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Fasting of the heart

Amr ibn Shurahbil reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Shall I tell you about what will rid the heart of impurities? Fasting three days of every month.” [Sunan al-Nasā’ī 2385]

Al-Azdi reported: Ibrahim al-Khawwas, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “The cure of the heart is in five things:

  • reading the Quran with contemplation (qiraa-tul qur’an bit tadabbur)
  • emptying the stomach (khalaa’ul batan)
  • standing for prayer at night (qiyaam ul layl)
  • humbly supplicating at dawn (at-tadarru ‘inda sahr)
  • and sitting with the righteous.” (muhaasabatus saaliheen)
    [Ḥilyat al-Awliyā’ 15767]

Imam Ghazali stated in Ihya uloom ud deen “It should be known that there are three grades of fasting:

  1. Ordinary fasting means abstaining from food, drink and sexual satisfaction.
  2. Special fasting means keeping one’s ears, eyes,tongue, hands and feet-and all other organs-free from sin.
  3. Extra-special fasting means fasting of the heart from unworthy concerns and worldly thoughts, in total disregard of everything but Allah.

As we pass the mid-way mark of Ramadan, we come to realise that Ramadan will come and go like it does every year and not every person will take the same thing back – some will take more while others will take less. What you take from Ramadan is dependent on what it is that you’re searching for in it.

In the well known hadith recorded in Sahih Al-Bukhaari (1761) and Sahih Muslim (1946), Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) narrated that: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah said: ‘Every deed of the son of Adam is for him except fasting; it is for Me and I shall reward for it…’” And in another form of translation, “… I am the reward for it”(illas siyaam fa innahu lee wa ana ajzee bihi)

Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy on him) collated many views of scholars who sought to explain the meaning of this hadeeth and why fasting was singled out in this manner which included:

  • There is no showing off in fasting as may happen in other acts of worship. Al-Qurtubi said: Because showing off may enter into all good deeds, but no one can see when a person is fasting except Allaah, so Allaah connected it to Himself. Hence He said in the hadeeth, “He gives up his desire for My sake.” Ibn al-Jawzi said: All acts of worship can be seen when done, and they may be contaminated with some element of showing off, unlike fasting.
  • The words, “I shall reward for it” is: I am the only One Who knows the extent of his reward and how much his hasanaat (good deeds) will be multiplied. Al-Qurtubi said: What this means is that the amount of reward for good deeds may become known to people, and they will be rewarded between ten and seven hundred fold, and as much as Allaah wants, except fasting, for Allaah will reward it without measure. This is like the verse in which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Only those who are patient shall receive their reward in full, without reckoning” [al-Zumar 39:10]
  • It is the dearest of acts of worship to Allah(SWT). Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr said: The words “Fasting is for Me” are sufficient to indicate the superiority of fasting over all other acts of worship. Al-Nasaa’i (2220) narrated that Abu Umaamah said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “You should fast, for there is nothing like it.”

The hadith of Abu Huraira includes more … ‘Every deed of the son of Adam is for him, except for fasting. It is for Me and I will reward it.’ Fasting is a shield, so when one of you fasts, he may not be obscene or (laa yaskhab) boisterous (out of control). If someone insults him or fights him, let him say: Indeed, I am fasting. By the One in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, the breath coming from the mouth of a fasting person is more pleasant to Allah than the scent of musk. The fasting person has two moments of relief he enjoys: when he breaks his fast (idhaa aftara) he is joyful, and when he meets his Lord (idhaa laqiya rabbahu) he is joyful for his fasting.”

