The Hardening of the Heart

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The Prophet Muhammad SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam informed us in a very
famous tradition, commonly quoted with reference to halâl and harâm,
about the importance of the heart. He said:

 “ “There is in the body a lump of flesh – if it becomes good, the whole
body becomes good and if it becomes bad, the whole body becomes bad. And
indeed it is the heart.”

The hadîth in full:- Bukhârî, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 49: Narrated
An-Nu’mân bin Bashîr: I heard Allâh’s Apostle saying:

 “ ‘Both legal and
illegal things are evident but in between them there are doubtful
(suspicious) things and most of the people have no knowledge about them.
So whoever saves himself from these suspicious things saves his religion
and his honor. And whoever indulges in these suspicious things is like a
shepherd who grazes (his animals) near the Hima (private pasture) of
someone else and at any moment he is liable to get in it. (O people!)
Beware! Every king has a Hima and the Hima of Allâh on the earth is His
illegal (forbidden) things. Beware! There is a piece of flesh in the
body if it becomes good (reformed) the whole body becomes good but if it gets
spoilt the whole body gets spoilt and that is the heart.’

He said that after explaining that the halâl is clear and that the harâm
is clear and that between them are obscure areas, not known to most
people. However, what protects a person from the harâm and ensures that
he remains in the halâl is knowledge; but beyond knowledge, it is the state
of the heart. If the heart is good, then it makes use of the knowledge
and it avoids what is prohibited. If the heart is bad, then the knowledge is
of no benefit to it and it will indulge in what is prohibited.

The Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi Wa sallam, on the last pilgrimage,
informed his Companions and the nations of Muslims to come, that there is no
favour or no special place of the Arab over the non-Arab; nor is there any
favour or special position of White over Black, but that favour in the sight of
Allâh, is with those who fear Him, those who have taqwa. After bearing
witness to that, he said that “ Taqwa is in the heart.”

In these statements and other similar statements, we find stress being
placed on the heart – that the heart is the part of the body, which
Allâh has favoured over all other parts. It is the place of imân. Had there
been in the body another part that were nearer to Allâh, taqwa would have
been placed there because imân is the most valuable thing that a human being
can have. There is nothing more valuable. It is the determination
ultimately of those who have belief in Allâh – those who have accepted
the message and who have chosen Paradise over Hell. It is the distinction of
those who have belief and those who have disbelief.

The value of imân is more than all of the things of this world. This is
why the Prophet Muhammad SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam said that for
Allâh to guide by your hands a single person to Islâm is worth more than
anything in this world. For you to help someone to find imân is worth
more than any of the things in this world.

The heart is the place by which the correctness of deeds is judged. The
Prophet Muhammad SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam said: “Deeds are judged according to the intention.” The place of the intention is not on the
lips. It is in the heart.

The hadîth in full:- Bukhârî, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 51: Narrated
‘Umar bin Al-Khattâb: Allâh’s Apostle said:

 “ “The reward of deeds depends upon
the intention and every person will get the reward according to what he
has intended. So whoever emigrated for Allâh and His Apostle, then his
emigration was for Allâh and His Apostle. And whoever emigrated for
worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration was for what he
emigrated for.”

Our deeds – what we do externally – are judged ultimately by the states
of our hearts. These are good deeds. Evil deeds are evil, but these good
deeds are in reference to those that we perceive to be a part and parcel
of righteousness. Allâh will inspect the hearts to determine whether
they are truly acts of righteousness.

The Prophet Muhammad SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam had informed us that
the first 3 people who would be cast into the Hell Fire are people who were
involved in what everybody considers great acts of righteousness. They
are the scholar who taught knowledge; the wealthy person who gave from his
wealth in charity and the martyr who gave his life fighting in the path of
God.

The Prophet Muhammad SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi Wa sallam, in an authentic
narration, said that they would be among the first groups of people
thrown into because the scholar, when he taught the knowledge that Allâh gave
him, did not do so for the sake of Allâh. He taught so that people would
praise him, saying what a great scholar he is and how knowledgeable he
is. Allâh will say to him: You received your praise, what you sought in that
world. But there will be nothing for you in the next. So he will be
drawn off on his face and thrown into Hell.

