Hardened Hearts

More than two-thirds of Ramadan has departed us. With just a few days left it is always a good time to look back and reflect at what we have achieved this Ramadan.

Many of us, alhamdulillah, have achieved a great deal from what we had planned and surely all of us are trying to make up for our shortcomings and attain Allah’s (swt) mercy and forgiveness.

But as we are at this stage, a number of us are baffled as to why we are not feeling the spirituality of Ramadan. Or that we haven’t established a solid connection between us and the Almighty, struggling to feel the khushoo’ in prayer or the sweetness of reciting the Quran, struggling to drop a tear in prayer when in sojoud at midnight. What makes it confusing is that we have achieved what we set out to do, whether it is reciting Quran on a daily basis, or our morning and evening litany of adthkar, but still fail to feel the closeness to Allah (swt).

I am reminded of the verse in Surat Alhadid, and the beautiful story behind it, of the great companion Al-Fudayl Ibn ‘Iyad, who was once a criminal feared by many, heard this single verse being recited, during his travels : 

الم يأن للذين آمنوا ان تخشع قلوبهم لذكر الله
“Has the time not come for the believers that their hearts should soften at the remembrance of Allah” [57:16]

When he heard those words he said “indeed, the time has come,” which caused him to change his life, ultimately becoming one of the most pious of companions known to us. 

A reflection on this verse is that Allah (swt) is addressing the believers for their hearts to soften towards Him. Speaking to those of us who have been doing what we can to taste the sweetness of iman. Doing our best during this month to attain taqwa and feel the closeness to Him and the tranquility in our acts of worship.

For us to attempt to connect our hearts to Allah (swt) through the Quran in the month of the Quran, we need to first remove the locks that have hardened our hearts. Allah (swt) says in Surah Mohamed: 

أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ أَمْ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبٍ أَقْفَالُهَا
“Will they then not contemplate the Qur’an? Or are there locks upon (their) hearts?” [47:24]

There are many diseases to the heart- spiritually speaking not medically of course- the disease of hardened hearts is what the scholars say is the cancer of all diseases. As the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Allah does not send down any disease, but He also sends down the cure for it.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]

The heartened hearts is such a powerful vicious disease, to an extent that Allah (swt) uses it as a punishment “We punished them by making their hearts grow hard” (5:13)

Every disease has its symptoms, causes and cures, I list a few of them below.  I advise myself and my dear brothers and sisters to delve more into this, in order for us to take effective actions to remove the locks of our hearts before the end of Ramadan and after it. 

There are a lot more points than the ones I have listed below, we should try and educate ourselves on them.

Symptoms: the scholars say we suffer from a hardened heart if we feel that we have one or more of the symptoms below:

1- One is not too concerned about having a relationship with Allah (swt). They’re not necessarily avoiding having one on purpose, but they don’t fulfil their duties. There could even be subconscious negligence towards Allah.

2- One is not tasting the sweetness of the acts of worship, they feel that it has become more of a routine or a worse situation, even a burden.

3- One becomes indifferent to any advice given to them. Anything they may come across that could potentially help them, falls upon deaf ears.

Causes: how did it develop; how did we get ourselves into such a bad place?

1- When one makes a habit of avoiding the remembrance of Allah (swt). Allah (swt) says:

وَمَنْ أَعْرَضَ عَنْ ذِكْرِي فَإِنَّ لَهُ مَعِيشَةً ضَنْكًا وَنَحْشُرُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ أَعْمَىٰ
“And whoever turns away from My remembrance – indeed, he will have a depressed life” [20: 124]

Quite often, we avoid listening to lectures and reminders that remind of the Almighty. Again subconsciously, we could be avoiding the remembrance of Allah (swt). Dhikr to the heart of the believer is like water to the human body.

2- One does not have enough taqwa or is not being conscious of their actions if they are lawful or unlawful – if they please Allah (swt) or displease Him. They underestimate minor sins and continue to indulge in them until they no longer weigh heavy on our hearts without them realising.

