Diseases of the heart: Symptoms and Cure

Bismillah,

MashaAllah this is another study circle a sister initiated on Sundays based on Al-Ghazalis book called Disciplining the Soul. This has worked out so nicely for me as both girls being at Arabic school, I can take this day out to work at myself, improve my own Arabic/Tajweed or increasing my knowledge inshaAllah, along with the baby, of course.

I could go on about how wonderful Ghazali’s above named book is, especially for those who are seeking to develop their own self and reach a higher level of tazkiya etc. But, instead I will just share the notes and handouts from today’s khalaqa. Each week a different sister will chose a chapter from the book, prepare the questions to be discussed and the talk to be delivered. And it was my turn today. And the topic was “An Exposition by which the diseases of the heart might be recognized and the symptoms that indicate the return to health”

First of all, let’s look at the definition of the heart. In Arabic it is the word Qalb; which can also be interpreted as soul. The meaning in Arabic is more wholesome than the meaning in English. When the prophet saw said “‘Surely there is in the body a small piece of flesh; if it is good, the whole body is good, and if it is corrupted, the whole body is corrupted, and that is surely the heart’.” He was not talking merely about an organ that pumps up blood and circulates it to the body. He referred to Qalb/soul. So, each part of the body has a function. We have eyes to see, hand to strike, feet to walk etc. And the heart/ qalb is the central organ.

And what is the function of the heart? The function of the heart is the formula below

the acquisition of knowledge –> acquisition of wisdom –> the love of God –> the love of His worship

We should note that knowledge and wisdom are two separate things. Knowledge is acquired through studying and wisdom is acquired through experiencing and implementing. There are many verses in the Qur’an that refer to the above formula. The most popular one being

[I created Jinn and mankind so that they would worship Me ] Ad-dhaariyat 51:56

I looked at tafseer ibni Katheer of the above ayah and it states the following: I, Allah, only created them so that I order them to worship Me, not that I need them.’ `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas commented on the Ayah,

[إِلاَّ لِيَعْبُدُونِ]

(…except that they should worship Me.) meaning, “So that they worship Me, willingly or unwillingly. I seek not any provision from them nor do I ask that they should feed Me. Verily, Allah is the All-Provider, Owner of power, the Most Strong.)

So, we have been commanded to worship one and only God and that should be the only function of our hearts.

What is the disease of the heart?

Al Ghazali states that “possessing a thing in the heart more dear to him than God” is ultimately a disease. He also states that every heart is sick except those whom God has saved. We should not prefer none of the things of this World over Him. And again there are many verses referring to this but one most quoted one Allah says in the Qur’an

[If your fathers, and your sons, and your brothers, and your wives, and your tribe and your wealth you have acquired and the trade you fear may not prosper, and the dwellings you desire are dearer to you than God and His Messenger and striving in His way, then wait until God brings His command to pass]

And if we ponder on this one verse, we realize why Ghazali claims every heart is sick. It is indeed very hard to implement in our daily lives to completely submit ourselves to the will of Allah, to put our ultimate trust in Him swt, not to rush about things and not to stress about worldliness. But diseases of the heart is one of a kind that remains unknown to people they afflict. Even if we become aware of it, we may find it extremely hard to treat it in a proper way. So what is the cure

What is the cure?

There is only one medicine for sickness of the heart. That medicine is very bitter. And that cure is opposing our desires. We shall persevere in the bitter medicine of opposing our desires. Some of us have been led to deny altogether the existence of such medicine, especially in today’s society. Instead we have given ourselves to worldliness. Ghazali said “A soul should return to God with a sound aspect so that it retains not a single tie with anything connected to this world, where soul will be enabled to leave this world unattached to it, paying it no heed and no longer yearning for the things which it contains”. We should hold on to the rope of Allah by being thankful to Allah, worshipping and loving Allah, becoming his Hanif and striving in His path. Impediments in holding on to Allah are pride, hypocrisy, pessimism, uncontrollable anger, abuse of the tongue and lustful sexual desires. Ghazali says that righteous acts proceed from good traits of character. Therefore we should look at our attributes and qualities and devote our energies treating them one after the other.

The hardest part…?