Similarly the rich individual – the philanthropist, who was generous
with his wealth. He gave and people praised his generosity, but Allâh will
say, You did it for the praise and you were praised. There was no sincerity
there; it was not for the sake of Allâh. You did it for as long as
people appreciated it, but when people did not pay you mind, you were not
generous anymore. Your generosity was conditional; it was not really for
the sake of Allâh. So that individual will be drawn off on his face and
thrown into Hell.

And the martyr – the one whom we all assumed had died fî-sabîlillâh. We
would think that his place in Paradise is guaranteed. But Allâh will
say: You fought so people would say, ‘How brave this one is! How strong and
courageous he was! People said it; they praised him, but he did not do
it for the sake of Allâh, so he will be drawn off on his face and thrown
into Hell.

This is all telling us that ultimately, even the highest of deeds can be
of no avail if the hearts are sick; if the hearts are corrupt. So the
place of the heart should, in our minds, occupy great attention. We have
to spend much of our time observing, being aware of the state of our
heart. When the Prophet Muhammad SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam described
Abû Bakr As-Siddîq, explaining to the people his status over the rest of
them, he said, “ He does not surpass you by performing more prayers and
fasts – there are among you those who pray and fast more – but by
something which deeply has embedded itself in his heart. Imân in his
heart
.” That was where his superiority laid.

So there is no other faculty in the human body and existence that a
believer should more concerned about. We have to make sure that this
faculty is functioning as Allâh wishes it to function. We should be
greatly concerned about it. The Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam
used to make dua often, beginning: “ I seek refuge in you, O Allâh, from
knowledge that does not benefit and from a heart which does not fear
“.

The Prophet Muhammad SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam had a very soft heart.
He treated people gently. His wives said that they could not recall an
incident where he hit them or scolded them harshly. He was known for his
gentleness. And Allâh confirmed that this quality is an essential
quality.

Allâh says:

This was the quality of the Prophets and this is the characteristic that
all those who seek to guide others to Allâh must have. As it was
essential for the Prophets, it is essential for us. It is essential for those who
seek knowledge; it is essential for all people. It is essential for
parents, with regard to their children.

Softness of the heart is something that we cannot spend too much time
on.

With regards to children, Al-Aqra Ibn Habis was visited by the Prophet
Muhammad SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi Wa sallam. The Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa
sallam lifted one of his children and placed the child on his lap. He
kissed the child out of the kindness and softness of his heart towards
the child. Al-Aqra said, “ I have 10 other children and I have not kissed a
single one of them
.” This was a point of pride, manhood – that one is
not soft, that one is tough. The Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam said
to him, “ Can I help it if Allâh has removed mercy from your heart?” He went
on to say, “ And whoever is not merciful will not receive mercy.

So it is essential that parents show mercy to their children. And if we
look at a home where a father is kind and merciful with his children, we
find a home that is full of happiness and joy.

Mercy is something that we cannot live without.

The reality for those seeking knowledge – as it is compulsory for us to
seek knowledge of the Dîn – is that if there is not, along with that
knowledge, a soft heart, then we cannot taste the beauty of that
knowledge. As Hassan Al-Basri had said,

  “Due to Allâh’s mercy,
you are gentle with them. Had you been severe and harsh hearted, they
would have fled from around you.” [Qur’ân, Sûrah Ali-Imrân (3:159)]
  “If a man seeks knowledge, it
will appear in his face, hands and tongue and in his humility to Allâh.”

The opposite is true – that nothing corrupts knowledge and dâ’wa more
than the harshness of the heart. Where hearts have become hardened, the
knowledge is of no benefit to the individual, nor can that individual
benefit others with it. Softness of the heart is the characteristic of
true Muslims. If it becomes absent, then a person’s life is filled with
distress and discomfort. This is the promise of Allâh. Those who lack
hearts that are soft will lead woeful lives. As Allâh said;

They are in obvious misguidance. Woe to those
whose hearts hear the Qur’ân and they do not become fearful and humbled as a
result of it. Woe to those whose eyes are reminded of the Words of
Allâh, but they do not weep in fear of Him. Woe to those who are reminded of
the Warnings of Allâh and they do not humble themselves to His Words.

It is a curse to have a hardened heart and it is a blessing to have a
soft heart. Those with hardened hearts suffer in this life, even though they
may have all of the trappings of this life. What seems to be an
enjoyable life is empty – it is filled with loneliness. They cannot find peace of
mind and of heart because their hearts are hardened to Allâh, to belief
in Allâh, to submission to Allâh.

