cure can not be found until the disease has been diagnosed and medicine is useless unless it counters the causes of the disease. From this we learn that the only thing which nullifies a thing, is its opposite. The reason why a person persists in sin is heedlessness and succumbing to desires. Only knowledge can counteract heedlessness, while patience and removing the causes eradicates the negative impact of desires.
The only way to obtain repentance is by mixing the sweetness of knowledge with the difficulty of patience.
Scholars are the physicians when treating the disease of persisting on sinning, for it is among the diseases of the heart that exceed those of the body. Sinfulness is a disease of the heart because of the following:
First: The patient does not know that he is a patient.
Second: It is not manifest visibly in this world like physical diseases whose consequence is real death and what is after death is part of the unknown. Thus, you might see someone who depends on Allah’s favors regarding diseases of the heart while he endeavors to treat physical diseases without depending on Almighty Allah.
Third: A disease is incurable when there is no physician. In this case, the physicians are the scholars, and sadly some scholars have diseases in their own hearts. Most physicians are overtaken by the vanities of this world. Consequently, they cannot warn people about diseases lest they reply, “Are you trying to treat us while you forget to treat yourself?” For this reason incurable diseases prevail and seeking treatment has almost come to an end.
If it is asked, “What should a preacher do when preaching?” To this, you can reply that this is an extensive subject, which is difficult to cover. In this context, we want to point out some useful methods that can be employed to lessen a person’s insistence on sinning. There are four methods:
To remind people about the verses in the Glorious Qur’an that warn sinners, and to remind them about what has been narrated from the sayings of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions. This should be accompanied by praising those who repent.
To remind them about the prophets and the righteous ancestors and the catastrophes that befell them because of sins. An example of this is what happened to Adam (peace and blessings be upon him) when he disobeyed his Lord and how he suffered for his sin by being cast out of Paradise. The Glorious Qur’an mentions this story so people may take heed of its lessons. Those who learn from such stories will be treated and will be happy. On the other hand, evil-doers are given chances but they only acquire more sins. Since the chastisement of Almighty Allah is more painful in the Hereafter, these stories should be mentioned repeatedly to those who persistently commit sins so their hearts may be stirred and they may be motivated to repent.
To explain that hastening punishment in this world is expected and that every affliction that a servant faces is because of the shameful acts he has committed. There are those who are unconcerned about the punishment in the Hereafter while they are afraid of the punishment of Almighty Allah in this world but this is because of their ignorance. The effect of a sin may be hastened in this world. This is proven by the hadith of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) in which he said,
Surely a servant may be deprived of bounty because of a sin he has committed.” (Ibn Majah)
Once Al-Fudayl Ibn `Iyad said, “When I commit a sin I can recognize this in the behavior of my donkey and my servant.”
According to Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,
“When a believer commits a sin, a black spot forms on his heart. If he repents and mends his ways and seeks forgiveness, the spot is purged from his heart. But if he continues sinning, the spot will grow until it covers his heart completely. That is rust, which Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) mentions in His Book, Nay, but that which they have earned is rust upon their hearts.” (Al-Mutaffifin 83:14) (At-Tirmidhi)
Al-Hasan Al-Basri (may Allah have mercy upon him) said, “A good deed is a light in the heart and a source of power in the body, while a bad deed is darkness in the heart and a source of weakness in the body.”
To tell the people about the punishment for major sins such as drunkenness, adultery, murder, pride, envy, and backbiting.
It is important to note that a learned person should be like a skillful physician who can diagnose the disease successfully so that he can treat it. It was reported that a man said to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him),
Advise me!” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Do not become angry and furious.” (Al-Bukhari)
Another man said to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him),
“Advice me!” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “You should be despondent of what is in the hands of people.” (Ibn Majah)
The two cases had different answers, even though it was the same question. It is as if the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) noticed signs of anger on the first person, and the signs of greed on the second one.
Treatment for Lustful Desire
Patience is very important when treating sensual desires. For example, a person’s disease may be prolonged because of having something harmful. Indeed, he is motivated to take these harmful things because of his ardent desire or his heedfulness. The cure is for the person to feel the difficulty of patience and this may be used to treat desire that leads to committing sins.
For example, if a young man is overtaken by his desires and consequently cannot keep his eyes, heart, and body away from them, he should remind himself of the threatening statements (of Allah’s punishment) that are mentioned in the Book of Allah, Most High, and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). Subsequently, if his fear increases, he will keep himself away from anything that causes his desire to increase.
It is important to be aware that desire increases due to an external stimuli. The treatment for this is hunger and continuous fasting and this can only be achieved by a patient person. Attending meetings where Almighty Allah is remembered and listening with a conscious heart is cruicial. Then, the person should ponder on what has been said and consequently fear will emerge in his heart.
A person may ask: Why does a person commit sins even though he knows their shameful consequences?
There are many answers to this question, including the following:
1- The promised punishment does not exist at the time.
2- Hoping for a long life is the dominant characteristic of human beings, so the person delays repenting. When he feels hopeful that he will repent, he may commits sins.
3- Man always hopes for Allah’s forgiveness.
To treat all these diseases, man should be mindful that the time of every matter is near at hand, and he is not sure when it may face him. He should also remember that the reason for his inability to avoid sins lies in the dominance of his desires and these will accompany him in the future. This situation is assured by habit.
The similitude of the one who delays repentence is like that of the person who wants to uproot a tree, but finds that it is very strong and will only be uprooted with difficulty. Thereupon, he says, “I will delay uprooting it for one year.” However, he does not know that the longer the tree lives, the more firmly rooted it will be, and that the older he becomes, the more feeble he will be. No wonder he is unable to uproot it, even though he uses all his strength, while it is very weak. How can he expect to uproot it if he grows weaker, while it grows stronger!
A person may await Allah’s forgiveness, and it is possible that the sinner may be forgiven, but he should be serious. This person is like the one who spent all his property, impoverished himself and his children, and waited for Almighty Allah to guide him to a treasure while he was in ruins. This can happen but such a person is foolish. Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He, knows best.