How Is Your Heart?

God says in the Quran:

(يوم لا ينفع مال ولا بنون إلا من أتى الله بقلب سليم)

(On the Day in which no wealth or children will benefit a person except for the one who comes with a sound heart)

The Prophet peace be upon him says in a sound narration:

(ألا إن في الجسد مضغة إن صلحت صلح الجسد كله وإن فسدت فسد الجسد كله، ألا وهي القلب)

(Surely in the body is an organ if it is sound the entire body would be sound, and if it is corrupt the entire body would be corrupt. Surely it is the heart)

He peace be upon him also said in another sound Hadith:

(التقوى هاهنا. وأشار إلى صدره ثلاث مرات)

(Piety/God consciousness is here. And he pointed to his chest three times)

Living as a Muslim entails two types of actions that one must undertake to live a righteous life – outward actions, which are the actions of the limbs; and inward actions, which are the actions of the heart. The outward actions can be relatively easy to undertake in comparison to the inward actions. For example, we are all able to pray the five daily prayers. Some might delay the prayer time, but still are able to get themselves up at the end of the day and perform them. Most of us were blessed to fast the month of Ramadan not too long ago. Some of us were able to make the Pilgrimage to Mecca at some point in the past, or are going to perform it this year or in the near future. These are the obligations that we all perform. Some of us are able to go the extra mile and perform voluntary prayers in the night and fast voluntary days. All of these are commendable things to do. However, if the inward is corrupt, the outward actions are not going to benefit with anything.

The major inward action is that of the heart. It is when you don’t just turn your body towards God, but also have the heart towards Him as well. Imam Al Hasan Al Basri said:

“كل صلاة لا يحضر فيها القلب فهي إلى العقوبة أسرع”

“Every prayer the heart is not present in will lead faster into punishment”

This is what it is to have خشوع or a state of solemnity and humbleness in your prayer before God. But know something, which Imam Abu Hamid Al Ghazali mentions in his Ihya’ (The Revivification of Islamic Sciences):

اعلم أن الخشوع ثمرة الإيمان ونتيجة اليقين الحاصل بجلال الله

Humbleness and solemnity with God is the fruit of faith and the result of certainty of God

ومن رزق ذلك، فإنه يكون خاشعا في الصلاة، وفي غير الصلاة، بل في خلوته

And from this one is in this state during the prayer, and outside of the prayer, and in their solitude

If some restrict this state to prayer only, not realizing that if that’s the case, then this means their prayer is not as it should be. If the prayer is performed in the way it should be performed inwardly, it will manifest itself in the life of the believer. How can it not be the case when God says about the prayer in the Quran:

(إن الصلاة تنهى عن الفحشاء والمنكر)

(Verily, prayer prevents indecency and evil)

The same goes for fasting. If your fasting of Ramadan did not result in an external manifestation of a heart that has been charged with some piety and taqwa تقوى then know that it’s a sign that something was wrong with your fasting. God says that the whole point of prescribing fasting was for us to gain awareness of Him, piety, and solemnity:

(يا أيها الذين آمنوا كتب عليكم الصيام كما كتب على الذين من قبلكم لعلكم تتقون)

(O’ you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you as it has been prescribed upon those who have come before you so that you may gain piety and God awareness)

This can be carried out throughout all of the external acts of worship that we perform. The external is only a means to getting at the inward. They are means to an end, which is having a sound heart. If the external acts become the end then the true essence of this religion will be missed. Does this mean if one feels that they are a bad Muslim they should stop doing their acts of worship? Of course not! What it means is that one should be extremely diligent about their internal state. The word hal (حال) in Arabic, which means state, indicates that it’s changing. If I look at my personal state, and I feel that it’s the same and hasn’t changed in a while, that’s a red flag for me. Imam Al Junaid says:

حال المؤمن يتغير في اليوم أربعين مرة وحال الكافر لا يتغير في أربعين سنة

The state of a believer changes 40 times a day, and the state of the disbeliever remains the same for 40 years

How your heart is will determine how affected you will be by external events. Imam Fakhr Ad’Deen Ar’Razi used to say that he knew if his heart was in a good state by whether his children bothered him or not. If they bothered him, then it was an indication that his heart was in a bad state. If they didn’t bother him, then it was an indication that he was in a good state. Because at the end of the day kids will be kids and how you react to them is only a matter of how your internal state is.

The word qalb ( قلب), which means heart in Arabic, has an interesting meaning. It means that which turns over. It is narrated that the most supplication that the Prophet peace be upon him used to make was:

(اللهم يا مقلب القلوب، ثبت قلبي على دينك)

(O’ Turner of the hearts, remain my heart firm on Your way)

Our worldview, and how we see and treat people, and how we approach this religion, and how everything around us affects us, is only a matter of the state of our hearts. In this we have to delve very deeply and reflect for a long time to get to our hearts and put them to the test. When you see someone displaying a certain characteristic that you do not approve of, how do you view that person? Are you looking down on them? That is arrogance, because in doing so you’re forgetting that you’re not perfect either.