That is why Allâh said :

  “Woe to those whose hearts are hardened against the
remembrance of Allâh.” [Sûrah Az-Zumar (39:22)]

It is only with the remembrance of Allâh that hearts find rest.

  “Whosoever turns away from
My Message, verily for him is a life narrowed down, and We shall raise
him up blind on the Day of Judgement.” [Qur’ân, Sûrah Ta-Ha 20:124:]

What is most beneficial in this life is a soft heart. We should strive
to achieve it because everything else would be meaningless and useless if
we do not have softened hearts. How do we achieve this?

It is not a secret. It is not something known only to a few, handed down
in special sessions and gatherings. As the Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa
sallam said, “ I have left you on a clear white plain, whose day is like
its night. Anyone who deviates from it is destroyed
.” The way of the
Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam clarifies for us how to achieve a
soft heart.

The first method is du’â or supplication. Nothing softens the heart more
than asking Allâh to soften it and make it merciful. This is the promise
of the Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam when he said: Call on Allâh
being certain that your prayer will be answered, but know at the same
time that Allâh will not answer the prayer of a heart which is negligent.

Du’â will soften the heart and Allâh is the One who will soften the
heart. Our du’â to Him will be answered, but we have to believe it. If we just
raise our hands and ask, “ O Allâh, soften my heart!” and not really ask
from the heart, it is just something we said – and we could have said
ANYTHING else! If we call on Allâh SINCERELY, He will soften the heart.
Call on Me and I will answer you.

  “Those who
believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allâh:
for without doubt in the remembrance of Allâh do hearts find
satisfaction.” [Qur’ân, Sûrah Al-Ra’d 13:28]

If we consider the many examples that we have from the lives of the
Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam and his companions, they would show
us that it is Allâh who can change the hearts.

Let us consider ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattâb. His attitude towards the Prophet
SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam and Islâm was so harsh that he set out one
day to kill the Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi Wa sallam. He was fed up with
the efforts of Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam to spread Islâm that
he felt he had to take it in his hands to finish this. He strapped on
his sword and set out. On his way, he met another companion who told him to
check on his own sister before seeing the Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi Wa
sallam. He was surprised and went to his sister’s house, virtually
tearing down the door. He slapped her and her husband until blood came from her
face. He then stopped and looked at what he had caused.

On his way in, he had heard something from the Qur’ân and it had touched
him, but his anger did not allow it a chance to settle in his heart. But
when he struck his sister and saw the blood, it stopped him for a
minute. What he had heard before touched his heart. He asked what was being read
before and some of the Qur’ân was read for him. And he changed.

That was enough to turn him upside down. This was ‘Umar! On another
occasion, the other companions saw him laughing and then crying; one
after the other. They asked what had caused that to happen to him. He said.

  “When my servants ask thee concerning Me,
I am indeed close to them: I respond to the prayer of every suppliant when
he calleth on Me; let them also, with a will, listen to My call and
believe in Me: that they may walk in the right way” [Qur’ân, Sûrah Al-Baqarah 2:186]
  “I remember that in the days of Jâhiliyya, I used to have this idol made of
dates. One day, I became so hungry that I ate a piece of it. And then, I
cried when I remembered digging a hole and burying my daughter. Whilst I
was putting her in, she reached up and brushed dirt from my beard.”

And he had buried her alive. That was the practice – those who felt it was a
dishonour to have a daughter killed them. That was how hard his heart
was – how hard his heart had become, to bury his daughter alive.

But his heart changed. Changed so much that ‘Umar, when he used to lead
the prayers, would be so choked up with tears that people from way back
in the third row could hear him crying. This was ‘Umar, a man who was so
harsh, so powerful. a courageous individual, but with the acceptance of
Islâm, his heart was turned around.

So we should do as the Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam advised us –
to go to Allâh and call on him to give us softened hearts and we should
seek refuge as the Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam had from the
heart without fear. And in the same du’â, he also sought refuge from the eyes
that do not become full with tears, eyes that never cry.

The second way is that we remember the Hereafter, to remember our death.
The one thing that we are one hundred per cent certain of – even if we
have some doubt as to whether there is really a God; even if we wrongly
wonder if what we are practising is really the truth when there are so
many other people doing so many other things – is that we are going to
die.

