inna fī dhālika ladhikrā liman kāna lahū qalbun aw alqās-sam ‘a wa-huwa shahīd
Surely in this there is a reminder for one who has a [mindful] heart,
Or lends an ear as a witness.
(Sūrat Qāf, No.50, Āyat 37)
After talking about the ultimate end of the past peoples Almighty Allah says that in their history there is a reminder for two groups of people:
1) Those who have a heart, that is an awareness and understanding. Imam al-Kāzim (a) explains to Hisham bin Hakam that qalb in this verse means the ‘aql (quoted from Tafsīr Majma‘ul Bayan). There are people who have the faculty of intelligence but are not able to gain insight from things around them;
2) Those who lend their ears and are fully present in a situation. Thus they listen to what is being said, contemplate on it, and allow it to enter their inner being where it can be digested and applied.
According to Tafsīr al-Mīzān and Tafsīr Namūneh these are two different groups. Some people have an advanced form of intelligence which helps them understand things and distinguish between truth and falsehood, right and wrong, etc. They can independently solve issues and make deep connections. They receive the reminder through their ‘aql. Others are not able to do that. They do not have the level of intelligence required but they can listen to those who do. They lend their ears to what the learned and wise people say and are guided by them.
There are many people who neither have an awareness and understanding of things nor do they listen. They are disengaged in what is going on around them. This deprives them of the chance to gain insight. The lack of attention will be a cause of regret on the Day of Judgement. The Quran says about them: And they will say, ‘Had we listened or applied reason, we would not have been among inmates of the fire’ (Q 67:10).
Lack of mindfulness and attention to the present is a huge barrier to any form of progress. A lot of realities and truths escape the mind. When the hypocrites came to the Prophet (s) and sat with him, they would go out and ask one another ‘what did he say?’ They were not attentive and mindful when with the Prophet and thus his wisdom and teachings eluded them. Their stubbornness, contempt, and resistance to the truth became seals upon their ears and hearts.
To be practically mindful in any situation, develop the following habits:
1) Open your heart to receive what is being said or done. This includes removing distracting thoughts, prejudices, past baggage, etc. It clears the path for new and clear understandings. The result would be a deeper connection with the situation.
2) Listen well. It could be listening to a spoken word, thinking about the written word, or just paying attention. Allah ‘azza wa-jall instructs us to listen to the Quran with attention when it is being recited. He says: When the Quran is recited, listen to it and be silent, maybe you will receive [Allah’s] mercy (Q 7:204).
3) Be fully present and attentive. Don’t let a part of you be elsewhere so you do not enjoy the full experience. These semi-experiences leave a person dissatisfied and unfulfilled. Even small things become very meaningful when experienced fully. Amīrul Mu’minīn Ali bin Abī Tālib (a) said: Indeed the most heedful of all ears is that which is attentive to and accepting of a reminder (The Scale of Wisdom, H. 3115).
Remember this verse as a motivation to be attentive to situations. Understand them with your mind or at least listen well. Only then will you be able to grasp the reminders that exist in so many things around us.
Sources: ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Shaykh Tabrasī, Tafsir Majma‘ul Bayān