Verily, in the body is a piece of flesh which, if sound, the entire body is sound, and if corrupt, the entire body is corrupt. Truly, it is the heart. [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 52]

One of the key responsibilities of the Prophet(SAW) as a Messenger was tazkiya which means to purify the hearts and when the heart is purified and reaches a high peak, its called ihsaan (excellence). “Since We have sent you a messenger from among yourselves—reciting to you Our revelations, purifying you, teaching you the Book and wisdom, and teaching you what you never knew [Surah al Baqarah 2:151]

There should constantly be a focus on our heart being engaged – focus, sincerity and ihsaan. If we don’t give attention to our heart, this organ becomes polluted and we know that the Prophet(SAW) taught us “Verily, when the servant commits a sin, a black mark(nuktatan sawdaa) appears upon his heart. If he abandons the sin, seeks forgiveness, and repents, then his heart will be polished. If he returns to the sin, the blackness will be increased until it overcomes his heart. It is the covering that Allah has mentioned: (Kallaa, bal raana ‘alaa quloobihim maa kaanoo yaksiboon) No, rather a covering is over their hearts from what they have earned.” (Surah al Mutaffifeen 83:14) [Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3334]

This rust open the heart makes the heart hard, such that nothing can go in or come out. These hard hearts are mentioned as becoming so hard that they become like hard rocks “fa hiya kal hijaara aw ashaddu kaswa” or even harder.

So its important we engage in those things which soften the heart rather than sins which harden the heart.

All acts of disobedience are poison to the heart and cause its sickness and ruin. They result in its will running off course, against that of Allâh, and so its sickness festers and increases. Ibn al-Mubârak said:

I have seen wrong actions killing hearts,

And their degradation may lead to

their becoming addicted to them.

Turning away from wrong actions

gives life to the hearts,

And opposing your self is best for it.

Whoever is concerned with the health and life of his heart, must rid it of the effects of such poisons, and then protect it by avoiding new ones. If he takes any by mistake, then he should hasten to wipe out their effect by turning in repentance and seeking forgiveness from Allâh, as well as by doing good deeds that will wipe out his wrong actions.

By the four poisons we mean unnecessary talking, unrestrained glances, too much food and keeping bad company. Of all the poisons, these are the most widespread and have the greatest effect on a heart’s well-being.

There are 4 things which play an excessive role in hardening the heart:

  1. Laa tukhthirul kalaama bi ghayri dhikrillah Don’t speak a lot without having Allahs remembrance in your speech fa innahaa kaswatal lil qalb is a source of the heart becoming hard. And the furthest person from Allah(SWT) is the one with a hard heart [al-Tirmidhī 2411]

When we speak, obviously we should stay away from saying anything haram. In the advice to Muadh (RA) narrated in Imam Nawawi’s 40 hadith said: the controlling of all good deeds is this holding on to his tongue. “Is there anything that topples people on their faces – or he said on their noses into Hell-fire other than the jests of their tongues?”

A teacher would say in an Urdu couplet khudaa ko pasand natee sakhtee kalaam me issee leeya nadhi addee zabaan meh meaning that Allah did not like harshness in speech, that’s why He didn’t give the tongue a bone in this flesh. Be soft in your speech.

‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab, may Allâh be pleased with him, said: “A person who talks too much is a person who often makes mistakes, and someone who often makes mistakes, often has wrong actions. The Fire has a priority over such a frequent sinner.”

Abdullâh ibn Mas‘ûd said: “By Allâh, besides Whom no god exists, nothing deserves a long prison sentence more than my tongue.” He also used to say: “O tongue, say good and you will profit; desist from saying evil things and you will be safe; otherwise you will find only regret.”

Abu Huraira reported that Ibn al-Abbâs said: “A person will not feel greater fury or anger for any part of his body on the Day of Judgement more than what he will feel for his tongue, unless he only used it for saying or enjoining good.”

Al-Hassan said: “Whoever does not hold his tongue cannot understand his deen.”

