Weakness of faith (eeman) is a common complaint among many Muslims. Those who are aware and conscious of it struggle to find ways to overcome it. Faith, as we know, is directly connected with the heart. Allah (SWT) has warned us against the heart that is hardened, closed, sick, blind and sealed. The spiritual health of our hearts determines the strength of our faith. When our faith is weak, we can see it in our actions.
When our faith is weak, we are more likely to fall into sins until we completely get desensitized to their ghastly nature. The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) described the heart ravaged by weakness in the sahih hadith by stating: “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)
To improve this condition we need to know the symptoms of weak faith so we can work to cure them. The following highlights some of the symptoms of weak faith.
Not doing acts of worship properly
Let us remind ourselves that such Ibadat performed with a heedless heart may not be accepted by Allah. We know from a hadith that Allah “does not accept the du’a of one whose heart is heedless of Him.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, no. 3479; al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 594). Let us also not forget that Allah has described those who take salat lightly as hypocrites. He states in the Quran:Acts of worship such as Salat (prayers) are more meaningful when done in a state of Khushu. This is a state in which one attains a state of complete concentration and focus while standing before Allah. The prophet’s fear of Allah and the gratitude that he felt for The Almighty drove him to stand all night in complete concentration in voluntary prayers. When those of us who cannot attain even a fraction of that state of concentration in obligatory prayers (let alone the voluntary prayers), then that is an indication of the weakness of our faith. Such weakness also comes to light when we fail to concentrate in other ibadat such as during reading of the Quran, doing dhikr, making dua, etc. We should not forget that worship to Allah is meant to strengthen our connection with Allah and not meant to be a mere mechanical act; it requires thinking about what one is saying and focusing on its meaning.
“… and when they stand up for prayer, they stand up with laziness…” [Quran (Surah An-Nisaa :142)].
Other signs of weakness of faith with regard to prayers are: failing to attend prayers in congregation, not feeling any remorse or guilt if one of the obligatory prayers is missed, not offering a sunnah prayer that is strongly encouraged, deliberately omitting doing anything that is sunnah or fard, and so on. Having an attitude of such indifference goes contrary to what Allah described the believers. He says in the Qur’an:
“… 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.” [Quran (Surah Al-Anbiya’:90)]
Not being moved by the verses of the Quran
The verses of the Quran brought light to a world that was enveloped in darkness and ignorance. These verses of truth made people understand their Lord, softened hearts, changed minds, and made people Muslims. Allah attested to the power of these words when He, The Almighty, said in the Quran:
“Had We sent down this Quran on a mountain, you would surely have seen it humbling itself and rent asunder by the fear of Allah. Such are the parables which We put forward to mankind that they may reflect.” [Quran (Surah Al-Hashr: 21)]
The verses of the Quran cannot fail to affect a true believer whose faith is strong. He takes seriously its message of guidance, commands and prohibitions, and the path that he or she will take after departing from this life. These verses ought to bring a believer of strong faith to tears. But for those with a weakness in their faith will notice their hearts unmoved with the message of the Quran.
About those who are affected by its recitations and pondering of its message, Allah says in the Quran:
“Allah has sent down the Best Statement, a Book (this Quran), its parts resembling each other (in goodness and truth) (and) oft-repeated. The skins of those who fear their Lord shiver from it (when they recite it or hear it). Then their skin and their heart soften to the remembrance of Allah. That is the guidance of Allah. He Guides therewith whom He wills; and whomever Allah sends astray, for him there is no guide.” [Quran (Surah Az-Zumar:23]
Not practicing what one preaches
Hypocrisy is strongly condemned in Islam. Those of us who cannot walk their talk in their daily living of Islam within their homes as well as outside suffer from the weakness of their faith. It is imperative, therefore, that one who preaches to others should himself follow the teachings. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful is it with Allah that you say that which you do not do.” [Quran (Surah As Saff :2-3]
Trying to find shortcuts by treading close to ‘makrooh’ and haram
Not giving importance to what is approved by Allah and what is disapproved, leads some people to find shortcuts and tread close to the territory of haram. This gets them involved in ‘makrooh’ acts (undesirable but not haram). However, makrooh deeds eventually ensnare them in haram deeds. The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Whoever falls into doubtful matters falls into haram, 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).
