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A similar influence of philosophy is also apparent in al-Ghazali’s view of human beings.

Human beings consist of soul and body, but their essence is the soul. The human soul is
a spiritual substance totally different from the body. It is something divine (amr ilahi),
which makes possible human knowledge of God. If the soul according to al-Ghazali is an
incorporeal substance occupying no space (as Ibn Sina implies, though he carefully
avoids making a direct statement to that effect), then al-Ghazali’s concept of the soul is
quite different from the soul as 'a subtle body' as conceived by theologians at large.
According to al-Ghazali, the body is a vehicle or an instrument of the soul on the way to
the hereafter and has various faculties to maintain the bodily activities. When the main
faculties of appetite, anger and intellect are moderate, harmonious and well-balanced,
then we find the virtues of temperance, courage, wisdom and justice. In reality,
however, there is excess or deficiency in each faculty, and so we find various vicious
characteristics. The fundamental cause for all this is love of the world (see SOUL IN

The most amazing organ in the human body is the heart. It not only functions physically but also
spiritually and morally in human life. The importance of the heart is stated in the Qur’an by using
the words al-qalb and fou'ad. Qalb occurs in the Qur’an 132 times in both its physical and spiritual
senses, while fou'ad occurs 16 times in the spiritual sense. Both terms, however allude to the
same thing – the heart. The heart is the seat of awareness, consciousness, feelings, and thoughts.
It could be good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. In the Hadith it is mentioned that “Surely in the
breasts of man is a lump of flesh, if sound then the whole body is sound, and if corrupt then the
whole body is corrupt. Is it not the heart?”

There are diverse meanings of heart which include “fluctuation,” “turning around” and
“reversing.” As Allah said in His Revelation: “Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate (from the truth)
after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower” (Ali `Imran
3:8). Abu Hamed Mohammad ibn Mohammad al-Ghazali, the author of Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din (The
Revival of Religious Sciences) pointed out that the heart denotes two things, the physical heart
and the ‘divine entity.’ He mentions that the ‘spiritual’ heart is the essence of man. It is
incumbent that this ‘divine entity’ or the potential seat of God’s illuminations and serenity is kept
sound and healthy for the physical body to operate optimally.

In his exposition of the heart, Al-Ghazali emphasized its purification. The term purification in
Arabic is tazkiyyah and is described as a disciplined process that gives birth to the seed of
awareness in the heart. This enlightenment, a moment of unique divine intervention or the first
ray of divine light that expands the heart is the beginning of a personal transformation. The
purification of the heart is related closely to the function of the heart itself, which is to know the
Creator, to love Him, and to seek closeness to Him. If the heart fails in this function, then it is
considered sick.

Al-Ghazali’s tazkiyat al-nafs is closely related to morality. Morality according to him was
conscientious action in accordance with the moral law (akhlaq). But conscientious action is not
possible without the possession of purity of motive by the moral agent, which in turn, necessitates
a continuous psychological effort, named in tasawuf terminology as tazkiyyah. On this, Al-Ghazali
refers to the Qur’anic verse: “By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its
enlightenment as to its wrong and its right; Truly he succeeds that purifies it, And he fails that
corrupts it” (al-Qur’an, 91: 7-10).

Al-Ghazali who was known as Hujjatul Islam classified the heart into three categories, as did two
other Islamic scholars, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali and Ibn Al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya . To them, the heart
can be spoken of in terms of its condition, namely, healthy, dead or sick. This classification is
important so that the appropriate remedy can be prescribed. Allah, in the Qur’an, said that only
those that come to Him with a healthy heart will be saved on the Day of Resurrection: “The day
on which neither wealth nor sons will be of any use, except for whoever brings to Allah a sound
heart” (26: 88-89).

The healthy heart can be defined as a heart cleansed from any passion that challenges what Allah
commands, or disputes what He forbids. It is free from any impulses which contradict His good.
This kind of heart is exclusively reserved for Allah, willingly and lovingly, with total reliance,
relating all matters to Him, in fear, hope and sincere dedication.

The sign of the healthy heart can be seen in its single dedication to Allah’s orders and avoid His
prohibitions. It loves Allah more than others and will go to great lengths to please Him. For
instance, if this heart misses any acts of worship, then its owner suffers more distress than a
cautious man who suffers because of the loss of money or a missed opportunity to make it. Yahya
ibn Mu'adh said: "Whoever is pleased with serving Allah, everything will be pleased to serve him;
and whoever finds pleasure in contemplating Allah, all the people will find pleasure in
contemplating him."

The antonym of the healthy heart is the dead heart. This kind of heart will not be saved on the
Day of Resurrection as the healthy heart. It is called to Allah from a distance but does not respond
to advice, and instead follows the wrong path with the enemy of God. In a simple explanation, the
dead heart does not know its Lord and does not worship Him as He commands but worships things
other than Him. It leads to the displeasure and wrath of Allah when this heart follows too much its
lusts and desires, makes ignorance as its leader, and concerns with worldly objectives. It is
advised not to associate and keep company with the owner of such a heart because living with him
is like taking poison, and befriending him means utter destruction.

Another type of heart is the sick heart which is midway between the healthy heart and the dead
heart. This kind of heart worships Allah, has faith in Him, and relies on Him, and these are what
give it life. It also has a craving for lust and pleasure, and prefers them and strives to experience
them. It is full of self-admiration, which can lead to its own destruction. The danger to this type
of heart is when it listens to two callers: one calling it to Allah, His Prophet and the Hereafter;
and the other calling it to the pleasures of this world. It responds to whichever one of the two
that happens to have the most influence over it at the time.

