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Effects of Evil

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim

A short series on the evil effects of sins that prevent the servant from acts of obedience, darken the heart and weaken the heart and body.
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    1. Effects of Evil: Prevention from Acts of Obedience
    2. Effects of Evil: Darkness of the Heart
    3. Effects of Evil: Weakness of the Heart and Body
    4. Effects of Evil: Shortening of One’s Lifespan
    5. Effects of Evil: Sinning Begets More Sinning
    6. Effects of Evil: Weakening the Heart’s Desire for Goodness
    7. Effects of Evil: Sinfulness and Shamelessness
    8. Effects of Evil: Dulling the Mind
    9. Effects of Evil: Trivialisation of Sin
    10. Effects of Evil: The Despicable Nature of the Sinner

Acts of disobedience have ugly, blameworthy, and harmful side effects that extend to one’s heart, body, the worldly life and the hereafter; [the details] of which no one is fully aware of except for Allāh

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah [d. 751 AH]

Effects of Evil: Prevention from Acts of Obedience

From them is disengaging with acts of obedience. For the perpetration of a sin deters one from an act of obedience that could have been carried out in its stead, which consequently further repels one from the path of a consecutive act of obedience, staving off the path to a third, then a fourth [sin] and so on. Thus does the perpetuation of sin repel one from many obedient acts, every single one of those acts are greater than this worldly life and everything that it contains. Its parable is like that of a man who nourishes himself with a meal that [he knows] will lead to a prolonged sickness, thereby preventing him from partaking in a great number of meals that are far more nourishing than his first. And Allāh alone is the One sought for help.

The Effects of Evil: Darkness of the Heart

From them is a palpable darkness the sinner will find in his heart. He feels it like he perceives the gloomy darkness of a jet-black night. The darkness of disobedience that has encompassed his heart becomes like a physical darkness that impedes his vision. Indeed, acts of obedience are a light, and acts of disobedience are darkness. As darkness is strengthened, so is the confusion the disobedient one finds himself in. Until he falls into acts of innovation, misguidance, and destructive matters without him even perceiving it. He is like a blind man that has taken an excursion into the blackness of night walking by himself. The darkness becomes so tangible that it appears in the eyes of this individual, then it again strengthens to where it overcomes his countenance. The blackness [of his sin] becomes displayed as part of him, seen by every on-looker. ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbbās [رضي الله عنه] said: ‘Truly, goodness produces a brightness of countenance, a light in the heart, an expansion in sustenance, a strength in the body, and imparts love [for that person] in the hearts of the creation. Verily, evil causes blackness of the face, darkness of the heart, weakness of the body, deficiency in provision, and hatred in the hearts of the creation.’

Effects of Evil: Weakness of the Heart and Body

From them is that acts of disobedience weaken the heart and the body. As for its weakening of the heart, it is an apparent matter. For it continues to weaken it until its very life ceases. As for its weakening of the body, a believer’s true strength comes from his heart. If his heart increases in strength, so does his body. As for the continuous sinner, even if his body is strong he will find it most unreliable, weak in times of need. His strength will betray him when he finds himself in the most dire of circumstances. Contemplate the strength of the Persians and Romans, how did [their power] ultimately betray them when they required it the most? [Contemplate] how they were subjugated by the people of true īmān by means of the strength of their bodies and minds.

Effects of Evil: Shortening of One’s Lifespan

From them is that acts of disobedience shorten one’s lifespan, voiding it of its barakah [goodness]. There can be no doubt that, just as acts of piety increase one’s lifespan, acts of disobedience shortens it.

People have differed in this matter. Among them are those who say that the shortening of the lifespan of a sinner is directly related to the removal and absence of barakah [goodness] from one’s life. This is true, but it is only some of the effects of disobedient acts.

Another group claims that one’s lifespan actually depreciates just as one’s provision lessens. As Allāh has made the placing of barakah [goodness] in a person’s provision through various means that cause it to be plentiful and abundant. Similarly, there are means by which the barakah that is placed within one’s life is increased, and made to be abundant.

They say: There is nothing to prevent the increasing of one’s lifespan through various means, just as it is amenable to decreasing by various means. For provision, lifespan, happiness, sadness, health, sickness, richness, and poverty, only occur by the decree of the true Lord, the Exalted in Majesty. However, He decrees whatever He wills and attaches it to reasons and means that stipulate the occurrence of that decree, such that its existence becomes incumbent.

