The locus of concern for much of Islamic spirituality and philosophy is the heart. We are admonished to purify our heart of ruinous traits, to acquaint it with the light of knowledge, to expand it with the oxygen of remembrance of Allah (dzikr), to guard it from dark whisperings.
We are well advised to pay attention to the heart’s needs; and as al-Ghazali elaborates in The Wonders of the Heart this is to be done with the illumination of inner piety and the outward conformity with Sacred Law.
In the times we live in, the heart’s function has been marginalised to the point that it is now discussed only with regards emotion.
Frequently we conceive a dichotomy, casually speaking about the separation of the mind and heart. In traditional Islam, the heart (qalb), spirit (ruh), soul (nafs), and intelligence (’aql) are all of a piece, its various terms reflecting its wondrous, multifaceted essence, which is ultimately spiritual. In this light, the heart is the seat of reason, of perception, of gnosis. Indeed, it is the quintessence of man.
The new book we feature today, A Handbook of Spiritual Medicine (also available in hardback) is on the subject of the purification of the heart. Presented in a systematic itemised style, just like a clinician’s manual, this work is inspired by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s translation and commentary of Imam al-Mawlud’s Matharat al-Qulub, Purification of the Heart.
This new book adds to a growing body of contemporary Muslim writing that rightfully emphasises the heart in man’s quest for realisation.
May we be among those who guard our hearts and labour to purify it.