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The State of the Dead Heart by Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah

July 15, 2010

بسم اللہ الرحمن الرحیم

The heart that is alive and enlightened hears, sees and understands due to the light that it contains, while the dead heart does not hear, see or understand.

Allaah, the Exalted said,

And the example of those who disbelieve, is as that of him who shouts to the (flock of sheep) that hears nothing but calls and cries. (They are) deaf, dumb and blind. So they do not understand. (Al-Baqarah 2:171)

And among them are some who listen to you, but can you make the deaf to hear, even though they apprehend not? And among them are some who look at you, but can you guide the blind, even though they see not? (Yunus 10: 42-43)

And of them there are some who listen to you; but We have set veils on their hearts, so they understand it not, and deafness in their ears; if they see every one of the Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) they will not believe therein; to the point that when they come to you to argue with you, the disbelievers say: “These are nothing but tales of the men of old.” (Al-An’am 6: 25)

So He informed us that their hearts cannot understand, and their ears cannot hear, and they do not believe in what they have seen of the Fire as He informed us about them when He said,

And they say: “Our hearts are under coverings (screened) from that to which you invite us, and in our ears is deafness, and between us and you is a screen, so work you (on your way); verily, we are working (on our way).” (Fussilat 41: 5)

So they mentioned the barriers upon their hearts, ears and eyes. Their bodies are alive – hearing and seeing, but this is a life of the body devoid of life in the heart – like the life of an animal – for the animals possess hearing and seeing, and eat and drink and marry.

This is why Allaah said,

And the example of those who disbelieve, is as that of him who shouts to the (flock of sheep) that hears nothing but calls and cries. (They are) deaf, dumb and blind. So they do not understand. (Al-Baqarah 2:171)

Likening them to the cattle, at whom the shepherd shouts, and they hear nothing except the cry (not understanding what is said), as He said in other verses,

Or do you think that most of them hear or understand? They are only like cattle; nay, they are even farther astray from the Path. (i.e. even worst than cattle). (Al-Furqan 25: 44)

And surely, We have created many of the jinns and mankind for Hell. They have hearts wherewith they understand not, they have eyes wherewith they see not, and they have ears wherewith they hear not (the truth). They are like cattle, nay even more astray; those! They are the heedless ones. (Al-A’raf 7: 179)

A group of the commentators, when referring to these verses and those that resembled them such as the verse,

And when harm touches man, he invokes Us, lying down on his side, or sitting or standing. But when We have removed his harm from him, he passes on his way as if he had never invoked Us for a harm that touched him! Thus it seems fair to the Musrifûn that which they used to do. (Yunus 10: 12)

Regarding these and other such verses that mention the faults of man and their condemnation, (the commentators) said,

These verses refer to the disbelievers, and that the meaning of ‘man’ here is ‘the disbelievers.’

So the one who hears this explanation is left thinking that one who openly manifests Islaam is not included in this condemnation and threat, rather his thoughts link (these verses) to those who openly manifested shirk from amongst the Arabs or to those he knows to have openly shown disbelief such as the Jews, the Christians and the polytheists of Turkey and India – and hence he would not benefit from these verses that Allaah revealed so that His servants may be guided.

So it is said in reply that firstly: those that openly manifest Islaam include amongst them the believer and hypocrite, and the hypocrites are many in all periods of time and they are in the lowest level of the Hellfire.

Secondly: man possesses a strain of hypocrisy and disbelief even if he possesses faith along with this, as the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) said in the hadeeth reported by both al-Bukhari and Muslim,

There are four qualities which if found in a person make him a pure hypocrite, and the one who has a portion of them has a portion of hypocrisy until he leaves them: when he speaks a lie, when he is entrusted, he betrays, when he speaks, he speak a lie, when he makes a covenant, he proves treacherous, when he quarrels, he behaves in a evil and insulting matter. (Sahih al Bukhari Eng. Trans 1/32 no. 33 and Sahih Muslim Eng. Trans. 1/40 no. 11)
So he informed us that the one who has a portion of these then he as a portion of hypocrisy, and it is established in the Sahih of al Bukhari that he said to Abu Dhar,

Indeed you have displayed a trait of Jahiliyyah in you. (Translator’s Note: Referring to the hadith reported by al-Ma’rur that, ‘At ar-Rabadha I met Abu Dhar (Radhiallaahu anhu), who was wearing a cloak and likewise his slave. I asked about the reason for this. He replied, ‘I abused a person by calling his mother with bad name.’ The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) said to me, ‘O Abu Dhar! Did you abuse him by calling his mother a with bad names? You have displayed a trait of Jahiliyyah. Your slaves are your brothers and Allaah has placed them under your command. So whoever has a brother under his command should feed him of what he eats and dress him of what he wears. Do not ask slaves to do things beyond their capacity and if you do so, then help them. [Sahih al Bukhari Eng. Trans 1/29 no. 29])

And Abu Dhar was from the most truthful of people with respect to his faith. He (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) said in the authentic ahadith,

Four (traits) in my Ummah are from the matters of Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic ignorance): boasting about noble descent, abusing lineage, wailing (over the dead) and seeking rain from the stars. (Sahih Muslim Eng. Trans. 2/444 no. 2033)

You will indeed follow the ways of those that came before you, inch by inch such that if they were to enter a lizard hole, you too would so. They asked, ‘Do you mean the Jews and Christians?’ He replied, ‘Who else?’ (Sahih al-Bukhari Eng. Trans. 9/314 no. 422, Sahih Muslim Eng. Trans. 4/1402 no. 6448, Ahmad 2/450)

What the early nations took to shall also be taken to by my nation, cubit by cubit and handspan by handspan. They said, ‘Do you mean the Persians and the Romans.’ To which he replied, ‘Who else from amongst the people could it be.’ (Refer to Iqtida Sirat al-Mustaqim of Ibn Taymiyyah.)

Ibn Abi Mulaykah said,

I met thirty of the Companions of Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) all of them fearing hypocrisy for themselves. (Reported by Bukhari and Muslim)

And from ‘Ali – or Hudhayfah – that he said,

The heart are of four types: the clear heart that is illuminated by a torch – this is the heart of the believer. The encased heart – this is the heart of the disbeliever, the inverted heart – this is the heart of the hypocrite, and the heart that has two attractions, a time when it is called to faith, and a tie when it is called to hypocrisy – these are a people that have mixed good actions and evil ones.

So when this is understood it becomes known that every servant benefits from what Allaah mentioned concerning faith, either extolling the branches of faith or censuring the branches of disbelief.

The case mentioned above is similar to what some of them ask concerning His saying,

Guide us to the Straight Path. (al-Fatihah 1:6)

Saying: ‘Allaah has already guided the believer, so what benefit is there in seeking guidance?’ Then some of them reply by saying that the meaning is ‘keep us firm upon guidance’ as the Arab would say to the one who is asleep, ‘sleep until I come to you.’ Others from amongst them say that the meaning is, ‘keep our hearts firm upon the guidance’ and that the request for firmness has been omitted. Yet others from amongst them say that it means, ‘increase me in guidance.’

The question really occurs due to the absence of their contemplating upon the Straight Path to which the servant seeks guidance to, for the meaning (of the verse) is (seeking guidance to) act according to what Allaah ordered, and leave what He forbade in all matters.

Source: Diseases of the Hears & Their Cures by Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (P. 70-77).

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