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Ramadan reflection-09:Cleaning the heart(part 1)


Written By: Ajmal-Masroor
31/07/2013 21:56
Religion & Culture

In the mother’s womb as the fetus is taking shape something miraculous happens. Without warning and without any brain activity suddenly the heart comes to life. It suddenly starts to beat and pump blood across the body of the fetus. This extraordinary event is described as the moment when God breathes into the heart Ruh (the soul), the spirit of life that keeps us alive. 

This is a momentous occasion; the most sacred entity of our existence is placed in the heart. It is important to note that it is not placed in any other parts of the body. God chose the heart to be the carrier of the spirit. For, He must have designed the heart in such a way that it could cope with the most precious gift - the spark of life. The heart is not just a pump that supplies blood to the body. A German philosopher Rudolf Steiner noted that:

“The greatest discovery of twentieth century science would be that the heart is not a pump but a vastly more, and that the great challenge of the coming ages if humanity would be, in effect, to allow the heart to teach us to think in a new way.” 

The heart is designed to have intelligence of its own. It is able to cope with changes to feelings, emotions and moods. It is able to navigate through unfamiliar terrain. It has inbuilt mechanism that can determine right from wrong. If the brain is the command centre of our body, the heart would be the epicenter of emotions. When the heart was chosen to be the carrier of the spark of life it was fashioned in that way. 

The heart in the Arabic language is called Qalb, which comes from the root word qa-la-ba and means to turn about or upside down. The word appears 130 times in the Quran. The heart is known as the seat of affection and emotions. Its ability to turn feelings around, to cope with changing emotions and be the battleground for feelings makes the name extremely suitable. It requires delicate and detailed attention or it can become diseased very quickly.

The spirit of life is known as ruh in Arabic language, some have translated this to mean the soul or spirit. Ruh is the light from God in the form of life - a sacred and precious gift. 

In the Quran God draws parable of His light with a lamp placed in a glass niche. Residing in the glass enclosure is a radiant start, brightly lit but no light has ever touched it. The light reaches the further corners of the universe illuminating the darkest of spots. This brilliant lamp is not limited to the geographical borders of east or the west; it is transcendental and universal. 

This is the most beautiful description of God omnipresence in the life of His creation. His light resides inside each and every one of our hearts. He is intimately present and infinitely around us. Your heart beats at His rhythm, your life hangs by His command and you exist because of Him. Wherever you turn you find the signs of His existence. 

If the heart is the carrier of the divine light, it must be kept perpetually clean or the light of God will not benefit you in person nor benefit anyone else around you. The heart has both physical and spiritual dimensions that need your attention and care. The physical ailments of the heart originate from bad diet, terrible lifestyle choices and neglect whereas the spiritual ailment of the heart occurs due to deep disconnect with ones inner light and denial of the ones root. 

Our heart is naturally inclined to accept God as the root of all life, the origin and the source of all power. Those who go out of their way to deny God find their heart empty and diseased. Some compensate the emptiness with relentless abuse such as loud music, alcohol, drugs and other substances. Some discover God and find peace and serenity. The truth is if you deny God, it is similar to you denying yourself. There could not be any worse disease that could infect a heart than the denial of God. 

The opposite of a clean heart is a dirty or diseased heart. The blessed Prophet once said, "Indeed, there is in the body a morsel of flesh, if it is sound and wholesome, then the whole body will be sound and wholesome and if it is corrupt, the whole body will be corrupt. Indeed it is the heart."

A spiritually diseased heart is like a malignant and cancerous tumour, as it grows and spreads, it destroys vital organs, it attacks the immune system, destroys the internal dynamics of the body and the outcome is sure death. The only way this could be averted is if the tumour is detected early and a rigorous treatment is administered. In most cases the only way to clean the body of the cancer is to the remove the tomour through surgery. 

