The spirit is divine in origin. Thus, its nourishment and means of keeping it healthy are also divine; that nourishment is the Qur’an and dhikr of Allah. As Muslims we should pay more attention to the spirit than the body. Materialism is about denying spirituality; anything beyond the tangible is denied. Even if this denial is not by tongue then it can be by lifestyle. Someone that has imaan and yaqeen (conviction) relies on Allah and Allah will make him successful in protecting the spirit.
In Surah al Shams Allah says:
قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا
He who purifies the soul, he is successful.
[Surah al Shams 91:9]
Every act of worship reflects on the spirit. We Muslims today act on some of the laws of religion e.g. we pray salah and give zakah but we do not care in the slightest about spirituality even though it is the very essence of our existence. We are so concerned about nourishment of the body (food, drink, clothing and shelter) but what about nourishment of the soul and its protection? We care about medicine for the body and are fearful of illnesses and sickness. What about sicknesses and illnesses of the heart? Just as sicknesses of the body can destroy a person and end a person’s life, the sicknesses of the soul can leave a person living as a corpse but from within the person has died a spiritual death. The spiritual diseases are more detrimental and lethal than physical diseases.
One cancer cell can replicate and spread throughout the body consuming the entire body from within, followed by the striking of a terminal illness. The diseases of the heart are far worse. What do we do about sickness of the spirit and diseases of the heart? We profess belief in spirituality but in reality we do not rely on these immaterial spiritual things that we cannot see, hear or feel. Instead we ignore them. The spiritual diseases such as malice, envy, jealousy, hatred, arrogance, pride, haughtiness and suspicion can destroy a person completely. Just as cancer can leave a person alive whilst the disease eats away from within, similarly the spiritual diseases may already have destroyed a person from within. His body maybe healthy but he has already died from within. He may have killed off his soul already. Even within religion it is sad to see that some Muslims deny spirituality; they may not say it but they do not busy themselves in spiritual exercises or in eradicating diseases of the heart. They do not busy themselves in adorning their hearts with lofty spiritual characteristics.
[This short excerpt is based on the talk ‘Spirituality in a Material World’ delivered by Shaykh Abu Yusuf Riyadh ul Haq on 30th June 2005. For a more comprehensive understanding of this topic please refer to that lecture].