A major portion of Islamic spiritual development is to be in the process of trying to rid ourselves of our spiritual diseases. In order to do that we have to not only be able to know them theoretically (See-- The 5 Best Books on Tazkiyah for the Everyday Muslim) but also recognize them practically. What follows is a list of 4 ways to know the diseases of our hearts. It is adapted from Imam al-Ghazali.
A Skilled Spiritual Advisor and Teacher
- In the ideal world this is the best option. The problem is that it requires a very high level of trust so the one who is advising must be someone who is extremely trustworthy, knowledgeable, and righteous. Such teachers are few and far between.
Keeping Righteous Company
- When we spend time around people who share our values of spiritual and ethical excellence they push us to become better. A true friendship is one where those involved are close enough and care enough about each other that they can speak to one another about the faults they may see in each other. This is invaluable.
Use the Faults You See in Others as a Mirror to Look at Yourself
- We often have a tendency to see the faults in others before we recognize those within ourselves. One way to use this to our advantage is to realize that if someone is suffering from a spiritual disease that is showing up in their life, it is possible that we are suffering from the same illness. This has the added benefit of cultivating within ourselves the habit of introspection as well.
Pay Attention to the Critiques of Your Enemies
- If there are people who are against us in our lives we should use that to our advantage by considering their critiques. This is not an act of self-hate, but rather an act of self-love, if not taken too far. Nobody will try to find our faults like our enemies and we should have the same sort of rigor in analyzing ourselves so that we can be the best that we can be in our relationship with God.