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Understanding Laziness in Islam – Shaykh Abdallah Adhami

bismillahi al-rahman al-rahim

Laziness, or lethargy can come from running low on “spiritual reserves,” from being in uninspiring settings — but, you know, I really believe that for the mu`min the center of tranquility, the sakina, the inspiration, all of that, is within. I know it is very hard — but by the grace and mercy of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’aala), it is in there. Sometimes what appears to be laziness could also be misinterpreted as “burnout” or exhaustion because we’re too hard on ourselves. May Allah (jalla thana`uhu) bless us with vision and wisdom to see the difference. The du`a that’s specifically against laziness is in the Sahih of Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) on the authority of sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (radiyallahu’anhu):

“… Allahumma inni a’outhu bika {Oh Allah I seek protection in you}
mina al-hammi wa al-hazan, {from anxiety and sadness}
wa al-‘ajzi wa al-kasal,* {and inability and laziness}
wa dhala’i al-dayni, {and the burden of debt}
wa ghalabati al-rijal …” {and the “humiliation” of men}*

The word “‘ajz” is not just inability or incapacity. It indicates a certain “lack” to act that comes from inner weakness. As in the hadith of Tirmidhi (rahimahullah), our beloved messenger (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “al-kayyisu man dana nafsahu wa ‘amila lima ba’da al-maout. wa al-‘ajizu man atba’a nafsahu hawaha, wa tamanna ‘ala Allahi al-amani.” – the intelligent or, vigilant servant is ever blameful of himself, and works for what comes after death; the ‘ajiz is the one who lets himself follow his whim, and then wishes for good things from Allah. Notice how the one who “follows his whim” is attributed to “weakness.”

Abu al-Hasan al-Mada`ini related the following (du’a): “Allahumma la takilna ila anfusina fa na’jaz, wa la ilan-naasi fa nadi’” — Oh Allah! do not leave us to our own selves for we would weaken. And, do not leave us to the whims of people for we would be lost.” When one is always concerned with how people think, that would ultimately affect her sincerity. Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radiyallahu ‘anhu) said: “Whoever purifies his intention to be sincere to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’aala), Allah would take care of what would be between him and people.”

This is reminiscent of the hadith of Zayd ibn Aslam (rahimahullah) that I related to you from the Muwatta` where he said: “Fear Allah (have  taqwa), and people would respect or, have an affinity toward you — even if they hated to.” ‘Ajz comes from being low on spiritual reserves and from the ghaflah — or, absent-mindedness, that comes from being content with little deeds. Al-imam al-Hasan al-Basri (rahimahullah) said: “the righteous ‘salaf’ were as fearful of their good deeds being squandered or not being accepted as the present generation is certain that their neglect would be forgiven.” Please remember that al-Hasan passed away 110 A.H.

In this capacity, Rabi’ah al-Qaysiyah al-‘Adawiayh (rahimahallah) said: “We need to repent to Allah (ta’aala) for the way that we repent to Him.” In this capacity, sayyiduna Sa’id ibn al-Jubair (radiyallahu ‘anhu) said: “The reward of a good deed, is a good deed after it. The ‘reward’ or, jazaa` of a bad deed is a bad deed after it. May Allah (‘azza wa jall) save us from ghaflah here, and humiliation in the akhira– amin. ‘Ajz is also synonymous to dha’f, as in Sura al-Nisa`: “wa khuliqa al-insanu dha’ifan.” Some scholars of language distinguish between dha’f — with a fatha; and dhu’f — with a dhamma. The former is weakness in body or in intellect or opinion; the latter is weakness in body only. In Surat ar-Rum, Allah (jalla thana`uhu) said: “He created you from dha’f, and provided you with strength after it …”The word kasal implies a certain “heaviness” or, tathaaqul to do something, rather than inability. Since the ‘ajz is the more complex inner dynamic associated with defeatism, we are taught to seek refuge from it first, because it is the inner weakness that leads to outer laziness and lethargy. Likewise, we are taught to seek refuge from anxiety because it leads to sadness.

Therefore, in the Sunan of Abu Dawud (rahimahullah), our beloved messenger (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “. . . Allah judges for ‘ajz, so be “mentally vigilant” – – ‘alayka bi al-kays – – and if something overwhelms or overcomes you, then say: ‘hasbiyallahu wa ni’ma al-wakil’.” Allah (jalla thana`uhu) describing the believers who were tested in Surah al-‘Imran: “fa ma wahanu lima asabahum fi sabili Allahi wa ma dha’ufu wa ma istakanu…” — and they did not “act weak” in the face of what befell them in the path of Allah, and they neither exhibited inner weakness, nor acted as if humiliated…” Our beloved messenger (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) warns: “He is not among us — i.e. does not embody our adab, who willingly agrees to humiliate himself, without being coersed.” When this happens on a communal level, you have a prevalent wahn, or defeatism. It means “weakness of the sort that no longer enables its bearer to stay ‘upright’.”

And, so Allah (jallah thana`uhu) gives the believers the proper perspective and focus in Surat al-‘Imran: “wa la tahinu wa la tahzanu wa antum al-a’laouna,” — do not become “weak,” do not grieve, for you will be dominant (i.e. high) — with the catch, however, “in kuntum mu`minin,” — if you would be believers. Surrender to Allah (‘azza wa jall) first, and you rise, you transcend the need for anything, truly. This yearning to be with Allah (jalla thana`uhu) is what begets the inner sakina referred to in the beginning. Yahya ibn Mu’adh (rahimahullah) said: “The servant who is ‘aware’ of Allah (ta’aala) leaves this world not having done enough of two things: crying over himself — and yearning to be closer to His Lord (subhaanahu wa ta’aala).”

May Allah grant us awareness. Ameen.


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