Fruits for the Week

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How do we change?

Any resolution or project for change must include the reform of the heart, or else it is doomed to fail. The Prophet (saw) connected our external well-being to our internal one in this hadith, and we understand that there can be no external reform without an internal one. In fact, the internal reform is the basis of any external change. The Prophet (saw) said: “Taqwa is here, pointing to his chest.” (Muslim)

This means that Taqwa begins and resides in the heart, and it flows from there to the rest of the body. And it is the heart that is the arena where the most significant change takes place. The Prophet (saw) said: “Allah does not look at your bodies and images but looks to your hearts, and he pointed his fingers to his chest. (Muslim)

As the spot which Allah cares about the most, we have to pay great attention to our hearts. We typically engage in various acts of worship in an effort to become better Muslims. And this is very important in any plan we embrace for spiritual and religious improvement.

At the same time, we may neglect to include the treatment of our hearts in this plan. We fail to work on them as we are working on our bodies, and we forget that they need nourishment and attention as well. The result is a disconnect between our hearts and bodies, resulting in our inability to taste the sweetness of the worship we engage in. we then end up with habitual acts and lifeless routines. The Prophet (saw) said: “A man would finish his prayer and only one tenth of his prayer is written for him, one ninth, one eighth, one seventh, one sixth, one fifth, one quarter, one third, one half.” (Abu Dawud)

We focus on the hull and perfect it because others are watching us; we focus on the hull because we erroneously believe that performing acts of worship is solely their physical performance. We may even develop an obsession with minutia while ignoring the more fundamental worship of the heart. If we remember this, it becomes easy then to understand the following saying from the companion Abu Darda’ (ra): “Seek Allah’s protection from hypocritical reverence.” He was asked: “What is hypocritical reverence?” He replied: “It is for you to see a reverent body while the heart is not.” (Al-Baihaqy)

The physical act may have all the marks of the pious performance of worship; but if we look deep inside, we may uncover a wasteland, a heart wrecked with uncertainty and discontentment. If we see and feel this in ourselves, we must turn our immediate attention to fixing our hearts and linking our physical performance or worship to our hearts. As Hasan al-Basri once said: “Treat your heart, for what Allah wants from people is the well being of their hearts.” (Jani’al-Ulum wa al-Hikam)

If we pay attention, justifiable so, to the excellence of our exterior, we should pay greater attention to the excellence of our interior. It is the excellence and reformation of the heart that will help us when we meet Allah the Most High on the Last Day. Allah (swt) said: “On the Day when wealth and children will of no benefit, except for one who comes to Allah with a sound heart.” (Al-Shu’araa: 88-89)

The sound heart is one that is free from corruption, full with devotion to the Most Merciful.

The centrality of the heart

In addition to everything said so far, the heart is the most important part of the body because:

1. All the commands of Allah in Islam, including the prohibition, are received first by the heart, and it is the heart that accepts or rejects them, decides to pursue them or to avoid them. The body comes in second.

2. At times when the body is unable to perform these commands or is forced out of necessity to do the haram, the heart remains steadfast in its acceptance of the halal and rejection of the haram. Similarly, when someone is compelled to utter words of disbelief for fear of death or torture, it is the iman in his heart that keeps him Muslim.

3. The heart has its special worship that does not include the body, while the body’s worship always includes the heart. Love, tawakkul, sincerity, and contentment are examples of actions of the heart that are not dependent on the body.

4. The intention of the heart, such as wishing to do good or evil, brings great reward or sin though the body is not actively doing anything. And when one does perform some good deed but is unable to complete it, his good intention brings him the complete reward of that deed.

5. Since it is the centre, the actions of the heart and its worship are the foundations of the acts of the body, and hence are more valuable and more rewardable. The worship of the body is meaningless without the heart. Conversely, the reward for the worship of the body depends on and increases because of the heart: the more iman and proper intentions the heart has, the more the reward.


by Dr. Ali Albarghouthi