So we have established the function of heart is the love of God and the love of His worship. We know that in every heart there is a sickness that needs cure. And we know that cure is in opposing our nafs and desires and become unattached to worldly matters and things. Now, the most difficult part is keeping rectitude on this straight path. Or the word in Arabic is “Istiqaama” – maintaining the same level of imaan, maintaining opposing our desires and maintaining the healthy Qalb/heart/soul. Istiqaama on sirotal mustaqeem is something extremely obscure therefore we have been asked to recited Al Fatiha on every raka’h. We ask Allah Guide Us to the Straight Path 17 times a day. The prophet saw used to say “Surah Hud had turned my hair grey” and a man asked him why. He saw said “because of this statement [Practise rectitude as you have been commanded] ”. It is very hard to keep istiqama on the straight path. Nevertheless, Ghazali states if we are unable to do this properly, we must at least strive to keep in its vicinity.

And to finish off, I would like to quote from Ali r.a on the heart. He said the following which I find so true 
I am amazed at the heart of man: It possesses the substance of wisdom as well as the opposites contrary to it … for if hope arises in it, it is brought low by covetousness: and if covetousness is aroused in it, greed destroys it. If despair possesses it, self piety kills it: and if it is seized by anger, this is intensified by rage. If it is blessed with contentment, then it forgets to be careful; and if it is filled with fear, then it becomes preoccupied with being cautious. If it feels secure , then it is overcome by vain hopes; and if it is given wealth, then its independence makes it extravagant. If want strikes it, then it is smitten by anxiety. If it is weakened by hunger, then it gives way to exhaustion; and if it goes too far in satisfying its appetites, then its inner becomes clogged up. So all its shortcomings are harmful to it, and all its excesses corrupt it.
There are four things that make the heart die: wrong action followed by wrong action, playing around with foolish people, spending a lot of time with women, and sitting with the dead. Then they asked Imam Ali: ‘And who are the dead, O Commander of the believers?’ He replied: ‘Every slave who follows his desires.’
Surely want is a trial, and having sickness of the body is more difficult to bear than indigence, and having a sickness of the heart is more difficult to bear than having a sickness of the body. Surely being very wealthy is a blessing, and having a healthy body is better than being very wealthy, and having awe of Allah in your heart is better than having a healthy body.
Surely hearts have desires, and they turn towards, and they turn away … so approach them by means of what they desire and what they turn towards, for surely if the heart is forced to do something against its will, it goes blind.

So, we should train our hearts so they may conform to what Allah swt commands. We should keep opposing our desires and nafs and realize that it is a never ending task. Only after the soul leaves us we may stop because it is no longer functioning in this world. But until then we should keep striving and struggling every single day in order to maintain a healthy heart- a heart that contains no love for the things of this world for it realizes that everything is so much better and longer-lasting in Jannah. And the heart should be yearning for the pleasure of God, and worship Him out of love, yearning for the pleasures of the HereAfter by becoming totally unattached to this world.

 

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Project: Islamic Parenting.

Bismillah,

Alhamdulillah, I am yet again convinced that there is nothing that we choose in order to seek Allah’s pleasure, He will surely make a way out of the situation for us. When I pulled Sumayya out of school I was still a little concerned about her need to mix and socialize with other kids, because of her English and also because she is very sensitive child. But, alhamdulillah, we have come to know some great families where I would be quite happy for our children to be friends with and inshaAllah they will influence each other only in a positive way.

It is through these families and other sisters I have met recently my original monthly Mum’s Discussion Group has really taken off and rolling into something bigger, Alhamdulillah. I encourage all the sisters reading this post to get out and get to know the sisters within their community and  initiate a similar groups in their own communities inshaAllah.

Below is the short talk I delivered for our first study circle (khalaqa) that was held on Saturday 3rd March at a sister’s house. It was followed by a discussion and Alhamdulillah, was useful and beneficial for all of us. If you initiate a similar project in your city/town, please feel free to use it as a launching talk inshaAllah. *smile*

For a long time I had wanted to launch a project called an Islamic Parenting. It is an ongoing project where all Muslim mothers of Bradford could come together to inspire each other, to motivate each other, to educate each other to be a better mom so that we could help our children to become someone better than ourselves, to be the real servants of God and to succeed in this world and the next, inshaAllah.

Why is there a need for such a project? We have a lot of problems with Muslim youth in Bradford (and worldwide as well). Our youngsters turning to drugs and smoking, adultery and robbery. We cant turn away from these problems. The only way we could change this situation is through education and getting more involved in our childrens’ lives from an early stages. Secondly, a lot of us have children at similar ages. So, by coming together discussing the challenges we have, we learn from each other’s experience whilst letting our children form friendship with each other.