The symptoms of the death and the sickness of the heart are shown when the owner is not aware
of the harm that results from the damage caused by wrong actions, and is unperturbed by his
ignorance of the truth or by his false beliefs. The heart's sickness become worst if the owner of
such a heart turns away from good actions to bad ones, from healthy foods to harmful ones, from
good remedies to shameful sickness and he cannot realize anymore what brings him to the dead
heart. The healthy heart prefers what is beneficial and healing to what is harmful and damaging;
the sick heart prefers the opposite. The most beneficial sustenance for the heart is faith and the
best medicine is the Qur'an.

The types of heart discussed above are related to their awareness and consciousness. In this
respect, the Prophet is reported to have said, "There are four types of hearts: a pure heart that
shines like a lamp, the covered up and closed heart, the upside down heart and the mixed up
heart. The pure heart is that of the believer. The covered up heart is that of the non-believer.
The upside down heart is that of the hypocrite who knows and then denies. The mixed up heart is
that in which there is both faith and hypocrisy. The example of faith in it is like a small plant that
grows with good water and the example of hypocrisy in it is like a wound that grows with pus and
blood. So whichever grows bigger takes over the heart." (Riwayat Ahmad)

Al-Ghazali also discussed the four poisons of the heart. All acts of disobedience are considered as
poison to the heart and cause its sickness and ruin. Ibn al-Mubarak said: ''I have seen wrong actions
killing hearts, And their degradation may lead to their becoming addicted to them. Turning away
from wrong actions gives life to the hearts, and opposing your self is best for it.'' The poison itself
is something bad that can affect health and life not only physically but spiritually when it applies
to the heart. The four poisons of the heart are unnecessary talking, unrestrained glances, too
much food, and keeping bad company.

Each of these poisons should be avoided in order to purify the heart. Talking can either be good or
bad, in which case it is considered haram. It is reported on the authority of Anas that the
Rasulullah (saw) said: "The faith of a servant is not put right until his heart is put right, and his
heart is not put right until his tongue is put right." This shows that the Prophet Muhammad has
made the purification of faith conditional on the purification of the heart, and the purification of
the heart conditional on the purification of the tongue.

At-Tirmidhi relates in a hadith on the authority of Ibn Umar: "Do not talk excessively without
remembering Allah, because such excessive talk without the mention of Allah causes the heart to
harden, and the person furthest from Allah is a person with a hard heart." Unnecessary talking not
only poisons the heart but it is also one of the major reasons why people are sent to the Hellfire.
As narrated by Abu Hurairah, the Prophet said, "What mostly cause people to be sent to the Fire
are the two openings: the mouth and the private parts."

The second poison is unrestrained glance which results in the one who looks becoming attracted
by what he sees, and in the imprinting of the image of what he sees in his heart. The glance was
described by the Prophet Muhammad: "The glance is a poisoned arrow of shaytan. Whoever lowers
his gaze for Allah, He will bestow upon him a refreshing sweetness which he will find in his heart
on the day when he meets Him." Shaytan, as the enemy of Islam, will resort to any devices to
disturb the sons of Adam including by entering through the glance, for he travels with it faster
than the wind blowing through an empty place.
There is an immediate connection between the eye and the heart; if the eyes are corrupted by
staring bad things, then the heart follows. Staring and gazing without restraint is disobedience to
Allah. Allah said in the Qur’an: “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their
modesty; that is more purifying for them. Surely Allah is aware of what they do.” (24:30). The
more poison of unrestrained glances is added in the soul of someone, the faster his heart dies.

Food is very important in human life but excessive food is another cause of poisoning of the heart.
Some people ask whether one lives to eat or eats to live. Al-Ghazali said that the consumption of
small amounts of food guarantees tenderness of the heart, strength of the intellect, humility of
the self, weakness of desires, and gentleness of temperament, while immoderate eating brings
about the opposite of these praiseworthy qualities and inclines towards disobedience to Allah. Al-
Miqdam ibn Ma'd Yakrib said: "I heard the Messenger of Allah (saw) say: The son of Adam fills no
vessel more displeasing to Allah than his stomach. A few morsels should be enough for him to
preserve his strength. If he must fill it, then he should allow a third for his food, a third for his
drink and leave a third empty for easy breathing."

Bad companionship is the last poison of the heart which causes many kinds of harm. On the
authority of Abu Musa al-Ash'ari, the Prophet said: ''A good friend and a bad friend are like a
perfume-seller and a blacksmith: The perfume-seller might give you some perfume as a gift, or
you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell its fragrance. As for the blacksmith, he
might singe your clothes, and at the very least you will breathe in the fumes of the furnace.''

In order to maintain the well being of his body, the servant carefully follows a strict diet. He
habitually and constantly eats good food at regular intervals, and is quick to free his stomach of
harmful elements if he happens to eat bad food by mistake.

The well being of the servant's heart, however, is far more important than that of his body, for
while the well being of his body enables him to lead a life that is free from illnesses in this world,
that of the heart ensures him both a fortunate life in this world and eternal bliss in the next.

In the same way, while the death of the body cuts the servant off from this world, the death of
the heart results in everlasting anguish. A righteous man once said, "How odd, that some people
mourn for the one whose body has died, but never mourn for the one whose heart has died-and
yet the death of the heart is far more serious!"

Thus acts of obedience are indispensable to the well being of the heart. It is worthwhile
mentioning the following acts of obedience here, since they are very necessary and essential for
the servant's heart: Dhikr of Allah ta'Ala, recitation of the Noble Qur'an, seeking Allah's
forgiveness, making du'as, invoking Allah's blessings and peace on the Prophet, may Allah bless him
and grant him peace, and praying at night. On the supremacy of Dhikr Allah as the means par
excellence of approaching to Allah, the holy Qur’an says : “And remembrance of Allah is the
greatest (thing in life).” (29:45) and “Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the
remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find
satisfaction.” (13: 28).