But our lives are such that we become so occupied with the things of
this life that we forget that we are going to die. As Allâh said, the
gathering of wealth has deluded them to the realities of life and they only come
awake when they end up in their graves

  “The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world) diverts you (from the more serious things), until ye visit the graves. But nay, ye soon shall know the reality.” [Qur’ân At-Takâthur 102:1-3]

This is a fearful statement, that we should
live lives unconscious of our deaths and thereby be lost in trivialities,
things that are really ultimately not going to benefit us in the next
life.

Consequently, Prophet Muhammad SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam had said:

 “ I
used to forbid you from visiting the graves in the early part of Islâm.
But now I command you to visit them because they serve to remind you of
the next life.

 “ “I [once] had forbidden you from visiting graves, [and I now enjoin]
you to do so, so that the visit may serve as a beneficial reminder.”
(related by Muslim and others)

Al-Hâkim’s version :

 “ “…for [such visits] soften the heart, bring tears
to the eyes, and serve as a reminder of the Hereafter, [but be careful]
not to speak forbidden expressions [i.e. while visiting].” (Sahîh
al-Jâmi’ 4584)

To go to the graveyard, reflecting on the state of those in the grave
(not necessarily of your relatives alone). As the Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi
wa sallam said, “ The grave is either a garden from the gardens of Paradise
or a hole from the holes of Hell Fire.
” There are people in the graves who
are calling out for help but there is no one to help. When Munkar and
Nakîr come and ask them, “ Who is your Lord?” “ What is your religion?”
“ Who was the Prophet that was sent to you?” they will be unable to answer!

Narrated Anas: The Prophet said,

 “ “When a
human being is laid in his grave and his companions return and he even
hears their foot steps, two angels come to him and make him sit and ask
him: What did you use to say about this man, Muhammad? He will say: I
testify that he is Allâh’s slave and His Apostle. Then it will be said
to him, ‘Look at your place in the Hell-Fire. Allâh has given you a place
in Paradise instead of it.’ ” The Prophet added, “The dead person will see
both his places. But a non-believer or a hypocrite will say to the
angels, ‘I do not know, but I used to say what the people used to say! It will
be said to him, ‘Neither did you know nor did you take the guidance (by
reciting the Qur’ân).’ Then he will be hit with an iron hammer between
his two ears, and he will cry and that cry will be heard by whatever
approaches him except human beings and jinns.”[Volume 2, Book 23, Number 422]

This is not something we can memorise in preparation for the questions,
because it is not a matter of not knowing, but that we will be incapable
of answering as part of the degradation of that life. We know that the
answer is the key for the next life, but we cannot use the key. We don’t
have access to it because it never entered our hearts in this life. If
it did not enter our hearts in this life that Allâh is our Lord and that
Muhammad is our Prophet and that Islâm is our religion, then that
knowledge will not benefit us in the next life.

So we are encouraged to visit the graves and on that basis, this is not
unique to men, for the benefits that come from visiting he graves is not
unique to men. This is why some scholars argue that visiting the graves
is not prohibited to women, but that it is the frequent visits that are
prohibited, due to the sensitivity of their nature. Hence not regular
visits, but to go from time to time, as they need the reminder just as
men need the reminder.

Allâh describes those, in the Qur’ân, who when they reflect on the
Hereafter, are affected. It affects them in the nights. “ They slept
little in the night and in the hours before dawn, they were found seeking
Allâh’s forgiveness.
” They wake up in the night with the remembrance of the life
to come – the trials of the grave and the Judgement to come. These lead
them to get up from their beds at a time when sleep is so sweet.

Brothers and sisters! Let us reflect on that life to come. Let us
reflect on the process after death; the process in dying itself – how the souls
are taken from the bodies of believers, as the Prophet SallAllâhu
‘Alayhi wa sallam said, “ like water dropping from the spout of a bucket”; but
for the disbelievers, “ like silk being drawn over thorns “, tearing away.
That soul that fears Allâh is taken in the next life up into the Heavens and
the angels of the Heavens will praise it. It will return to that body
and a Garden from Paradise will be opened up to it and it will lie in that
state till Resurrection. But for those whose hearts have hardened
towards the remembrance of Allâh, the soul will be barred entrance into the
Heavens. It will be thrown back into the body. Their evil deeds will
come before them as a horrible creature and they will suffer torments. A
widow from Hell will be open and the heat will be over them until
Resurrection.