A spiritually diseased heart requires a robust programme that focuses on the root causes of the disease and long term sustainable remedy. In other words, a quick fix and a piecemeal approach will not heal the diseased heart or take the problem away. You may shift the problem for few days but it will return more vigorously and become more invasive. You ignore the diseases of your heart at your own peril. 

Ramadan is the ideal opportunity to examine your heart using a magnifying glass to identity what issues make you feel discontent and what make you feel happy. By intensely fasting in the month of Ramadan you take control of your physical apatite. You find your senses heightened and your emotions acutely sensitive. You are able to feel and sense more things around you. This is when you must take control of your heart and begin the process of removing the years of clutter and cobwebs of sins. 

In my view it all start from the recognition that we all have a naturally occurring internal mechanism that can detect right and wrong. It is in our DNA that when we do something wrong our heart tells us that we have done something wrong. The blessed Prophet once said, “wrong action is that which wavers in the heart and causes you to feel uncomfortable.” 

The heart is like the glass case in a lantern. The amount of light emanating through the glass is determined by how clean the glass surface is. In remote parts of the world where there is no electricity and people rely on lanterns, they usually spend hours polishing the glass at the arrival of the evening, ready for maximum light to illuminate their homes at the depth of night’s darkness. If you find small dark spots or stain on the glass you would spend ages removing it by polishing it. 

Your heart is no different. It is as delicate and fragile as glass. It gets stains of evil very quickly. Every time you do something wrong a dark spots appears on your heart. If you do not spend enough time to polish it and keep it clean, spots upon spots would make the glass appear total dark thus obscure your heart. The light inside your heart would no longer benefit you. You have a heart but you cannot feel the truth. What is the point of having the heart? 

Evil must be replaced with something that is better. The stains of evil from your heart must be erased so it becomes clean and polished. If you do something wrong, follow your wrong action with something good. In fact the Quranic verse is very instructive about this. God say, “good and evil are never the same, repel evil with something better” The better action will erase the evil and rebalance your records.

It is not enough simply to erase it, as there will always remain residue from the stains of evil. To make a piece of glass brilliantly shiny you would use a polish cloth and rub over and over again. In fact you would not stop until the glass surface is glistening. Similarly you would use the perpetual remembrance of God, also known as “dhikr” to polish your heart. Dhikr becomes your polish cloth. For God says, “it is through perpetual remembrance of God, your heart will find contentment”

If you rub the polish cloth on a glass for long enough any glass would shine. The impact of your dhikr should be that your heart is beaming with the goodness and the light of God. The dhikr of God is not simply confined to the monotonous repetition of the names of God. It is not connected to sufi chanting, dervish whirling, mystics dancing or pulling rosary beads. Some people focus on the number of times the names of God has been repeated. It is not how many times you chant the names of God but it is the quality of your dhikr that would have the deepest impact. 

Some focus on the more exoteric manifestation of dhikr, in my view erroneously. The impact is superficial and often short term. The names of God do not reach any further than their lips. The more esoteric manifestation of dhikr is required for the purposes of cleansing the heart from the destructive ailments. It needs to penetrate the heart and extract the harmful viruses that may have taken deep root. 

The Arabic word dhikr originally comes from the root words dh-ka-ra which appears 292 times in the Quran in various forms including to remember, to remind, to mention, reminder, receive admonition and message. In the light of the various meanings contained in the term dhikr it must be reflective, contemplative and transformative. If your dhikr does not polish your heart sufficiently and remove the grimes and debris of sin, what is the point of dhikr?

A few organs play a vital role in being the gateway to the heart such as the eyes, the ears and the tongue. The eyes are the mirrors of the heart, the ears are the receptors of the heart and the tongue is the communicator of the heart. When we master these gateway organs we begin the process of cleansing our heart from the diseases. 

Your eyes take constant pictures of what is happening around you. It captures real time images of the world around you. It imprints these in the heart and the heart generates feelings and emotions based on what is being seen and absorbed. For example if you constantly view violence, your heart will become desensitized to the evil of violence eventually. There will come a time when you will not react as abhorrently towards violence as you naturally would. If you expose your eyes to pornography, you will have a distorted view of what is real human sexual relationship and become desensitized to the true pleasures of actual intimacy. 

