Bismillahi Rahman Ar Raheem (In the name of Allah, the Giver and Owner of Loving Mercy)
With the parting of Ramadan, I reflect upon the status of my heart. Has my heart grown softer and closer to Allah ﷻ? Or am I in the same place I was before Ramadan? I make dua that Allah ﷻ accepts all of our efforts in this holy month and may we see the fruits of these efforts in our lives till we are reunited with Ramadan. This article was inspired by an ICNA Baltimore session titled, Hearts Unplugged, conducted by Dr. Farhan Abdul Azeez, Imam Suhaib Webb, and Ustadh Abdelrahman Murphy discussing the heart.
Ayat 74 of Surah Al-Baqara says “Then your hearts became hardened after that, being like stones or even harder. For indeed, there are stones from which rivers burst forth, and there are some of them that split open and water comes out, and there are some of them that fall down for fear of Allah . And Allah is not unaware of what you do.”
Hardness of the heart is a spiritual illness that affects a lot of our Ummah today. May Allah ﷻ protect us from it. In the last fleeting moments of Ramadan, we are all on a spiritual high. The fasting, the Taraweeh, the Quran, and every other facet of our deen collectively contribute to a spiritual blossoming that feeds our iman. However, maintaining this level of iman for the course of the whole year is difficult. The Dunya gets in the way and our hearts begin to harden. Over hundreds of years, even rivers break down and shape stones but, Allah ﷻ says in Ayat 74 of Surah Baqara, that our hearts can become even harder than stones. We should always strive to evaluate our hearts and to protect them from this illness. The reason being that no one can diagnose this disease but ourselves. We cannot see it on someone’s face because it is an internal sickness, a spiritual sickness. Therefore, it is very important that we know the signs of a hard heart so that we may protect ourselves from it. I will be focusing on identifying seven major signs of a hard heart.
1.) Being lazy in acts of worship
One of the first signs of a hard heart is that we become lazy within our prayer. We stop putting in the effort. We begin praying very fast, skipping the sunnah, or even praying late. In an authentic hadeeth narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim from Abu Hurayrah (May Allah ﷻ be pleased with him), the prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) entered a mosque and a man came in and hastily prayed four Rakat. The man then came over to the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and greeted him. The Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) returned the greeting and said: “Go back and pray for you have not prayed”. The man went and hastily prayed again and returned to the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who again replied: “Go back and pray for you have not prayed”. The man went and hastily prayed again and was again met with the same response. Finally, the man said he could not do anymore and asked the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The Prophet said: “When you go to pray, say takbeer, then recite whatever you can of the Qur’an. Then bow until you are at ease in bowing, then rise until you are standing up straight. Then prostrate until you are at ease in prostration, then sit up until you are at ease in sitting. Then do that throughout the entire prayer.” Look at the prayer the prophet PBUH taught this man. How often do we hastily perform our prayers? How often do we convince ourselves to skip the sunnah? How often do we delay our prayers until the very last minute?
2.) Being lazy in acts of goodness
Imagine a piece of garbage on the street. Would you go out of your way to pick it up? Another sign of a hard heart is when we become lazy in our goods. Would you just convince yourself that someone else will pick it up? Do not belittle even small acts of goodness like picking up the trash. Even a simple act like greeting your brother with a smile. The second side of this sign of a hard heart is belittling your own bad deeds. Telling yourself that it’s not a big deal and that Allah ﷻ is all Merciful and Forgiving is not a justification for continuing to sin.
3.) Not being affected by the recitation of the Quran
When a Muslim listens to the Quran it is a very special moment. The recitation of the Quran should stop us in our tracks, it should force our heart to reflect. When we listen to the recitation of the Quran it should increase our Iman. Does it increase your Iman or are you unaffected?
4.) Not being affected by the tragedies happening around us
We are fortunate to be living secure sheltered lives. But that’s not the case with a lot of others in the world. When you see the news, when you catch glimpses of the death and destruction going on in the world, does it affect you? Seeing the famine, the war, the destruction, the natural disasters, and the death around you should hit you somewhere in your heart. The other side of this is being unaffected by the blessings around you. The blessings Allah ﷻ has given us are uncountable. Do we take these blessings for granted? Our eyes are a blessing from Allah ﷻ. If He had willed we would have no knowledge of the color and beauty of this world.
5.) Making the pleasure of this world our main concern
How do we judge the things in this life? Is it by how much pleasure we get out of them? It is easy to fall into the habit of simply following the things that make us happy and avoiding the ones that are difficult. It is a very slippery slope because often the most difficult things in this Dunya, are the ones that bring us the greatest reward in the akhirah. Are we really embracing the anecdote ”Deen over Dunya”?
6.) Not being bothered by sins
Does it bother us to see the disobedience of Allah ﷻ? Often times we are so used to seeing sin that it does not affect us anymore; We are desensitized to it. We begin making excuses such as “At least it’s not me who is committing the sin”. It should bother us to see blatant disobedience to Allah ﷻ going on right in front of our eyes.
7.) Letting our sins turn into habits
The most defining characteristic of a habit is that its is very difficult to break. The Shaytan convinces us to sin once or twice. If we don’t do Tawbah, sincerely repenting to Allah ﷻ and seek forgiveness, that once or twice leads to even bigger sins. In time, they turn into habits and it is when our sins, no matter how minuscule, turn into habits that our hearts become hard.
No one can tell you that your heart is hardening, no one can tell you that your heart is hard. It doesn’t show up on blood tests and you can’t see it on someone’s face. The only one who is capable of diagnosing this illness is you. I can’t do it for you, your parents or your siblings can’t do it for you, your imam and you teachers can’t do it for you. It is something that every Muslim needs to protect themselves from but in order to guard yourself from developing a hard heart you need to understand it’s signs. Go back and read the signs again. Remember them and reflect upon them so that you are not fighting this enemy in the dark. Bring them out into the light of day and surely you will win. May Allah ﷻ protect our hearts and keep us on the straight path. Ameen.
Reference: ICNA Baltimore session “Hearts Unplugged”, by Dr. Farhan Abdul Azeez, Imam Suhaib Webb, and Ustadh Abdelrahman Murphy
Picture Reference: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/180988478753223457/