While another party believe that the true effect of disobedient acts insofar as its decreasing lifespan is actualised in the fact that true life is the life of one’s heart. Thus does Allāh, the Exalted, refer to the disbeliever as being deceased, void of life.

As the Most High says:

أَمْوَاتٌ غَيْرُ أَحْيَاءٍ ۖ وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ أَيَّانَ يُبْعَثُونَ ‎﴿٢١﴾

‘They are, [in fact], dead, not alive’
[Al-Naḥl, 16:21]

True life, therefore, only occurs if one’s heart is alive. The true lifespan of man is only the length of time [his heart] lives. The true breadth of life is only the moments of time he spends with Allāh [i.e. engaging in acts of obedience]. Those are the true moments of life. Thus, piety, righteousness, and acts of obedience increase the frequency of those moments which are representative of true life. He possesses no actual life otherwise.

In general, any slave [of Allāh] that chooses to obstinately turn away from Allāh, engaging in acts of disobedience has wasted the days of his true life. The true consequence of this waste will only be apparent to him on the day:

يَقُولُ يَا لَيْتَنِي قَدَّمْتُ لِحَيَاتِي ‎﴿٢٤﴾‏

‘He will say: “Alas! I wish I had sent forth (good deeds) for (this never-ending) life of mine (in the hereafter)”.
[Al-Fajr, 89:24]

There is no alternative for him [on that day], either he is acquainted with the goodness he set forth from this worldly life and the hereafter or he will see nothing. If he sees nothing [before him], then he has indeed wasted his entire life, spent it as a complete farce. If he sees [goodness] before him, then his path [in life] will have been elongated by means of the impediments [he faces], and the difficulty he finds in engaging in acts of obedience. These difficulties correlate directly with his engagement in disobedient acts. [These impediments and difficulties] are the true deficiency of [that] life. For the true secret of this issue is that the age of a man is measured only by the years of true life [in servitude to Allāh]. He possesses no such life except through turning towards his true Lord, to seek nourishment through loving and remembering Him, and prioritising that which is pleasing to Him above all else.

Effects of Evil: Sinning Begets More Sinning

From them is that disobedient acts seed more [disobedient acts], such that consecutive acts of disobedience beget one another. Up until it deeply pains the slave [of Allāh] to be apart from his sin, or to completely abandon it. As some of the pious predecessors used to say:

‘Indeed, from the punishment of a misdeed is a successive misdeed, just as the reward of righteous acts is another act of righteousness. Thus, the slave [of Allāh] engages in an act of goodness, and another [act of goodness] beside [his first] saying: ‘Enact this as well.’

If he carries it out, another one is expressed in a similar sentiment, and so on. So, his winnings are multiplied, his rewards increased many-fold. Similarly is the side of evil, such that his acts of obedience and disobedience become firmly established attitudes, consistent attributes, and an unwavering disposition. Such that if a good-doer was to cease his acts of righteousness it would feel to him as if his very soul is constricting within him, to the point that the earth closes in on him in spite of its vastness, and he feels within himself like a whale that has abandoned the water until he is able to return to [his rightful abode]. He then feels contentment, comfort and clarity in his eyes.

Similarly, if a criminal was to completely leave his acts of malfeasance, turning instead towards acts of piety, he would find his soul constricting within him, his very heart inhospitable and cramped [in relation to it], powerless in its execution, until he finally returns [to his previous sins].

For it has gotten to the point where many continuous sinners engage in disobedient acts while deriving no enjoyment from it, neither do they possess that which encourages them towards it, save only for the pain they feel through simply abandoning it. As explicitly stated by the shaykh of his people al-Ḥasan ibn Hāniʾ who said:

‘And a cup I drank from in [supposed] enjoyment, and another [I drink from] seeking only a cure from the first.’

Another [poet] said:

‘So it [sin] is my cure and also my sickness, as a drinker of intoxicants seeks to cure himself by drinking intoxicants.’

In so long as the slave [of Allāh] submits himself towards acts of goodness, making them habitual, feeling love for them, and holding them in esteem, [he will find] that Allāh by His Mercy will send angels that drive him towards [acts of righteousness], encouraging him, disturbing his rest and sitting until he engages in it. Just as if he was to continue habitual disobedience to where he loves it, and holds it above all else such that Allāh sends shayāṭīn [devils] in his wake that drive him further in its pursuit. The first [situation] is that the army of goodness is strengthened with support such that they become from among [Allāh’s] greatest allies. While the other lends support to the army of evil-doers and thus their allyship is in direct opposition [to Allāh].

