Spiritual Brightness of the heart
One of the most important aspects of living a spiritually healthy life is to have a heart that is enlightened with the truth of Islam and one that is close to Allah and His remembrance. Ibn Al-Qayyim mentions in his book Al-Fawwaid that the brightness, which overwhelms the heart is the impact of being close to Allah, the Almighty and obtaining His blessings of serenity and guidance. This fills the heart with pleasure, while lacking such feelings that come from knowing Allah and loving Him, makes it a gloomy and narrow place. Furthermore, a heart enlightened with truth can help towards guiding our thinking, how we reason and make decisions, and ultimately guiding our actions and the quality of our lives in this world and the hereafter.
A live heart according to the Quran
The importance of having a spiritually alive heart is evident by the Quranic verse where Allah, the Exalted, says in the Quran:
“Verily, therein is a reminder for him who has a heart or gives ear while he is heedful” (Surah Qaaf, 50:37).
A Heart that recognizes the truth
Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah mentions that “the heart can never be alive and correct except through cognizance of the truth, loving it and preferring it to everything else. There can never be any happiness, joy or correction for it, unless it makes its sole object of worship and desire Allah alone.” [Source: Diseases Of The Hearts & Their Cures By Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah.]
We should also remember that Allah will question us about our hearts in the hereafter. He says in the Quran:
“And follow not (O man, i.e., say not, or do not, or witness not) that of which you have no knowledge. Verily, the hearing, and the sight, and the heart of each of those ones will be questioned (by Allâh)” [Surah al-Israa, 17:36]
The following are some of the ways by which we can enlighten our hearts with the message of truth and to soften our hsurearts in humility and humbleness towards Allah.
Devote our hearts to the Quran
One of the primary ways we can spiritually awaken our hearts is to take time not to just read the Quran but to also understand it with full devotion. Doing so will benefit the spiritual health of our hearts and influence various aspects of our lives. In one of the famous supplications (dua) known for asking Allah for relief from distress and disappointments of life, one of the expressions of the Dua is as follows:
“… make the Quran the spring (delight or rain) of my heart, the light of my chest,”
In this expression, the word ‘spring’ means the rain, which brings life to earth. Ibn Al-Qayyim explains that in this expression, similarity is made with water, which is the cause of life, and with light, which is the cause of brightness. Allah, the Exalted, makes that similarity in the Quranic verse in, which He says,
“Is he who was dead (without Faith by ignorance and disbelief) and We gave him life (by knowledge and Faith) and set for him a light (of Belief) whereby he can walk amongst men, like him who is in the darkness (of disbelief, polytheism and hypocrisy) from which he can never come out?” (Surah Al-Anaam, 6:122)
Ibn Al-Qayyim further elaborated that “…if you want to benefit from the Quran, you must concentrate and devote your heart solely when reciting and listening to it. You must pay attention, and try to comprehend the fact that what you are reading is the word of Allah. As you read, you must know that Allah is addressing you in and through this Quran. Indeed, it is the words of Allah to you through the tongue of His Messenger.”
Ibn Qutaibah, who was one of the chiefs of literature in Baghdad during the third century after Hijrah and produced many Islamic works, said about the Muslim who devotes himself during the studying and recitation of the Quran, “He is listening to the Book of Allah while his heart is present and understands; not being inattentive or unaware. If the heart is inattentive; lacking understanding concerning what is being said, as well as failing to see or meditate on it, then there is an obstruction. If however, the Quran produced an effect on the receiver, which is the living heart, and the condition of listening was fulfilled, and the heart is not engaged with something other than the meaning of the speech, the desired effect will occur, which is obtaining benefit from the Quran and remembrance.”
In conclusion, let us ensure that we enlighten our hearts by inculcating the habit of taking the Quran from our shelves and bringing its words and message in our hearts with full devotion. Allah asks us in the Quran:
“Has not the time come for those who believe for their hearts to fear Allah when they hear the Quran (dhikrullah here is in reference to the Quran)…” (Surah Al-Hadid, 57:16)
Repent for Ones Sins from the Depth of Ones Heart
Another way to soften the heart is to repent sincerely to Allah often. This helps ridding the heart of any traces of arrogance and ignorance. Allah mentions in the Quran about a heart turned toward repentance in the following verse:
which means, “And brought a heart turned in repentance (to Him – and free from all evils).” (Surah Qaaf, 50:33)
Ibn ‘Abbas said, “(This means that) he is far from sins and rushes to obey Allah. The reality of repentance is to devote the heart to obedience, love, and striving to be near Allah.”
Therein lies an important message, which is that instead of simply uttering repentance duas, one should devote his heart to seek forgiveness from Allah. This will remove the darkness from the heart and enlighten it with light of faith.
Humble to Allah in Secret
Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah mentions in his book “Diseases Of The Hearts & Their Cures” that “…amongst the many ways of giving life to the heart is to be humble to Allah in secret. This means to desire and long for Allah through supplication, seeking forgiveness, turning to Him, asking for victory, paradise and shelter from Hellfire at the time when Allah descends to the lowest Heaven in the last third of the night, as occurs in the authentic hadith,
Our Lord descends to the lowest heaven when a third of the night remains, saying. Who is supplicating to Me that I may answer him? Who is asking of Me that I may give him? Who is seeking forgiveness of Me that I may forgive him?
Source: Sahih.al-Bukhari [no. 9474] and Muslim [no. 7581]
Humbling ourselves toward the most supreme will help us rid of any arrogance that may be lurking in our hearts and will make our hearts more spiritually healthy.
Distance the Heart from all Worldly Evils and Desires
The more a heart is inclined toward worldly attractions and desires, the gloomier is the condition of such a heart. This is because such superficial charms can never bring lasting peace to a person. Furthermore, when such false charms fail to live up to their promises, it further compounds to ones disappointments. Ibn Al-Qayyim stated in his book Al-Fawwaid that the lowest description of a man’s heart is that he loves and aspires to this worldly life instead of to Allah, the Almighty. When man’s love, knowledge and aspiration is directed in this worldly way, the heart becomes narrow and gloomy as it is distant from the source of its revival and life.
One of the ways to get reality checks that can remind us of the temporary nature of the charms of this world is to visit the graves often. The Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa sallam had said, “I used to forbid you from visiting the graves in the early part of Islam. But now I command you to visit them for [such visits] soften the heart, bring tears to the eyes, and serve as a reminder of the Hereafter, [but be careful] not to speak forbidden expressions [i.e. while visiting] .” (Sahih al-Jaami’ 4584)
Finally, let us remind ourselves that devotion (by engaging the heart) is key for our actions to be accepted. Ibn Al-Qayyim said, “..if actions were useful without devotion, He (Allah) would never have dispraised the hypocrites.” Let us, therefore, assess our deeds in light of the devotion of our hearts.