The least harmful of a tongue’s faults is talking about whatever does not concern it. The following hadîth of the Prophet is enough to indicate the harm of this fault: “One of the merits of a person’s Islâm is his abandoning what does not concern him.”[Sahih at-Tirmidhi]

  1. Unrestrained glances: If you wish to be a friend of Allah(SWT), promise to save your eyes from haram gazes. Lower your gaze. It is narrated that the glance is a poisoned arrow of shaytân. Whoever lowers his gaze for Allâh, He will bestow upon him a refreshing sweetness which he will find in his heart on the day that he meets Him. Shaytân enters with the glance, for he travels with it, faster than the wind blowing through an empty place. He makes what is seen appear more beautiful than it really is, and transforms it into an idol for the heart to worship. Then he promises it false rewards, lights the fire of desires within it, and fuels it with the wood of forbidden actions, which the servant would not have committed had it not been for this distorted image.It has been said that between the eye and the heart is an immediate connection; if the eyes are corrupted, then the heart follows. It becomes like a rubbish heap where all the dirt and filth and rottenness collect, and so there is no room for love for Allâh, relating all matters to Him, awareness of being in His presence, and feeling joy at His proximity – only the opposite of these things can inhabit such a heart.Letting the gaze roam free cloaks the heart with darkness, just as lowering the gaze for Allâh clothes it in light. After the ayah in Surah Noor “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that is more purifying for them. Surely Allâh is aware of what they do.” (24:30), comes the ayat un Noor “Allâh is the light of the heavens and the earth: the likeness of His light is as if there were a niche, and in the niche is a lamp, and in the lamp is a glass, and the glass as it were a brilliant star, lit from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil is well nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it. Light upon light. Allâh guides whomever He wants to His Light. Allâh strikes metaphors for man; and Allâh knows all things.” (24:35)

    When the heart is a light, countless good comes to it from all directions. If it is dark, then clouds of evil and afflictions come from all directions to cover it up. Letting the gaze run loose also makes the heart blind to distinguishing between truth and falsehood, between the sunnah and innovation; while lowering it for Allâh, the Might and Exalted, gives it a penetrating, true and distinguishing insight.

    Remind yourself when you see something appropriate laa hawla wa laa quwwata illa billah.

  2. Stay away from bad company. Stay with people who cry before Allah(SWT), your heart will soften. Stay with those who joke about the deen and don’t take this word seriously, it will be hard to put your heart in the right place.Unnecessary companionship is a chronic disease that causes much harm. How often have the wrong kind of companionship and intermixing deprived people of Allâh’s generosity, planting discord in their hearts which even the passage of time-even if it were long enough for mountains to be worn away-has been unable to dispel. In keeping such company one can find the roots of loss, both in this life and in the next life.A servant should benefit from companionship. In order to do so he should divide people into four categories, and be careful not to get them mixed up, for once one of them is mixed with another, then evil can find its way through to him
  3. Avoid eating abundantly That’s why there is an Arabic proverb Qalbun Saleem fee Jismil Saleem A sound heart is only found in a sound body. The healthy, organic and wholesome diet will also have an effect on you. We are commanded to eat halal and tayyib (pure). That body which is nourished on haram cant go to Jannah.So eat good and limit what you’re eating. Al-Miqdâm ibn Ma’d Yakrib said: “I heard the Messenger of Allâh say: “The son of Adam fills no vessel more displeasing to Allâh than his stomach. A few morsels should be enough for him to preserve his strength. If he must fill it, then he should allow a third for his food, a third for his drink and leave a third empty for easy breathing.” [Sahîh, Ahmad, al-Musnad, 4/132]Umar (RA) is reported to have said “I have calculated how many bites equal to one third for me and it was 10 bites.” It may differ from person to person but remember these were 10 bites using his fingers.It has been reported that when a group of young men from the Tribe of Israel were worshipping, and it was time for them to break their fast, a man stood up and said: “Do not eat too much, otherwise you will drink too much, and then you will end up sleeping too much, and then you will lose too much.”

Ibrâhîm ibn Adham said: “Any one who controls his stomach is in control of his deen, and anyone who controls his hunger is in control of good behaviour. Disobedience towards Allah is nearest to a person who is satiated with a full stomach, and furthest away from a person who is hungry.”

