Hadith 6: Purification Of The Heart
By Imam Nawawi
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger
On the authority of Abu ‘Abdillāh al-Nu’man bin Bashir (radiyallāhu’anhu) who said: I heard the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) say:
“That which is lawful (halāl) is clear, and that which is unlawful ( harām) is clear, and between the two of them are doubtful [or ambiguous] matters (mushtabihāt) about which not many people are knowledgeable. Thus, he who avoids these doubtful matters (mushtabihāt) certainly clears himself in regard to his deen and honour. But he who falls into the doubtful matters (mushtabihāt) falls into that which is unlawful (harām), like a shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Verily every king has a sanctuary and Allāh’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. Beware, in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be sound, all of the body is sound and which, if it be corruptted, all of the body is corruptted. Verily, this part of the body is the heart.”
[Recorded in Bukhari and Muslim]
Abu ‘Abdillah Al-Nu’mān Ibn Basheer Al-Ansāri Al-Khazraji (radiyallāhu’anhu) was one of the first Muslims born to the Ansār of Madinah. He was around ten years old when the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) passed away. Although the scholars of hadith agree that hadith cannot be taken from a child, if someone memorised the hadith when they were a child and narrated it when they were an adult, then it is acceptable, as it is the case with this hadith. Al-Nu’mān (radiyallāhu’anhu) narrated more than one hundred and twenty hadiths, six of which are in Sahih al-Bukhari.
This hadith is very comprehensive and it covers so many areas of the Syarī’ah, the Islamic law. Imam al-Nawawi (rahimallāh) and many scholars consider this Hadith as one of four ahadith around which the entire religion of Islam is understood. The vast majority of actions fall into one of the first two categories: either it is evidently lawful (halāl) or unlawful (harām). Only a minority number of acts fall into the third category, that which is doubtful or ambiguous (mushtabihat).
2. The Lawful (halāl) and Unlawful (harām) are Clear
Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) says: “That which is lawful (halāl)is clear, and that which is unlawful (harām)is clear…”
There are innumerable acts which are clearly permissible and sanctioned (halāl) in the Syari’ah. In some cases these are explicitly mentioned as being permissible, whilst in other cases, it is clear that they fall under the general guidelines laid out in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Allāh says in the Qur’ān: “This day are (all) good things made lawful (halāl) for you. The food of those who have received the Scripture is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them.” [Surah al-Māidah, 5:5]
In other cases expressions like “there is no sin upon you…” appear in the Qur’ān, making it clear to us that something is permissible (halāl).
In the same way, acts that are forbidden (harām) are very clearly stated. For example, Allāh says in the Qur’ān: “Forbidden for you are only carrion and blood and swine-flesh and that which has been slaughtered in the name of other than Allāh and that which has been killed by strangling, or by violent blow or by a headlong fall or by the goring of horns and that which has been [partly] eaten by a wild animal, unless you are able to slaughter it [before its death] and that which is sacrificed on altars. [Forbidden] also is to use arrows for seeking luck. All that is disobedience to Allāh and sin.” [Surah al-Māidah, 5:3]
Also included in this category of clearly unlawful acts (harām), is every act for which Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala and His Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) have prescribed a punishment, including adultery, fornication, backbiting , slander, drug, alcohol, stealing and murder. It is from the grace and mercy of Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala that He sent this deen and message in a way that is clear and easy to understand. There can be no doubt about matters which are either lawful or unlawful. A minority of acts fall into the category of ‘doubtful or ambiguous matters (mushtabihat)’.
Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) says: “between the two of them are doubtful [or ambiguous] matters…”
After stating that lawful and unlawful matters in Islam are clear, the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) mentioned in this hadith, that there are also ‘doubtful or ambiguous matters’ (mushtabihat). It is only a minority of acts that fall into this category, and there are different factors that may lead people to be uncertain about a particular act and whether or not it is permissible.
Firstly, we may find that there are differences of opinion amongst the scholars about different topics. Often, the reasons for differences can be explained very simply. For instance, one scholar may have made a decision based on his own personal reasoning, whilst another may have made a ruling whilst being unaware of another hadith on the subject. This aspect has been a common cause for differences amongst the scholars in different madzhabs or schools of thought.