There are many profound reasons why we must take control of our eyes and try our level best to see things that give the heart food that are healthy and wholesome. Its called the beneficial influence. Cleansing our heart must start with cleansing our eyes. 

Ears are the receptors of the heart. They take information and generate emotions. The ears hear the finest sounds. It has been designed in such a way that it works to generate body balance. Have you ever had your ears blocked? The feeling of imbalance can be disorientating. If you listen to lies, backbites, slanders, gossips and negativity, it is very likely that your heart will become laden with such illnesses. If you expose your ears to swear words and abusive language regularly your ears would become desensitized to vile language and your heart will no longer generate the feeling of disgust and repugnance. 

Your tongue communicates what is in your heart and articulates your thoughts. If you use your tongue productively you could create harmony and love around you but the same tongue used in a less productive way could cause misery and pain. Your tongue could complement someone for an act of generosity and win his or her heart or your tongue could insult someone and destroy a relationship. It is the tongue that could cause war and has the potential to make peace. The blessed Prophet is reported to have said that if you could give a guarantee of your tongue, God would guarantee you heaven. 

Cleansing your heart requires a concerted effort. You have to take ownership of your eyes, ears, and tongue and even train your thoughts. 

I find the following verse of the Quran a stark reminder for me to keep my heart clean. God says, “the Day on which neither wealth will be of any use, nor children, [and when] only he [will be happy] who comes before God with a heart free of evil!” (Quran 26:88-89)

To keep our heart free of evil and keep it disease free we need to know what causes the biggest ailment of the heart. If we can diagnose the problems the remedy would be extremely easy. Cleansing your heart is not just a fancy phrase but it is the most important principle of our faith. Prayer, fasting, charity or hajj will be rendered useless if our heart was diseased. 

Let me share with you a poem from Rumi – 

There are two kinds of intelligence. 
One is that acquired by a child at school 
From books and teachers, new ideas and memorization. 
Your intelligence may become superior to others, 
But retaining all that knowledge is a burden. 
You who are so busy searching for knowledge 
Must be a preserving tablet, 
But the preserved tablet is the one who has gone beyond all this. 
For the other kind of intelligence is the gift of God: 
Its fountain is deep within the soul. 
When the water of God-given knowledge surges from the breast, 
It never stagnates or becomes impure. 
And if its way to the outside is blocked, what harm is there? 
For it flows continually from the house of the heart. 
The acquired intelligence is like the conduits 
which run into the house from the streets: 
If those pipes become blocked, the house is bereft of water. 
Seek the fountain within yourself.

Dr Gohar Moshtaq beautifully summed up the essence of Rumi’s poem. In his book entitled “The Intelligent heart” he wrote - “The heart is a sensory organ that possesses the faculties of insight and understanding and, if perceptive, is capable of recognizing truth. Such a heart is described in the Quran as being satisfied, wide awake and strong. Conversely the heart that refuses to recognize the Divine Truth is described in the Quran as hard, sealed, tainted and diseased.” 

Heart is a place of God’s light and true piety. The blessed Prophet in the following saying confirmed this:

Wabisa bin Mabad said: I came to the messenger of God and he said: "You have come to enquire about piety and righteousness?" I said: "Yes." He said: "Consult your heart. Piety is that which contents the soul comforts the heart, and sin (wrongdoing) is that which causes doubts and perturbs the heart, even if people pronounce it lawful and give you verdict on such matters again and again.” (Ahmed)


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About Ajmal-Masroor

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  • Name: Ajmal Masroor
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    Ajmal Masroor is an Author, Broadcaster, Relationship Counsellor , Politician and Imam based in London, UK. His facebook profile can be followed https://www.facebook.com/AjmalMasroor

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