To be honest with you, it’s a small miracle to me that I am writing this article right now – my first article for Productive Muslim in three years. In this time, I was drifting away from my religion further and further and could feel my heart hardening until it felt like it had literally turned into a stone. It’s a terrifying feeling and upon reflection, I believe that all of this happened mostly because I was being negligent of my heart.
The Messenger said: “There lies within the body a piece of flesh. If it is sound, the whole body is sound and if it is corrupted, the whole body is corrupted. Verily this piece is the heart.” [Sahih Muslim]
Your heart does not distance itself from Allah overnight. It is a slow process. First, you start becoming lazy with acts of worship, delaying prayer, belittling your sins. Then the pleasures of this life become your main concern and certain sins become a habit that you can’t seem to get rid of, until you start feeling like you don’t really have a purpose in life.
I never want my heart to fall back into that state again, and I never want the connection with my Creator to be strained or cut. Recently, working on my relationship with Allah and establishing certain habits to keep my heart alive have become incredibly important to me. Each one of us has a heart and even though the physical heart plays a critical role in our day-to-day living, the most important nourishment for the heart is arguably the spiritual one.
Therefore, I pray that my words will inspire you -and me- to start working on having a sound heart, insha’Allah.
Here is what we need to consider…
Your relationship with Allah
1. Get to know Allah
The Prophet said: “Allah the Almighty said: I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” [Sahih Muslim]
I believe that in order to have a heart that is connected to Allah , we need to get to know Him first. How do we expect to build a strong relationship with someone we barely know? Allah gave us multiple ways to do this, one of which is through the Qur’an (I will come back to this later). Another way to get to know Him is by spending time learning and reflecting on His Names which we learn from the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Know that He is Al-Khaliq, The One who created us and anything we may desire; As-Sami’, The One who hears every single one of our supplications; Al-Qadir, The One who is able to do anything, no matter how impossible it might seem to our limited perception. This will help us create our relationship with Allah in a positive framework, and make it a relationship that we gladly work on and invest in. So explore, learn and reflect on the Names of Allah .
2. Firmly hope for His Mercy
Allah is not looking for a reason to punish, reject or push us away. He is there for us when no one else is and is looking for reasons to accept us. His Names teach us that He is Merciful, The Source of love (Al-Wadud) and The Source of peace (As-Salaam). However, we often tend to lose hope as soon as we slip up. I believe many times this can even be the reason for why we start losing our connection with Allah altogether.
Know that we are human and so is our heart, so at some point, it might break, might not work properly or we might feel a certain emptiness inside. From personal experience, I can tell you that it’s essential that we learn to fill this void by being close to Allah instead of trying to fill it with anything else. Be optimistic that Allah will accept your repentance. He mentions His forgiveness much more often than His punishment in the Qur’an. Every once in a while we all will make a mistake, but it’s vital to immediately catch ourselves and remember Allah . Repentance is a constant process, so it might take a couple of attempts to fully get back on track. But don’t be embarrassed to turn back to Him, no matter the magnitude of the sin, and never lose hope in His infinite mercy.
1. Performing prayer
The Messenger said: “The example of the five (daily) prayers is like that of a clear-water river flowing in front of your houses in which a person washes himself five times a day – cleansing him from all dirt.” [Sahih Muslim]
I was recently blessed with being able to go to umrah. One of the things that stood out to me the most was how the five daily prayers were being prioritized in the two holy cities. When you hear the adhan in Makkah or Medina, the store owners close their shops. A stream of people – young and old, women, children, and men – rush to the mosque to get hold of the best places. Many people are already in the mosque and have been praying, supplicating and reading the Qur’an for hours before. You see people performing wudu’, not rushing through it, but taking their time while doing so. People prioritize praying in the mosque and praying on time. They are ready for prayer way before the adhan can be heard. Even outside of the prayers, I noticed that people structured their day around them and not the other way around. When scheduling to meet up with someone, I often heard phrases like “Let’s meet between dhuhr and asr” or “Let’s meet after maghrib” instead of “Let’s meet at 5 pm”.
But it’s not just about praying on time. What is even more important in my opinion is the quality of our prayers. When it comes to our heart, there is nothing more crucial than our prayer. It will be the first thing we will be asked about by Allah and if our prayers were good, then everything else will be good, insha’Allah. [Jami’ at-Tirmidhī]. By implication, this means that the quality of your prayer is a way to check yourself and the state of your faith and heart. It’s our way to call on Him five times a day, to keep our relationship with Him alive and our hearts connected to Him. We have to fix the quality of our prayer if we want to fix our hearts. If we don’t have that consistency, that food for the soul, our hearts will automatically be affected.
The five daily prayers can be seen as a constant refresher of our faith. It revives us spiritually if we engage in our prayers consciously, and not just treat them like a cardiovascular activity. An issue for many of us is that we are not fluent in the Arabic language, so we might feel disconnected in prayer because we don’t understand what we are reciting. It’s then up to us to be proactive and find ways to get something out of the prayer by reviewing, for example, a few of the verses you have recited, understanding their meaning…etc.
