Effects of Evil

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim

A short series on the evil effects of sins which 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

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].

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

Published: September 24, 2022
Edited: October 15, 2022

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