Purifying the Heart Through Hardships

“There is in the body a clump of flesh – if it becomes good, the whole body becomes good and if it becomes bad, the whole body becomes bad. And indeed it is the heart.”

Prophet Muhammad (saw)

The heart. The most complex facet for humans to navigate around. It is the root of every action, every thought, every emotion. We wallow in our sorrows, or we’re elated with pure joy, but why must we feel so deeply, and allow ourselves to be so utterly vulnerable and consumed to this dunya? There are some that have realized this, and have claimed to “not feel” in order to save themselves from, what they perceive as, unnecessary emotions, but this is wrong. This results in a stone cold heart, a heart that has decided to give up on the real tests our Lord has bestowed upon us.

Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “The greatest reward comes with the greatest trial. When Allah (swt) loves a people He tests them. Whoever accepts that wins His pleasure but whoever is discontent with that earns His wrath.”

At-Tirmidhi

Allah (swt) has blessed with a heart in order to feel, in order to show mercy, and in order to love. The pain and hardships that come with it, only make our blessings all the more incredible. It teaches us to be appreciative and grateful for every blessing – minor or major. The anguish our heart feels was written by the best of Writers, the Creator of the Heavens and the Universe, so do not worry, do not despair, and whatever happens, do not give up, as this was all planned for you by the Qadr (Divine Decree) of Allah (swt). When on the verge of a mental or emotional breakdown, we are being tested to see whether we turn towards Him to ask for help, or turn away and rely on this dunya for help. He is the One that can change our destiny through our duahs and prayers, so He is the One that we should turn to in times of great need. Now, some may ask, “Why does God have to give us these hardships to begin with then?” First of all, do not question
God’s plans, He sees and knows more than anything we can ever comprehend or imagine, He created you and everything you know, so what makes you think you know what the right answer could be? You must possess full trust or tawakkul in Him. Second, the purpose of this life is to serve the Lord; Islam essentially means submission (to Allah). Every decision you make should reflect you knowing Allah (swt) watching (taqwa) and whether or not He would be pleased with that action. The beauty of Islam is that Allah (swt) knows that we make mistakes, that is simply human nature, so he gives us the opportunity to repent. There is no sin Allah (swt) will not forgive, as long as the sinner repents wholeheartedly and changes his actions. This is the reason why Allah (swt) allowed us to make mistakes, so that we can slowly, but surely, realize that we
can only depend only on Him and His mercy. Always remember,

“With hardship comes ease”

Surah Ash-Sharh, Ayah 5-6.

This ayah says *with*, not after. During our hardships, we sometimes look over our blessings. This is why you should always thank Allah (swt) for the blessings He has given you, no matter what hardships you are going through. This leads to a more grateful and soft heart, resulting in us to forget about our sorrows, even if it is just for a moment.

Every hardship you have ever undergone, has made you stronger and more resilient, did it not? Initially, you may feel like your heart is weak, and that is normal, however, do not stay in that state too long, or at all, if possible. These hardships will help you enter Jannah if you get closer to Allah (swt) because of them. Jannah will have absolutely nothing negative, it will only contain love, happiness, contentment, and anything your heart desires – a literal Paradise. Remind yourself that Allah (swt) has better plans for you, and He is seeing how you are dealing with the hardship – by either increasing your taqwa and iman, or deterring away from Him. That job you did not get, that relationship that failed, that friend that betrayed you, are all minuscule matters if compared to the grand scheme of Allah (swt) plans for your life. Everyone’s life is unique, we will all go through different hardships at different levels of severity, so not only can we learn from our mistakes, but we can learn from others’ mistakes as well. We as an Ummah, must help each other and remind each other of our sins. Advise in private, and in a calm, gentle manner, so the “sinner” appreciates the respect you came with, and realizes that you are truly trying to help them from your heart.

“O people, an example is presented, so listen to it. Indeed, those you invoke besides Allah will never create [as much as] a fly, even if they gathered together for that purpose. And if the fly should steal away from them a [tiny] thing, they could not recover it from him. Weak are the pursuer and pursued.”

Surah Al-Hajj, Ayah 73

The Prophet (saw) knew that putting our complete trust in Allah (swt) was the way to lead a fulfilling life. We should not put our trust into the dunya – it is inconsistent and will lead to heartbreak. It is astonishing how much we consume ourselves into it when it cannot even create a fly, yet we forget the One that is The Creator of the Heavens and the Universe. The Prophet (saw) frequently made duah to protect his heart from deterring away from the straight path of Islam; He put emphasis on the heart, because he knew that without a pure heart keen on pleasing the Lord, the soul would get corrupted. The heart is the foundation for a Muslim to truly be strong in their deen and be dutiful to Allah (swt). The duah the Prophet (saw) made often is:

“Allahumma ya Muqallib al Quloob thabbit qalbi ‘alaa deenik” 

“O Turner of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your Religion” 

Sahih Muslim

Recite, memorize, and keep this in your daily duah; Truly understand the meaning, and whenever you feel like your deen is low, or you want to commit a sin, keep this duah on your tongue, along with saying Astaghfirullah. Another duah the Prophet (saw) made regularly was:

“Allahumma Musarrif al-Qulubi Sarrif Qulubana ‘ala Ta’atika”

“O Allah, Turner of the hearts, direct our hearts to Your obedience.”

Qalb means heart, and qulub essentially means many hearts. Allah (swt) knows that our hearts are always at a state of change because of our emotions and desires, so that is why He has told us to keep it protected, and nurtured with love as much as we can.