And what happens on the Resurrection, when we stand before Allâh and
answer for each and every deed that we have done, when nothing escapes
Allâh, when the things that we have in this life will be of no benefit
to us. The only thing that will benefit us is to stand before Allâh with a
healthy heart.

The third way by which we can soften our hearts is the Qur’ân itself.
Allâh states:

If we reflect on the Qur’ân, it has the power to soften our hearts. Allâh
said, about the jinn who heard the Qur’ân,

  “Has not the time come for those who believe for their hearts to fear
Allâh when they hear the Qur’ân (dhikrullâh here is in reference to the
Qur’ân) and what truth there is in it, so that they not be like those who
received the Scripture before, but in the passage of time, their hearts
became hard. And most of them are corrupt.” [Qur’ân, Al-Hadîd, 57:16]

Allâh goes on to describe the righteous,

  “Indeed we heard an amazing Qur’ân; it guides us to Allâh and
we believe in it and we will set not partners besides Allâh.”
[See Qur’ân, Sûrah al-Ahqâf 46:29-32]

This was the case of the ruler of Ethiopia. When Muslims sought refuge
there and they recited a portion of the Qur’ân, they saw his eyes fill
with tears.

This is how we should be. When we hear the Qur’ân, we should reflect on
the meanings. The Qur’ân should not become for us a replacement for pop songs
that we used to hear before. People buy recordings of their favourite
reciters for the beauty of their voice. The listening of the Qur’ân has
become more of a musical thing. We are entertained by that music, so
much so that when the reciter is reading, we hear people in the background
going, “Allâh! Allâh! Allâh!” People making statements in the background
as thought it were a pop show! This is not the Qur’ân. Allâh tells us,
Will they not reflect (on the meanings)?”

The Qur’ân is a Book of Guidance and it is in the reflection on the
meaning of the Qur’ân that we benefit, for it is very important for us to
re-assess how we are dealing with the Qur’ân. We should be reading it regularly,
not just during Ramadhân. We reflect on it. Not just reading it only in
Ramadhân so we can finish the whole Book and say we finished the Qur’ân
in Ramadhân. It really does not matter if we don’t finish the Qur’ân in
Ramadhân. For most of the Prophet’s SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam life,
he did not finish the whole Qur’ân in Ramadhân. Most of the companions did
not finish the reading of the Qur’ân in Ramadhân. Today, for us, Ramadhân is
not complete unless we read the whole Qur’ân in Ramadhân. We hire
reciters to recite the Qur’ân at 99 miles an hour so much so that even
Arabic-speaking people cannot figure out where in the Qur’ân the reciter
is!

This has become the precedence – finishing the Qur’ân in Ramadhân and if
you can finish it twice, even better! But this is not what the Qur’ân is
for. The Qur’ân is for reflection, so that when we hear it, as Allâh says
of the believers who hear the Qur’ân recited, goose bumps come over their
skins. It touches them and causes their heart to tremble.

  “And if they (this is amongst the Christians) hear what was revealed to
the Messenger, you will see their eyes welling up with tears because of
what they know of the truth of what has been brought.”

If when we listen to the Qur’ân, we don’t find this reaction of tears
coming to our eyes, then we should make ourselves cry. Force ourselves
to cry because we need to respond to the Qur’ân in this way. If we don’t, we
are lost! This is the Word of Allâh, the only preserved Word of all the
revelations that were given from Adam till now. This is the word of God
preserved.

We should read the Qur’ân believing this is Allâh speaking to us, because
that is what it is. It is Allâh talking to us directly. Every time he
tells us something about the Jews, we should not (merely) take it as a
piece of information, that the Jews are this and the Jews are that. No!
Whenever Allâh tells us something about the Jews, we should see in it as
a warning to ourselves – that we don’t become like them. When Allâh said,
ghairil maghdûbi ‘alayhim wa la-ddâllîn.” in Sûrah Al-Fâtiha, the
Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam explained that al-maghdûb ‘alayhim
are the Jews and that ad-dâllîn are the Christians. Those with whom
Allâh is angry are the Jews and those who have gone astray are the
Christians. Allâh is angry with the Jews because they KNOW the truth and
they don’t act on it. “ You call people to righteousness and you forget
yourselves.
” They changed the Book. The Christians are without
knowledge; they are lost. They think that God is a man!