There are also occasions when the evidence related to an act appears to be contradictory. One hadith from the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) states that one should not drink whilst standing up, and another hadith states that he (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) drank whilst standing. Both of these hadith are authentic, and the scholars have come to different conclusions about how to reconcile them.
Further, there are acts that may technically be permissible, but they may become doubtful because they may lead someone towards that which is forbidden. An example given here is ‘enjoying one’s wife’ without intercourse whilst she is menstruating. It’s permissible, but if he does not have strong self-control, it may lead him towards that which is forbidden.
There are also matters that may become impermissible due to the circumstances surrounding them, or acts which are disapproved of (makrūhāt) but not forbidden, which some scholars have classed as falling into this ‘doubtful’ category.
The example of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and how he conducted his affairs, shows us that he would avoid doubtful matters(mushtabihat). Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would also advise those that came to him with problems towards conduct that left nothing to doubt or uncertainty.
Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Verily, the permissible things are clear and the forbidden things are clear. And between them are some matter which are doubtful. Therefore, leave that which makes you doubt for what does not make you doubt.” [Recorded by al-Nisāi’e]
Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) says: “…about which not many people are knowledgeable.”
After explaining that lawful and unlawful matters are clear, and that there also exist doubtful matters, the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) went on to explain that not many people are knowledgeable about these doubtful matters. In essence, this shows us that there is a clear ruling to be made about permissibility or impermissibly of every act, but there are not many people who have enough knowledge to make these rulings.
Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) says: “Thus, he who avoids these doubtful matters certainly clears himself in regard to his religion and honour.”
The one who avoids these doubtful matters (mushtabihat) will be free of any criticism with regards to their deen and honour. Conversely, the one who participates in doubtful acts, leaves themselves open to criticism and blame. The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said in a narration in Sahih al-Bukhari:
“If one leaves that concerning which he has only doubt [and not certainty] that it is sinful, then he is more avoiding of what is clear to him [as being a sin]. The one who is bold enough to take part in what is doubtful to him as sinful, soon he may fall into what is clearly [a sin to him]. The sinful acts are Allāh’s private pasture. Whoever grazes around the private pasture is soon to fall into it.”
Thus the sunnah is if we are unsure about something, and whether or not an act will be pleasing to Allāh Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala it is better to avoid that act if at all possible. Exercising this type of caution will be better for us, and will stop us from straying towards things which are clearly forbidden.
On the authority of Abu Muhammad al-Hasan bin ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, (radiyallāhu’anhu) the grandson of the Allāh’s Messenger, (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), and who is dearest to him, who said: “I committed to memory from the Messenger of Allāh, (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), (the following words):“Leave that about which you are in doubt for that about which you are in no doubt.” [Recorded by At-Tirmidzi and An-Nasā’ie; and At-Tirmidzi said: It is a good and genuine Hadith]
There is another version of this hadith where the Prophet, (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), elaborated further by saying: “Verily, truth is tranquility and falsehood is doubt.” This means that the truth will lead to tranquility and falsehood will lead to doubt.
Thus, the criterion set by the Prophet, (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), allows us to judge what is false or wrong i.e. something which causes us to be doubtful; and what is the truth i.e. something which we are sure of and confident that it is correct because we feel happy and at peace with it.
The above hadiths lays down a principle that can be applied in all aspects of one’s life. It also shows the way to truth and righteousness.
This hadith illustrates a very important general principle that can be applied in all aspects of one’s life: avoid doubtful matters. If we only carry out acts that we are certain are permissible then our hearts will be free from doubt. The one who gets involved in doubtful matters on the other hand, will never find their heart to be completely at ease. If the true believer finds that something troubles their heart and makes it doubt, then they should avoid that matter.
The key to true piety and peace of mind, is to avoid all doubtful matters. If a person truly applies this hadith they should, Allah willing, find psychological well-being and inner peace.
