Back to the Basics: Reclaiming Our Hearts

We're reclaiming our Hearts!

Outline

Introduction

Alhamdulillah… All perfect thanks and praises are due to the Almighty Allah. I send perfect peace and blessings upon the most good-hearted man, Sayyidinā Muḥammad, his household, his companions and all those who follow his guided path till end of time.

The most sensitive topic one can ever discuss is that, which relates to the heart. Therefore, discussing issues of the heart is the most difficult attempt one may take. This is due to the secrecy nature of the heart and its complexity. However, it’s important to tackle it and bring it to the fore consciousness of the Muslim reader. It’s hoped that this discussion will serve as a reminder for the writer and reader to review how often they check and review their hearts.

This article highlights the significance of the heart in the human body, followed by the importance of developing a good heart for the Muslim. The process of reclaiming our heart is identified. This is followed by how the heart can be maintained in its good state. Finally, the one unique secret of the heart is revealed.

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The Significance of the Heart

The heart is the most significant organ of the human body. A person whose heart is physically in a good condition, has all reasons to hope to live longer. In the contrary, a person with a failed heart is likely to has had his burial arrangement been prepared.

To affirm the significance of the heart, the centre point of any country (perhaps its capital) is often referred to as its functioning heart. Similarly, the busiest part of any city is, formally or informally, called the heart of that city.

Furthermore, the significance of the heart and its role in the human body have a mention in the Qur’an. In Sūrah al-Ḥajj, 46, Allah says what means:

“Have they not traveled through the earth to make their hearts reason and their ears hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the breasts.”

Also, in the Sunnah of the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the heart’s significance is given a mention. The Prophet Muḥammad ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said in a ḥadīth, reported by Imām al-Bukhārī and Muslim from the narration of Sayyidunā al-Nu‘mān ibn al-Bashīr:

“Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh, which, if it be whole, all the body is whole, and which, if it is diseased, all of [the body] is diseased. Truly, it is the heart.”

This implies that human’s heart is the most significant organ of his body. Therefore, when it’s in a good condition, the whole body functions correctly. And when it’s in a bad condition, then every part of the body is affected negatively.

In addition to that, until the heart is open to receive the truth, smartness, cleverness and wisdom are blindness. That explains why some “smart” people may reject the truth, at a time when the same truth could have been accepted, convincingly, by a layman who may possess a low intellectual capacity or might be uneducated. The reason? The heart is not given the permission to receive it yet. Also, until the heart approves it, no matter how much wealth we attains, and no matter how much knowledge we possess, we can’t get satisfaction out of it. The heart is in control. The functionality of the heart prevails.

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The Importance of Developing a Good Heart

Developing a good heart is all what ‘reclaiming our hearts’ is about. And reclaiming our hearts makes sense when we’ve realized the importance of developing good hearts.

All happenings in the world today revolve around good and evil. You may not be aware that you annoy the devil whenever you intend goodness. That’s why he whispers in your ears, to instigate you to change your mind. Similarly, when one intends an evil act, goodness prays that he changes his mind, at least if he’s not alternating it with good, he shouldn’t commit evil.

In other words, the battle between good and evil is part and parcel of this life. Although, sometimes, evil may be given the power to manifest more strength over goodness, but the outcome of the long battle is, certainly, going to be in favour of goodness. Until then, one needs to develop a good heart in order to withstand the challenges and pass the test. It’s not about winning the battle against evil. It’s rather about the attitude we show, and the good heartedness we portray in that battle.

This is to say, with a good heart, even the enemies of a person feel safe with him. They are rest assured they’ll receive fair treatment (for wronging him). That is what your enemy feels, even after wronging you, just by realizing you’re good hearted. What, then, would be the feelings of your loved ones in situations similar to this? I believe they are more at safety when with you. Whether they wrong you or not. Muslims with good hearts surely manifest justice. Anger, which is a human character, doesn’t prevent them from being just. They are kind by default. They are flexible and easy going in nature. Let’s not talk about the fact that, for that reason, some of them are often taken advantage of, for their good heartedness.

On the other hand, with an evil heart, even our loved ones can’t take our love and company for granted. An evil heart only attains satisfaction by showcasing more evil and dragging others into it. An evil heart hates the presence of goodness and the portray of kindness. An evil heart hates itself. It’s for that matter, even its loved ones are not at safety with it. If the loved ones of the evil-hearted can’t take his emotions for granted, what more of his enemies?

It’s all about the types of heart we choose to develop. And that has everything to do with how we, eventually, relate to, and align our deeds with God’s likes and dislikes.

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Reclaiming Our Hearts

We’ve agreed on the importance of developing good hearts before reclaiming our hearts. Now, what is the process of reclaiming our hearts?

