Excerpt from ‘Attaining a Pure Heart’ delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed at SNMC Ottawa, Canada
Some people say that they didn’t even know there is something that exists called the qalb. There are a few words Allāh swt uses in Qur’ān repeatedly- aql (intellect), qalb (spiritual heart) and nafs (seat of base desires) – what are these three words? They are repeated in the Qur’ān and we know every words points towards reality – Allāh swt uses everything for a reason!
‘Aql is the place where we think from – this is a blessing from Allāh swt. Nafs is the place of our desires – it can also be a gift if it becomes a nafs mutmainnah. Qalb is our spiritual heart – just like the physical body has heart, the heart of our rūh is called qalb! Someone may die with heart disease, yet they can still go to Jannah. Someone may die with a perfect physical heart, yet they may go to Hell. It is not connected with our physical heart. Our spiritual heart is our most critical organ.
Every human being is going to make a choice in this life – despite their background and religion, they will make either one of these three things the imām of their life. One of these will be their priority. The rational thinkers will make ‘aql the priority of their life – they will believe only what they understand! ‘Aql is just a tool – it is like eyesight. In order to see, we need sight and we need light. If we have perfect vision, but there is no light, we cannot see. Some Muslims also make this mistake – if their mind understands something, they will accept it; if they don’t understand, they will question it. There are some people who follow outright atheism as their ‘aql cannot accept. A sign of the end of times is that someone will sleep and they will wake up in the state of disbelief, and someone will be a disbeliever, and they will be a believer by morning. There was one student who told me that he has left Islām – this was because he had make ‘aql the imām of his life! So strange – this is a mistake. It is not what our religion teaches us! Every time Allāh swt mentions ‘aql in Qur’ān, he is addressing the disbelievers.
Some other people make nafs the imām of their life – they follow their desires. Every weekend in New York, there are people who work extremely hard during the week, 8-12 hours a day – extremely educated, skilled, talented, capable people – and the same people (the fare majority), on Friday night, they walk around drunk like animals. So much intelligence and capability, and so dynamic with a 6 figure salary – however, they walk around like that. On Monday, they return sad anticipating the next weekend so they can fulfill the desires of their nafs – they feel sad if someone has outdone them! They are the slaves to their desires. How does this slavery happen? They choose to make their nafs the imām of their life. Many Muslims are also like this. Many people say I know I shouldn’t have done this, I knew it was wrong – but my nafs got the better of me. The human soul is certainly prone to evil!
Nabī ﷺ explained to us that love for dunyā is the root to all sins. Working in the dunyā is fine – we can attain the dunyā, but love is something else. We should only have a functional relationship with the dunyā. Kataba-llāhu ihsāna fi kulli shay – Allāh swt has mandated excellence in every thing – so we can be excellent in the dunyā, but we should not love it!
وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَشَدُّ حُبًّا لِّلّهِ (Sura Baqara Verse 165)
Allah swt is saying the believers are extremely intense and intensely extreme in their love for Allāh swt!
The correct answer is to make the qalb the imām of our life! For a lot of us, our relationship with Qur’ān and sunnah is just at the level of wordings – we only recite, we don’t feel! The real relationship is to have feelings. Apply this test on yourself – look at Sūrah Fātiha; most of you will know the words and meanings, but how many times do you feel it? Does your heart burst with praise when you recite the first āyah – ask yourself this question. When you pray the second verse, does your heart melt when you think about the mercy of Allāh swt – do you know the difference between ar-Rahmān and ar-Rahīm? When you pray the third verse, do you think about Allāh being the Master? Allāh swt is Dominant! How many people can say they feel this. Is your relationship with Sūrah Fātiha with the wordings, or with the feelings? The feelings come from the qalb!
Let us choose the Imam of our life wisely!