*This list not compiled by me. What I do a lot of times is when I listen to lectures, I write it all out so it’s easier for me to remember and for me to share with others, so they can benefit and share with others. So this is from a lecture by Sheikh Adnan Abdul Qadir in Arabic and translated by Muhammad Tim Humble.
1. Having a lot of sins and disobedience towards Allah SWT
Sins are the poison of the soul and they cause the heart to die and wither. Allah SWT says: “Do you think we are going to make those people who committed sins like those who believe and do good deeds equal? Are we going to make those equal, those who are alive and those who are dead? Evil is how they judge.” Tirmidhi narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace & Blessings Be Upon Him) said: “The believer when he commits a sin a black dot is placed upon his heart.” So if he repents and he stops it, this black dot is wiped away. If he persists in sin, continues to sin, these black dots increase on the heart until they cover the entire heart. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace & Blessings Be Upon Him) described this as we read in the Quran, Allah SWT says: “By no means but on their hearts is the stain of the ill which they do!” For this reason Abdullah Mubarak (may Allah have mercy upon him) said: “I saw that sins cause the heart to die and could cause a person to be disgraced and leaving sins brings the heart to life and it is better for the soul to disobey itself, meaning, turn away from desires and leave it.” Allah SWT says: “Corruption has appeared on the land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned.” So sins corrupt the earth, the air, the seas, so do you not think that they don’t corrupt the hearts?
When Imam Shafi (may Allah have mercy upon him) sat as a student in front of Imam Malik (may Allah have mercy upon him) he said he was impressed with Imam Shafi and his depth of understanding. So Imam Malik said to Imam Shafi:“I see that Allah SWT has casted a light into your heart so do not extinguish it by the darkness of sins.” When one of us commits a sin, we feel a kind of a fear, a terror between you and Allah SWT. You feel there is a barrier between you and Allah SWT and your relationship is not what it was. No matter what you do to enjoy the pleasures of this life, it doesn’t go away. You sit with the most beloved of people to you and you make them laugh, they make you laugh but you still feel this feeling has not gone away. You even goto the most beautiful places to visit and you still feel this feeling has not gone away. You drink and eat the foods you like but you still feel this feeling, this barrier has not gone. You feel a darkness that is only in your heart. Even if you sit in the very peak of the day, you still feel this darkness has not gone away.
Abdullah Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “Good deeds are accompanied by a light in the heart and upon the face. It is also an expansion in provision, strength in the body and a love placed in the hearts of the people placed towards you. While bad deeds, evil deeds, have a darkness on the face and a darkness on the heart. It also causes weakness in the body, decrease in provisions and a hatred which is put in the hearts of people towards you.“
My brothers, the one who spends his time in sin, has lost. His life is lost. He will say on the day of judgement, “Oh, how I wish I put something forward for this life to experience.” So this heart except for when it turns to Allah SWT and it seeks pleasure from loving Allah SWT. Whoever Allah SWT disgraces, there will be no one to honour him. It is going to get a point where a slave of Allah does a sin till he reaches a level of disgrace in the sight of Allah SWT. Do not be like those people who forgot Allah so Allah caused them to forget themselves. This description is saying, we love you, so you love us. I guess the best way to say this is, when you loved us we loved you and when you abandoned us, we abandoned you. You disobeyed us and we gave you a period of time on this earth and if you come back in this time to us, we will accept this repentance from you. And whoever does good deeds from a believer, we will make them alive and give them a wonderful life.
2. The Trial Of Women
From the greatest of the sins that causes hardness of the heart is the trial of women. For this reason, Allah SWT explains the trail of women in Surah An-Nur (The Light) and he mentions fornication. And he says, “Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth. The example of Allah’s light is like a lamp in which there is a niche” and then Allah SWT says or “is it like a darkness in the depths of the sea.” So being chased and falling into these problems leads to a darkness on the face and a hardness on the heart. One of the pious people used to always go and see Uthman Ibn Afwan (may Allah be pleased with him) when he was in charge of the muslims. He said, one day before I went to go see him, a young girl walked passed and I began to look at her and continued to follow her with my eyes until she went into her house then I went to the chief of the believers, Uthman Ibn Afwan and he looked at me and then lowered his head. He said “what is the matter with some of you that he commits fornication outside and he comes inside to see me?” The pious person said, “has anyone had revelation happen to them after the Messenger Of Allah? How has he come to know this?” And this was because there was a darkness that appeared on his face. So this is the second reason why the hearts become hard and that is the trial of women.
3. To see the sins as insignificant
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace & Blessings Be Upon Him) said from a hadith from Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy upon him): “Be careful of those sins that you think that are insignificant for indeed they gather around a person till they destroy him.” From Al-Fuzail (may Allah have mercy upon him) said: “As little as the sins appear in your eyes is as great as it appears in the sight of Allah SWT.” The smaller you think of your sins in your eyes, the greater it is in the sight of Allah. One of the companions (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “You do actions in your eyes that are less insignificance than a hair. We used to consider them in the time of the Messenger of Allah as major sins.” So this is the third reason that leads hardness in the heart.
