Just as our body gives us signals when we tax it too much physically or mentally, with migraine headaches, aching bones, low immunity to seasonal viruses, and muscular strains symbolizing the need for us to slow down, relax and give ourselves some stress-free time to unwind.

So too, our actions and dealings with people give us some telltale signs about the state of our spiritual well-being and health.

A healthy soul is serene when it is at the peak of faith. Imagine how it felt after spending a part of the night of “Al-Qadr” in prayer during Ramadan, or after consciously forgiving someone who had wronged you, or after sincerely repenting of and giving up a sin.

Such moments became turning points in your life that made you feel as if you were freed from shackles when you rushed back to Allah. During such times, the heart is spiritually charged, healthy, and resonating with faith. On the flip side are some warning signs in our actions that we should watch out for, because they indicate that we are gravitating towards the worst disease of the heart: Nifaq or hypocrisy. Just as a bodily disease requires immediate prescription of an appropriate remedy for timely cure, a disease of the heart also necessitates immediate diagnosis of symptoms and prescription of a remedy.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “There are four (characteristics), whoever has all of them is a complete hypocrite, and whoever has some of them, has some element of hypocrisy, unless he gives it up: When he speaks, he lies; when he makes a covenant, he betrays it; when he makes a promise, he breaks it; when he quarrels, he resorts to insults.” (Sahih Muslim, no. 53)

The Munafiq or hypocrite is someone who possesses all of the above traits. He makes an outward show of piety, but is inwardly different from his deliberately put-on, outer facade.

There are varying degrees of Nifaq, but the important thing to remember is that it is the opposite of Ikhlas – sincerity of intention towards Allah and His Deen, Islam.

If anyone wants to know how sincere his heart is towards Allah, he should analyze his behavior and actions honestly and if he detects any of these four traits:

Lying is a major sin that the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) would stay far away from. We, however, lie regularly to save face before people. If we cannot visit someone just because we do not feel like going, we lie that we have to go somewhere else. We fear people and value their opinion about us more than we fear

Allah, His wrath, and our standing before Him. We are weak in faith and hence, we lie. Remember that each time you lie, you move further down the levels of faith, further away from Allah and righteousness, until you repent.

Betraying trusts
The agreements and contracts we sign with organizations, institutions, authorities or countries are covenants or trusts. We must obey the laws and rules of these contracts and not intentionally defy them. Anything belonging to someone else is also a trust that we must take care of.

If you find yourself betraying other people’s trusts, such as secretly disobeying office or school rules, deceiving your spouse (with whom you have the Nikah contract), borrowing and misusing other’s belongings, or forging marriage documents for immigration to another country, you should remind yourself that treachery or treason is the trait of a hypocrite.

Breaking promises
The tongue of a believer is cautious and on guard. A kind of carelessness of the tongue is to say to others that you will do something, only to make them pleased with you, and then not actually do it. For example, a husband might say to his wife, “I will buy you shoes next month,” or a woman might say to her friend, “I will not tell anyone your secret” – and then not keep up the word. Breaking promises leaves the other person feeling disappointed and betrayed.

A believer never makes a promise he does not intend to fulfill, and always fulfills a promise once he makes it. Making a promise and then breaking it, is a sign of hypocrisy. A sincere believer always takes his word seriously; once he says he will do something, he considers it a binding oath that remains on his mind until he duly discharges it.

Insulting another person during a dispute
Disputes, disagreements and quarrels are bound to crop up in human relationships, especially with people to whom we are close. One only fights with those whom he meets regularly, or has some business with, or is biologically related to. Consequently, fights erupt most often between siblings, spouses, neighbors, parents and children, employers and subordinates, colleagues, buyers and sellers, and close friends.

How do you behave when you get angry during a quarrel? Do you start shouting, screaming, hurling profanities and dishing out insults? Do you abuse the other person verbally or physically?

If you do, you should try to control and rectify this behavior. A sincere believer leaves the scene of the quarrel or maintains his composed demeanor even when furious.

As Muslims, we must constantly check ourselves to see whether our hearts have Nifaq or not. Ponder this wise saying of Hasan Al-Basri: “It is only a believer who fears hypocrisy (for himself), and it is only a hypocrite who feels safe from it.” (Al-Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Iman, ch. 36)

The most effective means of ridding one’s heart of the disease of Nifaq is to adhere to the Qur’an by studying it, memorizing it, and acting upon it; fulfilling all the obligations of Islam, abstaining from its prohibitions, and constantly engaging in remembrance of Allah.