Many descriptions were given for the righteous heart in the holy Quran like the pure ( السَّليم ), the penitent ( المُنيب ), and the humble ( المُخبِت ). But the trembling [fearful] heart ( الوَجِلُ ) is the one I chose to talk about, for to me that is the foundation of the sign of the wellness of any heart that decided to journey to Allah (SW) in a trip of faith.

The prophet (SAAW) said: “There is a piece of flesh in the body if it becomes good (reformed) the whole body becomes good but if it gets spoilt the whole body gets spoilt and that is the heart”.[1] “ألا إن في الجسد مضغةً إذا صلَحَت صلَح الجسدُ كله واذا فسدت فسد الجسد كله الا وهي القلبُ”.

This reference is very important to understand because all our deeds that will be presented to Allah (SW) at the Day of Judgment will be measured and rewarded depending on our intentions. The prophet (SAAW) said: “(The value of) an action depends on the intention behind it. A man will be rewarded only for what he intended”.[2] “إنما الأعمال بالنيات وإنما لكل امرئ ما نوى”. And we all know that the place of our intentions is the heart and for that we need to make sure it is in a status of wellness.

One-time A’esha (RAA) heard this verse where Allah (SW) said: {And those who give [charitably] all that they give, with trembling hearts because [they know] they are returning to their Lord {for Judgment]} 23:60; and she asked the prophet (SAAW) if the ones being referred to in this verse are the ones who commit adultery, drink wine and steal. The prophet (SAAW) said: “No O daughter of Al-Siddique, it is those who pray and fast and give charitably but are in fear that Allah might not accept from them”.[3]

The trembling heart is defined by scholars as one that is in fear or awe from Allah (SW) because of His might and glory. It originates from the two letters ( ج ل ) that means something of might and that is why we say ( الله جلَّ جلاله ).

To understand the hadith of the prophet (SAAW) why would one fear that Allah (SW) will not accept from him, and the heart is of trembling [fear] is based on two main concepts. One is that whatever we practice can never be practiced perfectly because we are human beings, and we have our defects. The second is that whatever we practice will never rise to meet or be worthy to be presented to Almighty God. That matter was clear when the prophet (SAAW) in another hadith said: “No one will enter heaven based on the deeds he practiced.” Sahabah asked: Even you O messenger of Allah? He (SAAW) said “Even I, unless the Mercy of Allah is bestowed on me.[4]

In other words, sahabah felt that because they are not like the prophet (SAAW) they could not depend on deeds, but maybe the prophet (SAAW) who perfects his practices might depend on his deeds! But the answer is clear, it is all about the mercy of Allah in accepting our deeds even if incomplete or does not rise to His Might.

Allah (SW) considered trembling {fearful] hearts to be of true faith. Allah (SW) said: {[For] only those are true believers who, when God is mentioned, their hearts tremble.} 8:2.

One last point to mention. One might ask how we can balance between this concept of a trembling [fearful] heart if the name of God is mentioned and between another verse that Allah (SW) said: {These are the ones who [truly] believe and whose hearts grow calm [with assurance] at the remembrance of God. Most assuredly, it is by the remembrance of God that hearts grow calm.} 13:28?

The great Imam Al-Qushairy said: “The way or path that Allah (SW) treats the people of true knowledge is to alternate them between the clarity of His Might and the kindness of His Beauty. If He (SW) prevails on them through His Might the hearts tremble, and if He prevails on them through His Kindness the hearts become calm”.[5]

By Imam Kifah Mustapha

[1] Bukhari

[2] Muslim

[3] Ahmad

[4] Muslim

[5] Book of Lata’ef Al-Isharat