing. He feels that he is unfairly treated because he has not got what others have. He feels more stress when he sees a brother in Islam who has something of this world that he does not have, so he envies him (hasad) and wishes that he will lose that blessing. This goes against eemaan, as 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.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, 5/150; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1464).
He talks and thinks in a purely rational manner, devoid of the characteristics of faith. There is hardly any trace of a reference to the Qur’aan and Sunnah, or the words of the salaf (the early generations of Islam – may Allaah have mercy on them), in the way such a person speaks.
Going to extremes in the way one cares for oneself, in food, drink, clothing, housing and means of transportation. So you see these people showing excessive interest in luxuries, trying to be sophisticated, buying only the finest clothes, spending extravagant amounts on their choice of housing and spending too much time and money on such unnecessary adornments whilst their Muslim brothers are in the greatest need of that money. This carries on until they sink into the soft life of luxury which is forbidden, as is reported in the hadeeth of Mu’aadh ibn Jabal (may Allaah be pleased with him): when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) sent him to Yemen, he advised him: “Beware of luxury, for the slaves of Allaah do not live a life of luxury.” (Reported by Abu Na’eem in al-Hilyah, 5/155; Silsilat al-Saheehah, 353. A similar version was also reported by Ahmad in al-Musnad, 5/243).