وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَحُولُ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَقَلْبِهِ
Wa-‘lamū annallāha yahūlu baynal-mar’I waqalbih
Know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart
(Sūrat al-Anfāl , No 8, Āyat 24)
This verse tells us that Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā comes between a person and his heart.
Heart here refers to the faculty that is the source of what we think, feel, say, and do. It
produces emotions and leads to thoughts and eventually actions. In essence, it forms
the personality of the human being. Reference to the heart is found in many Hadīth.
Imam Ja‘far al-Sādiq ‘alayhis-salām said: The heart is the sanctuary of Allah, therefore, do not
settle therein anything but Allah (Bihār, v. 70, p. 25 quoted in A Bundle of Flowers.
How does Allah intervene between a person and his heart? Different answers have
been given to this question:
1. The intervening is a reference to the closeness of Allah (swt) to the person. The
Quran also says: We are nearer to him than his jugular vein (Q 50:16). It is as though
God is inside of the human being, between his inner being and himself.
2. Allah has control and can channel the thoughts and feelings of a person to a
different direction. In Du‘ā Gharīq we recite: yā muqallib al-qulūb, thabbit qalbī
‘alā dīnik – O Turner of the hearts, keep my heart firm on your religion.
3. Allah intervenes to allow the human being to see things clearly. If it were not
for the grace of Allah, a human being would not perceive the reality behind
Truth and Falsehood.
4. The intervention is a reference to death. Allah places death as barrier on the
heart that announces the end of the opportunity to do good deeds.
The essence behind these different interpretations is one – God is everywhere,
watching and in control. No being is separate from Him. Life and death, knowledge
and ignorance, health and sickness, well being and debility, etc. are all in His hands.
The human being cannot hide anything from him, nor can he achieve anything
without His help, nor does it befit him to turn to anyone other than Him.
Allāmah Tabātabā’ī in Tafsīr al-Mīzān explains that the human being is made up of
many different parts. Each part works with the other parts, under the human being, so
that he can function and do what needs to be done in this world. Although the parts
belong to the human being, the real owner is Almighty Allah who created them. Each
part belongs to Him, and He is the ultimate controller who permits partial control for
the human being. Thus, He is between the human and what the human possesses.
This verse reminds us that Allah is the real Owner and the Controller of all things,
including the human heart. We should never despair of anyone or anything. Allah has
the power to change things, to turn around hearts and inclinations. There is also no
need for pride or complacency for any state in life as all things can change, per Allah’s
Sources: Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir
Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh