In terms of the importance of the heart (qalb), and its purity from spiritual vices and sins, the Qur’an says: The day when wealth and sons will benefit not, except he who brings to God a sound heart. [26:88-9]
The conclusion of a famous hadith says: ‘Truly there is a piece of flesh in the body which, if it is sound, all the body is sound and which, if it is diseased, all the body is diseased. Indeed it is the heart.’ [Bukhari, no.52; Muslim, no.1599].
Explaining the importance of purifying the heart; of making it sound or salim in the overall program of Islam, the Syrian thinker and reformer, Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi (d.1332H/1914CE), wrote the following:
‘The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: “The seeking of knowledge is compulsory on every Muslim.” [Ibn Majah, no.224] This includes understanding tawhid and knowing about God’s Essence (dhat) and Attributes (sifat). It entails knowing the canonical acts of worship (‘ibadat), the lawful and prohibited, and what is permitted and forbidden in terms of social transactions (mu‘amalat). It further includes learning the praiseworthy spiritual states of the heart; such as patience, gratitude, generosity, beautiful character, good companionship, truthfulness and sincerity; as well as the blameworthy ones, such as rancour, envy, treachery, pride, ostentation, anger, enmity, malice and miserliness. Learning to acquire the first [set of qualities] and to remove the second is as much a personal obligation as ensuring the validity of one’s beliefs, acts of worship and social transactions.’1
In 2011, Islam Channel invited me to deliver a series of talks on a short spiritual text I had translated into English a decade earlier, The Exquisite Pearl in the Journey to Allah, by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa‘di. The subject of the book being how the heart may journey to its Lord, and the various spiritual traits it must embrace and acquire in its journey. Islam channel have kindly given the Jawziyyah Institute the recordings of the entire series (20 episodes in all; each episode being about 25 minutes in length), which was aired under the name, Counsels for the Heart. So with thanks and kind permission, the Jawziyyah Institute are serialising the episodes on a weekly bases on their website. The first episode can be viewed here.
1. Maw‘izat al-Mu’minin (Beirut: Dar Ibn Kathir, 2001), 45.