THE teachings of Islam attach great importance to an individual’s heart. The heart is the organ that is considered to be at the centre of human existence. It receives vital energy for onwards transmission to various other organs in the body, but sometimes matters can go amiss as well. Therefore, the Quran emphasises that believers should examine their heart. It advises believers to invoke “… O’ Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower (3:8)”.
As the heart oscillates between right and wrong, it is regarded as the best and also the worst part of human existence. The heart can be white or black, guided or misguided, enlightened or shrouded in darkness; therefore, one needs to resort to those means by which one may succeed in examining the heart.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said: “In a body is a morsel of flesh which if it be sound, all the body is sound and which, if it be diseased, all of it is diseased. This part of [the] body is the heart.”
The day-to-day condition of the heart makes a person happy or otherwise. Happiness eludes a person when the heart is dissatisfied or dejected. It is the life-sustaining source of all our wishes, aspirations and intentions. We keep trying to fulfil our wishes to make our heart happy. Sometimes, when our heart is unhappy, it reflects its glaring unhappiness through day-to-day dealings with others.
The fulfilment of worldly desires cannot make our heart happy.
An unhappy heart makes our days dull, nights sleepless, and food tasteless. We do not concentrate on work and try to avoid everyone.
Therefore, making the heart happy is one of the major tasks of every living person. But material gain or fulfilment of worldly desires cannot make our heart happy, for the Quran says “…It is He Who sends down calmness into the hearts of the believers. ... (48:4)”. It is the remembrance of Allah that brings ultimate happiness.
The heart’s significant role in various aspects of life cannot be ignored; rather, its volatile condition impacts every aspect of life. At the physical level, the heart is the key organ of the body and the entire circulatory system depends on its worthiness. As a hollow muscular pump, its main functions include propelling blood throughout the body. This is the heart which doctors operate upon and which physicians transplant. If the heart fails, our entire physical body stops breathing and working, and ceases to exist.
Psychologically, it is said that the heart is a place where all human feelings, emotions and moods are generated which subsequently impact the whole personality. We lose heart when we fail to achieve the desired results of our efforts. There is a heart which is deeply hurt when a person is insulted; there is a heart which makes our body restless when we are worried; there is a heart which is elated when one is praised; and there is a heart where all secrets are kept.
Socially, we give our heart to the one we like the most. We symbolise our pledge of allegiance, oath of any public office or respect for the national anthem by placing our hand over our heart to show our sincerity.
We embrace our close relatives, friends and others on special occasions. In religious terms, it is said that every believer’s heart is an abode of Allah (qalb al-momin bait Allah). This has social implications, that nobody should hurt or break the other’s heart as it is the ‘abode of Allah’. Winning someone’s heart is like winning Allah’s happiness.
In one sense, most believers consider the human heart to be at the root of spiritual existence — it is the heart that submits, and the entire body follows. Allah is He who flows between the pericardium and the heart. The Holy Quran says, “…And know that Allah comes in between a person and his heart (8:24)”. In Islam, no prayer or act of goodness is accepted unless performed with head and heart. Within his heart, a believer receives light and guidance; he remembers his Creator within the heart through a constant act of zikr to elevate his or her soul spiritually.
One needs to consider the fact that Allah has provided the human body with many organs in pairs, such as eyes, ears, hands and legs, but the heart is on its own. Therefore, a believer’s heart should be occupied by none except the Creator. Allah says that He has not assigned unto any man two hearts within one body (33:4).
In a nutshell, the importance of the heart cannot be emphasised enough. What is essential is the need to examine periodically what is in one’s heart in order to receive Allah’s blessing for a peaceful life in this world.
The writer is an educationist with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2018