Signs of a Diseased Heart by Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi

The following is the second in a series of three excerpts on the heart of the believer from Hakim al-Umma Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi’s book (Allah have mercy on him) Sukoon-e-Qalb, translated by Saad Razi Shaikh.

How can a person know if their heart is diseased? In regard to this, Hafiz Ibn Qayyim (Allah have mercy on him) has mentioned some symptoms.

The First Symptom

When a person starts to value the fleeting things over other [more lasting] things, it should be understood that their heart is diseased. For example, they like the house of this world but are not concerned about building their house in the Hereafter. They worry about finding respect in this world but are unconcerned about the honor or humiliation they’ll face in the Hereafter. They want ease in this world but are unconcerned about the torments they may find in the Hereafter.

The Second Symptom

When a person stops crying altogether, it is understood that their heart has hardened. Sometimes, a person’s eyes cry, sometimes their heart cries. The crying of the heart carries more virtue than the crying of the eyes. It is not necessary that tears must come out of the eyes when crying. There are people of Allah whose hearts cry but tears don’t fall from their eyes. Their crying from their hearts is accepted by Allah, and the doors of repentance (tawba) are opened for them. The crying of the heart and eyes both carry importance, some people cry with both—both their eyes and their hearts cry.

The Third Symptom

If a person desires to meet other people but doesn’t remember their meeting with Allah, they should understand that this spells death for their hearts. People are so attached to each other that they long to meet each other, they become sad and impatient when they do not get to meet one another. But they do not remember their meeting with Allah Most High.

The Fourth Symptom

When a person becomes fearful of remembering their meeting with Allah, but becomes happy when sitting with other people, it is a sign of the death of the heart. To become fearful when remembering their meeting with Allah means becoming fearful when doing tasbih or engaging in muraqaba. Sitting in the prayer room (musalla) becomes a burden on such a person. Understand this broad principle, if you wish to understand a person’s relationship with Allah. Look at how they sit in their musalla. A person who is mindful of Allah sits with a tranquillity (sukun) like that of a child sitting in their mother’s lap. For a person who has crookedness in their hearts, sitting in the musalla weighs heavy on them. They say their salams and immediately run from the mosque. Some are such that their hearts are unwilling to come to the mosque in the first place.

A Cataract of the Heart and Its Remedy

A cataract is a disease of the eyes. A veil appears in front of the eyes, which makes the person unable to see. Similarly, a cataract grows in the heart, when sins cloud a person’s vision. Then the person ends up missing all their prayers with no worry whatsoever. They have no issue in uttering lies with their tongues, even though there are hadiths saying that “a person who tells lies, such a foul smell emanates from their mouth that the angels flee from them.” Such a foul smell comes, but the person remains unfazed. Consider the place in which the person commits sins, it is written in the books that the land pleads and cries, “Ya Allah! Allow me to bury this disobedient servant of yours.” But the person, engrossed in their sins, remains unconcerned.

Just as when a person who contracts a cataract visits the doctor and gets treatment, similarly, a person whose heart has hardened must visit the majlis, the gatherings of the people of Allah. Visiting them removes the cataract of the heart. The vision of the heart returns and the person starts to see again. A chance meeting and the person’s life completely changes. We’ve seen so many people for whom the company of the people of Allah has transformed their lives.

Can someone measure the force of this?

A look from the person of Allah can change destinies.

Many a time, diseased hearts come to the suhba, the company of the people of Allah, and the world of their hearts change.    

The Dwellings of the Heart

The ruin of the heart is easy, but the settling of hearts is hard. A poet has expressed this well.

We’ve seen desolate ruins; we’ve seen living settlements.

A heart once ruined is not easy to reset. 

To ruin the heart is easy, to resettle it is no game.

To settle the heart is no game, it is settled step-by-step.

Just as a town is populated with some difficulty, so too is the heart settled with difficulty. May Allah grant us success in settling our hearts.

About the Author

Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (Allah have mercy on him) was one of the foremost Indian scholars of the twentieth century. A prolific writer with over three hundred books to his name, his works span the Islamic Sciences, touching on matters of everyday fiqh, correct beliefs, and spiritual remedies, amongst others.