by Al-Hafidh Zainuddin Abu Al-Faraj Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali
Disapproval of hardheartedness:
Allah says, “Then, after that, your hearts were hardened and became as stones or even worse in hardness.” [Al-Baqarah 2:74. Imam Al-Qurtubi said explaining this verse: “Hardness means rigidness, harshness and stiffness. It is an expression for (hearts) which are devoid of repentance and submissiveness to Allah’s Ayaat (signs and verses).” Tafsir Al-Qurtubi (1/430)]
Then He explained the cause of these hearts being harder than stones: “And indeed, there are stones out of which rivers gush forth, and indeed, there are of them (stones) which split asunder so that water flows from them, and indeed, there are of them (stones) which fall down for fear of Allah. And Allah is not unaware of what you do.” [Al-Baqarah 2:74]
Allah also said, “Has not the time come for the hearts of those who believe to be affected by Allah’s Reminder (this Qur’an), and that which has been revealed of the truth, lest they become as those who received the Scripture before (i.e. Jews and Christians), and the term was prolonged for them and so their hearts were hardened?” [Al-Hadeed 57:16]
Allah said, “Is he whose breast Allah has opened to Islam, so that he is in light from His Lord (as he who is non-Muslim)? So, woe to those whose hearts are hardened against remembrance of Allah! They are in plain error!” [Al-Zumar 39:22] So, Allah described the Jews and Christians to be hardhearted and forbade us from being like them.
Some of the early scholars said:“There is nothing harder than a person (having knowledge) of the Book (Torah, Gospel or Qur’an) when he becomes hardhearted.”
In Sunan Al-Tirmithi it is narrated from Ibn ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Do not speak much without remembering Allah, for talking much without remembering Allah is (a cause for) the hardening of the heart. And indeed, the person most distant from Allah is one with a hardened heart.”
In Musnad Al-Bazzar it has been narrated from Anas Bin Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Four things are (signs) of wretchedness: stillness of the eyes (i.e. they do not shed tears), hardness of the heart, having big expectations (of a long life, more wealth etc.) and (excessive) desire for worldly (means and pleasures) .” However Ibn Jawzai included this report in “Al-Mawdhu’at” (his collection of fabricated and false reports) and narrated it from a chain of narrators including Abu Dawud Al-Nakha’i, the liar. Al-Nakha’i narrated from Ishaq Bin ‘Abdullah and he from Anas.
Malik Bin Dinar said, “ The greatest punishment a slave (of Allah) can get is hardheartedness.” It was narrated by ‘Abdullah Bin Ahmad [Bin Hanbal] in Kitab Al-Zuhd.
Hudhaifah Al-Mar’ishi said, “No one has been afflicted with a greater calamity than hardheartedness.” This was narrated by Abu Nu’aim [in Hilya]
Causes of Hardheartedness:
There are many reasons for hardheartedness, some of which are:
a. Speaking a lot without remembering Allah, as mentioned in the hadith of Ibn ‘Umar above.
b. Breaking the pact with Allah, Who said, “So because of their breach of their covenant, We cursed them, and made their hearts grow hard.” [Al-Maidah 5:13]
Once while delivering a sermon Ibn ‘Aqeel said, “O, the one who finds hardness in his heart! Beware of breaking pacts because Allah says, ‘So because of their breach of their covenant…’ ”
c. Laughing too much. In Sunan Al-Tirmithi, it has been narrated from Abu Hurairah, “Do not laugh too much since excessive laughter kills the heart”. Al-Tirmithi said that it has been reported that this hadith is actually the saying of Al-Hasan Al-Basari himself, (not the Prophet’s words).
Ibn Majah narrated from the route of Abu Raja Al-Jazari to Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Excessive laughter causes the heart to die.” Ibn Majah also narrated the hadith from the route of Ibrahim Bin ‘Abdullah Bin Hunain to Abu Hurairah.
d. Excessive eating, especially if the diet is doubtful or illegal (haram).
Bishr Bin Harith said, “Two attributes harden the heart: excessive speech and excessive eating.” It was narrated by Abu Nu’aim.
Al-Mirwathi mentioned in Kitab Al-Wara’: I said to Abu ‘Abdullah [Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal], “Can a person be tenderhearted while he eats to his fill?” Imam Ahmad replied, “I don’t think so.”
e. Too many sins. Allah says, “Nay! But on their hearts is the Ran (covering of sins and evil deeds) which they used to earn.” [Al-Mutafiffin 83:14]
It has been reported by Imam Ahmad in Al-Musnad and Al-Tirmithi in Sunan that Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “When the believer commits sin, a black spot appears on his heart. If he repents and gives up that sin and seeks forgiveness, his heart will be polished. But if (the sin) increases, (the black spot) increases. That is the raan which Allah mentions in His Book: ‘Nay! But on their hearts is the Raan (covering of sins and evil deeds) which they used to earn’ .” Al-Tirmithi said that it is sahih (authentic).