Effects of Evil: Weakening the Heart’s Desire for Goodness

Acts of disobedience have ugly, blameworthy, and harmful side effects that extend to one’s heart, body, worldly life, and the hereafter; [the details] of which no one is fully aware of except for Allāh. From among the most frightening of them for the servant [of Allāh] is that [acts of disobedience] weaken the heart’s desire [for goodness]. Instead, the [heart’s] desire for disobedience is strengthened.

Furthermore, the desire for repentance is weakened, little by little, until it has completely abandoned the heart. Thus, half of the [heart] has died but one still does not turn to Allāh in repentance. Rather, he perpetually seeks forgiveness and repentance with the tongue of a liar; all the while his heart remains closely intertwined with disobedience. He continues his engagement in it, determined in its execution whenever the opportunity should present itself. This is from the greatest of all sicknesses and the closest of them to true destruction.

Effects of Evil: Sinfulness and Shamelessness

Acts of disobedience have ugly, blameworthy, and harmful side effects that extend to one’s heart, body, worldly life, and the hereafter; [the details] of which no one is fully aware of except for Allāh. From them is that the disgust [for acts of disobedience] are completely removed from the heart to the extent that such acts become routine. To the point where one does not even feel shame that people should see him engaging in disobedience, or that they should discuss his involvement with such things.

This [sinfulness], among perpetual sinners, represents the very apex of shamelessness and the most complete form of enjoyment [for them]. Among them are even those who boast to others regarding their disobedient acts. They inform those who are ignorant of their engagement in it, saying:

“O so-and-so, I did such-and-such [disobedient act]!”

This category of mankind is unforgivable, their path towards repentance is blocked, its doors locked before them in the majority of cases. As the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:

“All of my ummah can be forgiven, except for the mujāhirīn [those who engage in public acts of immorality]. This publicising includes the slave [of Allāh] whose privacy is maintained by Him [while he engages in disobedience], until he awakes in the morning and chooses to shame himself, saying: ‘O so-and-so, today I did such-and-such and such-and-such [disobedient act].’ Thus, he destroys himself while he spent the night in a state of privacy granted to him by his Lord.”

Effects of Evil: Dulling the Mind

Some of the pious predecessors used to say: There is no one who disobeys Allāh except that his intellect has abandoned him.

This matter is obvious, for if his intellect was truly present it would prevent him from engagement in such disobedient acts. He exists within the confines of his Lord’s grasp, under his subjugation. For He is fully acquainted with him while he is in his dwelling or place of sleep. His angels act as witnesses and watch over him. The ones who exhort using the Qurʾān forbid him. The exhorters of īmān forbid him. The exhorters of his imminent death forbid him. The exhorters of the Fire forbid him. For the goodness in this life and the hereafter that he has chosen to pass over is far greater than the happiness and enjoyment derived from the acts of disobedience he has chosen to engage in. So how can one with an unadulterated intellect present himself to such despicableness and contempt.

Effects of Evil: Trivialisation of Sin

Al-Bukhārī narrates in his ‘Ṣaḥīḥ’ that Ibn Masʿūd (رضي الله عنه) said: Indeed, the believer views his sin before him like a mountain which he fears is about to collapse upon him. While the perpetual sinner views his sins like a fly that has landed on his nose which he shoos away with his hand. So it flies away.1

Effects of Evil: The Despicable Nature of the Sinner

Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī said: They viewed Him as despicable so they chose to disobey Him. For if they had truly recognised His greatness, He would have protected them from such acts.

If a servant of Allāh chooses to be in a despicable state before Him, none can honour him. As the Most High said:

وَمَن يُهِنِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِن مُّكْرِمٍ

“And whomsoever Allah disgraces, none can honour him.”
(Ḥajj, 22:18)

Even if mankind’s apparent treatment of him is with reverence and respect, it is only due to their need for him or out of fear of his evil. All the while they hate and despise him with all their hearts.

[1] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 6308.

Source: Al-Dā wa-al-Dawāʾ: 134-141, 147-148
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: September 24, 2022
Edited: June 29, 2023


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