2:74 How Can I Tell the Condition of my Heart?
When, even after that, your hearts were hardened, as if they were rocks, or still worse in hardness. For surely among the rocks there are some from which rivers gush forth, and there are others that crack open and water flows from them, and there are still others that fall down in fear of Allah. And Allah is not unaware of what you do. (2:74)
An argumentative nature is indicative of a deeper psychological problem – a hardened heart. Our hearts are the source of our actions. Imaan emanates from the heart, as does evil. Hearts are not static. They are ever-shifting – sometimes subtly altering, sometimes dramatically changing, which is why the Prophet (peace on him) would recite the du’a:
O Allah, Turner of the hearts, direct our hearts to Your obedience.
Quarrels are the product of two competing egos trying to win the upper hand, and asserting their exclusive monopoly on the truth. The truth, conversely, is only accessible by a soft heart, as the ego is the enemy of the heart. Yet it is not always apparent who has a hard or a soft heart. We simply cannot judge anyone’s heart. Beneath all of Umar’s (may Allah be pleased with him) bravado, lay a soft heart. Externally he seemed so far from the deen that Amir ibn Rabee’ah dismissively said, ‘Not until the donkey of Al-Khattab embraces Islam will Umar do the same!’ (Seerah ibn Hishaam 1/216)
However, at his first exposure to the words of the Qur’an his heart was so moved, he converted at once. The sign of a soft heart is one that is stirred upon hearing the Qur’an and even responds by bringing tears to the eyes. Such a heart is also quick to detect sin.
Reported by Wabisah bin Ma`bad (may Allah be pleased with him): I went to Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and he asked me, ‘Have you come to inquire about piety?’ I replied in the affirmative. Then he said, ‘Ask your heart regarding it. Piety is that which contents the soul and comforts the heart, and sin is that which causes doubts and perturbs the heart, even if people pronounce it lawful and give you verdicts on such matters again and again.’ (Ahmad & Ad-Darmi)
The Status of the Heart
Do you have a hard or soft heart? We can give our hearts a servicing by checking it for symptoms of a hardened heart. Do you find yourself being:
If we have any of these symptoms, this suggests our hearts need help. Hard hearts come from an accumulation of sins. The sins coat the heart in layers of blackened filth. Like going to work on a grimy frying pan, we need to scour the filth off our hearts. If we clean the pan or heart after it became splattered, it would remain shiny and clean. Neglected, it becomes much harder to scrub off the blackness.
How does one go about softening a heart?
How to soften your heart
- Recognise what hardens hearts: sins, repeated and accumulated, contribute to fossilising a heart. So avoid sins in the first place.
- Istighfar (repentance) wears away this hardness like a pumice stone. Asking Allah Almighty for forgiveness through tasbih, or by reciting dua’s for forgiveness morning and evening as well as immediately after sinning erases sins.
- Ask Allah Almighty to soften our heart and keep remembering throughout the day.
- Pray on time. Try not to skip any salah or unnecessarily combine salah. Remember that wudu also purifies us of sins.
- Glorifying what Allah Almighty glorifies: treating His name, attributes, prophets, the five pillars and the Qur’an with the reverence.
Without scrutiny, hearts can become harder than stone. Even stones sometimes split open to let springs gush forth. When Allah Almighty revealed himself to Musa (peace be on him), the mountain crumbled to dust out of fear. So if our hearts are hardening, we need to be vigilant. Abu Hurairah said:
The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) used to say: ‘O Allah, I seek refuge in You from four: From knowledge that is of no benefit, from a heart that is not humble, from a soul that is not satisfied and from a supplication that is not answered.’
A humble heart is linked to a healthy soul. Nurturing the heart means avoiding the company of people whose negativity drags us down. Argumentative people leave our chest feeling heavy. Shaytan brings sadness to believers, his whispers draw our attention to everything that is wrong, upsetting and demoralising. This sadness affects our performance, and detracts from our link with Allah Almighty, affecting our worship. There are times when we become moody, fussy and likely to have a meltdown at the slightest provocation. This is when we need to pull ourselves together, pull ourselves out of the rut and extricate ourselves from arguments. We need calm. And we need good company.
Surrounding ourselves with positive people sprinkles a little magic dust on us. It helps change our perspective, look on the bright side, be grateful for our blessings and to embrace life. Our interactions with others are thus key in maintaining a healthy heart. If we spend time with righteous people, even without conversation, our heart beats differently in their presence. Just as the companions of the Prophet (peace be on him) had a raised status from being with him, his way of thinking and behaving rubbed off on them.
Being with the right people can elevate us spiritually. The Sufi tradition has a concept of the perfect shaykh – shakyh al kaamil. One who tries to be as close as possible to the character of the Prophet (peace on him). They say that a perfect shaykh nurtures his students like a turtle nurtures its eggs – she hauls herself painstakingly to the ideal place, where she digs a hole in the ground with her flippers to bury her eggs away from any danger. Some say the gaze of a shaykh al kaamil focused upon his murids (students) can purify their hearts.
Our hearts are between the fingers of Allah Almighty. Abdullah bin Amr bin al reported that he heard Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying:
‘Verily, the hearts of all the sons of Adam are between the two fingers out of the fingers of the Compassionate Lord as one heart. He turns that to any (direction) He likes.’ (Muslim)
Our hearts have the capacity to turn towards good and bad. A person who refuses to listen is said to be like a rock in Arabic. They reach a level of stagnation – unwilling to change. Yet even the hardest of hearts can eventually soften, as happened with one of the most notorious women in Islamic history – Hind bin Abu Sufyan. Despite hating Islam with ferocity, even she succumbed to the message in the end. It is never too late to change and we never know who might change. Mustafa Sadiq Al Rafai, the Egyptian poet, wrote about the importance of having a good opinion of people, which is essential for delivering the message of Islam. Today’s Islamophobe maybe tomorrow’s Muslim.
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