Let’s agree that everyone was born with an empty and clean heart. That empty and clean heart, however, emerges to be good or evil depending on what he chooses to fill it with. It’s the content we fill it with, that determines that state of our hearts; good or evil.

To fill an empty and clean heart with goodness, one needs to closely learn what good intentions, sincerity, constant reflections, practice of patience, and supplications (dhikr/du’a/repentance) are. They’re the qualities (the content) that fill an empty and clean heart with purity and goodness. They also help in purifying a contaminated (evil) heart.

Good Intentions and Sincerity

It’s important that we distinguish between good intentions and sincerity. Good acts led by good intentions may be useful to its beneficiary, but they’re not necessarily sincere ones. For instance, feeding the poor is a good act, regardless. But feeding them to gain people’s admiration and praises is insincere. This is as far as Islamic spirituality and God-consciousness are concerned.

Carrying out deeds with sincerity happens when it’s done to seek Allah’s acceptance and pleasure, irrespective of people’s reaction to, or perception towards it. But having the sincere intention to feed the poor even without possessing the capacity is desired. This softens one’s heart and determines how he handles the poor when he’s enabled to help them. What more, with the sincere intention, he’s enabled to feed them from his possession!

This is why Islam emphasized to all nations of the past and present, not to worship God except with sincerity and devotion for Him.

“They were commanded only to worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, to be sincere in their faith” (Sūrah al-Bayyinah, 5).

So, everything we do shouldn’t be for the sake of doing it, nor for the pleasure and approval or acceptance of observers. It’s supposed to be for His sake. Ibliss may instigate you to do good, so to please others. But he will never instigate you to do good, so please Allah. Thus, when we do it for Him, we kick Ibliss out and make a step forwards in the process of reclaiming our hearts.

Constant Reflections

Reflections reactivates our sense of appreciations, towards the amazing creations of Allah, and the beautiful architecture of the universe. It also increases our appreciations towards the bounties Allah has bestowed upon us, and towards the kindness lent to us by our parents, teachers, family members, friends and good Samaritans. Reflections help us to recall our encounters and ensure regretted mistakes are not repeated in the future.

Reflections teach (or rather remind) us about the reality of this temporal life. Furthermore, no matter how long you are made to to think you’ve lived or going to live it, a day will come for you to bid it a farewell. That farewell may be sweet, bitter or sour, depending on how you chose to live your life. I’m sure we all want to bid it a sweet farewell. If that’s true, then we got to be serious in reclaiming our hearts.

Dhikr, Du’a and Repentance

Dhikr, du‘ā and taubah (repentance) are three different things but collectively fall under the category of remembrance, or supplications. Dhikr is when one glorifies Allah, without asking for anything specific, in return. Du‘ā is when one invokes Allah, seeking His help or assistance. Many of us do engage in du‘ā, for we care more of what we get from Allah. (There’s nothing wrong with that, though.) Some do engage in dhikr, because we want tranquility, sometimes. Repentance is the missing element in solving the contemporary problems of the Ummah. Didn’t Allah promise us luxury and gardens through Istighfār in Surah Nūh?

“Ask forgiveness from your Lord; surely He is Most Forgiving. He will shower upon you torrents from heaven, and will provide you with wealth and children, and will bestow upon you gardens and rivers” (Sūrah Nūh: 10-12).

Istighfār (seeking forgiveness from Allah; by usually saying: Astaghfirullāh) is the shortest way to get closer to Allah, get our sins forgiven and our affairs eased. In fact, it eases the cleansing process of our hearts. We’re reclaiming our hearts

Every Muslim is required to make istighfār. At all times possible. To that effect, the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, who was forgiven for all his wrongdoings (which he didn’t any) beforehand, used to constantly make istighfār. The minimum was 70 times (100 times in other narrations) on daily basis.

Its requirement is for the wrong we have actually committed. It’s also for the thoughts we contemplate on, in our minds, though we have not committed to them yet.

Making istighfār for an action committed mistakenly is understandable. But what necessitates it for the thoughts that remain mere thoughts? Our actions are the seeds of our beliefs. These beliefs were generated from those tiny thoughts. Clearly, some thoughts are good. Others are evil, sometimes, as a result of the contamination of the heart.

It’s worth indicating that, we’re not held account for the evil thoughts which we haven’t translated into beliefs nor actions. But seeking forgiveness for developing them eradicates them from our minds and paves way for the purification of our hearts, before they evolve into beliefs and then into harmful actions. We’re reclaiming our hearts.

Practice of Patience

One of the most important components in the process of reclaiming our hearts is practice of patience. Patience is what earns us consistency in all we do. Therefore, patience will affirm one’s good heart. And that’s why ṣalāh (prayer) and patience are combined as means of seeking help and assistance from Allah.

