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Discourse that what is Connected with the substance of the Soul is the Heart through which the Soul is Connected with the rest of the Body

  By Imâm Fakhrud-Dîn ar-Râzî

  Extracted with minor modifications from his book “Kitâb al-Nafs war-Rűh wa Sharh Quwâhumâ” published in English under the title, “‘Ilm al-Akhlâq” © 1978 Kitab Bhavan


The accepted view of the majority of scholars and enlightened people[1] is this that the heart is the absolute chief of the entire body, and that in the first instance the soul is attached to it; and through its relation with the heart the soul is related to the rest of the body. This is the view of Aristotle and a number of philosophers from among the followers of Aristotle.

A group of people hold the view that man is the sum-total of three souls –

(1) the soul of appetition, primarily connected with the liver
(2) the soul of  anger, primarily connected with the heart
(3) the soul of reasoning and wisdom, primarily connected with the brain[2]

a view held by a group of physicians like Galen and his followers.

What indicates the genuineness of the first view is that it is identical with a number of reasons understood from the Qur’ân, Akhbâr (Hadîth and tradition) and reasoning.

There are several Qur’ânic proofs:

(1) Allâh says: “Say (O Muhammad, to mankind): Who is an enemy of Gabriel! For he it is who hath revealed (this Scripture) to thy heart by Allâh leave”.[3]

(2) In Sűrah al-Shu‘arâ’ Allâh says: “And lo! It is a revelation of the Lord of the Worlds, which the True Spirit hath brought down upon thy heart”.[4]

Both of these verses clearly indicate that tanzîl and wahy (Revelation) came to the heart. This implies that it is the heart which is the addressee of God and is liable to hear the consequence (of human deeds).


The second argument is Allâh expression:

“Lo! Therein verily is a reminder from him who hath a heart, or giveth ear with full intelligence.”[5] This verse clearly indicates that the locus of remembrance and understanding is the heart.

You must know that the above verse contains a wonderfully delicate point which can only be fully explained by first solving a question, viz. it is said that the conjunction wâw is more apt to “aw alqis-sami‘” than the dividing wâw (i.e. aw). This is because to enjoy remembrance necessarily implies two things: It must be obtained from the heart, and it must be obtained from i’laqâ-us-sami‘. For, the heart is the locus where realities are grasped and i’laqâ-us-sami‘ means effort and struggle for achieving these perceptions and objects of knowledge.

It is known that two objects must necessarily be together. Wâw Qâsimah (dividing wâw) is therefore more apt here than the conjunctive wâw. We declare that we hold, on the contrary al wâw qâsimah is better than wâw ‘âtifah.

It may be explained here that the rational faculties are of two kinds –

(1) Some are extremely perfect and illuminating and are in conflict with the rest of mental faculties in quantity and quality – in quantity, because the obvious, empirical and perceptible premises are in abundance, and in quality, because to compose these premises in a way that concurs with the true corollaries is easier and quicker.

After you have realized this, we say: A pure soul and a Divine intellectual faculty and their likes do not need learning and seeking help from others in realizing the realities of objects, but its like is very rare and scarce.

As for the other kind of mental faculty which is not like this, it needs speculative knowledge to keep itself immune from error and defect.[6]

When you have learnt this, we say: “Allâh’s expression Inna fî dhâlika ladhikrâ liman kâna lahu qalb (Indeed, in that is a reminder for whoever has a heart…) is a reference to the first kind of faculty. The word qalb has been mentioned indefinitely only to indicate its extreme nobility and grace. Such a heart is very rarely found.

Allâh’s expression alqas-sam‘a wa huwa shaheed (who listens while he is present [in mind]) is a reference to the second division which needs help from others. This rule is a mystery upon which the science of Logic is based. This is indicated in this verse. This distinctive argument has received emphasis from the Qur’ânic explanation, and has attained preciseness and manifestation. Since the first kind is very rare, and the second kind is frequent, necessarily all were ordered to seek and acquire it. He has, therefore, said, “Have they not traveled in the land, and have they hearts wherewith to reason and ears wherewith to hear?”[7]

Now, Allâh’s expression, “Have they not traveled in the land,” applies to the seeking of this faculty and endeavouring to acquire it.

A logician (sâhib-ul-mantiq) says, the first kind does not stand in need of seeking the help of Logic, but it is very rare. The prevalence, however, goes to the second kind. All people need Mantiq (Logic), reasoning, so look at all these deep-rooted secrets. How excellently you fid them incorporated in the words of the Qur’ân!


The Third Argument:

The verses indicate that liability to reward depends only upon the effort and the desire to seek which is embedded in the heart of man. Allâh says, “Allâh will not take you to task for that which is unintentional in your oaths. But He will take you to task for that which your hearts have garnered.”[8] He also says, “Their flesh and their blood reach not Allâh, but the devotion from you reacheth Him.”[9] He then mentions in a different verse that the place of taqwâ is the heart, as He says: “Those are they whose hearts Allâh hath proven unto righteousness”.[10] He also says, “And the secrets of the breasts are made known.”[11]


The Fourth Argument:

Verily, the place of the intellect is heart. When the matter is like this, the object of commandment, prohibition, reward and punishment is the heart.