Such weakness of faith nurtures an attitude that seeks any fatwa providing legitimacy to their desired actions. This shows one’s readiness to commit the first level of haram, taking small sins lightly. This can then lead to boldness in transgressing even further and violating the limits set by Allah. It is for this reason that for example, in the following verse, Allah not only forbade the act of “zina” but also told us not to get even near it (through acts that gradually pushes one to it).
“And come not near to unlawful sex. Verily, it is a Fahishah (i.e. anything that transgresses its limits: a great sin), and an evil way (that leads one to Hell unless Allah forgives him). [Quran (Surah Al-Isra:32)]”
Excessive arguing and disputing
When the intent to correct someone goes too far and is overtaken by the desire to be right, one walks into the realm of argumentation and dispute. That in turn is a weakness of faith. The Prophet (SAWS) said, “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 people enter into futile arguments without knowledge or guidance or reference to the Quran. Futile arguments should be avoided as the Prophet (SAWS) said: “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).
Taking sins lightly
Weakness of faith makes a person take sins lightly, and he does not think that he has done anything wrong. Describing the difference in the attitude of the believer and the hypocrite, Ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “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; Taghleeq al-Ta’leeq, 5/136, Al-Maktab al-Islami).
Committing sins without regard to their seriousness can desensitize one to their effects and eventually emboldens one to even publicize them. Regarding such a person the Prophet (SAWS) has said: “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 Allah 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 Allah had concealed.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath 10/486).
Feeling that one’s heart is hard and rough
Hardness of heart is another symptom of weak faith. One can easily detect such hardness when one’s heart remains unmoved even by reminders of death or on seeing the dead and attending funerals. A person may carry the dead to his grave and throw earth into the grave, yet not recognize the gravity of what all of us will face one day. Allah describes this condition when He (SWT) says:
“Then, after that, your hearts were hardened and became as stones or even worse in hardness” [Quran (Surah Al-Baqarah:74)]
Being stingy and miserly
Islamic guidance encourages one to spend their wealth on various causes such as the poor and other noble deeds. Allah says:
“Those who spend their wealth in the Cause of Allah, and do not follow up their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury, their reward is with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” [Quran, Surah Al-Baqara:262)]
However, reluctance to spend on those who are in need out of fear that one’s own wealth will be diminished, is a clear indication of the weakness of one’s faith in Allah The Benevolent, The Provider of rizq. The Prophet (SAWS) said: “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).
Feeling envious and jealous of others’ blessings
A person with a strong faith knows that Allah bestows His blessings on whom He pleases. The weakness of faith, however, can make us to question the fairness of it all leading us to compare our blessings with others giving birth to feelings of envy and jealousy. Envying others and feeling jealous of worldly possessions that others have goes against the teachings of Allah and His prophet (SAWS). The Prophet (SAWS) 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).
Going to extremes in demanding luxury
The obsession to have various luxuries and amenities of this life has created a cut throat culture mesmerizing those whose faith is not as strong. Whether it is about staying in tune with the latest trends of fashion, or the need to have have the latest gadgets and fancy living, the attraction of such luxuries is diverting our attention from vital life matters. We should know that such obsessions carry the risks of consuming ones life to the point where we start neglecting our responsibilities toward our Creator and families. As reported in the hadeeth of Mu’aadh ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him): When the Prophet (SAWS) sent him to Yemen, he advised him: “Beware of luxury, for the slaves of Allah do not live a life of luxury.” (Reported by Abu Na’eem in al-Hilyah, 5/155; Silsilat al-Saheehah, 353.
Lack of concern about other Muslims’ affairs
Lack of interest in the affairs of Muslims, be it by making dua, giving charity or helping them, is another sign of weak faith. It is even worse when one remains unconcerned and indifferent towards the oppression, suppression and disasters suffered by fellow Muslims in other parts of the world. The Prophet (SAWS) 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).
Knowing the existence of problem is a prerequisite to finding the solution to those problems. Constant evaluation of our self can help us be on the watch for these symptoms. Once we know about the existence of such symptoms, we can work to cure them both in our hearts and actions.