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Heart, Wisdom and Intelligence

We already know that there are two different aspects of the human soul; the one inspiring the evil, and wicked deeds, and the other guarding against every inculcation of evil. Wisdom and non-wisdom are closely related to these two aspects of the soul. The Qur’an informs us that the consequence of following whims and desires is non-wisdom. Adhering to the better side of the soul, on the other hand, brings wisdom.

A person who becomes the slave of his wishes and desires and thus does not keep himself occupied with the remembrance of Allah, very soon loses his faculty of wisdom. The Qur’an refers to these people as “people devoid of wisdom.” (Al-Hashr, 14) At first sight, this may seen incomprehensible. The majority of people take it for granted that everyone has wisdom, constant and at the same level, never undergoing changes with time or circumstances. There is, however, some confusion due to the interchangeable use of the concepts of intelligence and wisdom. Contrary to the common conviction, intelligence and wisdom are quite different concepts. Everyone can be intelligent, but wisdom is only possessed by those who have faith.

Knowing that following the wicked side of the soul leaves a man deprived of wisdom, what should be the ways to acquire it? The answer is apparent: man attains wisdom when he obeys his conscience, which inspires in him ways of hindering the evil of his soul.

Wisdom, as is referred in the Quran, is a spiritual tenet experienced in the soul. In more than one verse there is an explicit reference to “the hearts that learn wisdom”. Accordingly, we can plainly resolve that real wisdom is far different from intelligence, a mere function of the brain. Wisdom is in the heart, in the soul of man. The Qur’an points to the fact that wisdom is in the heart, and people devoid of wisdom are lacking in understanding solely because their hearts are sealed:

Do they not travel through the land, so that their hearts (and minds) may thus learn wisdom and their ears may thus learn to hear? Truly, it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts. (Al-Hajj, 46)
Many are the Jinns and men we have made for hell. They have hearts with which they do not understand, eyes with which they do not see and ears with which they do not hear. They are like cattle,- no, indeed, more misguided: for they are heedless (of warning). (Al-Araf, 179)
They prefer to be with (the women), who remain behind (at home): their hearts are sealed and so they do not understand.(Al-Tawba, 87)

And We cast a veil upon their hearts (and minds) lest they should understand the Qur’an, and made them hard of hearing: when you commemorate your Lord and Him alone in the Qur’an, they turn their backs, fleeing (from the Truth). (Al-Isra, 46)

 In the Qur’an it is stated that only the people who “have hearts” will take heed and have faith.

Truly, in this is a Message for anyone who has a heart and understanding, or who listens and earnestly witnesses (the truth). (Qaf, 37)

Therefore, the wisdom referred to in the Qur’an is directly related to the heart and the soul.

One point deserves mention here: wisdom is not constant; it varies. Intelligence, a function of the brain, does not, however, change except in case of an injury or mental disease. Everyone has a constant “IQ”. Wisdom, on the other hand, can increase or decrease, a feature closely related to the strengthening of the soul and fear of Allah (taqwa). In this way, the individual acquires a criterion by which to judge between right and wrong. This feature, which is an entirely metaphysical one, is communicated to man in the following verse:

O you who believe! If you fear Allah, He will grant you a criterion (to judge between right and wrong), remove from you (all) evil (that may afflict) you, and forgive you: for Allah is the Lord of grace unbounded. (Al-Anfal, 29)

One who does not fear Allah is entirely deprived of this criterion to judge between right and wrong. A person may be very intelligent; he may be an outstanding physicist, sociologist or a “distinguished” person in society. He may have remarkable achievements to his credit. However, if he has no conscience, he surely lacks the true spirit and thus, the true wisdom. Being a renowned scientist, he may discover the mysteries of the human body. Still he does not possess the spirit and the understanding to conceive of the Creator of that body. Rather than expressing his astonishment at the marvels of creation and praising the Creator, he turns to himself and praises himself for his discovery. This scientist is surely the one who has “taken as his god his vain desire, and Allah has knowingly left him astray.”