We have definitely said that the place of the intellect is the heart, as Allâh, the Exalted, says, “Have they not traveled in the land, and have they hearts wherewith to reason”.[7] He also says: “They have hears wherewith they understand not”.[12] “Lo! Therein is a reminder for him who hath a heart”,[5] i.e. intellect. The name of heart applies to intellect by way of designating that which descends with the name of the place of descendance. Again, Allâh has ascribed the contrariety of knowledge to the heart, and said, “In their hearts is a disease;[13]Allâh has sealed their (hearing and) their hearts”.[14] They said, “Our hearts are hardened”;[15] “Nay, but Allâh hath set a seal upon them for their disbelief.”[16] “The hypocrites fear lest a Sűrah should be revealed concerning them, proclaiming what is in their hearts”;[17] “Nay, but that which their earned is rust upon their hearts”;[18] “Will they then not meditate on the Qur’ân, or are there locks on their hearts?”[19] “For, indeed it is not the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts which are within the bosoms that grow blind”.[20] These verses indicate that the place of intellect, understanding, ignorance, and negligence is the heart. All this indicates that which we said.


The Fifth Argument:

Allâh’s expression, “Lo! The hearing and the sight and the heart of each of these it will be asked”.[21] It is well-known that the ear and the eye have no other function but to make their objects reach the heart. Any question put to them is, therefore, a question put to the heart in reality. A similar case is what Allâh says: “He knoweth the traitor of the eyes, and that which the bosoms hide.”[22] Surely known it is that the deceits of the eyes can only happen in regard to that which is contained in hearts. It receives confirmation from the saying of God, “(He it is Who gave you being), and hath assigned unto you ears and eyes and hearts. Small thanks give ye!”[23] These three parts have been particularly mentioned for the charge made against them and they have been called upon to utter thanks.

You, however, know that there is no useful purpose in having ear and eyes except that they deliver their contents to the heart, the heart being the judge, the governor over them.

Similarly, Allâh says, “And verily We had empowered them with that wherewith We have not empowered you, and has assigned them ears and eyes and hearts which availed them naught (since they denied the revelations of Allâh)”.[24] Thus Allâh has made these three the basis of His argument against them. The purpose of all these is the heart which gives its judgement concerning all that is delivered to it by the ear and the eye. Thus this confirms the saying of Allâh, “Allâh hath sealed their hearing and their hearts, and on their eyes there is a covering.” Its parallel is Allâh’s expression, “The have hearts wherewith they understand not, and have eyes wherewith they see not.”[12]

The reason of arguing with this verse is the fact that the purpose of this verse is to explain that they have absolutely no knowledge, and even if knowledge is found in something other than the heart, the purpose will not be served unless it is found in the heart.


The Sixth Argument:

Whenever ‘belief’ has been mentioned by Allâh in the Qur’ân it has been attributed to the heart. He says, “…as say with their mouths: ‘We believe’, but their hearts believe not.”[25] He says, “save him who is forced thereto and whose heart is still content with Faith”.[26] He also says, “…for the faith hath not yet entered into your hearts”[27]. “He hath written faith upon their hearts.”[28] It is established, therefore, that the place for these pieces of knowledge is the heart. When this is so, the place of intentions is the heart, such intention is conditioned by knowledge. Having accepted that the place of knowledge and intention is the heart the agent must also be the heart. Such being the case, it is also the object to which admonitions are addressed and it is also the object to which reward and punishment are due.

You must know that he who is acquainted with the method of arguing with these verses, it is possible for him to find many Qur’ânic verses of the same kind.

As for ahâdîth, reference may be made to what has been narrated by al-Nu‘mân b. bashîr. He said, “I heard the Messenger of Allâh, saying: ‘Beware, there is a piece of flesh in the body, the whole body prospers when the piece is prosperous and deteriorates when the piece deteriorates. Beware! That piece is the heart.’[29] The rest of the body is subordinate to it.”

It has been narrated that when Usâmah killed an infidel who had uttered “There is no god [worthy of worship] save Allâh”, the Noble Prophet disliked his assassination, and when Usâmah pleaded that he had said these words out of fear, the Prophet said, “Why did u not open up his heart?” This indicates that knowledge and belief concern the heart.

The Noble Prophet used to pray: “O Allâh Who turns hearts! Keep my heart firm on Thy faith!”[30] This clarifies the point under investigation…



[1] Ashâbul Mukhâshifât: Abű Tâlib al-Makkî: Kitâb Qulűb, Part 1, p. 114

[2] awlâ bilid-dimâgh.

[3] Al-Baqarah : 97.

[4] Al-Shu‘arâ : 97.

[5] Qâf : 37, al-Zumar : 21.

[6] Masűnâ: That for achieving knowledge it is necessary to keep one’s soul pure of dirt and defect is borne out of by the following extract from Imâm Râghib’s al-Dharî‘ah, pp. 20-21. [Extract (in Arabic) removed]

[7] Al-Hajj : 37.

[8] Al-Baqarah : 225; al-Mâ’idah : 92.

[9] Al-Hajj : 37.

[10] Al-Hujurât : 3.

[11] Al-‘Âdiyât : 10.

[12] Al-A‘râf : 178.

[13] Al-Baqarah : 10.

[14] Al-Baqarah: 7.

[15] Al-Baqarah: 88.

[16] Al-Nisâ’ : 55.

[17] Al-Tawbah : 64.

[18] Al-Mutaffifîn: 14.

[19] Muhammad (S): 24.

[20] Al-Hajj : 46.

[21] Al-Isrâ’ : 36.

[22] Al-Mu’min : 19.

[23] Al-Mulk : 23; Al-Nahl : 78; Al-Mu’minűn : 79; Al-Sajdah : 9.

[24] Al-Ahqâf : 26.

[25] Al-Mâ’idah : 41.

[26] Al-Nahl : 106.

[27] Al-Hujurât : 14.

[28] Al-Mujâdalah : 22.

[29] wa hîyal-qalb: This hadîth has been recorded by both Imâm Bukhârî and Imâm Muslim (Vol. I, p. 13, Vol. II, p. 28) on the authority of al-Nu‘mân…

[30] thabbit qalbî: The complete text of the hadîth has been recorded in Mishkât, Nizâmi Press, p. 14

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