Wainna kathīrn minanāsi ‘an āyātina laghāfilūn
Surely most people are heedless of Our signs
(Sūrat Yūnus No.10, Āyat 92)
One of the obstacles to maintaining and increasing faith is ghaflat or heedlessness. It is defined as an indifference or carelessness to what you know. It shows a complete disregard for consequences and is often reckless. The knowledge is present but there is no action on it, nor even any contemplation of it. When a person is heedless of faith, they are aware that there is a God and they are accountable to Him. But this knowledge takes a back stand to other priorities and is gradually forgotten. They do not worry about the consequences of the lifestyle they are leading, almost as if they do not believe in what they believe. That is why heedlessness is considered the antipathy of faith. Amīrul Mu’minīn Imam Ali (a) says: O man! What has emboldened you to commit sins, what has deceived you about your Allah and what has made you satisfied with the destruction of yourself? Is there no cure for your ailment or no awakening from your sleep? (Nahj, Sermon 222)
Ghaflat is a disease that slowly creeps up and soon covers a large area of the heart and mind, tainting the purity of faith and preventing its light from shining through. Its gradual attack can become fatal. It’s a spiritual cancer! Faith becomes forgotten under its layers. Symptoms of ghaflat include hard heartedness, deviation, pride, vanity, etc.
In the verse above Almighty Allah talks about the body of Fir‘awn being preserved as a sign for mankind. But, the verse continues, most people are heedless. Even such a sign would not wake them up from their slumber. Ghaflat is caused by continuous immersion in sin and indecent behavior. It also comes through an obsessive pursuit of worldly desires. These dull the internal faculties and rob the person of the perception to distinguish between right and wrong.
Like all diseases, ghaflat must be diagnosed in its early stages for an effective cure. When we realize we are becoming heedless we must take some steps to stop its progress. These could include:
1) Increased Dhikr, i.e. remembrance of Allah – This fights heedlessness by softening the heart and turning it towards God. It makes the person pay attention to faith. Imam Ali (a) says: Whoever remembers Allah enlivens his heart and enlightens his intellect and understanding (Ghurar Hikam) Different forms of Dhikr at different times can be used. These include verses of the Quran, repeating names of Allah, Du‘ās and recommended prayers, Tasbīh, etc.
2) Praying on time – Saying the salāt on time creates alertness and removes heedlessness. Imam al-Bāqir (a) says: Any believer who safeguards his obligatory prayers and prays them on time then he is not from the ghāfilīn. (Tafsīr Nūr al-Thaqalayn, v. 2, p.115)
3) Inspiring the heart – To read and/or listen to wisdom removes the curtains of heedlessness. It awakens the heart and removes apathy from it. The Holy Prophet (s) says: Surely these hearts get tired just like bodies get tired, so seek for them beautiful points of wisdom. (Bihār, v. 88, p. 166)
4) Learning from history – Lessons from the lives of others are often an awakening call from heedlessness. Imam Ali (a) wrote to Hārith al-Hamdānī: Take lessons for the present condition of this world from the past condition, because it’s one phase resembles the other, its end is to meet its beginning, and the whole of it is to change and depart. (Nahj, Letter 69)
5) Remembering death and the afterlife. No one who truly envisions himself as dying and going to meet God can be completely heedless. Remembrance of death creates an enhanced sense of responsibility and a desire to do more rather than less. Imam Ali (a) says: I advise you to remember death and to lessen your heedlessness towards it. Why should you be heedless of that which is not heedless of you? (Nahj, Sermon 188)
These are some ways of countering ghaflat and prevent it from overcoming faith. Recite this verse to remind yourself that it is easy for most people to be caught in a vicious, heedless cycle that takes them away from true faith. Sometimes this happens without the person realizing it. Pray that we are not among this group of people.
Sources: Amīrul Mu’minīn Ali bin Abī Tālib (a), Nahjul Balāgha;