The Heart and Some of Its Dynamics
The heart is a spiritual resource with two aspects; through one it turns toward the world of spirits, through the other it connects with the world of physical bodies. If the body is under the command of the spirit according to all the rules of the Shari‘a, then the heart carries into it the enlightening gifts it receives through the world of spirits, and causes breezes of peace and contentment to blow therein.
Just as the heart serves as an important bridge by which good and blessings reach a person, it can also be a means for all satanic and carnal impulses, temptations, and associations to occur in that person. As long as it is turned to the Truth, the heart functions as a source of light that radiates light to even the remotest, darkest corners of the person’s inner world, but if it long remains oriented to the carnal appetites, the heart becomes the target of the poisonous arrows of Satan.
The heart is the seat of belief, worship, and perfect goodness or excellence (ihsan), and through it runs a mighty river flowing with radiance and inspirations that arise from relationships with God, humanity and the universe. But this extremely precious faculty has innumerable enemies that seek to dislodge it or divert it from its course. Among these are callousness (losing the ability to feel and believe), unbelief, conceit, arrogance, worldly ambition, greed, excessive lust, heedlessness, selfishness and attachment to rank and status—all these are on the alert to seek out the weak spots of the heart and to destroy it.
Belief is the life of the heart, worship is the blood that flows through its veins, and self-supervision and self-criticism are the foundations of its endurance. The heart of an unbeliever is dead; the heart of a believer who does not worship is in the throes of death; and the heart of a worshipping believer who does not reflect upon and control the self, nor face up to errors and sins, is exposed to all kinds of dangers and diseases. Although the first among these three classes of people have a “pump” in their chests, it cannot be said that they have a heart. Those belonging to the second class live in the cloudy or misty atmosphere of their surmises and doubts, they live imprisoned at a distance from God, without ever being able to reach their destination. As for the third class, although they have traversed some of the distance to the destination, they are at risk as they have not been able to reach the goal—they advance falteringly; defeat and success follow one upon another in their struggle on the way of God, and they spend their lives in a Sisyphean attempt to reach the peak.
A sound heart is one of the means that leads a person right to God without deviation, and perfect goodness or excellence in worship (ihsan) is the greatest, most rewarding action of the heart. Excellence is the safest way to ascend the slopes of sincerity, the most secure means to reach the peaks of being approved by God, and the consciousness of self-possession before the Eternal Witness. Hundreds of thousands of people, equipped with belief and in deep fear and reverence of Him, have flown on the wings of good actions, have set out toward Him, but only a few have succeeded in reaching the peak. Let those who have not yet been able to reach it try their utmost to do so. The others who have been able to reach it, feel deeply the ugliness of whatever God dislikes and they close themselves off from this ugliness; at the same time they are willing to do what is pleasing to Him, to adopt that as their way until it has become a second nature for them.
By M. Fethullah Gulen