Allah (swt) says: 

فَبِمَا نَقْضِهِم مِّيثَاقَهُمْ لَعنَّاهُمْ وَجَعَلْنَا قُلُوبَهُمْ قَاسِيَةً
Because of their breach of their covenant, we cursed them, and made their hearts grow hard” [5:13]

3- Chasing one’s desires with minimal limits or efforts to abstain.
Ramadan is the month of abstaining, Allah (swt) puts us through this month-long training camp to train us on abstaining from the lawful desires that are considered necessities such as eating and drinking. In order that for the rest of the eleven months we have the strength to abstain from the unlawful desires. Abstain from blindly following desires that feed our body but not our soul. We’re always reminded that the more we control our desires, the more we are closer to the angels – which makes us closer to the Almighty. The opposite of this, is the behaviour of animals who do not have control over their desires.

Cures: Of course, there are many – but again I only mention three. We should stick to them and remain consistent, as the Prophet (pbuh) said ‘the most acts pleasing to Allah SWT are those which are done persistently, even if it is small.’ [Sahih Muslim]

  1. When a man asked the Prophet (pbuh) which of all the acts that please Allah (swt) should I adhere to the most, the Prophet (pbuh) responded: “Let not your tongue cease to be moist with the remembrance of Allah.” [At-Tirmidhi]. So let us start with the recommended times; after every prayer, every morning and evening, before we sleep, as soon as we wake up and then we top it up with continuous remembrance throughout the day at random times. Allah (swt) has also given us many different types of dhikr, He knows human boredom is one of our biggest obstacles – so when we’re bored of a certain dhikr we move on to the next. Naturally, the best of all dhikr is of course the Quran itself, reciting its verses and contemplating them.
  2. Make sincere duaa to Allah to aid us on this journey of breaking the locks on our hearts and tasting the sweetness of iman. Here are some of the supplications advised by the prophet (pbuh).

    يا مقلب القلوب ثبت قلبي على دينك
    O turner of the hearts make my heart steadfast on your religion

    اللهم اعني على ذكرك وشكرك وحسن عبادتك
    O Allah, help me remember You, expressing gratitude to You and worship You in the best manner

    And as we are in the last ten days of Ramadan and laylatul qadr could be any of these blessed nights, we are reminded of that dua that the Prophet (pbuh) advised our mother Aisha (ra) to make for laylatul qadr 

    اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عَفُوٌّ كَرِيمٌ تُحِبُّ الْعَفْوَ فَاعْفُ عَنِّي
    O Allah, indeed You are Pardoning, [Generous,] You love pardon, so pardon me 

  3. I’ll end with the beautiful story of a companion who asked the Prophet (pbuh) for a cure of the hardened heart, the Prophet (pbuh) advised him to feed the poor and stroke the head of an orphan.

There are many lessons for us to take away from this, but what stands out for me are the instructions of the Prophet (pbuh) to be more engaged in our society and serve our community. He emphasised for us to be more empathetic towards our vulnerable, donating to and feeding the poor, come out of our way to find those who are in need and to support them, to sponsor an orphan if we do not already do so and if we know any orphaned children to speak to them and ask about them. 

The Prophet (pbuh) said:

عَنْ أبي هُريْرة قَالَ: قالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ ﷺ: “إِنَّ الله لا يَنْظُرُ إِلى أَجْسامِكْم، وَلا إِلى صُوَرِكُمْ، وَلَكِنْ يَنْظُرُ إِلَى قُلُوبِكُمْ ” رواه مسلم.
“Allah does not look at your figures, nor at your attire but He looks at your hearts” [Sahih Muslim]

He also said:

“‎ألا وإن فى الجسد مضغة إذا صلحت صلح الجسد كله، وإذا فسدت فسد الجسد كله‏:‏ ألا وهى القلب”
“Verily, there is a piece of flesh in the body, if it is healthy, the whole body is healthy, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt. Verily, it is the heart.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

So let’s take care of our hearts and soften them for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.


MAB halaqah member.