Can a person have a pure heart? How do you become a pure hearted person?
By becoming increasingly purified and with the grace of Allah, glory unto Him, supplementary to the spiritual exercises of tasawwuf, the heart acquires such a nature at the end of the road that its possessor becomes angelic in spirit, despite continuing his physical existence. Some, who are of this acquired nature, are anonymous both to themselves and to others, much like a star among millions of others that are hidden to human gaze despite occupying space. Such persons are unidentifiable.
With that said, owing to the social responsibilities they have been entrusted with to carry out, certain other persons of the same kind are, to a certain degree, known. They thereby act as guiding lights not only during their lifetimes but also afterwards, even once they cease to exist physically, privileged with a share of the secret of eternity. They comprehend the final cause that is the will of the Lord, concealed beneath the causal chain of natural events. They thus life within the peaceful presence and serenity of having tapped into wisdom and are protected from defects like haste and anxiety, that plague human beings.
For them, nothing is absurd. Proceeding on the path of spiritual progress from the principle to ‘tolerate the created for the sake of the Creator’, they begin to gaze at the entire universe with a sagacious eye, to take a lesson, with love and awe.
They look upon the rising sun and the colorful portrait drawn by the rays of light at sunset with an awe-inspired gaze. They even look upon a snake with this perception; thus the fear experienced by ordinary human beings at the sudden sight of a slithering snake is replaced with an infatuation with the wonderful moirés on its skin and enchantment with its speed and agility of movement despite having no feet.
Since they gaze at creation with wisdom and love, these saintly figures are safe even from the attacks of feral animals; for love indeed acts like a radiating force in making the other succumb.
They have nothing of the general tendency of other human beings to view the wonders of the universe as ordinary. An ordinary man, who looks on impressed at manmade paintings, which after all are merely based on an imitation of nature, cannot feel the same way when gazing at the universe in connection with its Creator. Things that should evoke awe are, for him, just ordinary happenings.
The pious whose hearts are purified, on the other hand, have no business in acclaiming paintings made by artists with an interest of acquiring fame, and instead, they turn their interest and acclaim to the Real Artist and His masterpiece. They enjoy the zest of beholding the Divine art embedded in the innumerable wonders of nature. They gaze at the multicolored flowers and leaves of plants, the inexhaustible difference of color, smell and shape each tree has, the unique taste of each fruit, even though they all spring from the very same soil, and look on admiringly at the wonderful patterns on the wings of a butterfly and appreciate the incredibility of human creation. They lend an ear to the mysterious words expressed through the silent language (lisan’ul-hal) of countless Divine wonders like eyesight and understanding, seen by many as simply ordinary happenings.
For such people, the entire universe is like a book waiting to be read. Having surpassed knowledge of the written, they eye the knowledge of the heart; just like Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- who, as a scholar buried in his books and minding his own business in the Saljuk Madrasa, was suddenly ignited by the enlightening call of an enamored, mystic dervish named Shams, and soon found himself ablaze in the fire of love. Reborn in the atmosphere of love, it was the same Mawlana in whose sight the value of written books dropped to where they truly belong, as he began reading the mysterious patterns of the universe with his very own eye of the heart. It was only after this stage that the masterpiece that is the Mathnawi, a cry exposing the mysteries of the Quran, universe and man, came to be.
Internalizing this state of mind is possible only if a believer discovers the potential power and love embedded in his heart.
Becoming focal points to the Divine Gaze, hearts of the kind reach their zenith. Perhaps because there is an element of human will involved in its coming to be that Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- pays tribute to the value of this purified heart:
By Khalil Ibrahim, the son of Azer, was Kaaba raised
But the heart is the focal point of the Almighty’s Gaze…
Frequent is the likening of the heart to Kaaba in Sufi hagiographic (manaqib) works. This stems from their conspicuous resemblance: the heart occupies a similar place in man, the essence of the universe (zubda-i kainat), to that of Kaaba with respect to the universe. Both occupy a central place in being focal points of the Divine Gaze. They are where the Gaze becomes centralized. The style of these hagiographic accounts, which tend to give the heart preeminence over the Kaaba, is partly from an amorous manner of expression. But more importantly, it is with the aim to encourage people by virtue of articulating the importance of uplifting the heart to this desired level, where it becomes a focal point just like the Kaaba.
On the subject of the heart becoming a focal point of the Divine Gaze, the words Ibn Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him- pronounced while looking at the Kaaba are significant to say the least:
“How great you are, Kaaba! How mighty is your name! But the honor a true believer has in the Sight of Allah is even greater!” (Tirmidhi, Birr, 85)
The heart is the precinct of iman. That the heart of a mature believer is superior even to the Kaaba are made clear by the words of Ibn Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him-. In virtual confirmation of this fact, Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- says:
“If you have a glimmer of prudence, circumambulate the Kaaba that is the heart! It is the heart that holds the true meaning of the Kaaba which you think is just made of earth.
The Lord has obliged you to circumambulate the Kaaba, just so you acquire a heart cleansed of masiwa, a purified Kaaba of the heart.
Know very well that if you break a heart, the focal point of the Divine Gaze, even the rewards of walking to Kaaba on foot will not compensate for the sin you will have reaped.”
The condition of obtaining a heart of such caliber is abbreviated by Abdulqadir Jilani -may Allah sanctify his secret-:“Only the heart of he who seeks marifatullah, a heart that is cleansed of masiwa, becomes a Kaaba.”
Ismail Hakkı Bursawi offers similar words: “He who finds a way inside a heart is superior to he who finds a way inside Kaaba. It is for that reason that it is common to ask the righteous and the pious to ‘keep us in your heart’ and plea for spiritual enlightenment (istimdad-i fayz) and attention (talab-i himma).”
Imam Rabbani -may Allah sanctify his secret- expresses the fact that man is a minor universe in the following manner: “Man is a condensed summary of the universe. Whatever there is found in the universe, he thus carries a small specimen.”
As has been mentioned on numerous occasions thus far, this equally underlines the bipolarity of man, of the fact of his exposure to both good and evil. The underlying purpose of religious commands and the supplementary exercises advised by tasawwuf, is to render good triumphant by dispossessing the tendency for evil as much as possible. In accomplishing this feat, it is vital for every organ of the human body to tow the line of Divine commands. With that said, the commands and exercises that pertain to the heart are of much greater importance, as being the hub of feelings, the heart gives direction to contemplation, which in turn regulates willpower. What this effectively means is that the primary cause of all willful conduct is the heart. Feelings indwell and take root inside the heart, allowing the heart to stand as an independent power against the will. Not only is it therefore more important to position the heart within the framework of Divine commands, it is also more difficult. Sufficient proof of this is what we have already mentioned above in relation to the difficulties that come with curing diseased hearts. Yet, since the value of each result is proportionate with the hardships endured on the way of acquiring it, disciplining the heart carries a massive value in Divine Sight. And in this sheer difficulty lies the reason as to why the Lord blesses those who are triumphant in this painstaking task, with angelic attributes and sometimes even more.
It is because of the crucial role it plays in ensuring man’s happiness and salvation that all Sufis have regarded breaking the heart as a grave sin. This is echoed by the caution Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- levels at heartbreakers:
“A broken heart which you value no more than a piece of straw is superior to the Throne… The Tablet and the Pen, just the same! Do not despise a heart, even it if be despicable! Even with its despicableness, it is supreme to all else. A broken heart is a being at which the Lord gazes. How sacred is he who mends it! Mending a heart shattered into two-hundred pieces is preferable in Divine Sight to many deeds of goodness! Be quiet! Even if each strand of your hair was to have two-hundred tongues, the heart would still remain indescribable!”
The heart has been designated as the subject of Divine manifestations and the precinct of their reflection, owing to its royal place within the human body. Indeed, as we have mentioned elsewhere, the profession of faith requires the ‘affirmation of the heart’. As the subject of Divine revelation, the Quran refers not to reason, a center of contemplation, but to the heart, the hub of spiritual sensing:
“The Faithful Spirit has descended with it. Upon your heart that you may be of the warners. In plain Arabic language.” (as-Shuara, 193-195)
As is the case with all other activities, advancing in spiritual training is possible only through Allah, glory unto Him, complementing human endeavor with His aid, grace and benevolence. Although all human efforts and righteous deeds provide a spiritual base from which to embark, they are but means to attaining Divine grace and aid. Therefore, one who has entered this path must essentially rely on the benevolence and grace of Allah, glory unto Him. Since that ‘aid’ is bound to deliver the person somewhere better than where he presently is, at any rate, an improvement is certain. One must, however, strive to exert an effort that the Lord expects of him in return for the grace he anticipates.
There is an old saying: ‘One must not entirely forsake that which he cannot acquire completely’ (مَالاَ يُدْرَكُ كُلُّهُ لاَ يُتْرَكُ كُلُّهُ). This is also the recommended approach to take on board in spiritual training; one ought not to neglect acquiring at least that which is in his power.
There is also a widely known parable in tasawwuf. A young man, aspiring to be a disciple, asks a sheikh, ‘Himma father’ and the sheikh replies, ‘Ghayra (show effort) son!’ A person anticipating the spiritual attention of his master must be ready to exert some effort. What the Lord expects from a servant in spiritual training is for him to realize his helplessness and nothingness before Divine splendor and make some genuine effort towards tapping into the secret expressed in the principle ‘he who knows his self knows his Lord’. On the road towards vanquishing the ego, effort comes from the servant, while success from the Lord. And undoubtedly, the Almighty will hold a servant responsible only in proportion with the Divine blessings he had been granted in life. The important thing is for a person to align himself to the Truth, to the degree the blessings he has been endowed with allows him.
Lord…Light up the sparkles of Truth in the mirror that is our hearts to allow us to behold the keys to the mysteries and wisdoms of both worlds; and no less our hearts and eyes so that we are honored with Your Jamal in the Hereafter!
Spiritual maturity is possible only by shedding unrefined traits and attaining a perfected character through abiding by the sensitivities and measure of the heart.
 Istimdad-i fayz is to aspire for spiritual enlightenment. Talab-i himma is to seek the attention of the Sufi master.
Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, Sufism, Erkam Publications