However, as stated in Surat’al-Rad, the believers are “Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah ....for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah hearts find satisfaction.” (Al-Rad, 28)

The state of the hearts of unbelievers, on the other hand, is described in the following verse:

Allah has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a veil; great is the penalty they (incur).(Al-Baqara, 7)
And as for the Hypocrites, when they were told: “Come, fight in the way of Allah, or (at least) drive (The foe from your city),” they said: “Had we known how to fight, we should certainly have followed you.” They were that day nearer to unbelief than to faith, saying with their lie what was not in their hearts, but Allah has full knowledge of all they conceal. (Al-Imran, 167)

An intelligent person can be lacking in understanding and the faculty of distinguishing between right and wrong. He may  devise an ingenious invention, he may be a good businessman, or may excel in politics. In doing these, however, he totally lacks the awareness of right and wrong. Though he is communicated with repeatedly, he remains blind and deaf to the message of the Qur’an. This is a glaring manifestation of his lack of understanding.

“..Their hearts are sealed and so they do not understand” is an important statement in the Qur’an, indicating the significance of the heart for understanding.

In the Qur’an considerable space has been allocated to analyzing the relation between the heart and human behaviour. This relation comes under several headings.

Allah comes in between the man and his heart

O you who believe! Give your response to Allah and His Messenger, when He calls you to that which will give you life; and know that Allah comes in between a man and his heart, and that it is He to Whom you shall (all) be gathered. (Al-Anfal, 24)

Affection Between Hearts

And (moreover) He has put affection between their hearts: not if you had spent all that is on the earth, could you have produced that affection, but Allah has done it: for He is Exalted in might, and Wise. (Al-Anfal, 63)

And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and do not be divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah’s favour to you; for you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His grace, you became brethren; and you were on the brink of the pit of fire, and He saved you from it. Thus Allah makes His signs clear to you, so that you may be guided. (Al-E-Imran, 103)

Permeating the Hearts

And remember We took your covenant and We raised above you (the towering height) of Mount (Sinai): (Saying): “Hold firmly to what We have given you, and hearken (to the Law).” They said:” We hear, and we disobey.” And they had to drink into their hearts (of the taint) of the calf because of their faithlessness. Say: “Vile indeed are the behests of your faith, if you have any faith!” (Al-Baqara, 93)

Piety of the Hearts

Such (is his state): and whoever holds in honour the symbols of Allah, (in the sacrifice of animals), such (honour) should come truly from piety of heart. (Al-Hajj, 32)

Hearts to be Reconciled

Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; for the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. (Al-Tawba, 60)

Satisfaction of the Hearts

Allah leaves in error whom He will, and guides those who repent and who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah all hearts find satisfaction. (Al-Rad, 28)

The disciples of Jesus said: “We only wish to eat thereof and satisfy our hearts, and to know that you have indeed told us the truth; and that we ourselves may be witnesses to the miracle.” (Al-Maeda, 113)

Those on whom knowledge has been bestowed may learn that the (Qur’an) is the Truth from your Lord, and may thus believe therein, and their hearts may be made humbly (open) to it: for, truly, Allah is the Guide of those who believe, to the Straight Way. (Al-Hajj, 54)

Allah made it but a message of hope for you, and an assurance to your hearts: (in any case) there is no help except from Allah, the Exalted, the Wise One. (Al-Imran, 126)

Hearts becoming firm

All that we relate to you of the stories of the messengers,- with it We make firm you heart: in them there comes to you the Truth, as well as an exhortation and a message of remembrance to those who believe. (Hud, 120)

A void in the heart

Never think that Allah is unaware of the wrongdoers’ actions. He only gives them respite till the day on which the eyes will fixedly stare in horror as they  come running forward with necks outstretched, their heads uplifted, their gaze not returning towards them, and their hearts a gaping void! (Abraham, 42-43)

Casting terror into the hearts of the unbelievers

Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, because they associated companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority: their abode will be the fire: And evil is the home of the wrong-doers! (Al-Imran, 151)

Hearts filled with disgust and horror

When Allah, the One and Only, is mentioned, the hearts of those who do not believe in the hereafter are filled with disgust and horror; but when (gods) other than Allah are mentioned, behold, they are filled with joy! (Az-Zumar, 45)

The Heart’s inclination

To such (deceit) let the hearts of those incline, who have no faith in the hereafter: let them delight in it, and let them earn from it what they may. (Al-Anaam, 113)

