If the heart is pure, the entire body is pure. And if the heart is corrupted, the whole body is corrupted.
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said:
“Verily, in the body is a piece of flesh which, if sound, the entire body is sound, and if corrupt, the entire body is corrupt. Truly, it is the heart.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)
Based on this hadith, Sheikh Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah says in his Book of Wisdoms (Hikam Ibn Ata’ Allah Al-Iskandari):
“How can the heart be illumined while the forms of creatures are reflected in its mirror?
Or how can it journey to God while shackled by its passions?
Or how can it desire to enter the Presence of God while it has not yet purified itself of the stain of forgetfulness?
Or how can it understand the subtle points of mysteries while it has not yet repented of its offences?“
Imam Mohammed Shammas from the UK explains the meanings of this aphorism in a short video.
The Spiritual Heart
The spiritual heart is very important in Islam. Sheikh Ibn Ata’ says:
“How can the heart be illumined while the forms of creatures are reflected in its mirror?”
Meaning, how can we attain spiritual lights and insight, if our hearts are reflecting this world? When we read the Quran or study Hadith, how can we expose our hearts to these divine spiritual lights if our hearts are filled with excessive love of this world?
Enjoying this life is not an issue if our priority is the Hereafter. If a person’s priority is worshipping Allah, then he/she can enjoy this world. But if solely the heart is filled with this world, with its pleasures, reputation, wealth, offspring, property, … etc it cannot illuminate.
The Shackles of Desires
Sheikh Ibn Ata’ then says:
“Or how can it journey to God while shackled by its passions?“
Imam Al-Ghazali discussed the nafs in great detail in his famous book Ihya’ Uloom El-Deen (The Revival of the Sciences of Religion). The idea is either we control our desires and passions, or our passions control us.
One example is constant preoccupation with food, one of the basic human desires. The same with garments, family and any lust or desires we have. The idea is not to be shackled by them. If we cannot control our desires and passions when they conflict with Allah and His messenger, then we are shackled by them. No matter how much you fulfil your desires, they will always be unsatisfied.
If we know that, then we should strive to control them, and not let them control our life. If we are shackled, we cannot journey to Allah (SWT).
The Stain of Forgetfulness
To continue with the aphorism, Sheikh Ibn Ata’ then says:
“Or how can it desire to enter the Presence of God while it has not yet purified itself of the stain of forgetfulness?”
Meaning how can the heart desire to enter the presence of Allah (SWT) while it is in a state of forgetfulness. When we sin, we stain our hearts. So how can a stained impurified heart enter a pure place?
When a person is in a state of major ritual impurity, he cannot enter the masjid. How can then our hearts which are covered with the sins of forgetfulness enter the presence of Allah?
And finally, the Sheikh says:
“Or how can it understand the subtle points of mysteries while it has not yet repented of its offences?”
When we repent, we purify our hearts, and they become ready for the divine mysteries of Allah (SWT).
So, for spiritual lights to settle into our hearts, the darkness of illusion must be dispelled. And this is what we strive within this world, that whenever we sin, to always ask Allah for forgiveness, to purify our hearts.
When we do good, a white dot appears upon the spiritual heart. And when we do so many good actions, our hearts become illuminated. And the Prophet, peace be upon him, says when you do a bad action, a black dot appears upon the heart, until it is finally enveloped with darkness and sin.
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Verily, when the servant commits a sin, a black mark appears upon his heart. If he abandons the sin, seeks forgiveness, and repents, then his heart will be polished. If he returns to the sin, the blackness will be increased until it overcomes his heart. It is the covering that Allah has mentioned: No, rather a covering is over their hearts from what they have earned.” (83:14) (Al-Tirmidhi)
So, we ask Allah (SWT) to illuminate our hearts and allow us to benefit within this blessed month of Ramadan.
May Allah (SWT) help us all refine our spiritual hearts for them to reach the state of illuminated hearts. Ameen
Watch Imam Shammas’ Video