The heart is the most honorable part of the human body, for it is the part that knows Allah, works for Him, seeks to draw near to Him, and feels the value of His bounties and favors. The other organs are only followers of the heart, which it utilizes as kings utilize their slaves.
Whoever knows his or her heart knows the Lord, yet most people are ignorant of their hearts and souls. Allah, Most High, comes in between a person and his or her heart, and He is in full control of all hearts. Thus, knowing the heart and its qualities and functions is an integral part of the religion and a basis for those who seek the right way to Almighty Allah.
Naturally, the heart is prepared to accept guidance, but because of vain desires and wishes, it may reject such guidance. In this way, the heart remains a field of struggle between angels (the soldiers of good) and devils (the soldiers of evil) until it chooses to side with either. Then, the chosen party will settle in the heart, with the heart still having to resist the other party.
The only way to get devils out of the heart is to remember and mention Almighty Allah, as they cannot stay in a place where Allah, the Lord of all, is mentioned. In the Qur’an, Almighty Allah says:
[Say, “I take refuge with the Lord of humankind, the King of humankind, the God of humankind from the evil of the constantly slinking whisperer, who whispers in the breasts of humankind, of the Jinn and humankind.”] (An-Nas 114:1-6)
The heart is like a fort, and the Devil is like an enemy who seeks to enter this fort and control it. The best way to protect a fort is to safeguard its gates, and none can safeguard its gates except a person who is well aware of them. By the same token, no one can push Satan away except one who knows the means that he usually uses to penetrate the forts of his victims. Satan’s means of penetration are human’s qualities, which are so many. We are going to mention only some of those methods much used by the soldiers of Satan.
Envy and covetousness. Once people covet something, their desire puts out the light of their hearts with which they would recognize Satan’s evil means of penetration. Satan finds more support if the covetous person is envious, as this enables Satan to make good in the person’s eyes everything that may help in satisfying his or her desire, no matter how abominable or offensive it may be.
Wrath and craving. Anger precludes recognition. Once a person is no longer able to recognize things around him or her, it is then most suitable for Satan to attack with his evil insinuations. It is said that when a man becomes heedlessly angry, devils play with him as boys play with a ball.
Eating one’s fill. This strengthens one’s desire and distracts from showing obedience to the Creator.
Haste. About it, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “Deliberation is from Allah, and haste is from Satan.” (This hadith is regarded as hasan by Al-Albani)
Love of wealth. If inculcated in one’s heart, it ruins it, driving the person to seek wealth through lawful or even unlawful means and making such person stingy and very afraid of poverty. A person like this in most cases holds the due rights of others unjustly.
Fanaticism. Some people may fanatically follow or support certain doctrines or views without even acting according to the good requirements entailed therein. Moreover, they may be interested only in thinking about Allah’s existence and attributes as well as other matters that are beyond their comprehension; thus they may come to doubt the very foundations of the religion they vehemently defend.
Thinking ill of others. When a Muslim thinks ill of others, he or she may be led to despise, backbite, or spread evil things about them. He or she may, thus, believe that he or she is better than them.
Then the caller to the way of good within him or her wages a counterattack, reminding that only those who forget the Hereafter will ultimately go to ruin.
A believer, on the contrary, should never think ill of others; rather, he or she should seek excuses for them. That is the way of believers. The hypocrite, on the other hand, always tries to detect defects and flaws in others. Anyway, a Muslim should keep away from suspicious situations so that others may not think ill of him or her.
These are some of the means used by Satan to lead humans to the way of evil. The remedy of these flaws is simply to block the ways leading to them and to purify the heart from all dispraised qualities.
When someone’s heart is void of these evils, which represent the main instrumentality of Satan against human beings, nothing significant remains to support Satan against them. Satan is simply driven away just by mentioning the name of Almighty Allah. Adversely, if a person whose heart is controlled by vain desires and lusts remembers Allah, his or her remembrance does not settle in his or her heart, for Satan has already established himself therein.
A person may experience the truth of this by observing his or her own Prayer, during which Satan keeps reminding him or her of worldly matters.
Out of Allah’s mercy, this can be overcome: If a person, out of fear from the Creator, refrains from doing an evil thing that he or she has intended to do, it is written down for him or her as one good deed. But, if one has ultimately made up one’s mind to do a certain evil deed, it is recorded against one as a sin.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “When two Muslims fight (meet) each other with their swords, both the murderer as well as the murdered will go to the Hell.” He was then asked, “O Allah’s Messenger! We understand why the murderer would go to Hell, but what about the murdered one?” The Prophet replied, “He surely had the intention to kill his companion.” (Al-Bukhari)
Determination and keenness are condemned here because people’s actions are judged according to their intentions; is it not that pride, hypocrisy, and ostentation are inner matters?
It was reported in a hadith that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to say, “O You Who [Allah] turns hearts, keep our hearts adherent to Your religion.” (Authenticated by Al-Albani)
The Prophet is also reported to have said, “The heart is like a feather that the wind turns over in a desert.” (Authenticated by Al-Albani)
Types of the Heart
As for their compliance with good and evil, the heart is of three types:
First, a heart that is filled with consciousness of Almighty Allah, purified with obedience to Him, and void of bad morals. Such a heart is apt to receive divine guidance.
Second, a forsaken heart that is charged with vain desires and stained with evils and bad morals. It is quite reasonable that such a heart is ready to be controlled by Satan who transforms it into a blinded heart that is unable to recognize the truth or be effected by admonition.
Third, a heart that is being tempted by evil thoughts and desires, but at the same time faith-oriented thoughts and wishes are calling it to the way of good.
Satan may wage an attack against a person’s mind to seduce and strengthen the vain desires within him or her, giving examples of people and, more significantly, scholars of that kind who are enjoying such desires freely. In this way, that person readily inclines to the Satanic temptations.
Then the caller to the way of good within him or her wages a counterattack, reminding that only those who forget the hereafter will ultimately go to ruin. Furthermore, it advises him or her not to be swayed by the heedlessness of other people.
This back-and-forth action continues until this person inclines to the more persistently offered thing, whether advice and admonition.
Thus, the heart swings between the soldier of good and that of evil, until it is completely attached to one side.
* Taken with modifications from the author’s book Mukhtasar Minhaj Al-Qasidin. Translated By Wa’il Shihab