5. Allāh’s Sanctuary
Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) says: “But he who falls into the doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Verily every king has a sanctuary and Allāh’s sanctuary is His prohibitions”
The Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) has furthered illustrated why we should avoid doubtful matters in this hadith. He (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) stated that if we fall into doing things that are doubtful, or unclear as to their permissibility, this may lead us towards that which is unlawful or forbidden.
To illustrate this point the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used the parable of the shepherd. It was a custom among the Arabs that the most noble amongst them would have land that only his own animals were allowed to graze on. If a shepherd were to come close to the boundary of this land, it would easy for his sheep to stray into the man’s pasture. In the same way, if we are in the grey area of performing acts of uncertain permissibility, we are more likely to stray towards the dark area of what Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala has forbidden. The safest place to be is far away from the boundary of what is forbidden. As Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala says in the Qur’ān:“Those are the limits of Allāh and do not come near to them.” [Surah al-Baqarah,2:187]
This part of the hadith also reminds us of one of the important principles in Islam which is “add al-dharā’ie” or ‘blocking the means’. This is the concept of forbidding something because it may lead to something else. An example of this would be forbidding for a non mahram man and a woman to be alone together. Although there may not be any harm in the act in itself, the act is prohibited because it may lead to something forbidden.
Thus, the only way to be sure of avoiding what Allāh has prohibited (harām), is to avoid going near anything that is doubtful mushtabihat). Staying away from these things is the best way to protect our deen and our honour.
6. The Sound Heart
Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) says: “In the body is a morsel of flesh which, if it be sound, all the body is sound and which, if it be diseased, all of it is diseased. This part of the body is the heart.”
At the end of this hadith the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) reminded us about the importance of the state of our hearts. Our heart is so important that if it contains a disease (corrupt), it will affect our whole being. We should realise that it is not cardiovascular fitness that is being referred to here, rather it is the spiritual state of the heart.
In many ways, our heart is the commander of our limbs. If our heart is inclined towards doing good then the limbs will do good also. But if our heart is inclined towards doubtful or forbidden things, then it will become hardened, less inclined to remember Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala and more likely to commit evil deeds. The state of our heart is therefore our defining characteristic, and Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala distinguishes the human being from the rest of creation due to the heart and the intellect.
Allāh says in the Qur’ān:“Have they not travelled in the land, and have they hearts wherewith to feel and ears wherewith to hear? Verily, it is not the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts which are in the breasts that grow blind.” [Surah Al-Hajj,22:46]
Subhānallāh, how many of us are blind in the heart? How many hearts are so shrouded in darkness they are unable to see the light? Know that the heart cannot be pure and sound until it remembers Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala, glorifies Him, loves Him, fears Him, has hope in Him, trusts Him. This is the true realisation of ‘There is no God except Allāh’.
The only heart that will aid a person in Allāh’s sight is the sound, wholesome, obedience and submitting heart in Him.
As Allāh says: “The day when wealth and sons avail not (any man) save him who brings unto Allāh a sound heart.” [Surah Al-Shuarā, 26: 88-89]
This hadith outlines a whole process of strengthening and purifying our hearts on the path to Allāh: being alert to the halāl and harām and avoiding the doubtful.
The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) says in another hadith: “A person’s imān will not be upright until their heart is upright and strong. The heart will not be upright and strong until the tongue is upright and strong.”
The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is laying out the path to purifying and strengthening the heart, which leads to the completion of one’s faith.
This hadith emphasizes the importance of rememberence Allāh Almighty which includes glorifying His injunctions, commandments; whether they are obligations to perform them, or whether they are prohibitions not to perform them. A Salaf once narrated: “Do not look at how minor the sin is that you committed, but look at the glory of the One you disobeyed, i.e. Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala.”. A sin, even if it is a minor one, means disobedience to Allāh, hence defying the rememberance Allāh. And the rememberance Allāh is actually one of the Principles of Tawhid.
