The heart may be sensitive or insensitive, awake or asleep, healthy or sick, whole or broken, open or closed. In other words, its perceptive ability will depend on its capacity and condition. Life continuously presents us with multiple ambiguous situations. How can we know whether we are following the concealed desire of the false self (nafs) or the guidance of the heart?
When our hearts soften at the remembrance of Allah [Qur’an, Az Zumar 39:23], the nafs acquires the qualities of servanthood and humility in relation to the Divine Majesty, and the heart becomes sensitive and expansive—expansive enough, in fact, to contain the whole universe.
The healthy heart requires the nourishment of spiritual foods. When the heart is healthy, its desires will be healthy.
Hazrat Muhammad (saws) said, “The heart of the faithful is the throne of the Merciful”.
If the heart has nourished itself only on the desires of physical existence, it is deprived of life-giving nourishment; and its desires become less healthy, more sickly.
Purity of the heart refers to the heart’s overall soundness and health. The heart, if it is truly a heart, is in contact with Spirit. But to achieve this rapport with Spirit, it must be purified and made receptive all the way down to the subconscious levels.
Sufism (tasawwuf) offers four stages for the purification of the heart:
1-) Liberating ourselves from the psychological distortions and complexes that prevent us from forming a healthy, integrated individuality.
2-) Freeing ourselves from the slavery to the attractions of the world, all of which are secondary reflections of the qualities within the heart. Through seeing these attractions as veils over our one essential yearning, the veils fall away and the naked reality remains.
3-) Transcending the subtlest veil that is the self and its selfishness.
4-) Devoting oneself and one’s attention to Allah; living in and through Allah, in Haqiqah (essential truth), in Love.
Without the power of Love, we can only love our nafs and the world. Without the Center, we suffer fragmentation, dispersion in the multiplicity.
By living in and through the Center we become still and at peace. Then, all the things of the world will come running after us. But if while sitting, we are engaged with the attractions of the world, we are not sitting, but running after the world. The Prophet Muhammad (saws) said: “Make all your cares into a single care, and Allah will attend to all your cares.” The real friends of Allah are not occupied with power, self-importance or acquisition, because they are with Allah.
The Prophet Moses (Musa) said: “O Lord (Al Rabb), are you close enough for me to whisper in your ear or so distant that I should shout?” And Allah said, “I am behind you, before you, at your right and at your left. O Moses, I am sitting next to my servant whenever he remembers me, and I am with him when he calls me.”
Hz. Ali Ibn Abu Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, was once asked if he had ever seen Allah. “How could I worship what I have not seen?” he replied. “Our eyes cannot see Allah directly, but the heart can see Allah through the realities of faith.”
Those who turn toward their own heart may enter the world of spiritual qualities, and they may find there the source of every quality that they projected onto the outer world. And all that they are looking for may truly be within themselves.
“It is they on whose hearts He has inscribed faith, and whom He has strengthened with inspiration from Himself.” [ Qur’an, Al Mujadila 58:22]