ÎMÂN IS THE product of our ʿibâda, but as the Prophet œ warned, ʿibâda can be barren. Abû Hurairah related that the Prophet œ said:
Many people who fast get nothing from their fast except hunger and thirst, and many people who pray at night get nothing from it except wakefulness.(Dârimi)
What distinguishes a spiritually fulfilling action from an empty one is khushûʿ. Khuhsûʿ is essential for us to gain the brightness of îmân in our hearts from our worship. Contrary to popular assumption, khushûʿ isn’t just a thing felt during prayer, but is constantly carried in the heart. Whenever the believer is reminded of Allah, for any reason, this feeling of khushûʿ is stirred, even if it is something as simple as pondering over Allah’s creation as he takes a morning walk, Allah says:
Surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation (Or: differences) of the night and the day-time, and the ships that run in the sea with whatever profits mankind, and whatever water Allah sends down from the heaven – so therewith He gives life to the earth after its death and disseminates therein kinds of beast – and the (constant) turning about of the winds, and the clouds subjected between the heaven and the earth, (these) are indeed signs for people who consider. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:164]
Additionally, certain actions can increase the darkness of the heart. Of course sins are the main cause of this blackness Abû Hurairah quoted the Messenger of Allah œ as saying:
Verily, when the believer commits a sin a black spot appears upon his heart. If he repents and abandons the sin and seeks forgiveness, then his heart will be polished. If he increases in sin, then the blackness is increased. That is the rân (covering) which Allah has mentioned in His Book: No, but on their hearts is a covering because of what they have earned. (Al-Ḥâkim)
However there is a danger to our îmân that lurks within that which is doubtful or even permissible; laghw, often translated as idle, vain or useless talk. Just like light and darkness, or positive and negative, khushûʿ and laghw are opposing forces; the more khushûʿ a Muslim carries in his heart, the more he will naturally shun laghw, and the more a Muslim indulges in laghw, the more he will struggle to develop khushûʿ.
Entertainment and casual conversation are essential to developing a balanced lifestyle. The Prophet was playful with the Ṣaḥâba and his wives, but compared to the amount of time the Prophet spent in the ṣalâh or reciting the Quran, however, these playful incidents were a drop in the bucket. It was the sunnah of the foremost Ṣaḥâba to complete the recitation of the entire Quran in three days. We may not be able to bring our level of ʿibâda to such heights, but we should look at the ratio of time we spend on entertainment and social activities versus the amount of time we spend on ʿibâda and contrast this with the sunnah of this generation. If we feel we are struggling to have khushûʿ in or our connection with Allah, then we need to examine the amount of time we are spending on laghw; this ratio will most likely explain a dullness in îmân for the practicing Muslim. The Prophet œ said:
Do not laugh too much, for excessive laughter deadens the heart. (Ibn Mâjah)
Before we continue, we need to accurately define both khushûʿ’ and laghw. Laghw originates from the word Laghiya or Laghya, which means to speak nonsense, to interrupt, to speak over someone else, vain speech, or idle speech. The trademark of laghw is that it has no benefit in dîn or dunya. So playing with one’s children, spending time with a spouse or even a friend, isn’t laghw. Laghw is what many friends end up doing, though (Facebook friends most of all). It is not necessarily in and of itself evil speech.
No laghw will they hear therein, nor any sinful speech (like backbiting, etc.). [Sûrat Al-Wâqiʿah, 56:25]
Note that laghw is mentioned separately from sinful speech.
Also, Allah says in Sûrat Al-Baqarah:
Allah does not impose blame upon you for what is laghw in your oaths, but He imposes blame upon you for what your hearts have earned. And Allah is Forgiving and Forbearing. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:225]
Ibn Kathîr says, This âyah means: “Allah does not punish or hold you accountable for the laghw vows you make.” The laghw vows are unintentional and are just like the habitual statements that the tongue repeats, without really intending them.” Ironically we hear these false oaths of “wallah” and “wallâhi” taken over the most mundane things in the most pointless conversations. Often times they come alongside jokes or chatting to waste time.
Khushûʿ comes from the word khashaʿa, and it means to be submissive and humble, to cast one’s eyes downward, to exercise restraint, and to throw oneself completely at God’s Mercy. A near word is khâshiʿa, which means to fear with a reverential fear, to have an awe with fear. A beautiful âyah that ties both terms together is found in Sûrat Al-Ḥashr:
If We had sent down this Quran upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled [khushûʿ] and coming apart from fear of Allah [khâshiʿa]. And these examples We present to the people that perhaps they will give thought. [Sûrat Al-Ḥashr, 59:21]
Perhaps the best way to think about khushûʿ is to think of one’s heart as the mountain Allah mentioned in this âyah; does our heart crumble when the Qur’an settles upon it? Are we moved by the Qur’an or reminders of Allah or His Messenger œ? As we go through our day we are like mountains, strongholds that take the hammering of the fitnah and hardship of daily life in this dunya, but when we stand for ṣalâh, we should be like this mountain, suddenly humbled and softened with awe and reverence for Allah.