“Verily, in the remembrance of Allah, do hearts find rest”

Surah Ra’d, Ayah 38

One way to protect your heart is by forgiving people that have wronged you, but not forgetting what they did if it was a repeated pattern. For example, the decision to start or continue a business with someone should be made wisely. You have the Islamic right to obtain professional information about someone you want to start a business with, because you would need to give your utmost trust to that person. If you started a business with someone, and they betrayed you, but came back and asked for forgiveness, as a Muslim, you should forgive that person, however, you have no Islamic obligation to continue the business with that person. You have forgiven, but not forgotten. Forgive to clear your heart of any hatred and ill feelings towards someone, so that you can obtain peace, but do not forget major betrayals or repeated sins, so that you can protect
your heart from any future harm.

Surah Ad-Duha was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (saw) when he felt extremely low and miserable, essentially similar to what we call depression in the modern times. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) did not receive a revelation for 6 months, and began to think that Allah (swt) was not pleased with him. Then, Allah (swt) revealed this Surah to him to soothe his heart, and to tell him to put all his trust into Him and not to worry. In times of anxiety and fear, recite this duah:

“Hasbunallahu wa Ni’mal Wakeel” 

Allah (Alone) is Sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs (for us)

Surah al-e-Imran, Ayah 173

Comparing and contrasting our lives to others is a major cause of a tainted heart in many cases. People start to overlook their immense blessings, and want to experience some of the blessings Allah (swt) gave to others, resulting in nazar and hasad. If you recognize that you are going through jealousy or envy, know that this is a disease of the heart and soul, and you must cleanse your heart of this illness. Many of us say “Masha’Allah” (God willed) to show others we are trying to prevent evil eye, but many of us do not know that we should instead say “Allahumma Barik” (God Bless).

Whenever you see someone better than you in wealth, face or figure, you should look at someone who is inferior to you in these respects

(Bukhari, Muslim)

In Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed’s well known and must read book, Reclaim Your Heart, she
explains that the dunya is the ocean, and our heart is the ship floating on top. The ship is a means to take us to Allah (swt) at the end of our life in this dunya. If we let the hardships of this dunya consume us, then the ship (our heart) will be flooded and ultimately sink to the bottom. If this ever occurs, know that you have fallen into the trap of the dunya. You must detach yourself from this dunya from the entirety of your heart, and focus your heart and soul on pleasing The Almighty, and following the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (saw). In times of great hardship, we sometimes feel as though there is no way out, but we should look at the lives of our beloved Prophets and Companions to see how patient they were through their intense hardships, and how
they had a strong sense of tawakkul. We should use their stories as examples of how we should behave in times of calamity.

  1. Prophet Yusuf (as) was severely betrayed by his own brothers and taken away from his father
  2. Prophet Ibrahim (as) was sent to burn in a massive fire
  3. Prophet Yunus (as) was stuck in the belly of a whale
  4. Aisha (ra) was slandered throughout her entire city
  5. Prophet Ayyub (as) suffered a severe illness and also lost many of his other blessings such as his children
  6. Prophet Muhammad (saw) was mocked and disrespected immensely

Abu Dardaa (ra) said: For everything there is a polish and the polish for the heart is
the dhikr of Allah (swt). Hearts tend to get corrupted when they are not active in the remembrance of Allah (swt), and they commit sins with no remorse. Dhikr and repenting from one’s sins are a major aspect of cleansing the heart and revealing the barakah in your life. In order to purify the heart, there are some simple actions we can take that will make a major positive impact:

  1. Pray the 5 compulsory daily prayers on time: It allows you to forget about all worldly circumstances, and helps you spiritually connect to Allah (swt) at least 5 times a day
  2. Ask for forgiveness throughout the day: Simply saying Astaghfirullah multiple times a day benefits us immensely
  3. Recite dhikr/adhkar as much as you can: This helps keep your mind on track with the remembrance of Allah (swt), protects you from evil, and earns you innumerable rewards
    1. Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah)
    2. La ilaha illa-Allah (There is no deity but Allah)
    3. Allahu Akbar (God is The Greatest)
    4. Subhan Allah (Glory be to Allah)
  4. There are two statements that light on the tongue, but heavy in the scales
    and are dear to the Merciful:

    1. “Subhaanal-laahi wa bihamdihi, Subhaanal-laahil-‘Adheem” (Glory be to Allah and His is the praise, (and) Allah, the Greatest is free from imperfection)
      “Subhaanallaahi, walhamdu lillaahi, wa laa ‘ilaaha ‘illallaahu
      wallaahu “Akbar” Glorified is Allah  and the praise is for Allah  and
      there is none worthy of worship but Allah  and Allah is the Most Greatest
  5. Developing a strong relationship with the Quran and the Masjid will ensure ease on the heart
  6. Recite the words of the Holy Quran every day
  7. Understand the meaning and depth of the words
  8. Helping the poor and the needy
  9. Zakat (essential and a pillar of Islam) / Sadaqah (voluntary charity)
  10. Hands on work will help more than only donating online, you’ll feel like you are
    easing someone’s burdens and will in sha Allah get a strong sense of self worth because you are genuinely helping others from the bottom of your heart
  11. Being in a constant state of wudhu

May Allah (swt) ease our hardships, heal and soften our hearts, and grant us rizq in our
daily lives. May He grant us the best of health and increasing faith, protect us and our loved ones from calamities, forgive all our sins and prevent us from future sins, and grant us all success and happiness in this life and the hereafter. Ameen.

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