While many of us remember to supplicate to Allah for guidance, knowledge, and Paradise, there is one important thing that we forget to include in our prayers. In a narration that many of us are familiar with, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Unquestionably, in the body, there is a lump of flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt, and behold, it is the heart.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Countless scholars of Islam have dedicated books upon books to reformation and purification of the heart because it is the key to success or destruction. Just as doctors today tell us that having a healthy heart is the key to having a healthy body, the Prophet (peace be upon him) conveys to us that having a good heart is the key to righteousness.

Anas narrated that asking for a firm and obedient heart was one of the constant supplications of the Prophet (peace be upon him); and one narration from Umm Salamah states that the Du’a he made the most was: “Allahumma ya Muqallib Al-Quloob thabbit qalbi ‘alaa Deenik,” which means, “O Turner of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your Religion.”

There is, however, another authentic Du’a narrated in Sahih Muslim that isn’t as well-known: “Allahumma Musarrif Al-Quloobi Sarrif Quloobana ‘Ala Ta’atika,” which means, “O Allah, Turner of the hearts, direct our hearts to Your obedience.”

Selected words analysis
Musarrif/Sarrif: Both these words come from the same root, which has many meanings such as, to turn, to divert, to turn from another direction, to avert, and to change. The meaning of this word in this Du’a is to turn or direct. How is this word different from “Muqallib Al-Quloob?” There are a few linguistic differences, but the essence of both supplications is the same. Qallaba, just like Sarrafa, means to change and turn the direction of something.

The linguistic difference is that Qallaba points more to constant moving and turning about, while Sarrafa points to changing of the direction. When we make this Du’a, we are asking Allah to Sarrif (turn and direct) our hearts to His Obedience, while in the other Du’a, we are asking Allah to Thabbit, i.e. make our hearts firm on Islam, and not Qallib because the heart is constantly changing about and turning directions.

Quloob: Quloob is plural of Qalb which means the heart. Qalb is the general word for heart. It comes from the root which means something that turns around and about and upside down, as mentioned above. It is the nature of hearts that they are constantly changing.

Ta’atika: Ta’ah means to obey and to submit. The beauty of this word is that it not only means to submit one’s self, it specifically means to submit willingly, voluntarily, and on one’s own free will. We are asking Allah to direct our hearts to willingly submit and obey Him.

Points of benefit
Supplications regarding the heart are found both in the Qur’an and Sunnah. In the Qur’an, the believers supplicate, “Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us.” (Qur’an, 3:8) Also in Surah Hashr, “And (there is a share for) those who came after them, saying, “Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in faith and put not in our hearts (any) resentment toward those who have believed.” (Qur’an, 59:10) Both of these Du’as are seeking refuge in Allah from corrupted hearts. The first Du’a seeks refuge from deviation after guidance, and the second from evil and ill-feelings towards fellow Muslims.

• The Prophet (peace be upon him) constantly made Du’a for a righteous and good heart. We learn from this the status of the heart and that we too should supplicate as much as we can for an obedient and a heart standing firm upon Islam.

• The nature of the heart is to constantly change, and asking Allah to direct our hearts to His Obedience shows that we are constantly falling short in our obedience to Him. By this Du’a, we ask Allah to keep turning our hearts back to His Obedience as we are prone to falter.

• Scholars like Imam Ibn Qayyim and Ibn Uthaymeen state that the intelligence and the understanding of a human lie in the heart, and not necessarily the brain. Their evidence for this statement is the verse, “So have they not traveled through the earth and have hearts by which to reason and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the chests.” (Qur’an, 22:46) Sheikh Ibn Uthaymeen says the brain is like a secretary who processes information, but it is the heart that decides to do good or evil based on that information.

• The heart is the foundation. We must purify our hearts from associating partners with Allah, from Bid’ah, from ill feelings against our fellow Muslims, and other evil deeds in our character and our theology. The Muslim should focus on the reformation of his heart as well as the accumulation of good deeds. The heart is the source of good deeds. It will be tested on the Day of Judgment. Allah says, “Knows he not that when the contents of the graves are brought out and poured forth (all mankind is resurrected). And that which is in the breasts (of men) shall be made known. Verily, that Day (i.e. the Day of Resurrection) their Lord will be Well-Acquainted with them (as to their deeds), (and will reward them for their deeds). (Qur’an, 100:9-11).”

• In another Hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) pointed to his heart and said three times, “Taqwa (consciousness and fear of Allah) is here.” (Musnad Ahmad) This Hadith shows us that when the heart fears Allah, then the limbs will follow, just as the first Hadith narrated that, “If it is sound (the heart), the whole body is sound.”

• This Du’a is a constant reminder for us that we are not in control of our guidance. It is crucial for us to make Du’a for our hearts on a regular basis because we do not know what the condition of our hearts will be tomorrow. The hearts of the children of Adam are between the two fingers of Allah, He turns them to any (direction) He likes. So, who else can we turn to than Musarrif Al-Quloob to keep our hearts towards the direction of His obedience?