The Review of Religions, February 1994
The human heart is the seat of all human emotions. A heart that is full of evil emotions and thoughts is but a favourite place for Satan. Those hearts that are disbelieving, doubtful and mischief-mongering are, according to the Quran, hearts that have been sealed. God Almighty says in His book: `thus do we seal the hearts of transgressors’ (10:75) and: `I will cause terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve’ (8:12) The Quran makes many such references to the human heart. The Book of Allah proclaims numerous merits of a sound heart, a contended heart full of unbounded love and deep understanding of God and mankind, His creation. For instance the perfect Book of Allah proclaims: `Lo, it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort’ (13:28) And Allah admonishes all Muslims that: `He united your hearts in love’ (3:104) and that He: `put your hearts at rest’ (3:127)
Scientific research has conclusively proved that there is a vital link between the state of one’s thinking and one’s physical well-being. A healthy heart will undoubtedly keep a mind healthy and vice versa. A person’s character is built on his thoughts, in other words, we are what we think. Allah our merciful Lord through His benevolence has given us the choice and power to govern our thoughts and thereby build a character that is worthy of praise. An immoral character grows from the seeds of immoral thoughts while a virtuous character grows from the seeds of virtuous thoughts. As mentioned earlier, the heart is where all kinds of good or bad thoughts are born. Therefore, it is imperative to cultivate a pure and clean heart. A recent article in the famous American magazine Psychology Today dated February 1989 illustrates the relationship between the heart and the soul in the following words:
`Scientific medicine has made extraordinary progress against heart disease, by denying one of mankind’s most romantic notions – that our emotions centre in the heart. By treating the heart as an unfeeling pump, surgeons have been able to create pacemakers and work their way up to the ultimate in high-tech medicine – the artificial heart. Even as Barney Clark and other courageous patients were using psychology and hard data to discover that trouble in the heart may come in part from sickness of the soul. Spiritual need may be the underlying crisis among people prone to heart attacks. Harvard cardiologist, Herbert Benson agrees. Dr. Benson has shown how using a repetitive prayer produces sharp reductions in heart beat and blood pressure. At the University of Maryland, psychologist, James Lynch continues to explore the psychological side of high blood pressure. Blood pressure goes up when we talk and down we listen to another person.’
Different states of heart:
The following quotation from the Bible creates a striking resemblance between one’s mind and heart: `As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is’ (Proverbs 23:7). We know there are various states of mind and likewise there are different states of heart. According to the Oxford Dictionary the heart is the seat of all emotions, soul, mind, courage, etc. When one is thankful to a person, one thanks him from the bottom of one’s heart and when one is stricken with grief, it is heart-rending. If a person is courageous, we call him lion-hearted and to describe sincerity we say it is heart-felt. An unexpected piece of news or an event can break one’s heart and to understand the essence of matter, is to get to the heart of the matter. When you like a person deeply beyond description, you say he is a man after my heart. Lest we forget to mention the change of heart, it is one of the rare human traits that has not been bestowed to any other creature. Some people have a change of heart too often and others have a heart made of rock.
A sincere Muslim is one who examines his heart from time to time to see if this feelings towards others are tender, his motives are honest, he is loving towards others and his heart is in constant search for truth and love of God. Such a heart is an epitome of love, kindness, courage, affection, honesty, truth, sincerity and humility. Hadhrat Jesus, son of Mary, (peace be upon him), is reported to have said: `Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind.’ The Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), has also described the importance of a pure and sincere heart. According to the most reliable book of Hadith, al-Bukhari, he told one of his companions: `In the body there is a piece of flesh, when it is healthy, the whole body is healthy, and when it becomes unhealthy, the whole body gets unhealthy, and lo that piece is the heart.’ This succinct quotation illustrates that a human heart is the fountain-head of all our emotions. If one’s heart entertains pure thoughts then all of one’s deeds will be upon the road to virtue, but if one’s heart if full of vicious thoughts and ideas, then one is bound to follow the path of vice.
Thoughts and ideas are born in a heart like seeds in a garden that soon sprout into full grown plants. Purity of heart stimulates the growth of the tree of virtue. The crux of the matter is that if one’s heart is in good shape, then one’s hands, feet, tongue, mind and eyes will be in good shape as well. In our day-to-day contact with others, one should always remember the following formula: `to handle yourself, use your head, to handle others use your heart.’
A beating heart:
How many times does a heart have to beat? At least 70 times every minute, for an average of 75 years. In round numbers, that turns out to be 100,000 times a day, or three billion times in a lifetime. Sometimes two hearts beat one, some are lonely, some half hearted and some are broken. Some are saddened, some are, like a bird, gladdened and some are worn upon your sleeve. Our daily conversation is full of wonderful references to our heart: `his heart was in his mouth’, or `his heart was not in it’, or `deep in the heart of Ontario’, or `heart of the matter.’ `Heart’ is used as a symbol of love. It is said that we subconsciously remember the beat of our mother’s heart from when we were in the womb. Did you know that when zoo-keepers have an orphaned baby monkey, they help its chance of survival by keeping it attached to a bundle of blankets with a mechanism that produces the `thump-thump’ of a mother’s heart-beat?
All praise belongs to Allah!