How to fix a bad heart and turn it into a sound one?
Reasons which lead to the hardening of the heart
Some of the reasons due to which the hearts are hardened which should be avoided:
1. Breaking a vow and lying
Due to a person vowing to Allāh that he will do such and such if Allāh bestows His favours on him but when he is given then he turns away.
وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ عَاهَدَ اللَّهَ لَئِنْ آتَانَا مِنْ فَضْلِهِ لَنَصَّدَّقَنَّ وَلَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ * فَلَمَّا آتَاهُمْ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ بَخِلُوا بِهِ وَتَوَلَّوْا وَهُمْ مُعْرِضُونَ * فَأَعْقَبَهُمْ نِفَاقًا فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ يَلْقَوْنَهُ بِمَا أَخْلَفُوا اللَّهَ مَا وَعَدُوهُ وَبِمَا كَانُوا يَكْذِبُونَ
And of them are some who made a covenant with Allāh (saying): “If He bestowed on us of His Bounty, we will verily, give Ṣadaqah (Zakāt and voluntary charity in Allāh’s Cause) and will be certainly among those who are righteous.”
Then when He gave them of His Bounty, they became niggardly [refused to pay the Ṣadaqah], and turned away, averse.
So He punished them by putting hypocrisy into their hearts till the Day whereon they shall meet Him, because they broke that (covenant with Allāh) which they had promised Him and because they used to tell lies.
[Sūrah At-Tawbah 75-77]
This is indeed a great punishment that Allāh puts nifāq (hypocrisy) in the heart of such a person until the Day of Reckoning.
2. Much Laughing
Excessive laughter causes the hearts to die. It is narrated on the authority of Abū Hurayrah raḍiyAllāhu ʿanhu, the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam said
“Do not laugh much for excessive laughter kills the heart” (Sunan At-Tirmidhī, mentioned by Shaykh Muqbil in his aṣ-Ṣaḥīḥ al-Musnad)
Also it is narrated on the authority of Anas bin Mālik raḍiyAllāhu ʿanhu that the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam said,
“If you knew that which I know, you would laugh little and weep much.” (Agreed upon)
3. Remembering Allāh little
It is narrated by Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī raḍiyAllāhu ʿanhu that the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam said,
“The similitude of one who remembers his Rabb and one who does not remember Him, is like that of the living and the dead.” (Agreed Upon)
This points out that the one who does not remember Allāh ʿazza wa jall his example is the example of one who is dead.
4. All sins in general
كَلَّا ۖ بَلْ ۜ رَانَ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ مَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ
“Nay! But on their hearts is the Rān (covering of sins and evil deeds) which they used to earn.”
[Sūrah Mutaffifīn 14]
Reasons which lead to the softening of the heart
So all these reasons should be avoided and a muslim should strive to take the ways which cause softness of the hearts, some of which are:
1. Al-Istighfār and Tawbah
Sincere repentance from the sins and returning back to the Lord is from the causes which softens the hearts and makes it upright. It is narrated on the authority of Al-Agharr al-Muzanī, raḍiyAllāhu ʿanhu that the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam said:
“I seek forgiveness from Allāh a hundred times a day” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim).
2. Remembering Allāh much
Dhikr of Allāh brings tranquility and calmness to the heart. Allāh says,
الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُمْ بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ
Those who believe (in the Oneness of Allāh – Islamic Monotheism), and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.
[Sūrah Ar-Raʿad 28]
How easy is it upon the tongues but still there are very little of us who remember.
3. Reciting the Qurʾān
Reciting the Qurʾān with contemplation, understanding cures the hearts and this from Allāh’s mercy
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَاءَتْكُمْ مَوْعِظَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ وَشِفَاءٌ لِمَا فِي الصُّدُورِ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ
O mankind! There has come to you a good advice from your Lord (i.e. the Quran, ordering all that is good and forbidding all that is evil), and a healing for that (disease of ignorance, doubt, hypocrisy and differences, etc.) in your breasts, – a guidance and a mercy (explaining lawful and unlawful things, etc.) for the believers.
[Sūrah Yūnus 57]
This is why one might find the shayṭān trying to distance him from reciting it so that hearts are not treated. But, a muslim should treat it by reading the Qurʾān on a regular basis paying attention to its meanings and with contemplation and not just simply reciting it.
4. Following the Commandments of Allāh and staying away from evil.
All of the causes of softening of the heart are generally connected with following the commandments of Allāh and refraining from the sins.
5. Seeking refuge in Allāh from the illnesses of the heart.
It is narrated on the authority of Zaid bin Arqam raḍiyAllāhu ʿanhu that the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam used to seek refuge in Allāh from a heart which does not fear his Lord. He used to say,
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ عِلْمٍ لاَ يَنْفَعُ وَمِنْ قَلْبٍ لاَ يَخْشَعُ وَمِنْ نَفْسٍ لاَ تَشْبَعُ وَمِنْ دَعْوَةٍ لاَ يُسْتَجَابُ لَهَا
“O Allah, I seek refuge in Thee from the knowledge which does not benefit, from the heart that does not entertain the fear (of Allāh), from the soul that does not feel contented and the supplication that is not responded.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim)
It has also come in a narration authenticated by Shaykh al-Albānī which can be found in Sunan of Abū Dāwūd on the authority of Ibn ʿAbbās raḍiyAllāhu ʿanhu that the Prophet Ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam used to supplicate,
رَبِّ تَقَبَّلْ تَوْبَتِي وَاغْسِلْ حَوْبَتِي وَأَجِبْ دَعْوَتِي وَثَبِّتْ حُجَّتِي وَاهْدِ قَلْبِي وَسَدِّدْ لِسَانِي وَاسْلُلْ سَخِيمَةَ قَلْبِي
“My Lord, accept my repentance, wash away my sin, answer my supplication, clearly establish my evidence, guide my heart, make true my tongue and draw out malice in my breast.”
Allāh knows best
Mentioned by the Noble Brother Abū ʿAṭiyyah Maḥmūd aṣ-Ṣūmālī [From the Lecture titled ‘Treating the Hearts’, North London Conference, 6th of Safar 1438 (6/11/2016)]
Transcribed and Summarised by Abū Muḥammad Nezāmuddīn al-Hindī