2. Reading and pondering over the Qur’an
“Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah . Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.” [Qur’an: Chapter 13, Verse 28]
I’m sure we have all been in the situation where we attend a lecture or an Islamic event, and go back home feeling a spiritual high rushing through us. But then, after a week or so, we feel a dip in our faith again. Imagine this scenario: if you were to advise a friend who wanted to get in shape, would you tell them to work out for three hours straight, and this would be enough for the rest of the year? If only it were that easy! Just like a few hours of physical exercise every couple of months won’t do anything for our bodies, remembering Allah once a week or once a month won’t do much for our spiritual hearts. In order to be consistent with the remembrance of Allah , we have the above-mentioned five daily prayers, but we have also been given the Qur’an, which is not just meant to sit on our shelves but was sent down to be read, lived and engaged with on a daily basis. Allah tells us in the Qur’an that our hearts find ultimate peace and tranquility in the remembrance of Him. Since the Qur’an is said to be the best form of remembrance, it’s an essential component to keeping our hearts steadfast. But how many of us really make an effort to understand His book? How much time do we really spend with it on a regular basis?
I personally believe that reading the Qur’an, even if we might not understand or remember everything, is a means to purify our hearts and bring about change inside of us. But in order to really feel the effect of His words on us, we have to be willing to go deeper in order to reap the tremendous benefits of their meaning. I once heard an analogy that I would like to share with you: imagine you receive a letter from a king, a president, or anyone else in a high position. Even if it was written in a language that you didn’t understand, you would get it translated because you would be dying to know what it says. The Qur’an can be seen as a letter to mankind and it’s not a letter from just anyone! It’s a message from the Lord of the worlds Himself. It’s one of the most fulfilling experiences to establish a relationship with the Qur’an and extract gems on how to enrich your own personal life and enlighten your heart. All you have to do is commit to and set aside a certain time in the day where you can sit down, read, and ponder over the Qur’an, even if it’s just one verse a day. One of the recommended times is right after fajr prayer as it’s a time of blessings, but I would say the most important thing is that you find a time that works best for you and that you are able to stick to consistently.
Your relationship with others and yourself
1. Surround yourself with people that remind you of Allah
The Messenger said: “The likeness of a righteous friend and an evil friend, is the likeness of a (musk) perfume seller and a blacksmith. As for the perfume seller, he may either bestow something on you, or you may purchase something from him, or you may benefit from his sweet smell. And as for the blacksmith, he may either burn your clothes, or you may be exposed to his awful smell.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
Even if you strive to better yourself and purify your heart, it will prove to be very difficult if your company isn’t good. Just as some people can impact you positively, others can literally poison your heart. Therefore, quality is so much more important than quantity when it comes to the friends you choose to surround yourself with. It’s completely normal for us to go through phases where our faith goes up and down, but if we keep good company and don’t isolate ourselves, we can prevent our faith from plummeting to the ground. Choose to be around people who bring you closer to righteousness, people who remind you of Allah and encourage you to do good deeds, the ones who support you and believe in you in the good times, as well as the bad times.
Go to, or organize, weekly gatherings where you come together with fellow Muslim friends and discuss things that you are dealing with at the moment. Read His Book together, reflect on His words, pray together, eat together, and simply come together for His sake. You might see something in a way that the person sitting next to you might not see and vice versa, so you can benefit from each other’s differing perspectives. Angels surround gatherings where Allah is remembered, so imagine how blessed a weekly get-together would be. You will feel an immediate effect on your heart and spiritual self, insha’Allah.
2. Pause and assess yourself
Frequently assess the state of your heart and think about the way you affect others. Does your character and the way you speak to and treat others, bring them closer to Allah , or does it drive them away? I believe that a fundamental aspect of purifying one’s heart starts with working on one’s character and developing fundamental etiquette. When you’re going through a tough time in your life, go out and help somebody deal with their problem. This way, you’ll be able to shift your focus from ‘I’ to a more positive and comprehensive one and will be able to put your own matters into perspective.
We can all do our part in making the world a little better for someone. It might not impact on everyone, but if it can have an impact on even one life, on one heart, then there is still value in it and it still makes a difference. You will realize that what you do for others will not just have an effect on them, but will also soften your own heart. When we look at the Prophet and his companions, we can see that they never let a person feel as though they were alone or as though they had to get through trials by themselves. They didn’t look a person up and down and judge them. Be a real friend to people and someone who they can come and speak to. Think about how you being Muslim is not only a benefit to you, but also a benefit to those around you.
I hope that this article has inspired you to feed and nourish your heart and has provided you with practical advice on how to do exactly that. The state of your heart will determine how you perceive the world around you. Just like how we take care of our minds and bodies, we have to take care of our hearts. Take time out to reflect on certain things going on inside of you that need to be remedied and healed. Nothing of the dunya will be able to give you what a content heart, a heart connected to its Creator, can give you.
What are your tips to have a sound heart connected to Allah ? Share with us in the comments section.