Some of the early scholars said: When the body is uncovered from its clothes, it becomes weak, but when the sins of the heart decrease (i.e. it is uncovered from the Raan), its tears flow quickly.
Similarly, ‘Abdullah Bin Al-Mubarak said:
I think sins kill the heart
addiction to sins humiliates you
giving up sins gives life to the heart
it is good for you to disobey your (urge to commit) sins
Remedies of Hardheartedness:
a. Remembering Allah much with the heart and tongue together.
Al-Mu’alla Bin Ziyad said that a man said to Al-Hasan Al-Basari, “O Abu Sa’eed, I want to complain to you about my hardheartedness.” He advised him to remedy it with Remembrance of Allah.
Wuhaib Bin Al-Ward said, “We looked into this hadith, and we do not find anything that makes the hearts more tender and more absorbing for the truth than reciting the Qur’an for the one who reflects on it.”
Yahya Bin Mu’adh and Ibrahim Al-Khawas said, “Five things are medicine for the heart: reciting the Qur’an with reflection, keeping the stomach empty, worshipping at night, (praying with) humility before dawn and keeping the company of pious people.”
Remedying hardness of hearts by Allah’s Remembrance is based on the Sayings of Allah:
“Those who believe and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” [Al-Ra’d 13:28]
“Allah has sent down the best statement, a Book (this Quran), its parts resembling each other in goodness and truth, oft-repeated. The skins of those who fear their Lord shiver from it (when they recite it or hear it). Then their skin and their heart soften to the remembrance of Allah. That is the guidance of Allah. He Guides therewith whom He pleases and whomever Allah sends astray, for him there is no guide.” [Al-Zumar 39:23]
“Has not the time come for the hearts of those who believe to be affected by Allah’s Reminder (this Quran), and that which has been revealed of the truth…” [Al-Hadid 57:16]
It is mentioned in the mursal [one in which the Companion is dropped from the chain of narrators] hadith of ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Bin Abi Dawud that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Indeed, these hearts too rust like iron rusts.” Someone said, “How can they be polished?” He replied, “Reciting Allah’s book and remembering Him much.”
b. Being good and kind to orphans and needy people. Ibn Abi Dunya narrated from Abu Hurairah that a person complained to the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) about the hardness of his heart. The Prophet said to him “If you want your heart to soften, (affectionately) rub the orphan’s head (with your hand) and feed the needy.” Its chain of narrators is jayyid (good), [though other narrations show that it is probably mursal too (translator’s note: abridged summary of the discussion)].
Abu Nu’aim reported that Abu Al-Darda’ wrote to Salman, “Show mercy to the orphan, draw him close to you and feed him from your diet. Indeed, I heard the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) say to a person who had come to him complaining of his hardheartedness, ‘Would you like your heart to be soft?’ He replied, ‘Yes.’ Therefore, the Prophet said, ‘Draw the orphan close to you, (affectionately) rub the orphan’s head (with your hand) and feed him from your food, since it will soften your heart and you will be able to fulfill your needs.’ ”
Abu Talib reported that a man asked Imam Ahmad about how to soften his heart. He said, “Go to the graveyard and rub (affectionately) the orphan’s head.”
c. Remembering death a lot. Ibn Abi Dunya narrated from Safya that a woman came to ‘Aisha and complained about hard heartedness. ‘Aisha told her, “Remember death much. Your heart will become tender and you will be able to fulfill your needs.” Safya said that the woman did as she was told and felt guidance in her heart due to that, so she came to thank ‘Aisha.
Many of the earliest scholars of Islam, including Sa’eed Bin Jubair and Rabi’ Bin Abi Rashid used to say, “If the remembrance of death leaves our hearts for an hour, our hearts will become rotten.”
In Sunan books, it has been reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Remember much the destroyer of pleasures (i.e. death).”
Al-‘Ata Al-Khurasani narrated in a mursal fashion that the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) passed by a gathering overcome with laughter. He told them to remember the“spoiler of pleasures”. They asked him what was that, and he replied, “Death.”
d. Visiting graves and reflecting upon the condition of the dead in those graves and their fate. We mentioned earlier the incident in which Imam Ahmad was asked about how to soften his heart. He said, “Go to the graveyard…”
It is narrated in Sahih Muslim from Abu Hurairah that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “So visit the graves, for that makes you mindful of death.”
