The Marvels of the Heart

The Marvels of the Heart

Know that the most honoured part of a person is his heart. If a person has knowledge of Allah, works for Him, strives for Him, gains nearness to Him and unveils what Allah has[1], then the limbs will but follow and serve and the heart will utilise it just as kings utilise slaves.

Thus, whoever knows his heart will know his Lord. Most people are ignorant of their own hearts and souls, Allah can come between a person and his heart and this is manifested in preventing him from understanding Him and being conscious of Him. Understanding the heart and its characteristics is a foundation of the religion and the basis of the path of the wayfarers (salikin).

Exposition of the Ways by which Satan enters the Heart 

Know that the heart in its natural state accepts guidance yet due to desire (shahwa) and appetite (hawa) which can be found therein it can deviate from guidance. Thus, there is a constant battle between the armies of the angels and the forces of the devils, up until the heart opens up to one of the two sides and becomes established and settled. 

As Allah says,

مِن شَرِّ ٱلْوَسْوَاسِ ٱلْخَنَّاسِ

“From the evil of the retreating whisperer.” [Qur’an 114:4]

This is the one who, when Allah is mentioned, withdraws and when there is heedlessness, he finds an avenue. The armies of devils are not expelled from the heart except through remembrance (dhikr) of Allah as Shaytan cannot find a way through when dhikr is present. 

Know that the heart is like a fortress while Shaytan is like the enemy attempting to penetrate the fortress, possess it and gain control of it. It will not be possible to protect the fortress except via guarding its gates yet this cannot be done by those who do not know the gates, and thus it is not possible to avert Shaytan except by knowing how and from where he enters.

Shaytan’s points of entry and his gates are the characteristics of a servant, these are many but I will suffice with indicating the main gates which are not found to be narrow by many of Shaytan’s armies: Among the great doors for his entrance is that of envy, and greed. For whenever the servant is greedy for anything his greed makes him blind and deaf, covering the light of his insight. This becomes known to Shaytan as a potential point of entry. 

Likewise, if he envies, Shaytan finds an opportunity. Shaytan makes fair-seeming to the one who has greed all that pleases his desire despite it being evil or immoral. 

Also among the great doors for his entrance is that of anger, desire and harshness. Anger corrupts the mind and if the mind of the soldier weakens, Shaytan finds a point of attack and plays about with a person.

It has been reported that Iblis said: ‘If the servant is hard-hearted we will toy with him as a child does with a ball.”

One of his great doors is love of adorning and decorating one’s home, clothes or furnishings. A person can dedicate their entire life to such things.

Another of his great doors is a satiety for food, as it strengthens ones desire and weakens obedience.

Another of his great doors is covetous desire towards people—whoever suffers from this exaggerates in praising another person with things which do not benefit the person. Compromising to him and not instructing him to do good or forbidding him from evil.

Another of his great doors is haste and abandoning steadfastness the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Haste is from Shaytan.”[2]

Another of his great doors is love of wealth, and whenever this enters a person’s heart, it corrupts it and leads him to seek wealth wherever it may be. This in turn leads him to become miserly, which results in poverty as he does not pay obligatory rights.

Another of his great doors is encouraging the common people to have bigoted fanaticism to schools of thought without acting on what the schools obligate.

Another of his great doors is encouraging common people to delve into reflecting on Allah’s Essence (dhāt) and Attributes (sifāt), and on matters which their minds cannot perceive until this eventually culminates in them having doubt about the basics of the religion.

Another of his great doors is bad suspicion of Muslims. Whoever judges a Muslim based on having bad suspicion of him, will hate him, speak about him unjustly and view himself as being better than him. This is due to his vile thinking, as the believer makes excuses for another believer, whereas the hypocrite searches out flaws.

A person has to protect himself from accusations as this is a point of entry for Shaytan and the cure of this obstacle is to block this point through purifying the heart from censured characteristics (sifat al-madbmūma).

If you were to cut out of the heart the roots of these characteristics, Shaytan would still be able to pass through it and makes suggestions to it, but it would not be abiding-place for him. Remembrance of Allah prevents him from passing through it and filling the heart with piety (taqwa).

Shaytan is like a hungry dog which stands in front of you. If you have neither meat nor bread in your hands it is driven back by your saying, ‘you are at a loss!’ But if you have something in your hands and the dog is hungry, it will rush and will not be driven away by mere talk. Thus Shaytan can be driven away from the heart which is devoid of his food by merely remembering Allah. But if desire overcomes the heart it drives the true nature of remembrance of Allah to the marginal regions of the heart so that it does not gain the mastery over its core. The core is thus the abiding-place that Shaytan seeks.

