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The Heart’s Predicament

It so happens that whatever we like doing, or whatever makes us apparently happy, we tag it as the food for our soul.

A couple of days back, I attended a live video conference of Sheikh Yaser Birjas, who brought up a really good point.

He mentioned in his talk that “man is made from two components: an earthly one (dirt) and a heavenly component (the soul). So both of these need nutrition from their origins.

Our body being an earthly entity needs it from the Earth (fruits and vegetation) and our soul needs it from the Heavens (spirituality from the Divine commandments).

Depriving any one of these from its source nutrition, it weakens and dies.”

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This particular reasoning makes a lot of sense.

So anything that takes you off the track is the reason why your heart is not in the right place. It is the reason why you haven’t cried in a long while in your prayers. The reason why nothing moves you. And your spirituality is at standstill. That’s when you know something is broken inside. Your heart is fogged up. Blinded by the mundane.

Even when you try to be passionate about your obligations or wait for an inspiration, you find no drive and no will that lasts long enough to carry you through the day. Your heart has hardened and singing along to another tune.

In physiology, we have a term “rigor mortis” for dead bodies. When a person dies, his muscles stiffen up after a while and his body hardens consequently in whatever position he’s placed in. Similar is the case with the heart. When the soul weakens, the heart hardens and finds itself incapable of staying on the path it should. It begins to wither.

So anything deviant that makes you happy isn’t akin to feeding your soul, it’s feeding the demon inside. Take some time out for some serious soul searching and sort out what you’ve been filling your heart with. Cut the harmful down gradually and think of alternatives to pass your time with.

The Impact of the Quran

The question – what makes a heart responsive to all that’s good?

And no one knows it better than the Maker:

The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a fear in their hearts and when His Verses (this Quran) are recited unto them, they increase their Faith; and they put their trust in their Lord (Alone). (8: 2)

There is nothing that can soften a heart more than the Quran recited beautifully – composed by the Master Himself – set to a rhythm so divine that it can have your heart racing, if you know what the words mean and even when you don’t.

A friend shared her tarawih experience with me that the recitation of the imam shook her from within even though she understood very little of it, and it made her cry, and the feeling was something very new for her.

So listening to your favorite reciters would help to pull yourself up from whatever death trap you’ve put your heart into. And it would help a great deal more if you try to understand it as well.

Here is why:

Allah has (now) revealed the fairest of statements, a Scripture consistent, (wherein promises of reward are) paired (with threats of punishment), whereat doth creep the flesh of those who fear their Lord, so that their flesh and their hearts soften to Allah’s reminder. Such is Allah’s guidance, wherewith He guides whom He will. And him whom Allah sends astray, for him there is no guide. (39: 23)

This is how the Lord of the Worlds describes His flawless composition. It can set a heart alight, soften it and mould it to His bidding. So it’s time we revamp our playlist.

Another reason why a heart may harden could be an arrogant demeanor. Something deadly that seeps into the religious circles or self-proclaimed religious people who feel they know enough and shut themselves to more advice, consequently blocking themselves from any good that might have crossed that way.

Knowledge can be venomous if there’s no humility in the bearer. So keeping oneself open to criticism and receptive to knowledge (no matter wherever it comes from), is another way of continuously working on yourself to be better. All seekers should keep this verse in mind:

Is not the time ripe for the hearts of those who believe to submit to Allah’s reminder and to the truth which is revealed, that they become not as those who received the scripture of old but the term was prolonged for them and so their hearts were hardened, and many of them are evil-livers. (57: 16)

Other Tips

Learn from history before it repeats itself. Avoid mistakes of the ancients. Self-righteousness is lethal, among other things that corrupted them.

Do small good deeds. Keep people around you happy. Be charitable. Spread goodness whenever you can manage in a million little ways. Spend some time with the less-privileged and your heart will inevitably soften.

Ibn Abi Dunya narrated from Abu Hurairah that a person complained to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) about the hardness of his heart. The Prophet said to him:

If you want your heart to soften, (affectionately) rub the orphan’s head (with your hand) and feed the needy. (Al-Mundhiri)

And when the night falls, remember God much. Look back at the day and repent for all your mistakes and shortcomings. For sins blacken the soul and a heart with such a burden is a devil’s refuge.

Abu Hurairah narrated that Prophet Muhammad said:

When the believer commits a sin, a black spot appears on his heart. If he repents and gives up that sin and seeks forgiveness, his heart will be polished. But if (the sin) increases, (the black spot) increases. That is the “raan” which Allah mentions in His Book: ‘Nay! But on their hearts is the Raan (covering of sins and evil deeds) which they used to earn’. (At-Tirmidhi)

God Almighty has sent His Book as a “cure for the heart of the believers” as mentioned in the Quran:

O people! There has come to you an admonition from your Lord, and a healing for what is in the breasts, and a guidance, and a mercy for those who believe. (10: 57)

Never part with the Quran or leave it to be forgotten in some dark recesses of your mind. Live it and you’ll truly feel alive. The missing ingredient that we are all craving lies in the remembrance of God. And it is no secret.

And whenever you feel yourself gravitating towards the worldly pleasures, remember death.

Many of the earliest scholars of Islam, including Sa’eed ibn Jubair and Rabi’ ibn Abi Rashid used to say:

“If the remembrance of death leaves our hearts for an hour, our hearts will become rotten.”

Keep supplicating to the Almighty that you may never stray from the Right. The Prophet had taught us a prayer for this as well saying:

Oh turner of hearts, make my heart firm upon Your religion. (At-Tirmidhi)

May we win the many battles we’re fighting against ourselves and conquer our own hearts. Now that is something to see to.

(From Discovering Islam’s archive.)