Buraidah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “ I forbade you to visit the graves, but now visit them for that makes you mindful of the hereafter.” Narrated by Imams Ahmad and Al-Tirmithi, and the latter also declared it sahih (authentic).
Imams Ahmad and Ibn Abi Dunya narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “I forbade you to visit the graves, (but)then it became clear to me that it tenders the heart, makes the eye shed tears and makes one mindful of the hereafter. So visit them, and do not use bad language.”
Ibn Abi Dunya narrated from Muhammad Bin Salih Al-Tammar that he said: Safwan used to come to Al-Baqi’ (graveyard in Medina) and pass by me (on his way). One day I followed him and thought to myself that by Allah I will see what he does. He hid his face and sat besides one of the graves and kept weeping until I started having mercy on him. I thought it was the grave of one of his family members. He passed by me another day so I followed him again. This time he sat besides another grave and acted the same way as he had done previously. I mentioned this to Muhammad Bin Al-Munkadir and told him that I thought it was the grave of one of his relatives. Ibn Al-Munkadir said, “All of them are related to him and are his brothers (in Islam). He is just a person who moves his heart with remembrance of the dead whenever he feels his heart getting hardened.” After that, Muhammad Bin Al-Munkadir used to pass by me on his way to Al-Baqi’ graveyard. I greeted him one day and he said, “You did not benefit by the story of Safwan!” Then it struck me that Ibn Al-Munkadir had benefited from the story I had told him.
Ibn Abi Dunya also mentioned that a pious old woman from ‘Abd Al-Qais tribe used to visit graves much. People criticized her for this. She said, “When the hard heart becomes harsh, it cannot be softened with anything except decomposed images. I come to the graves and (I feel as if) they have come out of their graves and I am looking at them. (I feel as if) I can see those soiled faces, decomposed bodies and dirty shrouds. What a sight, which will not please their hearts. How punishing is the bitterness of the soul. How harsh is to have the bodies decomposed! ”
Ziyad Al-Numairi said, “Whenever I desired to weep, I used to visit it (grave). A man said to him, “How is that?” He replied, “If you intend to weep (to soften your heart), go to the graves and sit besides one of them. Then think about the decay and decomposition they went through and the indulgence we are in! ….”
e. Reflecting upon the towns destroyed by Allah as a punishment for their inhabitants and taking lesson from the homes of previous nations.
Ibn Abi Dunya mentioned in “Al-Tafkir wa Al-I’tibar” that when ‘Abdullah Bin ‘Umar used to tend to his heart, he used to come to ruins (of an ancient town) and stand at its gate. Then he would call out with a sad voice, “Where are your inhabitants?” and then say to himself, “Everything will perish save His Face [Al-Qasas 28:88]”
Ibn Abi Dunya narrated in “Kitab Al-Qubur” that when Al-Rabi’ Bin Khuthaim used to feel hardness in his heart, he would go the home of his dead friend in the night and call out, “O so-and-so son of so-and –so! O so-and-so son of so-and –so! I wish I knew what was done to you! ”Then he used to weep until tears rolled down his eyes….
f. Having a halal (legal) livelihood and diet.
Abu Nu’aim and others narrated from ‘Umar Bin Salih Al-Tarsusi said: I and Yahya Al-Jala’, who was said to be one of the abdal saints, went to Abu ‘Abdullah Ahmad Bin Hanbal. Besides him were Buran and Zuhair Al-Jamal. I said, “May Allah have Mercy on you, Abu ‘Abdullah. What softens the hearts?” He replied, “Dear son, (hearts soften) with eating halal (legal diet earned legally).” I then went to Abu Nasr Bishr Bin Al-Harith and asked him the same question. He replied, “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest. [Al-Ra’d 13:28]” I told him that I had come to him from Ahmad Bin Hanbal, so Bishr asked about Ahmad’s reply. When I told him, he said, “He came up with the basic factor! The basic factor!” Then I went to ‘Abdul Wahhab Bin Al-Warraq and asked him the same question. He replied, “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” I told him that I had come to him from Ahmad Bin Hanbal. ‘Abdul Wahhab’s cheeks turned red with delight and he asked me what (Imam) Ahmad had replied. When I informed him, he exclaimed, “He told you the essence. He told you the essence, the perfectly basic factor!”
All Praise is for Allah Alone.