An Itchy Heart

Kamal El Makki was in town and his talk yesterday on temptations and addictions was beautiful – definitely one to be recorded and passed on. Anything to do with the heart is always beautiful.

Scholars will tell you that to cure an addiction, just attach your heart to Allah, and be more consistent and conscious in your salah. For an addict, that does not sound like the best advice. How will salah automatically fix someone who has so many problems just showing up to pray? He explains that it all depends on our information about addictions. Years ago, tests were done on a lone rat who selected water that was filled with heroin or cocaine, as opposed to pure water, over and over again until it lead to its death. From this we learnt that the drugs are addictive. Many years later, however, they discovered a flaw in the experiment – the rat was alone. So they introduced social factors – a rat park which had plenty of activities, and many other rats – and gave them the same options: pure water, and water laced with a drug. This time, not a single rat got addicted or died.

There lies the difference – the rats had other things to bond with, besides chemicals. This theory is reinforced in the fact that during surgery or an injury, a patient is given morphine – which is a pure form of heroin – to help with the pain. Even if the drug is taken for weeks at the time, they don’t leave the hospital with a morphine addiction, because they were not bonding with the drug. So the basic point of this is: If you connect with Allah, fill your heart with the love of Allah (swt), focus on Allah, you will get over any addictions or temptations in this world.

Love is a powerful drug – The learned people say that love of Allah is better than fearing Allah, because fearing Allah just makes you keep away from bad deeds, while love is a splendid motivator to go above and beyond the normal. It makes you do extra good deeds, and puts the obedience of Allah above your own basic comfort. We may not understand how the early Muslims could finish the whole Qur’an in one salah, or take so long in sujood, or be so devoted; but there are many people today who are not Muslim who don’t understand how women can cover themselves even when it’s extremely hot, how Muslims keep going back to their prayer mat or the mosque 5 times a day, or how they abstain from food and drink for a whole month. What makes us do it? Love of Allah.

A lot of people believe that in order to fill their hearts with the love of Allah, they have to rid it of the love of other things first, but that’s not the way to go. Our hearts are always filled with something – it’s like a bottle that’s filled with water, and the moment you pour the water out, air starts filling the bottle. It is never filled with nothing, a vacuum – that would make it collapse on itself. Similarly, focusing on loving Allah is what pushes out the love of this world from our hearts. Too often we fail in this because we’re doing it wrong. We cannot expect to empty ourselves of all sinful things and then become perfect people. While we are attempting that, Shaytan is happily filling our hearts with other useless addictions.

What does it mean to love Allah?

1) It means to know Him (swt) – We spend too long focusing on reciting the Qur’an with perfect tajweed and memorising, and not enough trying to understand what it is that Allah (swt) is telling us. What better way to learn about our Creator than through His Words? Understand Him, build a connection with Him, identify Him in the small and big parts of your life. When you have food to eat, it is because He is feeding you, if you sleep on a comfortable bed, it is because He is keeping you such, the moments you are happy, and even when you cry, it is because He has facilitated the circumstances. Even when someone smiles at you, let alone helps you in a way that you never thought would happen, it is only because Allah loves you and provides for you.

  ﴾وَأَنَّهُ هُوَ أَضْحَكَ وَأَبْكَىٰ ﴿٤٣   And that it is He who makes [one] laugh and weep (53:43)

2) It means to be completely obedient – Love makes us do things we didn’t think we’d do otherwise. People give up smoking in order to marry someone who disagrees with the habit, they give up foods they love in order to preserve the health they treasure, they give up sleep in order to sweat it out exercising if it will get them the body they desire. Extreme love results in obedience, and not caring about your own comforts in the process.

3) It means to prepare to meet Allah (swt) – Most people hate death because all they work for is this life. They work tirelessly to build a house, then a bigger house, to accumulate wealth, travel, etc, but little time and effort is spent in building palaces in the next life. Your heart is attached to where your effort was invested. So much of our lives is spent in working, eating, sleeping, in the bathroom, stuck in traffic, being kept on hold… How much of that time did we devote to Allah (swt)?

There is a hadith in Sahih Bukhari which states:

مَن أحَبَّ لِقاءَ اللهَ أحَبَّ اللهُ لِقاءهُ  “Whoever loves to meet Allah, Allah loves to meet him”

There are two ways to take our life back from the mundane activities and prepare for the Akhirah:

a) Fix your intentions – We are rewarded for our intentions, and every part of our day can be committed to the love of Allah. We sleep so that we are refreshed  and can worship Him, we eat to rejuvenate our bodies in order to serve Him better, we shower because He loves those who keep themselves clean, we dress well because He is Beautiful and loves beauty, cooking for the family has a new meaning because you are feeding others – a deed that Allah loves, and so on. Find a way to connect everything you do to Allah, and you will see that you cannot justify sinning and wasting time.

b) Remembering Allah (dhikr) – It is said that we spend 20 weeks of our life being put on hold. If you make a deal with yourself to say سُبحان الله و بِحَمدِه every time you find yourself on hold, you would have said it more than 1 million times in your life. (Did you know that saying that phrase 100 times at a normal pace takes just 2.5 minutes?) We need to make the most of our day! Keep dhikr every time you’re waiting for something, and you won’t be sorry on the Day of Judgment!

4) It means to work on your salah – When you meet a king, he will judge you based on how you’re dressed, how you speak, your body language, etc – he will decide whether to honour your request or not based on how you are right then. When we stand in front of Allah (swt) in salah, He knows what is in our hearts and what we say out loud, what we were doing just before we came to pray, what we sacrificed for Him a few days ago, and what deeds we hid from everyone else – good or bad. He gives us the khushoo’ that we so covet in salah based on how we are outside our salah. So work on yourself outside salah to be successful during it. 

5) It means to put in some effort – There are lots of acts of worship that we do during the day, but many of them have become monotonous and routine. We need to revive the heart of our deen, to remember Who we are doing it for, and to put in some effort to do more. Allah (swt) appreciates every single thing we do –  He is الشّاكر الشّكور, The Most Appreciative. He knows how hard it is for you to wake up for Fajr, so he multiplies the reward for that more than that of the average person. He knows lowering your gaze is hard, but He sees the effort it takes for you to do so. He sees you biting back your retort because you don’t want to be rude – something that didn’t bother you before. The love of Allah makes us do crazy things, but all in a good way.

…وَاللَّـهُ يُضَاعِفُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ…  …And Allah multiplies [His reward] for whom He wills… (2:261)


I want to end with a brilliant suggestion that he gave: The 2 rak’ah solution. If there is a bad habit you want to break but can’t seem to do so, commit yourself to praying 2 rak’ahs every time you do it, be it quitting smoking – so every time you have a cigarette; listening to music, etc. Take wudhu and hit the floor. Shaytan hates that we pray more, more than he loves the sin that we commit. This one takes a lot of commitment and dedication, but it’s worked for everyone who’s tried it!


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