The great actions or the principles of Tawhid are done by the heart which is mentioned at the end of this hadith. Looking at the hadith at first glance, we might have asked what the heart has to do with the rest of the hadith. It is in the heart that we remember and glorify Allāh. It is the action of heart when we refrain from the unlawful (harām). If the heart is strong, sound, has no weaknesses, and is full of iman (faith), then this would lead us to refrain ourselves from muharramat and makruhah (undesirable acts). Therfore only those with a strong and sound heart, i.e. the heart that is full of Taqwa and submission to Allāh Almighty, will refrain from the doubtful matters.
7. Signs Of A Sound Heart.
Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimallāh) has outlined the signs of a sound heart as follows:
The foremost, persons with sound heart will consider the Hereafter (akhīrah) as permenant abode while the dunya as only a temporary abode. They treated themselves as strangers of this world,less concern with wordly matters but made preparation towards achieving success in the permenant abode of Hereafter (akhīrah).They would be very upset and regretted with themselves if they committed a sin until they made repent to Allāh Almighty. If they misses the daily dzikirullāh it would caused them be more upset than loosing the wealth.They would finds more pleasure and happiness in worshipping Allāh. In thier endevour the only concern is about pleasing Allāh Almighty and acting for His sake alone.Their solāh is performed with khusyu’ and no worries and concerns about the worldly affairs.Their spare time is carefully utilised with rememberance and worshipping Allāh. In doing ‘amalan soliheen they are concerned with its correctness of thier deeds, pursue acquiring the knowledge rather than just performing of the deed itself.
A Muslim might face many doubtful or ambiguous matters in everyday dealings and activities. This hadith helps the Muslim in dealing with such matters. One has to purify into a sound heart. Some actions that can help us achieve this task, like practicing hayya’ (modesty), murakabah (self reckoning), muhasabah (self accountability), dzikrullāh (remembrance of Allāh), and as-Solātu ‘ala an-Nabi, (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). It contains many virtues that in sha Allāh, can help us to purify our heart, and also help us to identify and avoid the doubtful matters which is the main key and the principle of the hadith.
Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) says: “Beware; in the body there is a morsel of flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt, and behold, it is the heart.”
Thus one should seek the Help of Allāh for His remembrance because one cannot do anything without His Help and Support. Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) advises us to never forget to recite this invocation after every solāh.
Allāh Almighty says: "Verily, the Abrar (pious and righteous) will be in Delight (Jannah).And verily; the Fujjar (the wicked, disbelievers, sinners and evildoers) will be in the blazing Fire (Hell)." [Al-Infitar, 82:13, 14]
The believers must constantly seek Allāh’s Forgiveness and Guidance to the straight and succesfull path, righteousness in our deeds and to hold in steadfast in Ad-Deen.
‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (radiyallāhu’anhu) said: “We counted Allāh Messenger's saying a hundred times during one single sitting: ‘Rabb ighfir li wa tubb ‘alayya innaka antat-tawwābul ghafūrur -raheem’ (O Allāh, forgive me and accept my repentance, for You are the Accepter of Repentance, Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful).” [Recorded by Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidzi].
Muslim Ibn Al-Harith reported that his father said, “The Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said to me: ‘When you performed Solāh Fajar, before you talk to anyone say, ‘Allāhumma ajirni minannar (O Allāh, I seek your protection from the Hell-fire)” seven times. If you should die on that day, Allāh will record for you protection from the Hell-fire. When you performed theSolāh Maghrib, say before you speak to anyone, “Allāhumma inni as ‘aluka al-jannah, Allāhumma ajirni minannar (O Allāh, I ask Paradise of You. O Allāh, I seek Your protection from the Hell-fire)” seven times. If you die during that night, Allāh will record for you protection from the Hell-fire.” [Recorded by Ahmad and Abu Dawud]
Thawban Ibn Bajdad (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported: Whenever Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) completed his Solāh, Rasūlullāh would ask forgiveness three times and then he would say: “Allāhumma antas-Salām wa minkas-Salām, (wa ilay kaya ‘ūdus-Salām, Fahaiyina Rabbana bis-Salām Wa ad-khilnal-Jannata Dārus-Salām), Tabārakta (Rabbana wa ta’a layt), Ya Dzal-Jalali wal-Ikram” (O Allāh, You are the Grantor of Peace and Security, and Security comes from You,[from You come well-being, to You shall returns the well-being; Bless us with Peace and Jannah, the Abode of Peace], Shower us Your Blessing,[Our Lord, the Most High); O The Possessor of Majesty and Honour!]” [This is recorded by “the group: Muslim, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidzi, An-Nasā’ie, Ibn Mājah except for Al-Bukhāri] Muslim has the addition, “Waleed said, ‘I asked Al-Awza’ie, ‘How did he seek Allāh’s forgiveness?’ He said, ‘By saying, ‘Astaghfirullāh (I beseech Forgiveness O Allāh!)’, ‘Astaghfirullāh (I beseech Forgiveness O Allāh!)’, and ‘Astaghfirullāh (I beseech Forgiveness O Allāh!)’ [Recorded by Muslim]
As-Salām means Allāh Almighty is the source, the provider of security, peace, well-being, tranquility, the One free from all defects. It is Him who blesses us with Peace and Jannah, the permanent Abode of Peace in the Hereafter. Allāh is the Possessor of majesty and honour. We thus seek Him to shower us the blessing.