Firstly, we have to conduct the needs analysis for out children. What is it we want them to achieve? What is our aim for them? We want them to be kind, just, honest, caring and the list is endless. But, ultimately we want them to love God and love worshipping the One God so that they become successful not just in this world but in the next as well. We want them to love the prophet saw and imitate his character and actions. But how do you embody the character of the prophet Muhammad (saw) on children? There is one simple formula for this: Example is the Best Sermon. We should be careful for children will always test us on everything we ask them to do. So it is very ineffective to ask them to be honest, humble, giving, sharing, noble, caring etc unless we strive to have all those qualities in ourselves first. We may tell them shouting is not good but we shout at them when they misbehave.

Another simple example is I am always telling my kids to sit down and drink. However, when I am cooking and preparing things I drink and have little snacks on the go. So, they always catch me drinking standing and ask: “But, mom, why are you drinking standing. You should sit down”. Three things they are noting: I am not following the sunnah, I am contradicting myself by telling kids to do one thing and doing the opposite myself and thirdly I am not showing them the good example. Alhamdulillah, I sit down near the sink and drink my water now. So, if we want to teach our children we should never stop learning ourselves. We should act on what we say/ask our children to do as well.

Second, we should show love and compassion. The prophet saw said “He is not one of us who doesn’t show compassion to our little ones and recognize the rights of elders” (Ahmad/Hakim). Anas r.a reported that :”I have never seen anyone who is more compassionate to children than the messenger of God. Whenever he passed a group of young boys he would smile fondly and greet them” (Bukhari/Muslim) How often do we smile at our children? Sometimes when kids misbehave you can win over your anger/child with smiling. Remember, smiling has a psychological effect on yourself and on everyone else around you. It restores self-confidence in our kids and makes them feel loved unconditionally. Kate Samperi, author of numerous books on children said “Before becoming a mother I had a hundred theories on how to bring up children. Now I have seven children and only one theory: Love them, especially when they least deserve to be loved.” 

Show physical compassion. We should give them plenty of hugs and kisses.  Especially as they become teenagers. One day Bedouin came to prophet saw and asked him “Do you kiss your sons. Because we dont”. Prophet saw said “What can I do for you if Allah has removed mercy from your heart?” Abu huraira ra reported that Rasulullah kissed Hasan ibn Ali when Aqra b Hamis At Tamimi was sitting with him. He said I have ten children and I have never kissed any one of them. The messenger of God looked at him and said “Whoever doesn’t show mercy will not be shown mercy”. We should practise this advice at times of disciplining as well.

Third, we should listen to our children and spend a quality time with them. Catherine M. Wallace, another author on children have said
‎”Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” 

Sheikh Yahya Adel Ibrahim said in one of his talks recently  “The greatest thing you can do for your children is to be around them and spend considerable quality time with them not just near them”. Spending quality time doesn’t take long and is not expensive at all. This is not just taking children here and there, to this playgroup and to that indoor/outdoor playing area etc. A fine example of spending quality time woud be reading aloud to them, ask them to narrate prophet’s stories, take nature walks and ask them to notice changes in nature whilst talking about Creator. It could be as simple as discussing family matters together and ask for their opinions. 

Fourth, Disciplining without spanking. Patience needed at all times but especially when disciplining children. Always remember Muhammad (saw) said “The strongest among you is the one who can control himself when he is angry”. So, we should try not to show our anger to children. And he (saw) said “Whoever controls his anger, while he has the power to show it, Allah (s) will call him on the Day of Resurrection before all creation, and reward him greatly.” Sometimes it takes ages even for one smallest habit to stick. Patience is key to success. We should read more on habit formation, establishing the routine and setting boundaries. If we train these three from young age, inshaAllah there will be no clashes as children become teenagers and beyond.

Fifth, we should stop comparing our children. Comparing the siblings to one another, comparing children to their friends, comparing their Qur’an hifdh, or math skills, it has to be stopped. We should let each of them be who they are. For each human being is unique and has their own strengths and weaknesses. SubhanAllaah. As they grow older we can introduce the concept of healthy competition, competition in good deeds. But, for younger children I have experienced that very often comparisons and competitions leave a negative effect.

To conclude, we should remind ourselves that children are amanah; a trust from God. So, we should raise them in a way that is in line with Qur’an and the Sunnah. If we succeed in doing so, then they will be the glamour of this world to us. If we raise them in a way that is in conflict with the Sunnah and raise them as hostile to the Qur’an, then they could be a source of trial and trouble. May God save us from such a trial.

On the day of Judgement we will be asked about the blessings we have been bestowed. And children are blessing. And Allah has asked us to protect ourselves and our families from the fire. Allah is going to ask “Did our children know Allah, did they know who the prophet was, did they know what the aqeedah meant, and did they know the lifestyles of sahaba?” And each of us should ask ourselves each day “Did we safeguard our trust or did we lose it?”