The cause of sighs and heartfelt regret

O you who believe! Do not be like the Unbelievers, who say of their brethren, when they meet death abroad or engaged in fighting: “If they had stayed with us, they would not have died, or been slain.”Allah will cause them to sigh and have regrets in their hearts. It is Allah who gives Life and Death, and Allah sees well all that you do. (Al-Imran, 156)

Saying things that are not in the heart

When the hypocrites were told: “Come, fight in the way of Allah, or (at least) drive (the foe from your city),” they said: “Had we known how to fight, we should certainly have followed you.” They were that day nearer to unbelief than to faith, saying with their lips what was not in their hearts, but Allah has full knowledge of all that they conceal. (Al-Imran, 167)

Keeping secrets in the heart

Those men, Allah knows what is in their hearts; so keep clear of them, but admonish them, and speak to them a word to reach their very souls. (An-Nisa, 63)

Hearts being cut into pieces

The edifice of those who so build (i.e. not founded on fear of God) is never free from suspicion and fills their hearts with doubt, until their hearts are cut to pieces. And Allah is All-Knowing and Wise. (At-Tawba, 110)

Hearts Deviating

“Our Lord!” (they say), “Let not our hearts deviate now after you have guided us, but grant us mercy from your own presence; for you are the giver of bounties without measure.“ (Al-Imran, 8)

Allah turned with favour to the Prophet, the Muhajirs, and the Ansar,  who followed him in a time of distress, after the hearts of them had nearly swerved (from duty); but He turned to them (also): for He is Most Kind and Most Merciful to them.(Al-Tawba, 117)


Hearts being alike

Those without knowledge ask: “Why does Allah not speak to us? or give us a sign?” So said the people before them in words of similar import. Their hearts are all alike. We have indeed made clear the signs to any people who hold firmly to faith (in their hearts). (Al-Baqara, 118)

Hearts that refuse

How can you trust them (i.e. the idolaters), seeing that if they get an advantage over you, they do not respect in you the ties either of kinship or of covenant? With (fair words from) their mouths they entice you, while their hearts refuse. And most of them are rebellious and wicked. (Al-Tawba, 8)

Faith not entering into the heart

The desert Arabs say, “We believe.” Say, “You have no faith; but you (only) say, ‘We have submitted our wills to Allah,’ for Faith has not yet entered your hearts. But if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not deny you the reward of your labours: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Al-Hujraat, 14)

Disease in the heart

In their hearts is a disease; and Allah has aggrevated their disease: And grievous is the penalty they (incur), because they are false (to themselves). (Al-Baqara, 10)

Those in whose hearts is a disease - you see how eagerly they run about amongst them, saying: “We fear lest a change of fortune bring us disaster.” Ah! perhaps Allah will give (you) victory, or a decision according to His will. Then will they repent of the thoughts which they secretly harboured in their hearts. (Al-Maeda, 52)

Allah makes the suggestions thrown in by Satan a trial for those in whose hearts is a disease and who are hardened of heart: truly, the wrong-doers are in open schism, far (from the Truth): (Al-Hajj, 53)

Hearts becoming hardened

Thenceforth were your hearts hardened: they became like a rock and even worse in hardness. For among rocks there are some from which rivers gush forth; others there are which when split asunder send forth water; and others which sink for fear of Allah. And Allah is not unmindful of what you do. (Al-Baqara, 74)

When our scourage reached them, why then did they not learn humility? On the contrary, their hearts became hardened, and Satan made their (sinful) acts seem alluring to them. (Al-Anaam, 43)

Is one whose heart Allah has opened to Islam, so that he has received Enlightenment from Allah, (no better than one who is hard-hearted)? Woe to those whose hearts are hardened against celebrating the praises of Allah! They are manifestly wandering (in error)! (Az-Zumar, 22)

A seal on the hearts

They incurred divine displeasure in that they broke their covenant; they rejected the signs of Allah; they slew the Messengers in defiance of right; and they said, “Our hearts are the wrappings (which preserve Allah’s Word; we need no more)”; No, indeed, Allah set the seal on their hearts for their blasphemy. They have no faith; except a few of them. (An-Nisa, 155)

Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Qur’an, or are there locks upon their hearts? (Muhammad, 24)
To those who inherit the earth in succession to its (previous) possessors, is it not a guiding, (lesson) that, if We so willed, We could punish them (too) for their sins, and seal up their hearts, so that they could not hear? (Al-Araf, 100)