This is a warning to us. Every time we recite these verses, Allâh is
warning us not to be like them – we have the truth, we have the
Scripture, but we are not acting according to them. If we do not seek knowledge, if
we do not find out what it is Allâh wants from us, then we are lost.
Every time we read the “ ghairil maghdûbi ‘alayhim wa la-ddâllîn.” it should
touch us. We should reflect on it and it should touch us.

There are so many verses throughout the Qur’ân that remind us of the
Hereafter, that remind us of the signs of the Day of Judgement. It is
enough for us to open any part of the Qur’ân to read about them. In
virtually every chapter of the Qur’ân Allâh addresses the next life. It
is linked to our second point of visiting the graves and remembering the
Hereafter. The Qur’ân speaks about the life to come and to reflect on it.

The fourth way for us to soften our hearts is by way of good deeds.
Righteous deeds done sincerely for Allâh will soften our hearts. In the
initial stages, maybe we can’t see how it softens our hearts, but we
have to stick with it and believe. As the Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa
sallam told us, that the slave of Allâh does not come closer to Him except by
doing the deeds that He has made compulsory for him. The compulsory
deeds – the 5 daily prayers, the fast, etc. While praying, sometimes we
wonder, “ Where is the benefit? Where is the change?” The point is that if we
keep working at it, there will be benefit. We may not see it immediately. It
is something that becomes cumulative, like a person growing. They can
hardly wait till they are going to be big and they put a mark on the wall,
wondering when they are going to get up there. They cannot perceive
themselves growing because it is something accumulating within them.

Similarly, righteous deeds… and the first of the righteous deeds are the
one that God commands. It is a mistake to go to the things that He did
not command us to do and to put all our focus on these areas and leave the
primary things that He commanded us to do. If we have not established 5
times daily prayers on time, then it does not matter whatever else we
do. It is useless. This is the foundation – if we cannot do what Allâh has
commanded us to do, has demanded of us, then how can we please Him in
anything else? Then, for us, pleasing God is according to ourselves –
what is pleasing to us will please God. This is not pleasing God. We have to
remember that the Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam told us: The Hell
Fire is veiled by the things that are pleasing to us and Paradise is
veiled by the things that we do not like.

Things that we do not like ” are not necessarily those things that are
evil, but those that our own nafs does not like because they require
work and effort. We like the easy way. So we would like not to pray and if
someone were to tell us that it is not necessary to pray, we would say
Alhamdulillâh!” This is our nature – we would be happy with that.
However, we should be sad because we can only pray in this life and in
the next, we have no chance to pray anymore. This is where prayer will
benefit us, because in the next life, we will want to pray. We will beg Allâh.
Allâh describes those who come before him for judgement: when they see
their deeds and they know that they have put themselves in Hell. What
will they do? Will they argue with Allâh and ask why He has put them in Hell?
No, they will ask Allâh for another chance to go back and do what Allâh
has told them to do and more. [see Sûrah Al-A’râf 7:53] But Allâh will
know that they are lying for they would do the same if sent back. For if
Allâh were to send us back, He will not send us back with the knowledge
that we have then. He would send us back just as we were before.

Prayer is for OUR benefit. When we pray, we are not benefiting Allâh. If
every human being on this earth prayed, it would not increase or benefit
Allâh in any way, just as if nobody prayed, it would not decrease or
affect Allâh in any way. Prayer is for OURSELVES. That is why the
Prophet used to say, “Bilâl, give us ease by giving the call to prayer.” Prayer
was considered a time of pleasure but for us it is a burden. The sooner
we finish, the better so we can get on with our lives. That is a mistake.
Our hearts have become hard.

Allâh describes the Jews: after all the signs that were given to them,
with the passage of time, their hearts became hard. Our hearts have
become hard. We have accepted Islâm, we are awakened to Islâm and we start to
practise Islâm, but time has passed and our hearts have become hardened.

  “Allâh has revealed (from time to time) the most
beautiful Message in the form of a Book, consistent with itself, yet
repeating (its teaching in various aspects): the skins of those who fear
their Lord tremble threat; then their skins and hearts do soften to the
remembrance of Allâh.” [Qur’ân Az-Zumar 39:23]:

Prayer is not something that is pleasurable to us, but we have to keep
striving and recognise that this is natural. Imân increases and
decreases. The heart hardens and we fight against it and it softens. It is a
continual struggle until we die. We just pray that we die with hearts
that are soft and fearful. We have to keep struggling and it is in that
struggle that ultimately we do taste Imân; that we do taste what the
Salâh was prescribed for; what the remembrance of Allâh should mean in
our lives. The Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam describes those who
receive the shade of Allâh’ s throne on the day when there is no shade:
the one who remembers Allâh and cries. His heart is soft.

