An-Numan bin Bashir who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, say: “Truly, that which is lawful is clear, and what is unlawful is clear, and in between the two are matters which are doubtful about which many people are not knowledgeable. Thus, he who avoids these doubtful matters certainly clears himself in regards to his religion and honor. But he falls in the doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary all but grazing therein. Beware, every king has a sanctuary, and the things Allah has declared unlawful are His sanctuary. In the body there is a morsel of flesh, which if it be sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt, and behold, that part of the body is the heart.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
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In this hadith, our Prophet (ﷺ) has divided all acts into three categories, namely:
- Clearly permissible: These are clearly specified in the Quran and Sunnah (hadith texts) and are sanctioned by the Shariah.
- Clearly forbidden: These acts are clearly forbidden/prohibited in the Quran and Sunnah (hadith texts) and are sanctioned by the Shariah
- Those that fall in between and are doubtful.
However, one must remember that a majority of acts fall into clearly forbidden or clearly permissible category. Only a small percentage of acts fall in the doubtful category.
A Beautiful Analogy
Our Prophet (ﷺ) used to use metaphors to make people understand important aspects about this deen in a powerful and effective manner. This hadith is a beautiful example of metaphoric usage where he says, “…like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary all but grazing therein…”
Now imagine this. You have some animals grazing on a piece of land. These animals then see another piece of land filled with lush greenery at a certain distance. This land is not open for all animals and has been marked “private”. Now, you as the owner of those animals have two options:
- Constantly looking at your animals and make sure they don’t enter the private land and eat someone else’s crops,
- Or keep your animals away from the private area at a distance, so they don’t even go near the private land in the first place
Which one is easier? Obviously, the latter!
Therefore, by using this parable, our Prophet (ﷺ ) has emphasized the need to completely stay away from things that are doubtful, in turn helping us protect our religion and honor.
“…In the body there is a morsel of flesh, which if it be sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt, and behold, that part of the body is the heart.”
The Arabic word for “heart” means a piece of flesh that is light in weight however, it is so strong that the rest of the limbs follow what the heart says and desires. Therefore, a sound heart is absolutely vital to stay away from doing things that displeases Allah. A strong heart will also make your mind subconsciously incline towards doing things that please Him.
So, do you have a sound heart?
If you are wondering whether or not you have a sound heart, do a Heart Check Test:
A person with a sound heart will:
- Love Allah,
- Fear Allah,
- Consider himself belonging to the hereafter and not dunya,
- Be upset when he/she does a sin until they completely repent to Allah,
- Be upset when he/she missed his/her daily dhikr or Quran recitation sessions,
- Forget about his/her worries the moment he/she starts praying,
- Not waste time and is in fact, extremely stingy about wasting time, thereby, he/she makes sure that they use every minute in doing that which pleases Allah.
- Fear doing things that displeases or angers Allah Abstain from ambiguous matters or forbidden matters
A person with an impure or diseased heart will:
- Not feel any pain or guilt when committing sins or performing evil deeds
- Waste time
- Feel pleasure when performing acts that displeases Allah and will not feel guilty or remorseful after having done a bad deed
- Not be willing to accept or submit to the truth when presented with it
- Not enjoy righteous company
- Become highly argumentative when discussing about doubtful matters
- Not be affected by any kind of admonition
Therefore, keeping our hearts clean and pure is one of the most fundamental aspects towards gaining Allah’s pleasure and developing a state of God consciousness or taqwa.
So what is the relationship between this part of the hadith and the remainder of the hadith?
The relationship is quite simple and clear. If you have a sound heart, you will not tread into matters that are doubtful or forbidden. If you are making excuses and doing things which you know are clearly forbidden or those that you are not sure of, it’s time to check your heart’s status and see where you stand. Having a diseased heart filled with sins will only take us away from Allah and His unending mercy.
Reality check with a couple of exmaples:
- Do you always make excuses and defend your decision for not wearing hijab even though you know it’s compulsory?
- Are you giving excuses and dealing with riba/interest money even though you know its haram to do so?
If you answered yes, then it’s time to cleanse your heart.
Don’t despair though!
Not all of us are blessed with having clean and pure heart at all times. We all sin (could be a major or minor sin), some of us could foster certain negative thoughts like jealousy and hatred towards someone else for ‘xyz’ reasons while others could be guilty of neglecting their prayers. But what should you do? Cleanse your heart to make it pure. How, you may ask.
Steps To Cleanse Your Heart
Start with Repentance
Sins harden hearts and create a strong but invisible barrier, preventing us from performing good deeds. So repent and beg Allah to make your heart clean and pure. Also, ask Allah the Most Merciful, to erase those bad deeds and replace them with good deeds. Ask for forgiveness for sins you remember and those you forgot, those you committed intentionally and those you did unknowingly.
Recite Quran Everyday
Make this a daily routine in your life. Even if you are able to recite only half a page, do it! The words of Allah have a spiritual effect on your heart and will make you yearn to get closer to Him, in turn helping you do acts that pleases Him. It’s His words, so they are powerful in healing, but you must be willing to take the medicine in the first place!
Daily Adhkaar In The Mornings And Evenings
Make dhikr a daily affair in your life. There are several supplications which our Prophet (saws) specifically made in the morning and evening, which you can find in “The Fortress of Muslim.” Set aside a time, preferably after Fajr and Maghrib salah to do this activity. It only takes about 15 minutes for you to do this, but the protection it gives is powerful! Doing dhikr will automatically make your heart remember Allah, in turn bringing blessings upon your life.
Do the Obligatory
No matter how sinful you’ve been, no matter how messed up you feel, no matter how many prayers you’ve missed, start to reform today by doing the obligatory acts of worship. Start with praying the fard salah. Your heart will soon realize the sweetness of salah and you can build it up from there and add sunnah rakats too. But don’t get disheartened thinking you’ve sinned a lot and would find praying salah too difficult. A fardh salah of 4 rakats wouldn’t take up more than five minutes. So begin incorporating the obligatory acts, and soon you’ll realize that your heart is yearning for supererogatory acts too!
May Allah help us have pure hearts and forgive us for our shortcomings. Ameen
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