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Four Poisons of the Heart

Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbabli, Ibn Al-Qayyim al-Jawziyaa, and Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (rahimahumullah) have beautifully written about the diseases of the heart. The four poisons being
1. Unnecessary talking
2. Unrestrained glances
3. Too much food
4. Keeping bad company

1. Unnecessary talking
It is narrated by Mu’adh (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu) that Rasoolullah (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said, “Shall I not tell you how to control all that?” I said, “Yes do, O Messenger of Allah.” So he held his tongue between his fingers, and then he said: “Restrain this.” I said, “O Prophet of Allah, are we accountable for what we say?” He (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said, “May your mother be bereft by your loss! Is there anything more than the harvest of the tongues that throws people on their faces (or he said ‘on their noses’) into the Fire?” [at-Tirmidhi, al-Hakim, ath-Thahabi]

‘The harvest of the tongues’ refers to the punishment for saying forbidden things. A man, through his actions and words, sows the seeds of either good or evil. On the Day of Resurrection he harvests their fruits. Those who sow the seeds of good words and deeds harvest honour and blessings; those who sow the seeds of evil words and deeds reap only regret and remorse.

Abu Huraira (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu) also related that Rasoolullah (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said, “The servant speaks words, the consequences of which he does not realise, and for which he is sent down into the depths of the Fire further than the distance between the east and the west.” [Bukhari in Kitab ar-Riqaq, and Muslim in Kitab az-Zuhud]

This is the least harmful of the tongue’s faults. There are far worse things, like backbiting, gossiping, obscene and misleading talk, two-faced and hypocritical talk, ostentation and boasting, quarrelling, bickering, singing accompanied with music, lying, mockery, and falsehood. There are many more faults which can affect a servant’s tongue, ruining his heart and causing him to lose both his happiness and pleasure in this life, and his success and profit in the next life.

2. Unrestrained glances
Allah mentions in the Qur-aan “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that is more purifying for them. Surely Allah is aware of what they do.” (Surah 24, an-Noor, v:30)

It is said that the unrestrained gaze causes three afflications. It affects the eyes, the actions and the heart of a person.
There is is an immediate connection between the eye and the heart. Shaytaan or nafs causes one to look at something prohibited. Shaytaan makes what is seen appear more beautiful than it really is, and transforms it into an idol for the heart to worship. Then he promises it false rewards, lights the fire of desires within it, and fuels it with the wood of forbidden actions, which the servant would not have committed had it not been for this distorted image. This distracts the heart and makes it forget its more important concerns.

If the eyes are corrupted, then the heart follows. If the heart is corrupt there can be no room for love of Allah or being aware that one is in His presence. Turning away from what is forbidden and remembrance of Allah will fix this InshaaAllah.

3. Too much food
Al-Miqdam ibn Ma’deekarib (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu) said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) say: “The son of Adam fills no vessel more displeasing to Allah than his stomach. A few morsels should be enough for him to preserve his strength. If he must fill it, then he should allow a third for his food, a third for his drink and leave a third empty for easy breathing.” [Ahmad in al-Musnad, 4/132; as-Sa’ati, al-Fath ar-Rabbani, 17/88; at-Tirmidhi, Kitab az-Zuhud, 7/51]

Excessive eating induces many kinds of harm. It makes the body incline towards disobedience to Allah and makes worship and obedience seem laborious-such evils are bad enough in themselves. A full stomach and excessive eating have caused many a wrong action and inhibited much worship. Whoever safeguards against the evils of overfilling his stomach has prevented great evil. It is easier for shaytan to control a person who has filled his stomach with food and drink.

It has been reported that Aa’ishah (RadiyAllahu ‘anhaa) said: “From the time of their arrival in Madeenah up until his death, the family of Muhammad (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) never ate their fill of bread made from wheat three nights in a row.” [Bukhari, Kitab al-At’ima, 9/549; and Muslim, Kitab az-Zuhud, 8/105]

4. Keeping bad company
The 1st category are those people whose company is like food. It is indispensable, night or day. Once a servant has taken his need from it, he leaves it be until he requires it again, and so on. These are the people with knowledge of Allah-of His commands, of the scheming of His enemies, and of the diseases of the heart and their remedies- who wish well for Allah, His Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and His servants. Associating with this type of person is an achievement in itself.

The 2nd category are those people whose company is like a medicine. They are only required when a disease sets in. When you are healthy, you have no need of them. However, mixing with them is sometimes necessary for your livelihood, businesses, consultation and the like. Once what you need from them has been fulfilled, mixing with them should be avoided.

The 3rd category are those people whose company is harmful. Mixing with this type of person is like a disease, in all its variety and degrees and strengths and weaknesses. Associating with one or some of them is like an incurable chronic disease. You will never profit either in this life or in the next life if you have them for company, and you will surely lose either one or both of your deen and your livelihood because of them. If their companionship has taken hold of you and is established, then it becomes a fatal, terrifying sickness.

Amongst such people are those who neither speak any good that might benefit you, nor listen closely to you so that they might benefit from you. They do not know their souls and consequently put their selves in their rightful place. If they speak, their words fall on their listeners’ hearts like the lashes of a cane, while all the while they are full of admiration for and delight in their own words.

They cause distress to those in their company, while believing that they are the sweet scent of the gathering. If they are silent, they are heavier than a massive millstone-too heavy to carry or even drag across the floor. (As Imaam Shafi’ee rahimahullah used to say “Whenever a tedious person sits next to me, the side on which he is sitting feels lower down than the other side of me.”)

The 4th category are those people whose company is doom itself. It is like taking poison: its victim either finds an antidote or perishes. Many people belong to this category. They are the people of religious innovation and misguidance, those who abandon the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and advocate other beliefs. They call what is the sunnah a bid’a and vice-versa. A man with any intellect should not sit in their assemblies nor mix with them. The result of doing so will either be the death of his heart or, at the very best, its falling seriously ill.

May Allah protect us from all these evils and keep us steadfast in remembering Him in ease and adversity.

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