  “Has not the time arrived for the
Believers that their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of
Allâh and of the Truth which has been revealed to them, and that they
should not become like those to whom was given The Book a foretime, but
long ages passed over them and their hearts grew hard? For many among
them are rebellious transgressors.” [Qur’ân, Sûrah Al-Hadîd 57:16]
 “ Narrated Abû Huraira: The
Prophet said Allâh will give shade to seven (types of people) under His Shade
(on the Day of Resurrection). (one of them will be) a person who remembers
Allâh and his eyes are then flooded with tears.[Bukhârî, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 486]

 “ Narrated Abû Huraira: The
Prophet said, “Allâh will give shade, to seven, on the Day when there will be no
shade but His. (These seven persons are) a just ruler, a youth who has
been brought up in the worship of Allâh (i.e. worships Allâh sincerely
from childhood), a man whose heart is attached to the mosques (i.e. to
pray the compulsory prayers in the mosque in congregation), two persons
who love each other only for Allâh’s sake and they meet and part in
Allâh’s cause only, a man who refuses the call of a charming woman of
noble birth for illicit intercourse with her and says: I am afraid of
Allâh, a man who gives charitable gifts so secretly that his left hand
does not know what his right hand has given (i.e. nobody knows how much
he has given in charity), and a person who remembers Allâh in seclusion and
his eyes are then flooded with tears.”[Bukhârî, Volume 1, Book 11, Number 629: ]

So we should not shy away from good deeds for they will help to soften
our hearts. The Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam had said that greeting
our brothers or sisters with a smiling face is Sadaqah. Nothing should
be too small for us: no good deed is so trivial that we scorn at it. We
should strive to do every good deed.

But we should begin with the things Allâh has made compulsory. We should
establish the Salâh as Allâh prescribed it; we have to establish our
zakâh as it is supposed to be given; we have to fast as it is supposed to be
done and the hajj and umrah if we are able. These fundamentals have to
be established for the sake of Allâh; they provide the foundation for the
softening of the heart. As we continue to do these acts and voluntary
versions of these acts, we come closer and closer to Allâh, until Allâh
says He becomes the eyes with which we see, where we see only the things
that Allâh wants us to see. We avoid the things that Allâh does not want
us to see; we turn away from them; we don’t enjoy them. We only touch
the things Allâh wants us to touch; we only take what Allâh wants us to
take; we only go to places that Allâh wants us to go. If we turn to Allâh and
we call on Him He will answer our prayer. This is the promise of the
Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi Wa sallam.

So my brothers and sisters, I ask you and myself to remember our hearts;
to reflect on the state of our hearts. Whenever we have a moment,
question: what state are we in? To work on our hearts until we have
succeeded in softening them, by the mercy and the grace of Allâh. We
begin that process by turning to Allâh. In our next prayer tonight, let us
turn back to Allâh and beg him sincerely to soften our hearts and when we do
so, if we are sincere, our hearts will begin to soften. It is the
promise of Rasûlullâh SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi Wa sallam. We should read the Qur’ân and
do as much as we can of righteous deeds. We should reflect on the next
life by visiting the graves and by reading the verses addressing them;
by reading the statements of the Prophet SallAllâhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam about
the next life. We should do these things and strive to soften our
hearts. As I said before, if after doing them we cannot find softness in our
hearts, then we need to make ourselves cry. We need to force ourselves
to cry because until we can let go and let loose those feeling within
ourselves, then the hearts cannot become soft.

So I pray and I ask Allâh to give us all soft hearts, hearts that are
filled with mercy, for the creation of Allâh, our children, our parents,
our brothers and sisters in Islâm… even those towards people who are not
Muslims. I ask Allâh to put in our hearts softness towards them in the
sense that it would guide us to carry the message to them as we should.
I ask Allâh to give us success to turn back to the Qur’ân, to read it
regularly, seeking understanding and guidance from it and I ask Allâh to
give us soft hearts.

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)



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