A person may be mindful of external sins, but be unaware of hidden sins. These hidden sins can even surpass those external ones. What are external sins? These are gambling, the consumption of alcohol, fornication, larceny, theft and the like. What are the hidden sins? These are pride and arrogance first and foremost. Whose characteristics are these? These are Satan’s characteristics. Where are the roots of these? In Hellfire. What is pride? It is associating yourself with the Glorious Divine Grandeur of Allah. How could one even dare? Whatever capability Allah has bestowed you with, that is a blessing for you. And so, when Satan was teacher to the angels, he was ruined.
Qarun was destroyed in the same way. He established his palace and gave banquets. He displayed a constant pride. And the Almighty caused him, along with his palace and treasures, to be swallowed by the earth. Bal’am bin Ba’ura’ also excelled in spirituality. He too yielded to his carnal self and his desires. His likeness was that of a dog with its tongue lolling out. This was the extent of his bewilderment, reveals the Almighty. There was also Tha’laba ibn Hatib, who used to pray behind the Messenger of Allah. He used to leave the mosque as soon as the prayer ended. Our Prophet once asked. “Tha’laba, why are you in such a hurry? What is the reason for your haste?” “O Messenger of Allah,” he replied, “We have only one cloth. Upon finishing the prayer, I rush home immediately so that my wife can cover herself with this cloth and perform her prayer also. O Messenger of Allah, pray that Allah bestow me wealth so that I can spend it generously in His way and be at ease in my prayer.” The Prophet told him that less wealth for which he could give thanks was better than much wealth for which he could not be grateful. Tha’laba returned at another time and repeated his request. The Prophet asked, “Tha’laba, would you not wish to be like Allah’s Messenger?” However, as Tha’laba’s wealth gradually began to increase, he came less frequently to the prayer at the mosque. When it was time for zakat, and the official when to collect it from him, he refused to pay it, asking, “Do you want zakat or jizya?” When the Prophet heard this, he said that zakat was no longer to be collected from him. Later in the caliphate of Abu Bakr, Abu Bakr too refused to accept it. The same happened with ‘Umar during his caliphate. They said, “We will not accept what the Prophet refused to accept.” On his deathbed, Tha’laba said in regret, “Allah’s Messenger had said to me, ‘Tha’laba, the little wealth for which you give thanks is much better than that which you cannot manage.’ Again, he had said, ‘Would you not wish to be like Allah’s Messenger?'” In sum, may our Lord protect us from the affliction of pride and self-conceit.
Again, our Prophet describes the people of Hellfire. The first group are those who are hard hearted – those with a diminished conscience, in other words. They are coarse, he says. Coarseness is not a quality pertaining to the human being, but which belongs to other creatures. They are miserly, he says. They keep the wealth bestowed to them by Allah, to themselves. Cowardice. The person who walks in insolence upon the earth, he says. The Prophet says that these are the four groups of the inhabitants of Hellfire. Why does he reveal these to us? In order for us to protect ourselves from these characteristics, should we indeed possess them. Pride, arrogance and self-conceit. These are habits with roots in Hellfire. The attribute of grandeur (kibriya’) is one that is unique to Allah Almighty. The Almighty does not want association with His attribute of grandeur.
Another evil character trait is again one that is forbidden and that is jealousy. What is jealousy? It is discontent with what Allah has given and assigned for you, and to object to your lot. It is to covet the situation of others. Sura al-Nisa 4:54. It is declared in the verse: “Or do they envy others for what Allah granted them out of His grace and bounty?” The Prophet cautions us against jealousy, for jealousy consumes goodness like the fire consumes wood or grass. And do not be envious of one another, it is stated. “O, servants of Allah, be brothers (and sisters)…” Of course, this envy is not only in wealth and riches, but in all things. Envy in rank and position, etc. Envy in all things. Allah forbid! This is one of the great sins. Where then is salvation? In one narration, the Prophet indicated his chest saying, “Piety is here”. A Muslim’s looking down upon their brother or sister and holding them in contempt is enough evil for a person, he says. Another issue is anger, which is also forbidden. “Those who spend (of that which Allah has given them) in ease and in adversity.” He reveals, that is, the character of the Muslim. The Muslim is to give in times of abundance and in times of hardship. Abu Dharr, one of the Companions, had nothing. The Prophet first told Abu Dharr to add water to the soup cooked in his house. He then told him to survey his surroundings, to see who was hungry and who was not. Thirdly, he instructed giving with courtesy when giving to those in need. “Those who spend (of that which Allah has given them) in ease and in adversity.” “They control their anger.” This is also very important. Controlling one’s anger. “They are forgiving toward humankind; and Allah loves the good.” The hardest thing is to restrain one’s anger. ‘Ali once overpowered an unbeliever and, just as he was about to kill him, the unbeliever spat on ‘Ali’s face. ‘Ali, may Allah be well pleased with him, released him, sheathed his sword and told him to go. Astonished, the man said, “You were a storm, a rough sea, what has caused you to become so calm?” ‘Ali said, “Had I killed you before you spat on me, it would have been for the sake of Allah. When you spat on me, my carnal self came into play. I was in this instance to kill you for my own carnal self and thus forfeit that reward. Thus, Allah Almighty declares that they are “ever-restraining their rage”. The Prophet states that when you get angry, you should make ablution, perform two units of prayer, change your position and place, as anger causes madness and frenzy. Who knows how you will injure the heart of the person across you.
