Guarding the Heart & the Tongue

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following section on guarding the heart and the tongue is by Imam al-Ghazali (r.a.) and extracted from his Ihya’ ‘Ulum ad-Din.

This is an exposition of Satan’s mastery of the heart through insinuations, waswasa; the meaning of insinuation, and the cause of its subdual.  It has been seen that the heart is affected by information brought by the five senses, and by internal faculties such as imagination, appetite, anger, and character traits.  The most important influence, however, comes from those random thoughts, promptings and ideas which are projected by the devil into the mind, and distract or confuse it: these are termed khawathir.  To ward these off, man should engage in remembrance, dzikr, of Allah (s.w.t.), and continue with the process of self-discipline and inner purification.

And this is an exposition detailing Satan's entrances into the heart.  The heart is like a castle, and man must guard its entrances against the enemy, who is the Devil.  The main entrances are: irascibility and desire; envy and greed; eating one's fill, for this increases the other desires, causes illness, and reduces one's receptivity to wisdom and desire for worship; love of self-adornment, whether on clothes, furnishings or residence; coveting what others own and control, and hence flattering and deceived them; haste, which, according to the Prophet (s.a.w.), ‘comes from Satan’; money, property, and all other kinds of wealth in excess of one's needs, for wealth creates its own concerns which will distract the heart; avarice and fear of poverty, which will destroy the heart's serene conviction that Allah (s.w.t.) will Provide; fanatical attachment to schools of thoughts and sects, ahwa’, hatred of rival doctrines, and delight in criticising them; studying advanced theological doctrines for which one is not prepared, and hence falling into false beliefs about Allah (s.w.t.); and harbouring a low opinion of other Muslims, which leads to self-satisfaction and backbiting.

The heart must be purified of all these evil traits before dzikr can be effective; otherwise the dzikr will itself be a form of khawathir with no real influence.  Even when these traits are removed, it is necessary to cure oneself of ghaflah, heedlessness and distraction.  If one does not, one will be like patient who derives little benefit from a medicine because he takes it when his stomach is full of food.


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