Our Hearts Must Engage in the Worship of Allah

Since 2012-12-07

Devotions of the heart and of the inner self.


Islam prescribes many forms of worship that have outward expressions, prayer being the most obvious of these. Yet, the greatest, most important facets of worship are the internal ones – the devotions of the heart and of the inner self.
Allah says: {So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth.} [Al-Rum 30:30]
{فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا {…الروم: 30
Transliteration: Faaqim wajhaka lilddeeni haneefan
To direct oneself to Allah, to rely on Him alone, and to seek his countenance through one’s deeds is the greatest form of worship there is. This is what purifies and beautifies the heart, and it is accomplished through the love of Allah and being constantly aware of Him. This is the distinction that pious believers have over the sinners and hypocrites.
Just as there are people who pay careful attention to their appearances but are neglectful of their inner selves, there are those who keep up a good outward image of religiousness and worship by doing supposedly pious acts conspicuously. They are often most scrupulous in their religious observances, careful never to slip out of fear of public recrimination. Any slip would ruin their reputation, because their status is built upon their being good imams, scholars, or Islamic workers. For this reason they are as conscientious as anyone could be in maintaining their outwardly good conduct, but not out of any real desire to please Allah. Instead, their hearts are full of the love of this world and the love of fame.
They are so concerned about their status and their reputation that they have no time to think about the Hereafter and how they should prepare for it. They have no time to think about the problems afflicting the Muslims and how to solve them. They do not think about calling others to Islam. Their hearts are devoid of the love of Allah and the love of his devoted worshippers. They also feel no fear of Allah. They do not hope for his reward. Their hearts, which are the receptacles of love, hate, hope, anger, joy, and sorrow, are not focused on the worship of Allah at all.
Allah describes the unbelievers in the following way: {That is because they followed what angered Allah and disliked [what earns] His pleasure, so He rendered worthless their deeds.} [Muhammad 47:28]
}ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمُ اتَّبَعُوا مَا أَسْخَطَ اللَّـهَ وَكَرِهُوا رِضْوَانَهُ فَأَحْبَطَ أَعْمَالَهُمْ{ محمد: 28
Transliteration: Thalika biannahumu ittabaAAoo ma askhata Allaha wakarihoo ridwanahu faahbata aAAmalahum
We should see how the heart is the crux of all matters. So what is the value of outwardly good works that are hated by the heart of the one who performs them? What is the state of a person who abstains from some sinful deed for the sake of reputation or honor, while loving that deed in his heart and feeling joy when someone else commits it? Such a person will almost invariably fall into the sin sooner or later.
Such a person, whose heart loves what Allah hates and hates what Allah loves, will without doubt sooner or later act upon the dictates of the heart. The love or fear this heart harbors for some created thing – the fear of other people, of sickness, of poverty, of death, or of the rulers, and the desire for worldly gain, prestige, or position – will ultimately guide the body just as a monarch guides the populace.
Outward actions will take their directions from the heart. This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “In the body is a peace of flesh that if it is healthy, the whole body is healthy, and if it is corrupted, the whole body becomes corrupted. It is the heart.” [Sahih al-Bukhari (4423)]
‹‹...ألا وإن في الجسد مضغة: إذا صلحت صلح الجسد كله ، وإذا فسدت فسد الجسد كله ، ألا وهي القلب‹‹ رواه البخاري
The heart dictates and the limbs obey. This is why Allah has made salvation in the Hereafter dependent upon the sanctity of the heart. Allah says: {The Day when there will not benefit [anyone] wealth or children (88) But only one who comes to Allah with a sound heart."} [Al-Shu’ara’ :88-89]
}يَوْمَ لَا يَنفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ ﴿٨٨﴾ إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّـهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ{ الشعراء: 88-89
Transliteration: Yawma la yanfaAAu malun wala banoona (88) Illa man ata Allaha biqalbin saleemin
When we bring to Allah a sound heart, we will find benefit in our wealth, our children, and our deeds. This is because our limbs would have already availed us. As for these who come to Allah with hearts that are dead or sick, they will find no benefit in anything else.
A person whose heart is devoid of the love and fear of Allah, whose heart has no affection for pious people and no love for righteous deeds, is to Allah a person who has no heart, even if the lump of flesh can be found beating in the chest.
Allah says: {And not equal are the living and the dead.} [Fatir 35:22]
}وَمَا يَسْتَوِي الْأَحْيَاءُ وَلَا الْأَمْوَاتُ{ فاطر: 22
Transliteration: Wama yastawee alahyao wala alamwatu
The comparison being made in this verse is that of a believer in Allah and an unbeliever, or that of a pious person and a sinner.
Allah says: { And is one who was dead and We gave him life and made for him light by which to walk among the people like one who is in darkness, never to emerge therefrom?} [Al-An’am 6:122]