If you want confirmation of that, contemplate on this with the prayer. Observe how Shaytan occupies your heart with thinking about: shopping, paying bills and planning worldly affairs.

Know that a person’s inner discourses are forgiven and this includes evil that he intended to commit. Yet whoever leaves that out of fear of Allah will have a good deed written for him even if he leaves it due to a hindrance we hope that he will achieve pardon. Unless he had intent, as intending to commit an evil, is itself evil. The proof for this is the saying of the Prophet (ﷺ): “If two Muslims face each other with their swords, then both the killer and the killed are in the Hellfire.” It was asked: “Why is the killed [to be in the Hellfire]?” The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “He had firm resolve to kill the other.”[3]

How can firm resolve and actions based on intents not be applicable? Are the vices of pride, ostentation and vanity just inner matters? If a man saw a woman lying on his bed that he thought was his wife, when it was actually an unrelated woman, the man would not be sinful if he has sexual intercourse with her. Yet if he knew it was his wife lying on the bed and he thought her to be as another woman, he would be sinful for having sexual relations with her with this in mind. All of this is connected to the intents of the heart. 

Exposition on the Hearts Steadfastness on Goodness

It is related from the Prophet (ﷺ) that he said:

يَا مُقَلِّبَ الْقُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِي عَلَى دِينِكَ

“O Turner of the hears, keep our hearts steadfast on Your religion.”

يَا مُصَرِّفَ القُلُوبِ صَرِّفْ قُلُوبَنَا عَلَى طَاعَتِكَ

“O Averter of the hearts, avert our hearts to Your obedience.”[4]

In another hadlth: “The heart is like a feather which gets turned over by the wind.[5]

Know that in regards to the hearts being steadfast on goodness or evil, then hearts can fluctuate between three levels:

The first heart is which is filled with piety (taqwa), which gets purified by means of discipline and cleansed of vile manners.

The second heart is forsaken, burdened by desire, corrupted by foul actions and stained by blameworthy characteristics. Shaytan’s authority is strengthened with such a broad scope for his action. The authority of faith (iman) however is weakened due to the heart being filled with the smoke of passion, light is therefore darkened and the eves become filled with smoke which affects sight and thus it does not pay heed to admonishment.

The third heart is that in which there appears suggestion of desire and which summon to evil, but there follows them a suggestion of faith which summon it to good.

For example, Shaytan can affect the intellect and strengthen base desires and say “do you not see so and so and how he is able to take pleasure in desires?” To the extent that he will specify a group of scholars, and in this way the soul inclines to Shaytan. Then the angel who encourages good launches a counter-campaign against Shaytan and says to the soul: “were they not destroyed except on account of forgetting the final destination? So do not be deceived by peoples’ heedlessness of their own souls. Do you not see that if the people stood out in the sun during summer while you had a cool house, would you [blindly] agree with what they are doing or would you seek the benefit [of coolness]?” Then the soul would incline to what the angel encourages and there will be hesitation between the two soldiers until the heart becomes overcome by whatever takes precedence. Whoever is created for good, good will be easy for him; and whoever is created for evil, evil with be easy for him. 

Allah says,

فَمَن يُرِدِ ٱللَّهُ أَن يَهْدِيَهُۥ يَشْرَحْ صَدْرَهُۥ لِلْإِسْلَـٰمِ ۖ وَمَن يُرِدْ أَن يُضِلَّهُۥ يَجْعَلْ صَدْرَهُۥ ضَيِّقًا حَرَجًا كَأَنَّمَا يَصَّعَّدُ فِى ٱلسَّمَآءِ ۚ

“So whoever Allah wants to guide—He expands his breast to [contain] Islam; and whoever He wants to misguide—He makes his breast tight and constricted as though he were climbing into the sky.” [Qur’an 6: 125]

[Discipline: The Path To Spiritual Growth by Imam Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi, p. 12-18]


[1] The meaning here is not to be understood in the way of the innovators which is found among some people!

[2] Abu Ya’la, Musnad, vol.3, p. 1034; al-Bayhaqi, Sunan. vol.1 (1, p.104—from Anas and its isnad is hasan; also refer to Silsilat ut-Ahadith as-Sahihah, #1795.

[3] Bukhari, vol.12, p.173; Muslim, #2888—from Abu Bakrah (radiyAllahu ’anhu).

[4] Tirmidhi, #2141 and Muslim #2654—from ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (radiyAllahu ’anhuma) 

[5] Ahmad, vol.4, pp.419, 408; Ibn Abi ‘Asim, al-Sunnah, #227—from Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari (radiyAllahu ’anhu) with a sahlh isnad.

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