Reflection No. 164 on Q 2:74 – Hardness of the heart

ثُمَّ قَسَتْ قُلُوبُكُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ ذَٰلِكَ فَهِيَ كَالْحِجَارَةِ أَوْ أَشَدُّ قَسْوَةً 

Thumma qasat qulūbukum mim-ba ‘di dhālika fahiya kalHijārati aw ashaddu qaswata
Then your hearts hardened after that, so that they were like rocks, rather worse in hardness
(Sūratul Baqarah, No. 2, Āyat 74)

The above verse refers to the Banū Israel who were told to sacrifice a cow and strike a murdered man with a part of it. The man would then become alive and tell them who his murderer was. The many excuses and questions the Israelite asked Prophet Moses (a) about this, and their obvious reluctance to do as they were commanded, is condemned by Allah in this verse. Their attitude resulted in hardness of the heart.

One of the diseases that afflict the heart is hardness of the heart, known in Arabic as qaswatul qulūb. Āyatullāh Dastghaib in his book Qalb-e Salīm, describes qaswat as a spiritual disease that prevents a human being from accepting the truth, and from submitting to, or having awe for, a Higher Authority. Hardness of the heart is a metaphorical term meaning indifference to advice or warnings. The heart is unaffected by scenes or events which normally evoke emotion such as the complaints of the oppressed and the weeping of the orphan.

In the complete verse above, the human heart that is hard is declared by the Almighty to be harder even than rocks. Three reasons are given for this:
1) Many rocks, despite their hardness, have rivers and streams of water gushing forth from them. But nothing comes out of the hard heart. It is devoid of all humane emotions.
2) Rocks sometimes split and break into pieces due to the effect of weather changes. Rain and winds affect the structure of the rocks causing it to change in appearance. But the hard heart is not affected by anything. No preaching, advice, or warnings cause any changes in it.
3) Some rocks and even mountains fall down in front of the power the Almighty. Allah says in the same verse: For indeed there are some stones . . . that fall for the fear of Allah. Also, refer to Q 59:12 where Allah describes the condition of mountains, if the Qur’an was to be sent down on them. Hard as they are, the glory of the Almighty is great and overwhelms rocks and mountains. But the hard heart does not succumb to the power of God.

All human actions stem from the heart, and a hard heart does not produce any virtuous actions. Many Hadith emphasize the importance of curing the heart of hardness in order to achieve true success. The Messenger of Allah (s) advises beautifully: Do not increase your speech besides remembrance of Allah, for excessive speech that does not include remembrance of Allah hardens the heart. Surely, the person furthest away from Allah is the one with a hard heart (BiHār 71:281, quoted in Mizānul Hikmah, H. 16702).  Imam Ali (a) says: Tears do not dry except due to hardening of hearts, and hearts do get hardened except due to [committing] lot of sins (BiHār, 70:55 quoted in Mizānul Hikmah, H. 16699).   The human heart is not created hard. The child’s heart is very soft and tender. The adult however, through accumulation of sins and heedlessness, gradually acquires a hard heart. Left untreated it can become, as described above, even harder than rocks. Let us be wary of the state of our hearts and take steps to avoid hardness.

The Ahlul Bayt (a) and the 15th Night of Sha‘bān
Ja‘far bin Muhammad al-Sādiq (a) said: “Al-Bāqir (a) was asked about the greatness of the night of 15th of Sha’bān.  He replied, “It is the best night after Laylatul Qadr. In it Allah grants the servants with His Grace, and forgives them through His favor. So strive to achieve closeness to Allah in it, for it is the night in which Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, has obligated on Himself not to turn away a beseecher so long as he does not ask for anything sinful. It is a night which Allah has made [it a blessing] for us the Ahlul Bayt (a) just as He made Laylatul Qadr for our Prophet, blessing of Allah be on him and his family. So strive in it with supplications and praise of Allah, the Exalted…”

(Iqbāl of Ibn Tāwus, p. 695; Wasāil of Hurrul ‘Āmilī, H. 10183)

Sources: Āytaullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Muhammadī Rayshahrī, Mizānul Hikmah; Academy for Learning Islam, 40 Hadiths: Rajab and Sha‘bān