A human has two aspects to his life: physical and spiritual. The physical aspect is related to the body and the spiritual aspect is related to the soul.
Both aspects are vulnerable to illnesses. Just as the body can suffer from physical ailments such as cancer, TB, fever, headache, etc., the soul can also suffer from spiritual illnesses, such as riyā (ostentation), takabbur (pride and arrogance), hasad (jealousy), lack of sabr (patience), lack of shukr (gratitude), love for fame and wealth, etc. Both aspects are very important for us because just as physical health is important in order to ensure an enjoyable life, similarly, spiritual health is also vital to secure a peaceful mind and a heart full of contentment. In fact, spiritual health is far more important because the everlasting success in the Hereafter depends solely upon it. However, the concern shown towards the two is very different.
When we are afflicted with a physical illness, we will have great concern. However, when it comes to spiritual illnesses, no concern whatsoever is shown. Whereas, in reality, more concern should be shown for our spiritual health for the following reasons:
1. To treat a physical illness is sunnah; whereas, to treat a spiritual illness is necessary.
2. If a person bears a physical illness with patience it is a means of expiation for his sins; whereas, spiritual illnesses lead to good deeds being washed away.
3. The detrimental consequences of a physical illness will come to an end upon death; whereas, the evil result of a spiritual illness will begin upon death for eternity.
4. If a person dies with a physical illness, he will be granted shāhādah; whereas, spiritual illnesses will jeopardise the Hereafter altogether.
Despite this, we do not see the necessary and required concern. This is in stark contrast to physical illnesses, when we will not even tolerate a slight headache or cold without resorting to medication!
Now that we have understood the severity of spiritual illnesses, let us exert every effort to keep ourselves spiritually healthy. In order to do this, the following guidelines will be of immense benefit inshā’allāh:
1. Find a qualified Shaykh and associate yourself to him. Continually inform him of your spiritual condition, referring to him regarding spiritual illnesses and their cures, and follow his instruction to the best of your ability.
2. Make constant du‘ā to Allāh ta‘ālā that he eradicates spiritual illnesses from the heart, for in reality He is the real healer of the illnesses. The Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam would recite this du’ā:
“O my Rabb, grant taqwā to my nafs and purify it; You are the Best Purifier and You are its Guardian and Master.” (Ahmad)
3. Keep a close eye on yourself, constantly assessing the condition of the heart, throughout the day. If time is set aside for a daily assessment of the full day, it will go a long way to help recognise spiritual illnesses.
4. Once a particular spiritual illness is recognised, read up on the evil consequences and punishments of the illness, so that concern is created which will then serve as a barrier from continuing with it. It will also encourage contacting the Shaykh and following his guidance.
5. Adopt pious company, especially that of your Shaykh; and refrain from wrong company.
6. Stay in a pious environment, refraining from an evil one.
7. Perform excessive dhikr. This can be in the form of:
• Adhkār prescribed by your Shaykh.
• Recitation of the Glorious Qur’ān, preferably one juz per day.
• Supplications of the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam for prescribed actions and situations. For example, the du‘ās before entering and at the time of leaving the masjid, before and after eating, etc.
• Adhkār encouraged by the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam. For example, the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam says in a ḥadīth:
“Two words which are loved by Ar-Raḥmān, light on the tongue and weighty on the scales are:
Subhānallāhi wa bi hamdihī Subhānallāhil ‘Azīm.” (Bukhārī)
Similarly, in a another ḥadīth, the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam says, “Whoever recites (the following) a hundred times in a day, will get the reward for emancipating a hundred slaves, a hundred virtues will be written in his account, a hundred sins will be forgiven, and it shall be protection for him from Shayṭān for that day until evening. None shall surpass him in virtue on that day other than he who recites this more than him:
Lā ilāha illa llāhu wahdahū lā sharīka lahū lahul mulku wa lahul hamdu wa huwa ‘alā kulli shay’in qadīr.” (Bukhārī)
If we understand the severity of spiritual illnesses, make a concerted effort to cure ourselves from them, and follow the guidelines above, we will inshā’allāh see ourselves spiritually healthy. May Allāh grant us the tawfīq.