The beloved Messenger (peace be upon him) said “… there is a piece of flesh in the body, if that is healthy then the entire body is healthy and if that is sick then the entire body is sick, that’s the heart” (Muslim). In this reflection I examine the relationship between the physical and the spiritual heart described in the Quran as ‘wholesome healthy heart’, how do you get it?
In 2010, a committee of experts with the American Heart Association came up with a strategic plan to reduce cardiovascular disease in the United States. The committee pored over the scientific literature and identified seven of the most important behaviours people can follow to have a healthy heart, they were:
- Eat right
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol
- Know your blood sugar
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Don’t smoke
The result of following this advice is remarkable, you’ll be healthier and have a physically stronger heart (Times New York). But alongside the physical heart is another heart that determines our psychological state; negative emotions of anger, hatred, greed, jealousy and grudges. The influence of these behaviours can undo the benefits of the seven healthy heart actions. On the contrary, positive emotions can improve the performance of the heart; kindness, forgiveness, patience and thankfulness.
The Majestic Quran calls such heart ‘Qalbun saleem’ a wholesome or a healthy heart. It’s part of Prophet Ibrahim’s prayer, “My Lord, give me wisdom, join me with the righteous, give me the power to communicate the truth to those who come after me, make me the heir of the gardens of bliss… do not disgrace me on the day of resurrection; the day when wealth and children will not benefit. But whoever comes with a healthy heart will be safe” (Al-Shu’ara:83-89).
To achieve these moral, social and spiritual values of kindness and patience; a friendly and fair attitude to others will strengthen the link with the Almighty Lord, the Master of the universe. These are not easily measurable parameters. So, the task of developing your moral, social and spiritual values becomes challenging and difficult.
Levels of spiritual growth
Abu Musa al-Ash’ari narrated the Messenger (peace be upon him) said “the knowledge and guidance that Allah sent me with is like the rain. The rain falls on good soil that soaks it up, here plenty of plants and flowers grow. Some rain falls on rocky ground and gathers in a pool, people drink from it and water their crops. The rain also falls on poor soil, here the water neither gathers in a pool nor anything grows here.” Then he explained this parable. “The first kind of soil represents people who understand the religion and benefit from what Allah sent me with they learn and teach it. The second kind of soil represents people who have knowledge but don’t use it, but others benefit from them. The third type of soil is people who neither benefit themselves nor others, they are deprived” (Bukhari).
How to assess your own heart
This is a parable, that the Beloved Messenger (peace be upon him) told. A parable is a story used as an illustration to teach a deeper truth that becomes understandable to the listeners. It’s a common device used in the Quran and Hadith. The Messenger (peace be upon him) is telling us to inspect the health of our heart, by asking what kind of soil are you?
- Are you like the fertile soil? You learn quickly and you spread it quickly.
- Are you like a rock? You’ve learnt a lot, but nothing went to the heart, so it remains dry and infertile.
- Are you like the poor soil? You’re thin-skinned, impatient, laid back and too busy watching others.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) is teaching us that we can change our hearts. We have the capability to do so. But are we willing to? By knowing what kind of soil we are; poor, soft or hard, we can try to make it fertile and enrich it. The Messenger (peace be upon him) told this parable of the rain to teach us how important the state of our heart is to receive the Word of Allah. And that guidance is proved by our choices and actions after hearing Allah’s words.