The believer may also find hardness in the heart, but it is the hardness of ice, not rock. The causes for this hardness are many and we must all be vigilant about their appearance. Among them are:
- Preferring this dunya (life) over the Hereafter and becoming deluded by worldly pursuits. The love and attachment one has to this dunya is directly proportionate to the hardness that will afflict his/her heart.
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) says:
O mankind, indeed the promise of Allah is truth, so let not the worldly life delude you and be not deceived about Allah by the Deceiver. (Qur’an 35:5)
- Having corrupt companionship. The human being is made up of a nafs (lower self) and a qalb (the seat of intellect and emotion). Our relationships affect us on both levels of our existence. Association with people who have overbearing nufoos (pl. of nafs) and corrupted hearts causes contagion. Their internal evil attacks us without our realizing it.
Allah (swt) says:
Close friends, that Day, will be enemies to each other, except for the righteous. (Qur’an 43:67)
- Engaging in sin without repentance.
Allah (swt) says:
No! Rather, the stain has covered their hearts of that which they were earning. (Qur’an 83:14)
In the following lines of poety, Abdullah ibn al-Mubaarak sums up the effects of sins on the heart, saying:
رأيت الذنوب تميت القلوب وقد يورث الذل إدمانها
وترك الذنوب حياة القلوب وخير لنفسك عصيانها
“I noticed that sins cause death to the heart, and becoming addicted to them brings about humiliation; and that the abandonment of sin is life for the hearts, so it is best for your self to disobey it!”
- Heedlessness of the reality of death and being unoccupied with matters of the Hereafter.
The Prophet ﷺ (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) advised us to think of death often, saying:
أكثروا ذكر هادم اللذات: الموت
“Remember often the destroyer of passions and pleasure – death!”1)
The salaf (pious predecessors of this Ummah) understood this well. Ar-Rabee’ ibn Khuthaym radi allahu `anhu (may God have mercy on him) dug out a grave in his home that he would lie in several times a day to ensure the continuous remembrance of death and he used to say, “If my heart abandons the remembrance of death for even just an hour, it would become corrupted.”
- Heedlessness with regard to the remembrance of Allah (swt).
The heart is either filled with remembrance of Allah or the whispers of Satan. Allah (swt) says:
And whoever is blinded from remembrance of the Most Merciful – We appoint for him a devil, and he is to him a companion. (Qur’an 43:36)
Any or all of these causes draw the heart into a state of hibernation. As the thick snow of winter piles upon it, the heart becomes frozen and numb. Deeper and deeper does it sink into sleep until, when it is time to leave this world:
[It will be said], “You were certainly in heedlessness of this, and We have removed from you your cover, so your sight, this Day, is sharp.” (Qur’an 50:22)
The Qur’an reminds us of this reality NOW, before it is too late! Reciting, reading, pondering over, and acting upon the Qur’an can revive the seed of the fitra (innate disposition towards the oneness of God) even if it is buried under a glacier. At length, does the seed wait for the ice to thaw and for spring to come. Then, one blessed day, the heart hears the following words:
Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth? And let them not be like those who were given the Scripture before, and a long period passed over them, so their hearts hardened; and many of them are defiantly disobedient. (Qur’an 57:16)
Tears begin to flow because the ice that has encapsulated the heart for so long is finally thawing. The heart is softening to the remembrance of Allah (swt) and even the skin is becoming sensitive to the change of seasons.2 The seed begins to grow. Spring has come at last!
This is the essence of the beautiful supplication that the Prophet ﷺ taught us:
“O Allah, I am your slave and the son of your male slave and the son of your female slave. My forelock is in Your Hand (i.e. you have control over me). Your Judgment upon me is certainly in effect and Your Decree concerning me is just. I ask You by every Name that belongs to You; that which You have named Yourself with, or You have revealed in Your Book , or that which You have taught to any one of Your creation, or that which You have exclusively kept unto Yourself in the knowledge of the unseen that is with You; to make the Qur’an the spring of my heart, and the light of my chest, the banisher of my grief and anxiety.”3
For those who do not think that the Qur’an can actually bring about such a dramatic change in the heart, consider this.
It is reported that al-Qadi ‘Iyaad (ra), who lived during the 2nd century AH, was a highway robber in the beginning of his life. At one point he also became enamored with a woman and as he was climbing a wall to reach the object of his desire, he heard this verse being recited (57:16). The impact of the verse was so strong upon him that he said with confidence, “Yes, O Lord! The time has come!” Propelled by immense spiritual drive, he repented to Allah, left behind the life of disobedience and devoted himself to the Ka’bah to study the sacred sciences. Thereafter, he was known for his asceticism (zuhd) and intense worship.4
Khashyah, awe of Allah (swt), is what continues to squeeze tears from the heart like sweet juice flows from a ripe fruit, long after winter has subsided. Being moved to tears upon the remembrance of Allah (swt) is the characteristic of those who know Allah (al-‘aarifeen) and are devoutly submissive to Him. It is a sign that the knowledge of the Truth has penetrated the heart and has become Certainty. 5
- Ahmad, Ibn Maajah, Tirmidhee, Nasaa`ee, others, Saheeh (narration of Abu Hurayrah [↩]
- See Quran 39:23 [↩]
- Ahmad, Ibn Hibban, (hadeeth of Ibn Mas’ood) Al-Albani graded it authentic in As-Silsilaah As-Saheehah No. 199. For more on the benefits of this prayer, see Ibn Al-Qayyim’s explanation in “al-Fawaa’id”, pp. 44 [↩]
- Adh-Dhahabee, “Siyat A’laam an-Nubalaa`” [↩]
- See Qur’an 17:107-109 [↩]