What are four things to make our hearts soft?

  1. Pray salaah properly – focus and devotion are key. After prayer was over, the Prophet(SAW) didn’t switch to his mobile or run, he would take time to remember Allah(SWT) in dua. Be punctual and focused.Quieten your mind before salaah – repeat the adhaan after the muadhin. Use siwaak. Wear your best clothes. Cover your awrah properly.Slow down your salaah. Abu Qutaadah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘The worst type of thief is the one who steals from his prayer.’ He said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, how can a person steal from his prayer?’ He said, ‘By not doing rukoo’ and sujood properly.’” (Reported by Ahmad and al-Haakim, 1/229)

    Understand what you are saying.

    Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said, “The khushoo’ of true faith is when the heart feels aware and humble before the greatness and glory of Allaah, and is filled with awe, fear and shyness, so that the heart is utterly humbled before Allaah and broken, as it were, with fear, shyness, love and the recognition of the blessings of Allaah and its own sins. So no doubt the khushoo’ of the heart is followed by the khushoo’ of the body

  1. Remember that which crushes desires abundantly – the hadith says [ al-Tirmidhī 2307] When you lie down in bed and pull your sheet over your head, remember that one day it wont be you who will be pulling that sheet, it will be another covering your face, and you don’t know when its going to happen.The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Remember death in your prayer, for the man who remembers death during his prayer is bound to pray properly, and pray the prayer of a man who does not think that he will pray any other prayer.” (from al-Suyooti that al-Haafiz ibn Hajar classed this hadeeth as hasan).
  2. Try to cry before Allah(SWT). In the dua of the Prophet(SAW) he would seek refuge from a heart which does not fear Allah(SWT) and an eye which does not cry.“There is nothing more beloved to Allah than two drops. The teardrop that falls from the fear of Allah, and the drop of blood shed in the Path of Allah.” (Hasan, reported by at-Tirmidhi)Ibn ‘Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying, “Two eyes will never be touched by the fire of Hell; an eye which weeps out of Fear of Allah and an eye which spends the night in guarding in the Cause of Allah .” [At-Tirmidhi].

    How long has it been since these eyes cried for the sake of Allah(SWT)? Mufti Taqi Usmani wrote this couplet while sitting before the Ka’bah:

    Ye aanke khushk he yaa Rabb – inne rowna nahay aatha
    laghta dhaag he dil me jinne dhowna nahay aatha

    My Lord, my eyes have gone dry and have lost their ability to cry
    and as a result of that I have this burning marks of sins that I just can’t wash away

    As the Urdu poet said Aansow kee zabaan haw meri turjumaan O my Lord, let a point come in my life where my words stop and my tears speak on behalf of the state of my heart.

  1. Seek contentment by remembering Allah(SWT). Find a quiet spot, close your eyes, imagine it’s the Day of Judgement and you’re standing before the throne of Allah(SWT) and Allah(SWT) addresses you saying you have one last chance to make me happy, if you praise me with sincerity, and I’ll let you go to Jannah. Then imagine what dhikr you are going to do.A key part of dhikr is reflection – muraqabah which asks what am I doing with my life, where am I going. A mentor asked me imagine you’re retiring and you look back at your life today, would you be happy with what you are doing? If not, change today.

If you want to soften your heart, feed the poor and pat the head of the orphan. [Musnad Aḥmad 7576]

Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: O Allah, bring our hearts together, reconcile between us, guide us to ways of peace, and deliver us from darkness into light. Keep us away from immorality, outwardly and inwardly, and bless us in our hearing, our seeing, our hearts, our spouses, and our children. Accept our repentance, for You alone are the Relenting, the Merciful. Make us grateful for Your blessings, praising and accepting them, and give them to us in full. [Sunan Abī Dāwūd 968]


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