Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
How do I deal with feelings of hypocrisy, hardness of heart, enjoyment of the suffering of others, and thoughts of arrogance?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
I ask Allah Most High, the One who has control over the hearts, to grant relief to your heart and make you of His most beloved servants. Amin.
Doubts, thoughts, misgivings, etc… are all external factors that try to creep their way into our hearts. Because they are external by nature, you are not accountable for them until and unless you allow them in and embrace them.
Shaytan has dedicated the remainder of his life in this world to deceiving and misleading mankind, especially those who are on the path of salvation (i.e., the Muslims). However, he has no ability to force our hand toward evil; his only attack is the whispers and suggestions of evil which you puts forth to the hearts of mankind.
These tactics of Shaytan are described by Allah Most High as being weak. Allah Most High says, “… So fight against Satan’s ˹evil˺ forces. Indeed, Satan’s schemes are ever weak.” [Qur’an; 4:76]
Don’t Waste Your Time Worrying About Shaytan
It is narrated from one of the early Muslims that he said to his student, “What will you do if Shaytan entices you towards sin?” The student replied, “I’ll fight him off.” To this, the teacher replied, “What if he comes back?” The student answered again, “I’ll fight him off.” Again the teacher repeated, “What if he comes back?” The student replied a third time, “I’ll fight him off.”
The teacher then said, “That’s going to take long. What if you pass by some sheep and the sheepdog of the flock barks at you or stops you from passing? What would you do?” The student replied, “I’ll exert myself to fight it off.” Again the teacher said, “This will take long. Better yet, take the help of the owner of the sheep. He will stop it from bothering you.” [Ibn al-Jawzi, Talbis Iblis]
The dog in this story is the likeness of Shaytan, he will incessantly continue to plot against you, and your efforts will be of no avail in stopping him. Therefore, the only effective recourse is to turn to the One who created Shaytan, the One in whose control is the dominion of the heavens and the Earth.
Turning to Almighty Allah
The first step in turning to Allah Most High is to renew your perception of Allah. It is not Allah’s desire to cast you into the Hellfire or that you should live a life of inner torment. Allah Most High explains to us exactly what He intends.
Allah Most High says, “It is Allah’s Will to make things clear to you, guide you to the ˹noble˺ ways of those before you, and turn to you in mercy. For Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. And it is Allah’s Will to turn to you in grace, but those who follow their desires wish to see you deviate entirely ˹from Allah’s Way˺.
And it is Allah’s Will to lighten your burdens, for humankind was created weak.”
The second step is to turn to Allah Most High in hope of His mercy. Allah Most High says, “Say: My servants who have wronged yourselves, never despair of God’s mercy. God forgives all sins: He is truly the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful.” [Qur’an, 39.53]
The third step is knowledge: knowledge of the plots of Shaytan, the foundational Islamic beliefs, and the commandments and prohibitions of Allah Most High that apply to you.
Protection Through Knowledge
With knowledge, one is protected from much of the misgivings and doubts that many suffer from. Doubts, and especially doubts in faith, are easily rectified by acquiring a deeper understanding of the religion (al-fiqh fi al-din).
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “A person of deep understanding (of the religion) is harder on the Shaytan than a thousand worshippers (who do not have such understanding).” [Tirmidhi]
Diagnosis and Cure
It must be clarified that Shaytan is to blame for inciting you to despair regarding your state or to doubt your faith. However, arrogance, jealousy, etc… are diseases of the heart which every human is susceptible to. These diseases are a must to strive and remove.
If we feel that we have any of these diseases, we are one step closed to curing them. The problem is when someone discovers that they have arrogance and they despair, become depressed and complacent, and do not aspire, or at least intend, to strive in removing and curing that disease.
All of the diseases of the heart have signs by which they can be diagnosed and cures through which they are removed. This is a central part of Islam taught throughout the Qur’an and the Prophetic narrations.
Allah Most High says, “And by the soul and ˹the One˺ Who fashioned it, then with ˹the knowledge of˺ right and wrong inspired it! Successful indeed is the one who purifies their soul, and doomed is the one who corrupts it!” [Qur’an; 91: 7-10]
The purification of the heart/soul does not occur overnight; it takes dedication and the understanding that in the end – despite our measly efforts, it is Allah Most High who grants the heart its purity, purely from His mercy and bounty.
Making Efforts Seeking Allah’s Mercy
But we must take the means and make what effort we can to show the sincerity of our desire to be beloved to Him.
Allah Most High says, “O believers! Do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Whoever follows Satan’s footsteps, then ˹let them know that˺ he surely bids ˹all to˺ immorality and wickedness. Had it not been for Allah’s grace and mercy upon you, none of you would have ever been purified. But Allah purifies whomever He wills. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.
Do not despair! Do not lose hope! Be optimistic! Seek knowledge and a deeper understanding of the religion from a reliable scholar in your area or online here at www.seekersguidance.org/courses.
If you feel you still are suffering, don’t suffer in silence. Counseling is a medical science and extremely effective. Do not be shy to reach out to a mental health professional. Ideally, seek out a Muslim psychiatrist or counselor. Turn to Allah Most High is du’a. Express your desperation and burdens to Him. He will answer your calls and open for you a path to Him.
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani