By Sancheet Hoque
The heart, usually qalb in Arabic, refers to both the corporeal heart that pumps blood and the ethereal heart that controls one’s spiritual state. The literal meaning of the word qalb means “to turn” which describes how the heart constantly turns or changes to different states. The Quran uses other terms to refer to the heart as well. It is important in Islam as the state of one’s heart directs the emotions and actions in the living world. Allah’s messenger (pbuh) said:
There is a piece of flesh in the body if it becomes good (reformed) the whole body becomes good but if it gets spoilt the whole body gets spoilt and that is the heart.[Sahih al-Bukhari 52]
A sound heart refers to one that is free from arrogance and tries to please Allah. While a sick heart refers to one who is controlled by his(er) vain desires and is lost. Many surahs touch upon the heart, but some mention it more than others. It appears around 130 times in the Quran and is mentioned in the sunnah many times as well. This article will dive into both to see how Allah and his messenger refer to the heart in five specific verses.
1. Types of Heart
The first verse this article will discuss is from Al-Baqarah and it communicates about the different types of hearts:
“Then, after that, your hearts were hardened and became as stones or even worse in hardness. And indeed, there are stones out of which rivers gush forth, and indeed, there are of them (stones) which split asunder so that water flows from them, and indeed, there are of them (stones) which fall down for fear of Allah. And Allah is not unaware of what you do”.[Quran 2:74]
In this verse, Allah provides a parallel between hearts and stones. Some hearts easily turn to Allah (gushing forth), while others turn to Allah after being hard (split asunder), and some drop(heavy stone) out of fear of Allah. All three types are believers, but with different types of hearts. As long as your heart is receptive and is fed with good deeds then it will continue to be healthy. If the heart stays hard like a stone without it ever humbling, then it will be difficult to turn back without the mercy of Allah
2. Vain desires
Following the verse about the types of heart, this verse from Al-Jathiyah communicates to mankind a way that the heart becomes stays hard:
“Have you seen him who takes his own lust (vain desires) as his ilah (god), and Allah knowing (him as such), left him astray, and sealed his hearing and his heart, and put a cover on his sight. Who then will guide him after Allah? Will you not then remember?”[Quran 45:23]
In this verse, Allah says that he is the one who seals the heart making it not receptive to the truth. He specifically speaks about vain desires, ones that do benefit the believer in any way and only to satisfy the nafs(self). This can be drugs and porn, but it can be food, money, and sex. They need to be used in the right way. Nothing is wrong with desire as humans need it to stay motivated, but one has to ensure that they are not taking these desires to be their god. As long as the intention is pure and focused on Allah, then satisfying these desires the halal way, will get the believer closer to All-Mighty. Allah also mentions sealing the hearing and covering the sight. This is not directly referring to the physical abilities that Allah has blessed most humans with. It still pertains to the heart, as one can hear and see with it. If one’s hearing is sealed they can hear the Quran, but they feel
nothing from it. Likewise seeing people in distress should invoke emotion, but if the sight is covered s(he) will not feel anything. It is the emotion that comes with hearing and seeing that is sealed if one’s heart is not pure. So one could hear and see with ears and eyes respectively, but be deaf and blind spiritually. May Allah protect us from that!
3. Dispute without authority
The third verse covers another way the heart is sealed in which Allah talks about in Al-Ghafir:
“Those who dispute about the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of Allah, without any authority that has come to them, it is greatly hateful and disgusting to Allah and to those who believe. Thus does Allah seal up the heart of every arrogant, tyrant. (So they cannot guide themselves to the Right Path)”.[Quran 40:35]
In this verse, Allah talks about people who argue about the topic of Islam without actually having any knowledge about it. Unfortunately, many non-muslims do not have real knowledge about the Quran and the sunnah, and they state horrible remarks about Islam. What about Muslims that also do not have enough knowledge? It’s one thing to not know, but to try and guide people without knowing can do more harm than good. It’s best to start with oneself and be an example first. The flaws of the self are more apparent to the one who houses it. Enjoining good is also important, but it has to be done respectfully.
4. Remembrance of Allah
The fourth verse covers the topic of purifying the heart so one can be more receptive and have an inclination to do good. Here is what Allah says in Ar-Ra’d:
“Those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism), and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest”.[Quran 13:28]
Allah is saying first and foremost one should have a true belief in the oneness of God. They should then remember him as much as they can as it provides relief for the heart. Imagine holding your breath underwater and then at the breaking point finally receiving some fresh air. This is an analogy of how one’s heart feels after one remembers their lord.
There are many different dhikrs from the sunnah one can apply into their lives. Morning/evening adhkar, saying subhanallah,alhamdulillah, allahu akbar 33/33/34 times after salah, dhikr right before bed. There are many supplications in Hisnul Muslim one can slowly incorporate into their lives to help purify their heart. Dhikr is easy on the tongue, yet it is very powerful for one’s faith. The Prophet (pbuh) said:
”For everything, there is a polish, and the polish for the hearts is the dhikr (remembrance) of Allah. There is nothing more potent in saving a person from the punishment of Allah than the dhikr of Allah.”[al-Jami’ 1932]
Look for Allah in daily life and be grateful for the simplest of blessings. Water, health, food security, and shelter are among some of the blessings many take for granted. As one’s heart becomes purer, it will be easier to appreciate life inshaAllah.
As said in the introduction the heart is always fluctuating which is not entirely a negative thing as long as one keeps returning to Allah. There is a beautiful dua from Al-Imran in which Allah communicates a dua that people of knowledge say:
“(They say): “Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower.”[Quran 3:8]
In this dua, the believers ask Allah to keep their hearts steadfast with what is right and to not deviate to the wrong path. This illustrates that the heart can be guided or misguided, in which guidance is a blessing granted to believers out of Allah’s mercy. No one should feel secure in their actions as humans sin without knowing. This is a wonderful dua to use as it asks Allah to stay steadfast. Long-term consistency bears many fruits at the end. So asking Allah for steadfastness is a powerful request.
The science of the heart goes much deeper than what was read here! The main point is that believers need to do their best to avoid anything that will pollute the heart and push to remember Allah. Humans all have desires, so work on one of them at a time. Try to gain more knowledge and wisdom to help the self and others without becoming prideful. Remember Allah as much as possible, so intentions stay pure. Finally, always ask Allah to stay consistent in the religion and other activities that will help achieve the ultimate goal. Since there are many verses on the heart, look forward to more articles on the same subject!
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- Importance of the heart: https://understandquran.com/why-is-the-heart-so-important-in-islam/
- Verses in the Quran about the heart: https://www.quranproject.org/The-human-heart-in-the-glorious-Quran-481-d
- Sayings of Prophet Muhammed(pbuh): https://www.sunnah.com