It’s with patience that the Messengers and Prophets of Allah succeeded in carrying out their missions. Were some of them not beaten up by some of their people? Were some of them not accused with all sorts of blasphemy? It’s with patience that Sayyidunā Ayyūb ‘alayhi al-salām withstood the ailment that almost drove him insane.

It’s with patience, that the Prophet Muhammad ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam forgave the non-believing people of Makkah, who oppressed him and his followers and chased them out of their homes, families, wealth and loved ones. After all that, he came to say to them “You’re forgiven.”

It’s with patience that one overcomes his desires for lust, fame, money and power. With patience, he’s able to subject and limits them within the boundaries of Allah. With patience the Muslim is able to manifest Islamic values, manners, and attitudes in times of crisis and desperation. With patience, we can reclaim our hearts.

“Endure with patience; truly, your patience is possible only with the help of God” (Sūrah al-Naḥl: 127).

Imām Al-Bukhārī reported that Ibn ‘Abbās raḍiya Allāhu ‘anhu said, that a black woman came to the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam and said, “I get attacks of epilepsy and my body becomes uncovered; please invoke Allah for me.” The Prophet said (to her), ‘If you wish, be patient and you will have (enter) Paradise; and if you wish, I will invoke Allah to cure you.” She said, “I will remain patient,” and added, “but I become uncovered, so please invoke Allah for me that I may not become uncovered.” So he invoked Allah for her.”

The key word is patience. We’re reclaiming our hearts, and patience is a key component in the process.

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Maintaining the Good State of the Heart

Attaining a good heart is unarguably important. It’s achieved with much struggle, practice and sacrifice. What is more challenging than that is maintaining it in its good and pure state.

After attaining a good heart, the Muslim need to maintain it in its good state. The, reclaiming our hearts become more effective. To achieve that, the Muslim needs to liberate it from all that contaminate it. Causes of heart contamination include pride, jealousy and hatred, and attaching it too much to worldly materials.

Pride does not share the same heart with humility. Whenever you find it difficult to be humble, check your heart immediately, and kick out the remainder of pride hiding in there. Jealousy leads to hatred. Both (jealousy and hatred) can easily instigate bigger evil; to commit major sins. Jealousy easily drives people to character assassination. The worst is that it drives to committing heinous crimes in Islam, i.e. corruption, murder and black magic.

A Muslim can work to be the richest man on earth, but he should have a heart that is conscious that, the wealth he possesses is only beneficial to him if he subjects it to righteousness. It’s righteousness that keeps us close to Him. With that he, the Muslim, is not enslaved to his wealth. Similarly, a Muslim may be the most knowledgeable person on earth, but he should realize that knowledge is only worth celebrating when it leads one and gets him closer to his Creator; the Almighty. Between wealth and knowledge comes any gain or possession you can think of, i.e., fame, power, wealth and nobility.

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One Unique Secret of the Heart

Having written (said) all that have been written in all the sections above, it’s worth indicating that the heart has a unique secret, which I believe you should know. Knowing it helps us in handling and maintaining it in its good state, in the pursuit of reclaiming our hearts.

The one unique secret of the heart is that, only Allah knows what the heart hides. In other words, its state of purity or contamination is only known with certainty and accuracy by its sole Creator. Thus, no claim means what’s been said or negates it. My claims may be true, and may be untrue. Your statements could be true, and the otherwise. The only One who knows the truth about it is the Knower of the seen and the unseen; Allah!

“It is He who knows the secrets hidden in people’s breasts” (Sūrah Fāṭir: 38).

This means, while we strive to attaining good hearts, and while we enjoin others to it, it’s important to constantly remember that the success of our effort will only be known to us on the Day of Judgement. Until then, humbleness should be our shield for consistency in the pursuit of His Ultimate Pleasure. The heart is readied for purification only after it has been successfully subjected to humility before Allah and His commands.

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Conclusion

Reclaiming our hearts demand a constant check on the state of our hearts. For in order to stay hygienic, one should shower or bathe as reasonably often as possible. In order to be physically fit, one should engage in physical activities as much as possible. Futhermore, to remain healthy and energetic, one should ensure to consume the best nutrition as possible. Similarly, getting close to Allah has a pre-requisite and routine. That’s reclaiming our hearts.

We all strive to attain good and purified hearts. Reflecting upon it here, is an attempt to remind oneself, as well as the good reader, to its importance in the survival of the Muslim in this life, and his salvation in the next life. It does not, in any way, imply that the writer has attained a good heart or is claiming it.

This article may have not present the best solution, in tackling the problems related to the Muslim’s heart, but it’s hoped that it paves the way for others, who may successfully achieve that.

O Allah, heal the ailments of our heart and purify them for us. O Allah, the Controller of the hearts, make our hearts firm to your religion. Amin.

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Allah knows best.
Allāhu Ḥāfiẓ 🙂

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