}أَوَمَن كَانَ مَيْتًا فَأَحْيَيْنَاهُ وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُ نُورًا يَمْشِي بِهِ فِي النَّاسِ كَمَن مَّثَلُهُ فِي الظُّلُمَاتِ لَيْسَ بِخَارِجٍ مِّنْهَا... { الأنعام: 122
Transliteration: Awa man kana maytan faahyaynahu wajaAAalna lahu nooran yamshee bihi fee alnnasi kaman mathaluhu fee alththulumati laysa bikharijin minha
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The likeness of two people, one who remembers his Lord and one who does not, is that of the living and the dead.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari (6407)]
‹‹مثل الذي يذكر ربه والذي لا يذكر ربه مثل الحي والميت‹‹ رواه البخاري
Allah says: {Indeed in that is a reminder for whoever has a heart} [Qaf 50:37]
{إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَذِكْرَىٰ لِمَن كَانَ لَهُ قَلْبٌ ...} ق: 37
Transliteration: Inna fee thalika lathikra liman kana lahu qalbun
All of this confirms a great truth that we must pay attention to: that the purity of the heart and sincerity of purpose is the basis upon which all of our worship rests. If the heart becomes corrupted, good deeds are of no avail. When a person’s intention is no good, nobility of purpose is lost and the person swerves from what is right.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Actions are but by intentions”. [Reported by Al-Bukhari]
‹‹إنما الأعمال بالنيات...    رواه البخاري
When he said this, he was talking about all actions. The acceptability to Allah of any outward action is contingent on the intention behind it, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “…and every person will have only what he intended.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari (1)]
‹‹...وإنما لكل امرىء ما نوى‹‹… رواه البخاري
Actions of the heart, however, are a different matter. The heart’s deeds such as fear, hope, and love, differ from outward actions, in that they, being unseen by others, are not subject to the risk of being for show. They either happen for the sake of Allah or they do not happen at all. One of the distinguishing features of the actions of the heart is that they can be cause for rewarded even if the person possessing them does not perform any outward act.
When the Prophet (peace be upon him) was approaching Madinah on his return from the Tabûk, he said to his Companions: “In Madinah there are some people who did not travel nor did they even cross a valley, but they were with you.”
His Companions asked him: “O Messenger of Allah! How can this be while they were in Madinah?”
He replied: “Yes, while they were in Madinah and were prevented by circumstances from going forth.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari (4423)]
‹‹إن بالمدينة أقوامًا ما سرتم مسيرًا ولا قطعتم واديًا إلا كانوا معكم، قالوا: يا رسول الله، وهم بالمدينة؟ قال: حبسهم العذر ‹‹رواه البخاري
This idea was expressed by a poet who wrote about the pilgrimage:
O you who traveled to the Ancient House! It is thus,
That you went in body while we went in spirit.
We were prevented by hardships we had to endure,
And thus we are like the ones who went forward.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned that there will be people who will enter Paradise without performing any good works because they were prevented from doing so.
Abû Hurayrah used to ask his peers to tell him about a man who went to Paradise without ever having prayed a day in his life. When they could not answer, he would mention to them al-Usayrim from the tribe of Banû Abd al-Ashhal. [Musnad Ahmad (22526)]
‹‹حدثوني عن رجل دخل الجنة لم يصل قط فإذا لم يعرفه الناس سألوه من هو فيقول ‏ ‏أصيرم بني عبد الأشهل...‹‹ ‏ ‏مسند أحمد
Al-Usayrim was a man who had refused to accept Islam when the rest of his people did so. On the day when the tribe of Quraysh attacked the Muslims in Madinah at Mount Uhud, al-Usayrim came to Madinah to accept Islam. Then he picked up his sword and went out to join in the defense of the Muslims along with his kinfolk who had already accepted Islam. He fought until he was mortally wounded. After the battle, when the tribe of Banû Abd al-Ashhal began looking for their dead, they found al-Usayrim on the verge of death. They were surprised because they had left him behind.
They asked him: “What made you come out here (to Madinah), your love for your kinfolk or a desire for Islam?”
He replied: “My desire for Islam brought me here. I believe in Allah and his Messenger so I accepted Islam. Then I picked up my sword and went forward with Allah’s Messenger and fought until I came to this.” He died shortly thereafter.
They mentioned this to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) who said: “He is among the inhabitants of Paradise.” [Musnad Ahmad (22526)]
‹‹...كان ‏ ‏يأبى الإسلام على قومه فلما كان يوم ‏ ‏أحد ‏ ‏وخرج رسول الله ‏ ‏ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ ‏إلى ‏ ‏أحد ‏ ‏بدا له الإسلام فأسلم فأخذ سيفه ‏ ‏فغدا ‏ ‏حتى أتى القوم ‏ ‏ فدخل في عرض الناس فقاتل حتى أثبتته الجراحة قال فبينما رجال ‏ ‏بني عبد الأشهل ‏ ‏يلتمسون قتلاهم في المعركة إذا هم به فقالوا والله إن هذا ‏ ‏للأصيرم ‏ ‏وما جاء لقد تركناه وإنه لمنكر هذا الحديث فسألوه ما جاء به قالوا ما جاء بك يا ‏ ‏عمرو ‏ ‏أحربا على قومك أو رغبة في الإسلام قال بل رغبة في الإسلام آمنت بالله ورسوله وأسلمت ثم أخذت سيفي ‏ ‏فغدوت ‏ ‏مع رسول الله ‏ ‏ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ ‏فقاتلت حتى أصابني ما أصابني قال ثم لم يلبث أن مات في أيديهم فذكروه لرسول الله ‏ ‏ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ ‏فقال ‏ ‏إنه لمن أهل الجنة‹‹‏مسند أحمد


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