Very poignantly, khushûʿ and laghw are mentioned in conjunction in Sûrat Al-Mu’minûn. The gaining of one and the shunning of the other are, in fact, pivotal in attaining the title: mu’min. Allah says:
Certainly the believers have succeeded: They who are during their prayer khâshiʿûn. And they who turn away from laghw. [Sûrat Al-Mu’minûn, 23:1-3]
The Age of Social Media and the Smart Phone
Let’s be clear that technology has brought great benefits to humanity, which includes both hardware and software that has allowed us to communicate in ways never before seen. Instant communication between people using text/email on smart phones has enabled people to travel more safely and keep in touch with ease, it has enabled people to uphold the ties of kinship globally with greater frequency. Technology has also enabled Muslims to attend classes or give daʿwah from their homes, which has opened to door of education to many. Information about Islam is now available at the touch of a button. Social media has allowed Muslim voices to be heard and awareness raised about many issues affecting our Ummah that mainstream would like to sideline. There is no doubt that modern technology is a blessing from Allah and the creative genius of human intelligence is a testament to Allah’s statement to the angels “I know that which you do not.” Like the jinn, human beings have been capable of bloodshed and destruction on this earth, but we are exceptional in that our creation is also capable of great inventions, civilizations, and discoveries.
Benefits aside though, we must be honest with ourselves in that, for the vast majority of us, this blessing of technology and communication has been a fitnah as well (which is the nature of blessings in general). With the number of ḥalâl entertainment options being limited compared to larger society it isn’t a wonder that Muslims spend way too much time on the internet. Shayṭân is always trying to mislead us, and if he cannot get us to sin, then he will get us to indulge in useless things, prioritize lesser things over greater, or procrastinate our ʿibâda. It is so much easier to touch the Facebook app, a high-drama social hub with pictures, than it is to open the muṣḥaf. Even with a Qur’an app on the phone, many of us can only read a few pages before caving in to the notification for Whatsapp or FB. After reading “Forty-two Reasons You’re Really a 90s Kid” on Buzzfeed or taking a quiz to find out which Disney character you are, praying two rakah for Ṣalât Al-Duḥa seems boring. If you manage to do it, you may find it full of distractions. Even the fard ṣalâh is snatched away by Shayṭân because we’ve already weakened the fortress of khushûʿ with all the time we spend on laghw.
On a daily basis most of us spend more time than is spiritually healthy on the internet or our smart phones, whether it’s surfing the web, texting, or browsing through Facebook or Twitter. And the vast majority of information on the internet and social media is laghw, and because we can text someone instantly and excessively, a lot of our individual conversations are laghw. There are entire websites (Buzzfeed comes to mind) that are solely dedicated to laghw. Even when it comes to Muslims, many blogs, Twitter accounts, and Facebook pages are little more than laghw. Many of us delude ourselves into thinking we are making daʿwah, and maybe we are, but what percentage of the time?
What is the Ratio of Truly Beneficial Posts to Casual Posting?
Even the time we spend talking to other Muslims is time taken away from more important activities. Saying salaam to another Muslim once a week at Jumuʿah used to be a norm and always has been, so let’s not kid ourselves that we need to meet and greet each other daily on social media, especially when we have to bypass so much laghw just to do it. Ideally, we should crave more time alone; the Prophet himself enjoyed solitude nightly in Qiyâm Al-Layl after a full day of beneficial communication, and described the ṣalâh as the “coolness of his eye.” We should be spending more time on personal acts of worship than social media dawah. The Ṣaḥâba spent a great deal of time helping their community, but we can’t honestly equate this time spent tweeting and posting as “community service” (though there are exceptions). And let us not forget our families; how many of us can say we put the same care and concern into teaching our children that we put into teaching a Facebook or Twitter audience? It isn’t to say that reaching a social media audience is unimportant, but for many of us this daʿwah has eclipsed higher Islamic priorities in our lives.
