In his book, “Al-Fawaid”, Ibn Qayyim explains why being occupied with worldly matters can have a detrimental impact on your ability to draw nearer to Allah, exalted is He. Ibn Qayyim explains this by first stating a general principle: “In order for a place to contain something, it must be free from what contradicts it.” Therefore, life can only exist in the absence of death, light can only exist in the absence of darkness, and true knowledge can only exist in the absence of ignorance. Ibn Qayyim then applies this principle to our physical and spiritual lives and explains why someone who occupies themselves, physically and spiritually, with what contradicts Allah, exalted is He, can never know Him or draw nearer to Him.
The following is a a translation of this precious gem:
In order for a place to contain something, it must be free from what contradicts it. This principle applies to mankind and all creation as well as to belief and desires.
So, if the heart is obsessed by belief in falsehood, there will be no place for truth. Accordingly, if the tongue is involved in trivial discourse, one shall be incapable of useful speech, unless falsehood is abandoned.
Hence, if the body is busy doing wrong actions, then acts of worship will be incapable unless these contradictory actions are abandoned.
This is how this principle is applied to belief and religion. If the heart deviates from loving Allah, lacks yearning for Him and longing for His closeness, then the removal of contradictory feelings, like being related to other than Allah, is the only way for this heart to be overwhelmed by love for Allah.
For the tongue to remember Allah, and the body to serve Him, one should be free of the impact of others like being busy remembering and serving them.
Thus, if the heart is overwhelmed by the servants rather than the master, and is preoccupied with futile knowledge, surely there will be no place for being closer to Allah or being acquainted with His Names, Attributes and judgements.
If the heart listens to trivial discourse, there will be no place for listening or understanding the words of Allah. If the heart is inclined to love others, there will be no room to love Allah, and if the heart remembers others rather than Allah, no place will be found to remember Him, and the same applies to the tongue.