4. Not engaging with the laws/rules of the shariah and looking for excuses for yourself when committing sins.
Allah SWT mentions in the story of Musa, in Surah Al-Baqara with regards to the calf that was ordered to be slaughtered by the children of Israel. When Musa (Peace Be Upon Him) said to his people: “Your Lord orders you to slaughter a cow.” They got into a long discussion with him so Allah SWT said after it: “Then your hearts became hard after this.” This is the 4th reason
5. To continue doing sins
Allah SWT says: “We have sent messages to nations before you and we afflicted them with hardships and difficulties in hopes they would turn in repentance to Allah so only if the hardships had come from us, then only would they have done so but instead their hearts became hard and the shaytaan beautified and adorned what they used to do.” So this the 5th reason and that is to continue doing sins.
6. Not remembering Allah, not reciting the Quran and reflecting upon it
For this reason Allah SWT said: “Woe to those whose hearts are hard because they are not remembering Allah.” and Allah SWT said: “Do you not see what Allah SWT sent down from the sky rain? And it has flowed into the streams of the earth and Allah takes out of it crops of many colours.” This ayah came and then after it another ayah (verse). Allah SWT sent down the best of speech and it has many meanings close together.
7. Being hard and harsh with people, not over looking their mistakes and demanding your rights all the time
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace & Blessings Be Upon Him) said: “May Allah have mercy upon a person who is easy going. Easy going when he sells, easy going when he buys, easy when he takes his rights.” We see a lot in many cases Allah SWT brings these two issues together. Between the issue of eman (faith) and being good to the orphans and the poor. And likewise between disbelief and not being good to the orphans and the poor. And for this reason Allah SWT says: “Do you see the one that belies their religion so this is the one who repels and pushes away the orphans and is not keen to feed the poor.” And when Allah SWT mentions the kufr (disbelievers) in Surah Mudassir. “What caused you to be put into the blazing fire? and they say, it because we did not use to pray and we did not feed the poor and we used to engage with people who were involved in vain and idol talk and we used to bely the day of judgement.” and likewise Allah SWT mentions in Surah Al-Balad: “What will make you know this difficulty you are trying to over come” and then He says “to free a slave or to give food to people on a day when they are hungry, an orphan that is close to you or a poor person and so this person is from those who are patient and believe and advise each other to do this.” So if you want your heart to be soft, sit with the poor and the orphans and wipe over their heads, visit the sick and this will make your heart soft. This is the 7th thing that leads to the hardness of the heart and this is a hardness when dealing with people. Let some of your rights go. Sit with the poor and needy.
8. A person who doesn’t look at their own faults and doesn’t look at what they have done
A person always tries to advise other people. He always tries to teach lessons to other people but he doesn’t come back and look at himself. The soul is in need of self reflection. Likewise the body is in need of food, the soul is in need of self reflection. The soul needs to be fed by the love of Allah SWT and likewise doing a lot of worship to Allah SWT. This is why the Prophet Muhammad (Peace & Blessings Be Upon Him) was attached to the revelation being revealed to him and Jibriel (Peace Be Upon Him) coming with the revelation, waiting for him, until the ayah (verse) came with him and he (Jibriel) would read them to him and teach him the Quran. So even the Messenger Of Allah was waiting for Jibriel so he could take this nutrition for the soul. Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) said to one of the tabi’in and his name was Kaab. Umar said “Remind us Kaab.” And Imam Ahmad when he was older, even though he is the Imam of Ahlu-As Sunnah Wal-Jammah, they say he would take his quill, a pen and a paper and he was going to a certain place they would say, “Where are you going, Oh Abdullah.” He said “to attend a lesson.” They would reply, “You are going to a lesson when you are the imam of the people? And you are going to seek knowledge?” Imam Ahmad replied, “We will be in this state, with this pen and paper, until we reach the cemetery, until we are dead.”
9. Not being attached to Allah SWT or being attached to other than Allah SWT
This is to make your heart busy with the remembrance of other than Allah. If you have filled a glass with some kind of liquid can you keep filling it after it is filled? You can’t fill it up. You can’t put anything else into it. If you have a container filled to the top with food, can you put more food in it? So if your heart is full other than the remembrance of Allah SWT then how is it possible for you to fill it with the remembrance of Allah SWT?
10. Eating food that is haram, wealth that is haram
All the types of haram. Gambling, riba (interest) and other things. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace & Blessings Be Upon Him) said: “Perhaps a person would be in a severe state of poverty and covered in dust from trouble and would raise his hands to the sky and say My Lord! My Lord! My Lord!” He is very weak and in desperate need of Allah SWT and he is asking Allah SWT. Yet the Prophet Muhammad (Peace & Blessings Be Upon Him) said: “The food he eats is haram, the drink that he drinks is haram, if he is being fed with haram then how is Allah going to answer him?” So if a persons food is haram and their wealth is haram, then how is it possible for their heart to be soft?