‘Abdullāh bin Mas’ud (radiyallāhu‘anhu) reported that the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to say: "Allāhumma inni as ‘alukal-huda wat-tuqa wal-‘afafa wal-ghina (O Allāh! I ask You for guidance, piety, chastity and self-sufficiency)". [Recorded by Muslim]
Guidance here means guidance at every turn of life and steadfastness on the path of truth. Fear of Allāh is the greatest means of piety and strongest defense against sins. Chastity is the state of being free from what is unlawful. Self-sufficiency is the antonym of poverty and here it means the self-contentment. What it implies is that one should not care for what people possess. In view of all these qualities, the du’ā of the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) mentioned in this Hadith is very comprehensive and valuable.
The "Ashab-i-Kahf" (the Companions of the Cave) who took refuge in the Cave due to prosecution made this du’a to Allāh: Rabbanaātina mil ladunka Rahmatañ wahaiyi’ lana amrīna rasyada (Our Lord! Bestow on us Mercy from Yourself, and Facilitate for us our affair in the Right Way!) [Al-Kahfi, 18:10]
This the du’a by the “Ashābal-Kahf” (the Companions of the Cave), the young men who fled for refuge from the persecution of disbelieving folk to the Cave. The Du’ā seeks Allāh’s mercy and facilitation to their affair in the right way.
Anas Ibn Mālik (radiyallāhu’anhu) who said: “The supplication most often recited by Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam): Rabbana-ātina-fid-dunya hasānah, Wa fil-ākhirati-hasānah, Wa-qina-‘ādzabānnār-nār (O Lord! Bestow upon us in this world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and save us from the punishment of the Fire).’” (Al-Baqārah 2:201) [This is recorded by Al-Bukhāri, Muslim, and Tarmidzi].
At-Tarmidzi (rahimullāh) said: “Hasānah is very comprehensive and includes in all kinds of good and benefits of this world and of the Hereafter. Good health, wealth and satisfaction of the world and good status in Jannah, forgiveness from sins and Allāh’s bounties and favours in both worlds are included in this du’ā’” [Recorded in Jāmi’ At-Tarmidzi]
Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn Jarir recorded that Umm Salamah (radiyallāhu’anha), said that the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to supplicate: ‘Ya muqallibal-qulubi, thabbit qalbi ‘ala deenik (O Controller of the hearts make my heart steadfast in Your religion).” Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) then recited: “Rabbana la tuzia’qulubana ba’ daiz hadaitana wahab Lana min laduñ karahmah; Iñnaka an tal wahhāb. (Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after Thou have guided us, and grant us mercy from Thou. Truly, Thou are the Bestower.) (Ali-`Imran, 3:8)” [This is recorded by Muslim and At-Tirmidzi]
And Allāh Almighty Knows best.
[Excerpted from Commentary on Hadith 6: “Purification of the Heart”, 40 Hadiths Of Imam Nawawi, By Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi, via IC Truth]