Allah has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a veil; great is the penalty they (incur). (Al-Baqara, 7)

“(Such) as dispute the Signs of Allah, without any authority vouchsafed them, grievous and odious is their conduct in the sight of Allah and of the believers. Thus Allah seals up every heart - of every arrogant and obstinate transgressor.” (Al-Ghafir, 35)

O Messenger! let not those grieve you, who race each other into unbelief: (whether it be) among those who say “We believe” with their lips but whose hearts have no faith; or it be among the Jews,  men who will listen to any lie, will listen even to others who have never so much as come to you. They change the words from their (right) times and places: they say,”If you are given this, take it, but if not, beware!” If anyone’s trial is intended by Allah, you cannot help him against Allah. For such - it is not Allah’s will to purify their hearts. For them there is disgrace in this world, and in the Hereafter a severe punishment. (Al-Maeda, 41)

Then after him We sent (many) messengers to their peoples: they brought them clear signs, but they would not believe what they had already rejected beforehand. Thus do We seal up the hearts of the transgressors. (Jonah, 74)

Such were the towns whose story We (thus) relate to you: There came indeed to them their messengers with clear (signs): yet they persisted in their unbelief. Thus Allah seals up the hearts of those who reject faith. (Al-Araf, 101)

The ground (of complaint) is against such as claim exemption, although they are rich. They prefer to stay with the (women) who remain behind: Allah has sealed their hearts; so they do not know (what they miss). (Al-Tawba, 93)

Say: “Think , if Allah took away your hearing and your sight, and sealed up your hearts, could any but Allah restore them to you?” See how We explain the signs by various (symbols); yet they turn aside. (Al-Anaam, 46)

The foregoing verses reveal an important reality: Faith is something related to the sensitivity of the heart. A person with a heart not hardened, or “sealed” has already a tendency to know Allah and obey Him. When the message of the Qur’an is communicated to him, the comprehension of his heart makes him see the truth and he believes immediately. However, unbelievers are of a different nature. Their hearts are dead and “sealed”. Nor can they acquire wisdom since their hearts do not have any kind of sensitivity. In such a state there is also no possibility of belief. In different verses of the Qur’an, those who are inclined towards  faith are told to believe as soon as they hear the message. Unbelievers, on the other hand, never show a propensity for faith:

The Word is proved true against the greater part of them: for they do not believe. We have put yokes round their necks right up to their chins, so that their heads are forced up (and they cannot see). And We have put a bar in front of them and a bar behind them, and We have covered them up, so that they cannot see. It is the same to them whether you admonish them or you do not admonish them: they will not believe. You can only admonish such a one as follows the Message and fears the (Lord) Most Gracious, unseen: give such a one, therefore, good tidings, of Forgiveness and a Reward most generous. (Yaseen, 7-11)

As to those who reject faith, it is the same to them whether you warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe. Allah has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a veil; great is the penalty they (incur). (Al-Baqara, 6-7)

Truly you cannot make the dead listen, nor can you make the deaf hear the call, (especially) when they turn back in retreat. Nor can you be a guide to the blind, (to prevent them) from straying: only those will you get to listen who believe in Our Signs, and bow in surrender to Us. (Al-Naml, 80-81)

Besides unbelievers whose hearts are hardened and who have lost their wisdom, there are some people, whose hearts are sensitive, yet they are ignorant of religion. When religion is communicated to them, these people instantly recognize the truth and believe in Allah and His religion. These two groups of people are distinguished from each other by their respective arrogance and modesty. (In the following pages, modesty and arrogance will be studied in detail). Jews and their arrogance are mentioned in the Qur’an as an example.  On the other hand there are Christians who are modest. On this the Qur’an says:

Strongest among men in enmity to the believers you will find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers you will find those who say, “We are Christians”: that is because amongst them are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant. And when they listen to the revealation received by the Messenger, you will see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognise the truth: they pray: “Our Lord! we believe; write us down among the witnesses”. (Al-Maeda,82-83)

When the message of the Qur’an is communicated to people with a natural inclination towards religion, they merely say, “Our Lord! we have heard the call of one calling (Us) to Faith: ‘Believe in the Lord,’ and we have believed...” (Al-Imran, 193). Unbelievers, on the other hand, oppose believers and even feel enmity towards them.

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