ii) Qalb in the Qurʾān
So in my last post I basically said that science says that the heart is just a pump whilst the Islamic tradition say it is so much more. Now we delve a little deeper…Bismillāh!
The Arabic word for heart is qalb, it comes from the root word qalaba which means ‘to turn around, turn about, turn upward, upturn.’ [Hans Wehr] It appears in the Qurʾān many times.
I can’t list every verse it’s mentioned in, and the context behind it but I shall share a few that I feel stood out.
The Qurʾān clearly mentions the heart as the center of wisdom:
“…They have hearts with which they do not understand…” (7:179)
“Verily in this is a Message for any that has a heart and understanding or who gives ear and earnestly witnesses (the truth).” (50:37)
These verses reveal that the heart isn’t just a pump as scientists identify it to be but a sensory organ that’s capable of understanding, intuition and even more importantly has the ability to perceive Truth. “True” hearts that can perceive this are described as ‘satisfied’ (13:28) and ‘strong’ (18:14). Ones that refuse to submit or recognize Divine Truth are described as ‘sealed’ (9:87), ‘diseased’ (8:49) or ‘hard’ (6:43).
One must remember that this is from a Book that was revealed over 1400 years ago; it is only now through research that scientists can say that the heart is more than just a pump. Neurocardiology is a new ground breaking area of science – it studies the nervous system of the heart. About 20 years ago neurons were found in the heart, the same type that are found in the human brain. A neuron is a cell that transmits an electrical signal leading to an action potential; they vary in type and function. I don’t want to delve too deeply but just think why does the heart a mere “pump” need neurons? These neurons in the heart are capable of working without any help from the brain. They assimilate information from the body and can make apt adjustments which are then conveyed to the brain. More interestingly, they also have a short term memory that allows them to work independently. Dr J Andrew Armour coined this particular part of the heart as a “little brain in the heart” he said:
“The heart possesses its own little brain, capable of complex computational analysis on its own…
…An understanding of the complex anatomy and function of the heart’s nervous system contributes an additional dimension to the newly emerging view of the heart as a sophisticated information processing centre, functioning not only in concert with the brain but also independent of it.” [Neurocardiology: Anatomical and Functional Principles]
So it’s not just a pump is it?
Whenever the Qurʾān speaks of the heart it encompasses more than just the physical heart, the spiritual heart resides within the physical heart. The physical heart can be thought of as the point of interaction between the human body and the spiritual qalb.
The physical heart is a gateway to your very own rūḥ!
In my next post I’m going to talk about the heart as just a pump, and how that in itself is amazing, inshā’Allāh.
Allāh alone knows best.
i) The heart – Qalb
We are living in an age of materialism, a world that is devoid of spirituality, of soul, of heart - an era that one could class as anti-spiritual. (Possibly laying foundations for the anti-Christ?)
Science and religion have not been the best of friends; many feel that you cannot belong to both worlds, that they are mutually exclusive. I will attempt to reconcile the two by concentrating on one thing, the heart – Qalb.
Scientists in general regard the heart as an organ, a fundamental one at that, one that pumps blood around your entire body. But can it be more than just that? Is there more to it? In the Islamic tradition it is. The brain houses the central nervous system; it instructs the body what to do, and when to do it. It is the “remote control”, however research suggests that the heart has sent messages to the brain, ones that it not only cognised, but obeyed too [Lacey] Those that have studied the heart know that it is myogenic, meaning that it is self-initiating and doesn’t require an external stimulus, this is what allows heart transplants to take place. (I’ll go into more depth about this in a later post)
So our hearts are not just a source of virtue and love, but of intelligence too.
And with that I hope I have laid the foundations for an exciting series that will look at the heart from an Islamic perspective and a science one too. All feedback is welcomed.
“The heart is more than just a pump, it conducts the cellular symphony that is the very essence of our being.” -— Paul Pearsall
“Close to a century ago, Rudolph Steiner said the greatest discovery of 20th century science would be that the heart is not a pump but vastly more, and that the great challenge of the coming ages of humanity would be, in effect, to allow the heart to teach us to think in a new way.” -— J C Pearce
“There is a piece of flesh in the body; if it is purified the whole body becomes pure, but if it gets spoilt the whole body becomes spoilt, and that is none other than the heart.” -— Ḥadīth
Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.
The Prophetic way is to go to the lowest of people and raise them.
Being alive is a trespass without you.
Without you, what life can this living be?
Light of my life, each lifetime that passes
Without you is death; that’s living for me.
The word “sin,” which, outside of the religious circle, has fallen out of favor in the modern world, is possibly related to a Saxon word that meant “to wander.” Sin is an English translation of the Hebrew term “het,” which like both its Arabic and Greek counterparts — khati’ah in Arabic and hamartia in the New Testament — is originally an archery term that meant “to miss the mark.” Sin was also used in archaic English as an archery term for a miss. The idea being that sin, in a metaphysical sense, originates in a sound attempt at achieving a good but “misses the mark” by mistaking an apparent good for a real one. Repentance is, in essence, redressing the miss and realigning one’s spiritual sights for the next attempt.
-— Shaykh Ḥamza Yūsuf
It’s been a rough couple of days, the world seems to be aching. A lot of people have been consumed by grief of late. Grief knows no boundary, it doesn’t look to see if you’re black, white, or Arab or whether you follow a faith.
It comes, it wounds, and it hurts.
At times like these the only thing I can find solace in is prayer. Knowing that Divine Justice will one day come to the fore gives me hope, it eases the pain. So let us pray for a better tomorrow, but let us also act on those prayers, let us bring a change from within our homes and communities that will be lasting and truthful.
May friends be safe, and loved ones protected. May all who pass by be blessed with goodness. May this moment be blessed. May goodness be opened and may evil be dispelled.
In order to draw blood from Majnun the surgeon sharpened his lancet.
Majnun wept and said, ‘I fear that in place of blood, out will flow longing for Layla.’
Loss of a beloved is exile.
Remember, the cup isn’t half full or half empty, it’s overflowing.
Love is not madness; all else is madness.