Every culture has metaphors alluding to the heart — cold hearted, warm hearted — and we use phrases like “breaking” or “touching” the heart. In Islamic traditions the physical heart is residence to the ruh, the spirit. Muslims are obliged under their laws to look after one’s spiritual and physical being.
Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) spoke of the heart as a repository of knowledge and a vessel sensitive to the needs of the body. He explained that it perceives wrongful action and is agitated by it. One of the Messenger’s most cited statements is: “Actions are based upon intentions”. All intentions emanate from the heart, which means that every action is rooted in the heart.
The heartbeat is not initiated by the central nervous system but by itself, by God. Modern science informs that the heart beats before the brain is fully formed, and that it could continue to beat despite its connections to the brain being severed. The difference between one who remembers God and one who does not is like the difference between the living and the dead. Spiritually dead hearts are the cause of all injustice and oppression in the world. When people are completely immersed in the material world they forget or refuse to believe that they will be accountable for their actions — this brings about diseased hearts that are in turmoil.
Nothing in the biological, physiological or spiritual world is static; everything either blossoms or decays. Similarly, the heart by its very nature is constantly turning, either moving towards purity or impurity; either towards God or away from Him. Interestingly, the Arabic word for heart is qalb, meaning something that turns and inqilaab is from the same root, meaning to turn something upside down. Two of the 99 names of Allah are Al Qabid and Al Basit, “The Constrictor” and “The Expander”, for it is Allah who makes our hearts expand and contract, both physically and spiritually.
God has programmed the heart as an organ designed to be in a state of calm, something that is achieved by remembrance of God. The Quran says, “Surely in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest” (13:28). The heart naturally gravitates towards God and the best nutrient for a healthy heart is polishing it with remembrance of the Creator.
Islamic scholars say the foremost requirement for remembrance of God is making amends for wrongful action with nidamah, remorse. This is not the same as guilt, for in Islam there is no original sin, which is the concept of sin being natural to human nature. Islam believes that a child is born in a state of fitrah, natural goodness, which if not cultivated leads man to falls into states of ghaflah, forgetfulness. State of heedlessness can lead to temporary slips into wrong action, from where one can move into the state of remorse and seeking forgiveness (taubah), and ascend towards high ranks with God.
From Sadia Dehlvi's gem of an article in The Asian Age.To read the full article click here.
— Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism:The Heart of Islam.
She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org