As was mentioned earlier, laghw pushes out khushûʿ, meaning a heart that is deadened with laghw cannot be alive with khushûʿ. Khushûʿ’ is a type of humility, a realization of one’s true position in relation to his Lord, which is an ʿabd, or slave to his Master. At any moment his earthly time can come to an end and he will be called to account by his Master, and when one truly feels this, he will feel an aversion to activities that waste and disrespect the time Allah has gifted him. Allah says in Sûrat Al-ʿAsr:
By time! indeed, mankind is in loss, except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience. [Sûrat Al-ʿAsr, 103:1-3]
Laghw and the Nafs
The nafs is the part of the human being created from this dunya, and thus it is nourished by things of this dunya, like food, drink, entertainment, etc. Laghw is like a trap set for the nafs by Shayṭân; it often involves speech that feels light-hearted, funny, or exciting but can easily turn crude, vulgar, or shameless. It reminds me of the childhood game “truth or dare.” With laghw, one thing often leads to another, and Shayṭân is stripping away the defenses set forth by taqwa and khushûʿ’ until our hearts are deadened and the rûh is smothered by the feel-good indulgence of the nafs. Laghw is very similar to the stupid, crass speech of a drunk. Allah says:
There they shall pass from hand to hand a (wine) cup, free from any laghw and free from sin (because it will be legal for them to drink). [Sûrat Al-Ṭûr, 52:23]
The internet has become a platform for anyone and everyone to have an audience and for us to believe we are more important than we really are. On social media we have become fixated with what other readers think of us and worry more over their opinion than Allah’s opinion of us. We compete with one another not only in items of dunya, but even in Dîn; we compete to have our “voice” drown out those of others, to become the one whose page or blog is visited the most, to be the one people are liking and sharing above others. Social media and the internet has become a place that elevates the ego, and it is often the person with the most outrageous or controversial behavior that is sought-after, rather than one who is full of humility towards his Lord. There are some exceptions, people who use the internet as a tool for their cause or a means of education, but they are the exception and you won’t find them spending more time on the internet than is minimally needed to get their message out. The internet is a place of false kings and queens. But one who has khushûʿ in his heart cannot have his intentions mingled with riyâ’, or showing off.
The good news is for those of us who are struggling with khushûʿ, the first step is simple; it is a step back from laghw, which for many of us means a step back from the internet, social media, and our smart phones. One simple way to improve our khushûʿ is to spend the same amount of time reading Quran that we spend online. Track how many minutes you spend on the internet or texting today and spend that same amount of time reading Qur’an or reading athkâr. Then gradually tip the ration in favor of khushûʿ; make a commitment that for every minute you spend online, you will spend two minutes on ʿibâda and so on.
For many of us who are not native Arabic speakers, we need to make sure our hearts are being moved by the remembrance of Allah, and this can be achieved by studying Arabic and understanding it, or in the mean time studying the translation and tafsîr of the Qur’an in a language we understand.
A person develops khushûʿ not just through his ʿibâda but also through looking at Allah’s creation in nature; the sky, trees, hills, clouds, stars and so on should point our hearts back to the Majesty of the One who created them. Allah himself encourages us to remember Him vis-à-vis His creation time and again in the Qur’an. All of these activities, whether reading or simply spending time outside in the backyard, all require us to disconnect from laghw. This disconnect from laghw automatically opens us up an opportunity for khushûʿ to grow.
Finally, good company is pivotal to eliminating laghw from one’s life, and with Facebook posts/tweets being shoved in our face multiple times a day when we go on social media, we have all sorts of “friends” that aren’t even real friends, let alone good ones. We are inundated with the voices of people or links posted by them that lead straight to laghw. Honestly Shayṭân barely has to work to set the traps of laghw anymore, people do his work for him on Facebook or Twitter or some waste-of-time-website. We need to limit our interaction with these people as much as possible, be it going online less, limiting what apps are on our phones, or putting some very strong filters on our social media accounts.
And of course the speech is the Speech of Allah, whether it be by reciting the Qur’an or engaging in tasbîḥ or making duʿâ’ to Him, He is the one we should be spending the most time in conversation with. To close I will end with this ḥadîth:
Allah the exalted said, ‘I have divided the prayer [Sûrat Al-Fâtiḥah] into two halves between Me and My servant. A half of it is for Me and a half for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.
If he says, ‘All praise and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of existence,’ Allah says, ‘My servant has praised Me.’
When the servant says, ‘The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.’ Allah says, ‘My servant has glorified Me.’
When he says, ‘Master of the Day of Judgment.’ Allah says, ‘My servant has glorified Me.’
When he says, ‘You (alone) we worship, and You (alone) we ask for help.’ Allah says, ‘This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he sought.’
When he says, ‘Guide us to the straight path. The way of those on whom You have granted Your grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray.’ Allah says, ‘This is for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.’ (Muslim)