Imam Al Muhasibi said in his book Rasalat Al Mustarshideen ( رسالة المسترشدين):

ان ابتليت برؤية عيوب الناس فاعلم أنهم مرآة يريك الله فيها عيوبك

If you’ve been tested with seeing other people’s faults, then know that they are a mirror that God is using to show you your faults

We only recognize things and know them if we are familiar with them. When you see someone for example doing an act of kindness, and you see them as being hypocritical, then know that it is because you have that trait in your heart. The only reason you saw them as hypocrites is because you know how to be one yourself. A Muslim always has a good assumption of others, and if they do something that is outwardly wrong, the Muslim will seek excuses for them. The Prophet peace be upon him said in a sound narration:

(التمس العذر لأخيك ولو سبعين مرة)

(Seek excuses for your brother/sister even it’s for seventy times)

One of the subtleties of the heart is the backbiting of the heart. The outward action of backbiting is when you speak of your brother/sister when they’re not present with that which they don’t like to be said about them. But there is a backbiting action of the heart. As Imam Abu Hamid Al Ghazali puts it:

أن تحدث نفسك بالسوء عن أخيك وأن تسيء الظن به

It is to think negatively of your brother/sister and to have a bad opinion of them

This is not to say that God will punish you for such thoughts. The Muslim community has been forgiven for anything negative they don’t actually bring into outward action. But what we’re talking about here is purification of the heart. Our goal is to get to God with a sound heart when it matters. Imam Abu Hamid Al Ghazali said in his writings:

من الحماقة أن يعلم المرء أنه سيموت بعد أسبوع ويشغل نفسه بقراءة الفلسفة و العلوم الدنيوية ويهمل الانشغال بتطهير قلبه عن الشوائب والآفات

It is from the stupidity of a person to know that they’re going to die after a week and then occupy themselves with reading philosophy and pursue worldly knowledge and ignore purifying their heart from all its ailments

If this is the case for one who knows they’re going to die in a week, then how is it for one who doesn’t know when they will go away from this world? This breath that each of us is taking right now could be our last. Does this mean for us to give up all our worldly pursuits and obligations? Of course not! What it means is that we must occupy some of our time in deep contemplation to increase our awareness of our internal state.

Our external acts of worship should be a way for us to purify our internal state.  As one of my teachers once said:

ركعتين بحضور قلب خاشع وحب لله كامل أفضل من ألف ركعة من غيرهما

Two units of prayer (rak’ats) with a present humble heart and love to God is better than a thousand units of prayer (rak’ats) without love

8 thoughts on “How Is Your Heart?

  1. Assalamu Alaikum,

    I had a comment prepared for this article as well as the previous but I have decided not to post them. Subhanallah, why do you abandon all the great Sunni scholars that have graced the face of this earth and refer to the sufi’s? Did the Sunni scholars emit something which they should not have? Are they lacking something? What is it you see in the sufi’s that appeals to you?

    I would like to give you one piece of advice: are you so convinced of your ideology that you will preach it to the general public? Are you ready to stand before Allah SWT and justify your arguments and sources? Being a self-proclaimed student of knowledge that is highly commited to sharing your knowledge, you should know that there is an immense responsibility on your shoulders to verify your facts because if you mislead one person who in turn misleads another, you will recieve their sins up until the Day of Judgement. And on that day, there is nothing that will benefit you besides your deeds: good or bad. What people misjudge is the impact of their words

    وَتَحْسَبُونَهُ هَيِّنًا وَهُوَ عِندَ اللَّهِ عَظِيمٌ
    “and thought it was insignificant while it was, in the sight of Allah, tremendous”

    I would sincerely like to hear your reponse to this post.

  2. Re: concerned

    The whole topic is about strengthening your connection with Allah and there is no call in the topic for subscription to any sect. With all due respect, your feedback is biased and emotional. You simply don’t like the writer that is why you didn’t see any good in his topic. The writer used verses from the Quran, and he used authentic Hadith that are narrated in all Sunni Muslim books.

    I am not sure what you want to accomplish, brother!

  3. Masha’Allah nice article, referencing the Qur’an, ahadith, and great scholars (in that order). Imam al-Junayd b. Muhammad al-Baghdadi is one of the greatest imams, as stated by even Ibn Taymiyah. A sign of one’s love for the akhira is love for al-Ghazali and his works, whereas a sign that one loves the dunya is hostility to Hujjat al-Islam and his works. If you do something sincerely for Allah, then do not worry if anyone of the creation attack or criticise you. May Allah protect you from hasad! Where did you read that quote about Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi and the kids?

    • Jazak Allah khair bro.

      I came across the saying of Imam Ar’Razi a long time ago and can’t recall exactly where, but I remember that it really stuck with me. I’ll see if I can dig up where I read it and if I find it I’ll post the reference for it inshallah.

  4. Nice work. Don’t see anything wrong with it except the very last sentence, grammar wise

    ركعتين بحضور قلب خاشعا وحب لله كاملا أفضل من ألف ركعة من غيرهما

    Should be
    ركعتين بحضور قلب خاشعٍ وحبٍ لله كاملٍ أفضل من ألف ركعة من غيرهما

    wallahu a’lam

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