Another issue is hypocrisy. The Almighty does not want that partners are associated with Him. Hypocrisy is an association of partners with Allah. Hypocrisy is your associating mortal beings with Allah, in those things you do for His sake. Whereas, Allah “accepts what is offered as charity” (9:104). You expect this from Allah and you expect compliment from others. That is why you must give in charity openly only if necessary; otherwise, giving in secret is more virtuous. However, if necessary, you can give openly. This is another matter, but only in certain circumstances.
Another issue is stinginess. Allah Almighty commands that you are not tight-fisted. He declares that He will replace whatever you give in charity. It is narrated that two angels descend every day. One of them says: “O Allah, give him more who spends (for Your sake)”. The first angel prays for the generous person. And the other says: “O Allah, bring destruction to one who withholds,” because they assume that wealth is theirs. But wealth belongs to Allah and it is a means of trial.
The other is waste. This is also prohibited. It is declared in Sura al-Isra’: “Surely squanderers are ever brothers of satans; and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord.” (Isra’ 17:27) What then, is waste? Waste is the effort to suppress a sense of inferiority. A person needs to demonstrate their own character and person. They are unable to do so; they are low in character, so they attempt to suppress their feelings of inferiority through squandering. The Almighty has forbidden this.
Another important issue is spying, or seeking out the faults of others. Allah Almighty declares, “and do not spy (on one another),” (wa la tajassasu). The Almighty does not want human beings to spy on each other. He commands them not to pry into the secret affairs of each other. Seeking out the shortcomings and faults of others is spying. The greats used to interrupt the words of a backbiting person, saying, “I possess more of what you speak of.” That is why we must try to reform a person who has erred. This is why Mawlana Jalal al-din al-Rumi states: “Come, Come, Whoever you are.” His famous words. Come and be cared for here, he says. Come and see the beauties of Islam in this school of learning. Come and find peace here. This does not mean come if you are drunken, immoral, wanton and continue to commit here all this wrongdoing.
In sum, the heart of a Muslim must be a school of learning. It must be a centre of rehabilitation. In other words, it must not project the abhorrence felt towards sin towards the sinner. On the contrary, it must embrace the wrongdoer and, accepting them as being in need of compassion like an injured bird, it must take them within the palace of their heart and treat them therein. This is a religious obligation. The friends of Allah have reformed the people not through punishment, but with virtue. They would take offence at sin, but would endeavour to treat the sinner. When the fourth verse pertaining to alcohol was revealed, the Companions caught a person in a drunken state. They bought him to the presence of God’s Messenger. They had handled him roughly in the process. Allah’s Messenger uttered a single sentence. With that sentence, that man gave up alcohol permanently. This demonstrates that one needs to know how to speak. The Prophet said, “He loves Allah and His Messenger.” The drunken man, who heard this, looked to his own heart and told himself, “If I love Allah’s Messenger, than I have to stop this.” The Prophet said, “He loves Allah and His Messenger,” and the man gave up drinking at that moment, for good. This goes to show that we need to know how to use our words. What does Allah Almighty declare? “Always speak words true, proper and straight to the point,” “say to them profound words,” “address them in gracious words”.
Again, someone came, who had in all likelihood just become Muslim. He came to the Prophet’s Mosque and relieved himself there. The Companions were almost about to unsheathe their swords and pull him to pieces. According to one narration, our Prophet said, “Let him be.” The man finished relieving himself and Allah’s Messenger asked for a pail of water, which he himself poured or had poured over it. Then he told the man that this was a place of prostration to Allah, a place wherein the word of Allah was recited. He said that when such a need arose again, the man see to this need outside. When the man saw the tenderness of Allah’s Messenger in response to the sternness of the Companions, he said, “O Messenger of Allah, may Allah forgive us both.” How beautiful was the instruction of Allah’s Messenger. He told the man to pray for his brothers also and say “May Allah forgive us all.” This is Islam.