Spiritual Malnutrition


Just as our bodies need physical food, our souls need spiritual food to survive and thrive. When our body is deprived of certain types of food, over time it develops what are called ‘deficiencies’. For example, sailors in the olden days were well aware of the dangers of scurvy, swollen and bleeding gums due to the lack of citrus fruits, so every captain made sure that he carried a plentiful supply of fruit. Scurvy was caused by the lack of vitamin C in the diet.

Throughout this century wonderful discoveries about vitamins and other essential nutrients have been made. These organic compounds are essential for the normal growth of the body and its functioning. We’re all familiar with vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, which are present in meat, vegetables, eggs, fruit and milk. Their deficiency leads to ill health, lethargy, disorientation and other physical ailments. These health problems can be quickly cured with multivitamin tablets.

Spiritual Malnutrition

Spiritual malnutrition may go unrecognised for long periods because life goes on. Yet just as surely as one’s body gives signs that it needs nourishment, so does the spirit and it too will eventually be recognised on the outside by its symptoms.

When the body cries out for food, you feel emptiness in your stomach, weakness in the muscles and even sleepiness. If it goes on long enough, a faintness and headache may arise. But when the spirit is malnourished either from deprivation or a harmful diet, the gradual reaction in life is different.

A diet of spiritual vitamins is essential for the growth and proper functioning of our soul and spiritual well-being. Just as the body is prone to malnutrition so is the soul. It too can suffer from a lack of spiritual vitamins. A diet of spiritual vitamins is essential for the growth and proper functioning of the human soul and spiritual well-being.

What are these spiritual vitamins?

They are simply seeking knowledge and the love of Allah and humanity. A lack of this will lead to ignorance, selfishness and apathy. What are the sources of these spiritual vitamins? How can one nourish oneself with them?

For us the most important source is worship (Salah), reading of The Majestic Quran and company of the righteous. These three things will strengthen the soul and provide the energy required for other spiritual functions. How can we gauge our spiritual well-being? Firstly, our God-consciousness is the foremost sign of our spiritual well-being. This is a spiritual state when the soul is bubbling with energy, conscious of one’s obligation to Allah and His creation, mindful of his own words and actions lest they cause any mischief or harm to others.

Piety also leads to a clearer understanding of the transient nature of our worldly lives. The conviction of the life hereafter deepens, and you develop certainty in that this life is but fleeting thus diminishing the worldly desires of greed, selfishness and self-indulgence. Piety is the receptive state of mind that is clearly focused. Fully attentive and ready to receive “This is the Majestic book, there is no doubt in it, a guidance for the pious” (Baqarah: 2). Commenting on this the Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “Piety is the beginning of all wisdom”.

Once the soul is well nourished with spiritual food it goes from strength to strength as it tastes the spiritual delicacies and sees the Divine beauty. As a consequence, you become more inclined towards spiritual exercises such as night vigils, fasting, Dhikr, charity etc.