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Ibn Qayyim's Three Kinds Of Hearts, Illustrated

Faithful, struggling, void—what kind of heart do you have? Here's a pencil drawing which illustrates the detail of Ibn Qayyim's graphic description of the three kinds of hearts. Please share.

As a Muslim, when you overcome your passions and impulses, you gain the strength to be present in prayer and occupied with your Lord.

But as long as your heart is dominated by these passions and captive to desires, and the Devil finds a home in it where he is control, how can you be really free of distractions?

Hearts in fact are of three types.

The first heart is the one devoid of faith and devoid of all good. With such a benighted heart, the Devil relaxes his whisperings, for he has already taken resident in this heart, a territory for him to rule as he pleased, in complete control.

The second type of heart is the heart illumined by faith.

Lamps are lit therein, but the shadows of passions and impulses remain. In this heart, the Devil sometimes finds welcome, sometimes rejection; but it is a territory he yearns for. The war waxes and wanes between you and him.

People of this kind vary greatly: among some the Devil usually wins, among others he is usually defeated; among others still he sometimes wins and sometimes loses. Jihad.

The third type is the heart brimming with faith. Illumined by the light of 'imaan, the heart [of one] from whom the veils of passion have been lifted and shadows dispelled—so light shines forth in his chest.

In that kindled glow, distractions are burnt up when they approach. This heart is like the firmament protected by stars: when a devil approaches, a meteor is cast down and he is burnt up.

Surely no heaven is more sacrosanct than the believer.

God protects His servant even more than He does the Heavens. For while the heavens are the temple of angels, the repository of revelation, the place where the lights of obedience shine forth—the believer's heart is the repository of Tawheed, the love of God and gnosis.

It is where the lights of faith shine on. It deserves to be guarded and protected from the plots of the Foe, who will obtain nothing of it except through deceit and in moments of negligence.

These threee types have been likened to three chambers:
  1. the chamber of the king, which contains his treasures, supplies and jewels; 
  2. the chamber of the servant, which contains his treasures and supplies but none of the jewels of the king; 
  3. and a chamber which is completely empty.

If a thief came to rob any of these three chambers, which one would he choose? If you said the empty room it would be absurd. What is there to take?

Ibn 'Abbas was once told, 'The Jews claim nothing distracts their prayer'. To this he answered, 'What does the Devil have to do with a heart in ruins?'

But it would be equally absurd if you said that he will rob the chamber of the king, with there being so many guards around it that a thief cannot even get near. How could he, when the king himself is guarding it? How could he approach it with all the guards and soldiers surrounding it? Therefore, nothing is left for the thief to rob except the other room, and that is the one he attacks.

Let the wise person ponder this analogy, and let it sink into your heart, for this is the way of the three hearts. The heart of the non-believer or the hypocrite, a heart devoid of all good, is the Devil's home. The Devil marks it for himself, claims it as his territory, takes residence and dwells in it. What is there for him to steal when it already contains his stock and supplies, his doubts, deceits and whisperings?

And what devil dare approach a heart filled with the majesty of God Almighty, with reverence, love, vigilance and modesty? If he would steal something from it, what would it be? His only hope is to snatch something surreptitiously from the servant. And that time is inevitable—the servant is but a human being, subject to laws which govern humans; he will brook neglect, forgetfulness, confusion and compulsion.

It is related that Wahb ibn Munabbih affirmed that in one of the sacred books [God says].
'I do not dwell in rooms which are not vast enough for Me, and what thing could be vast enough for Me, when my Footstool contains [all] the heavens? But I am in the heart of the one who has bid farewell to and left behind all else but Me'. This has the same meaning as the saying, 'My heavens and my heart do not contain Me, but the heart of my believing servant contains Me'.[1]

In every heart there are Oneness [Tahweed], gnosis, faith and affirmation of God's promise and warning. There are also the desires of the ego, its traits and the attraction of [base] desires and nature. So the heart lies between two calls. Sometimes it inclines towards the call of faith, gnosis, the love of God, and the desire for Him alone; sometimes it inclines towards the call of the Devil, base desired and animal nature. That is the heart which gives hope to the Devil, where he pitches his camp and resides. And God gives victory to whomsoever He will, 'And there is no victory except from God, the Mighty and Wise.'[2]

The Devil has no control over your heart except through the weapons he finds there: your passions, doubtful practices, delusions and false hopes. So he enters into your heart, finds his weapons, takes them and uses them for battle. If the servant has their forces of faith at the ready, they will rise to his defence, multiply and defeat the devils. If not, the territory goes to the enemy, 'and there is neither strength nor power save in God'. When you, the Muslim servant allow your Foe to enter and open the door, let him in and arm him with the very weapons with which he will fight you, then you have none to blame but yourself:

Blame yourself alone, not your mount.
And die in vain, for you have no excuse.

[1] Both these sayings are sometimes quoted as Hadith qudsi but neither ibn Qayyim nor his teacher accepted them as such
[2] Qur'an, 3:126

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya r.h.The Invocation of God, pp.30-32

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