فَإِنَّهَا لَا تَعْمَى الْأَبْصَارُ وَلَٰكِنْ تَعْمَى الْقُلُوبُ الَّتِي فِي الصُّدُورِ
Fainnahā lā ta‘mal-absāru walakin ta‘māl-qulūbul-latī fis-sudūr
Surely it is not the eyes that are blind, but blind are the hearts that are in the chests.
(Sūratul Hajj, No.22, Āyat 46)
It is not enough to have good vision to see things correctly. More important than clear vision is a clear heart that allows for a correct perspective. In the verse above Almighty Allah asks why people don’t travel on earth so that they would have hearts with which they understand and ears with which they hear. Then He states an important truth: true blindness is blindness of the heart. It is not the lack of sight but rather the lack of insight that makes a person truly blind.
The verse can raise many questions. How does the heart have eyes? What it does mean to see with the eyes of the heart? How do these eyes become blind? To answer these questions it is necessary to understand the functions of the heart as mentioned in the Quran.
- The heart is a source of feelings and emotions of the human being. The mother of Nabī Mūsā (a) was upset about losing her son and God strengthens her heart to calm her (Q 7:10). In another place Allah says it is His remembrance that brings peace to the heart (Q 13:28). Thus the heart feels a range of emotions that affect the thoughts, words and actions of the human being.
- The heart refers to a sense of discernment and wisdom. When describing those who do not reflect on the heart Allah asks if their hearts are locked (Q 47:24).
- The heart is also a means of understanding that goes beyond the physical. When Imam Ali (a) was asked how God could be seen he said: The eyes do not see Him with the sight of vision but the hearts see Him with the reality of Faith (al-Kāfī, 1:97)
Inner blindness is the inability to use the heart for the above functions properly. It is as though there is a curtain on the heart that obstructs inner vision. The human being then wanders around in darkness. It is darkness that has not been recognized as darkness, making it all the more dangerous. Many Hadith emphasize the serious of inner blindness. The Holy Prophet (s) says: The worst of blindness is the blindness of the heart. Imam as-Sajjād (a) beseeched Allah (swt) for his children: My God . . . make them pious, fearing, insightful, hearing, and obedient towards You (Sahīfa, Dua 25, Passage 3).
Various factors such stubbornness, mental inertia, imitating and following others, being too busy, heedlessness, indulgence in sin and sensuality . . . cause inner blindness. These are diseases that cover the inner light. Thus the person proceeds on his journey of life without a lamp to guide the way.
Recite this verse to remind yourself of the dangers of inner blindness. Feel, reflect and understand things with the heart rather than just stopping at mere sight. Go deeper. The time and effort taken will bear fruit. That is the only way that leads to an insightful perspective of life. All else is blindness.
Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne;
Imam Ali Zaynul ‘Ābidīn, Sahīfa Sajjādiyya;