Ghafla – An Illness of Hearts
What is Ghafla?
The Arabic word Ghafla, coming from ghayn-fa-laam ( غ ف ل) explains an illness that is prevalent in many of our hearts today. It gives the meaning of being unmindful, neglectful, heedless, and is many times referred to as an intentional turning away. So in the case of Islaam, what does one turn away from, and what symptoms, causes and losses arise from such a state?
Turning Away from…
When a person is described to be in a state of Ghafla in Islaam, it means that he or she is turning away from and being heedless and negligent of the duties towards Allah and the requirements of a Muslim. Also referred to in the Qur’aan, it also implicates those who are heedless of the remembrance of Allah. They contain no dhikr (remembrance) of Allah in their hearts, be it Qur’aan or any general form of dhikr. In a broader scope, it includes those who do not pay attention to their end in the Hereafter, who neglect the accounting to come on the Day of Judgement and do not see the Ayaat (signs) of Allah. Allah describes them in the Qur’aan as even worse than cattle, as they have hearts yet they do not understand; they have eyes yet they cannot see what’s right, and they have ears yet they do not hear the truth.
And surely, We have created many of the jinns and humankind for Hell. They have hearts wherewith they understand not, they have eyes wherewith they see not, and they have ears wherewith they hear not (the truth). They are like cattle, nay even more astray; those! They are the heedless ones. [7:179]
Just as there are physical illnesses of the body, Ghafla is a type illness of the heart. This illness may not be tangible to the human sight but has great affect on a person’s spiritual health. It creates love and attention only of the life of this world and removes the striving towards the Akhirah. It prompts people into becoming unaware of the accounting to come and the sins they are committing. Ghafla is thus, for the human heart, one of the worst types of diseases to contract.
Why is this so? Because even a person who is a sinner may commit sins day and night and at one point become tired of sinning. They may see the reality of their wrongdoings and return to Allah with Tawbah (repentance), and by that, become better then they were before, out of fear of their sins. But a person — when they are heedless, will never become sick of their sins, as they do not see them or believe they are doing them. Due to their condition of neglect for themselves, they have no idea of right and wrong in their actions!
And what a dangerous situation this becomes. As when a person does not see their sins, they will of course not repent of them. And to compound upon their state of sinning and neglect, is the seal is placed upon their hearts, ears, and eyes.
Allaah says in the Qur’aan: They are those upon whose hearts, hearing (ears) and sight (eyes) Allah has set a seal. And they are the heedless! [16:108]
This seal now prevents any good from coming in and a person increasingly inclines towards wrong. Despite this, since they can no longer make use of their most important faculties, they are not able to realize the direction they are heading. Thus, Ghafla is what leads a person to sinning and also a cause for a person to continue in that direction as well.
Amazingly, though this disease has such ill effects and is so prevalent in our societies- so little do we do to prevent it. When physical diseases come out into notice, we rush to find their symptoms, causes and cures. Yet often when we are told of such a disease of the heart, we do not seem to take the same precautions. Therefore, to counteract this act of heedlessness – Let’s look a bit more into this disease of Ghafla and check ourselves as well:
Certain Symptoms of Ghafla
- When doing an action, you neglect the intentions or are devoid of them – Imam Ahmad rahimahullah before doing any action would advise to pause for a few moments before doing it, simply to bring about the right intentions.
- Shaytaan freely enters your house/area (though this cannot be seen, its effects may manifest).
- Being devoid of dhikr within your life.
- Belief in the longevity of life – The `ulama would say that one of the big soldiers of Shaytan is “Future” (i.e. believing that a person will do something in the future, that they will do good actions/repent at some point later).
- Being away from Gatherings of Remembrance / Knowledge.
- Not remembering Death and its reality.
- Being immersed in the enjoyments of Life.
- Following all whims and desires.
- Associating and being friends with those who are in Ghafla.
- Failing to judge/interrogate ourselves.
- Not doing dhikr.
- Constantly interrogate your Nafs, and see what it is doing wrong.
- Question yourself: What is preventing me from doing better?
- Remember to be engaged in Dhikr. Although recommended throughout the day, specifically remember to do the morning and evening adkhaar. And in doing so, try to understand it is you are saying, rather than reciting by rote memorization.
- Visit Graves to remember death (according to most opinions, this is only allowed for men).
- Seek refuge within your Duas from falling in ghafla.
- Praying Qiyaam ul-Layl with at least 10 ayaat:
- The Prophet sallahu `alayhi wa sallam said, “Whoever spends the night by reciting 10 ayahs is not deemed to be among the heedless…” [Sihah Sita, Vol. 9, Hadith no: 3003; Abu Dawoud, Salat 326 (1398)]
- Seek repentance after sinning, and even if you have not sinned constantly stay in a state of repentance:
- “Truly Allah loves those who turn [to Him] in repentance, and He loves those who keep themselves in purity.” (2:222)
- Make friends with those who keep you in the remembrance of Allah.
- Read the Qur’aan with understanding. It is a cure for the heedless hearts, but only when they take the time to understand it.
Losses (while in Ghafla)
- Inability to understand the Qur’aan.
- Loss of the mercy of Allaah subhana wa ta`ala.
- Prevention from the acceptance of Du`aa
- The Prophet sallahu `alayhi wa sallam said: “Call upon Allaah when you are certain of receiving a response, and remember that Allaah does not answer a du’aa’ that comes from a heedless heart.” [Narrated by al-Tirmidhi]
- Shaytaan is with the those who are heedless.
- Regret in the Aakhirah (hereafter) of what they missed while in Ghafla.
The above is by no means a complete list of all causes and conditions of this disease. It is only a small outlines some certain characteristics. Ultimately it is up to us to look towards our states and critically judge ourselves. Are we in a state of heedlessness? Can we see some of these symptoms in our lives? Have our hearts been touched by these outcomes? And in the end, it is up to us to rectify our situations, if and when we fall into heedlessness, before it is too late.
Imagine this Parable
A man passes by a forest while traveling on a journey. On his way, he finds himself confronted by a lion, which begins to race towards the man in order to attack him. The man, seeing this, begins to run for his life but soon gets tired. At that point, he notices a tree and quickly climbs it. However the lion, refusing to give up, is still present beneath the tree waiting for the man to fall.
The man feels himself losing strength, but knows if he falls that he will be eaten, so he turns to the other side to jump off the tree. Yet there, beneath him, he finds a pit of snakes. There are now two things which could happen. Looking further down, the man realizes that there are two beavers eating away at the trunk of this tree, one black and one white, and notices his tree is about to fall. In the midst of this all, the man spots some bees and a honeycomb near his branch and begins to draw out and eat the honey.
The question might come out now… what is this parable supposed to mean? Well quite simply, the man represents us as individuals. The lion is our fate- whatever accidents, events, or sicknesses which may cause our life to end abruptly. The tree is our life, and the beavers of the two colors are the day and night, meaning the time which eats away at our period of living. The snakes and the hole represent our graves; thus, even if a person is not afflicted by sudden death, their graves still wait for them at the end of their lives. And lastly, the bees and the honey represent the sweetness of life. It represents all that causes us to forget our surroundings and the situation we are in. It represents the Ghafla which causes us to become so concentrated on its sweetness, that we forget reality.
The real question then is – will we be able to stop eating that honey quickly enough to realize the reality of our lives? Or by then… will it be too late?
May Allah protect us from all that which makes us heedless. Ameen
(( Sorry for the long post – Jazaakallah khayr for reading ))