Reflection No. 1:11 on Q 26:87-89 – The Prayer of Ibrahim (A)

And disgrace me not on the day when they are raised, the day on which neither wealth nor children will avail, except one who comes to Allah with a sound heart.
– (26:87-89) 

Commentary 

This prayer is part of series of prayers of Nabi Ibrahim (a). The Prophet asks Allah to save him from humiliation on the day when worldly wealth will be of no use. The only commodity that will serve its owner well on that day will be the possession of a sound heart. The Arabic phrase used in this verse is Qalbin Saleem. A Qalbe Saleem has been described as a heart that is free of disease and defects, a heart that is pure and sincere. From it stems good thoughts, pleasant words, and virtuous deeds. Its basis is goodness, rooted in the love of its Creator. Imam Ja’far as-Safiq (a) when explaining this verse, says: A Qalbe Saleem is a heart that meets its Lord while it is empty of anyone other than Him.

Just like the human body, the human heart also experiences health and sickness. When the heart is sound and healthy we are filled with tranquility and an awareness of our responsibility. When the heart is sick it cannot carry out its functions well. Life loses its real meaning as the sick heart will see all things with a diseased outlook. Sickness of the heart is a calamity which has a profound effect on the eventual outcome of the human being. Imam Ali (a) says: Surely from the afflictions, is poverty, and worse than poverty is the sickness of the body, and worse than sickness of the body is sickness of the heart. Surely from the blessings is ample sustenance, and better than that is health of the body, and better than that is the health of the heart. In the Holy Qur’an the word ma-ra-dha (meaning sickness) appears twenty four times, out of which more than half talk about sickness of the heart.

Points to Ponder 

1) Just as a sick body may cease functioning if it does not receive adequate care, a sick heart can also die if not tended to. The death of the heart is far more serious than the death of the body. In Nahjul Balagha, Imam Ali (a) describes the pious people and says: They see the people of this world magnifying the death of the bodies, but they are more concerned about the death of the hearts of the living.

2) A result of the sickness of the heart is the loss of spiritual pleasure in worship. There is no joy in dhikr and du’a, no stirring of the heart, no surge of faith, and no emotion at being able to talk to the Lord. This is a debilitating sickness which prevents further spiritual progress. A Hadith from Nabi Isa (a) says; Just as a sick person finds no joy in delicious food, a sick heart finds no joy in the worship of Allah.

3) It is the duty of believers to look after the health of their hearts. We need to check the status of our hearts. Do we look forward to worshipping God, remembering Him, talking to Him? Do we stay up, or wake up early, to be from among those who seek forgiveness when the world is asleep and heedless? Do we cry in His remembrance? If we find ourselves unaffected and cold to the dhikr of God, then we know we are afflicted.

Enlivening the Heart

In order to cure the heart, the following remedies are recommended in Islam:

1. Remembrance of Allah in solitude. According to the Holy Prophet (s) nothing is more beloved to Allah than the remembrance of Allah. It gives life to the heart, motivates us to do good, gives us reason and satisfaction in life, and puts our lives in perspective. When a believer remembers Allah in private its effect on the heart is great. It softens the heart  allowing increased nearness and intimacy with Allah. The believer is able to talk to Allah without any concerns of others around him. The Holy Prophet (s) says: Attain softness of the heart through a lot of dhikr in privacy.

2. Wisdom and Knowledge. Obtaining knowledge is instrumental in keeping the heart alive.  Luqman al-Hakeem once advised his son; My son, seek wisdom, for Allah enlivens the dead heart through the light of wisdom the way He enlivens the dead earth through water from the sky. A Hadith of Imam Ali (a) says; Surely the hearts get tired just like the bodies, so seek for them new objects of wisdom. A believer should set aside some time from his daily schedule to read, or listen to, wisdom that inspires him spiritually.

3. Keeping company with the Virtuous. A human being is affected by the company he keeps. When he is often with people of high moral qualities, he becomes inspired to be like them. That is why Islam emphasizes a great deal on choosing friends of good moral standards. Imam Ali (a) says: Associating with people of moral excellence is life for the hearts.

Keeping the heart sound is an important goal of the believer. It demands continuous thought and effort all through life. Such a life culminates in a joyous meeting with the Lord and being admitted among His chosen ones.

Sources

Ayatullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi (ed.), Tafsire Namune
Agha Muhsin Qara’ati Kashani, Tafsire Noor

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