Reflection No. 163 on Q 26:87-89 – The sound heart

وَلَا تُخْزِنِي يَوْمَ يُبْعَثُونَ يَوْمَ لَا يَنْفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُون إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ

Walā tukhzinī yawma yub‘athūn yawma lā yanfa‘u māluwn-walā banūn illā man atallāha biqalbin salīm
Do not disgrace me on the day they will be resurrected, the day on which neither wealth nor children will avail, except one who comes to Allah with a sound heart. (Sūratush Shu‘arā, No. 26, Āyāt 87 – 89)

This prayer is part of series of prayers Prophet Abraham (Ibrāhīm) (a). He asks Allah to save him from humiliation on the day when worldly wealth and our own children 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 Qalbun Salīm. A Qalbun Salīm 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. According to the Tafsīr, it 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. 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. 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. (Nahj, Saying No. 388)

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, for with its demise all hope is lost for its owner. A result of the sickness of the heart is the loss of spiritual pleasure in worship. With a sick heart the human being can find no joy in dhikr and Du‘ā, feels no stirring of the heart, no surge of faith, and no emotion at being able to talk to his Lord. This is a debilitating sickness which prevents further spiritual progress. We are told just as a sick person finds no joy in delicious food, a sick heart finds no joy in the worship of Allah. On the other hand, a sound heart is able to feel close to Allah and is moved when remembering Allah. It reacts, and the reaction in turn affects the body.

We need to constantly 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? Are our hearts soft enough to be affected by our connection with Allah, so that we can weep and beseech Him? If we find ourselves unaffected and cold to the remembrance of God, then we know that we are getting sick and need to be cured. It is up to us to look for the remedy. As the Holy Prophet (s) says: Surely you have been appointed as doctors of your own souls.

Merits of the month of Sha‘bān: From Sa‘īd b. Jubayr, from Ibn ‘Abbās who reported that people mentioned about the merits of Sha‘bān in the presence of the Messenger of Allah (s), so he said: it is a distinguished month and it is my month, the carriers of ‘arsh (Divine Throne) sanctify it and know it’s right, and it is the month in which sustenance is increased for the believers. [Sha‘bān] is the month of performing deeds, the good is multiplied seventy times and the evil is diminished, the sins are forgiven, the good deeds are accepted. [In this month] the Omnipotent (God) -the Exalted (and) the Majestic, takes pride in it at His servants, and looks at those who frequently fast in it and those who frequently pray in it, and boasts about them to the carriers of ‘arsh. (Iqbāl of Ibn Tāwūs 684; Wasāil of Hurr al-‘Āmilī, H. 13952)

Istighfār during Sha‘bān: ‘Ali b. al-Hasan b. ‘Ali b. Faddāl narrated from his father, who said: I heard ‘Ali b. Mūsā al-Ridā (a) saying: whoever seeks forgiveness from Allah – the Blessed and Exalted, in Sha‘bān seventy times, Allah will forgive his sins even if they were equal to the number of stars.
(Al-Amālī of Sadūq 17; Bihār 94:90)

Sources: Amīrul Mu’minīn, Nahjul Balāgha; Āytaullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Academy for Learning Islam, 40 Hadiths: Rajab and Sha‘bān