The human being is recognised in most traditions as having two dimensions: the physical and the spiritual. Both of these need looking after and treatment when they are sick.
Sadly, modern secular thinking and indeed modern medicine largely focus on the body as a purely physiological machine, and although mental or psychiatric illnesses are of course recognised, the idea of a spiritual dimension is something often ignored or considered less important. Traditionally however the interaction of the body, mind and spirit was much more central in the understanding of health and disease.
The relationship of the body with the soul is the relationship of Islam with spiritual growth and purification of the heart.
The Prophet and final Messenger, Muhammad, may peace and blessings be upon him, came with the medicine for both the heart and the body, and both must be treated if one is to achieve the full potential of human life. This page will show first that this is the way of the Messenger, and second that the heart must be purified for it to spiritually grow.
The Way of the Messenger of Allah, may peace and blessings be upon him, was a threefold message, which is explained in the prayer made by our Master Abraham, may peace be upon him, on completing the building of the Ka’ba (the cuboid stone structure in Mecca, in the direction of which all Muslims face during prayer) .
“ O our Sustainer! Raise up from the midst of our offspring an apostle from among themselves who shall convey unto them Your messages, and impart unto them revelation as well as wisdom, and cause them to grow in purity.” [Quran, Surah Baqara 129]
When the Messenger Mohamed may peace and blessings be upon him , made his prophethood public, Allah reconfirmed these three aspects of the way:
“ He it is who has sent unto the unlettered people an apostle from among themselves, to convey unto them His messages, and to cause them to grow in purity.” [Quran, Surah jum’a 2]
Here we have Qur’an, the wisdom (hikmah) and purification (tazkiya). Too often this purification is ignored, despite it being the root upon which the growth of the spiritual tree is going to grow.
With respect to this, the Messenger of Allah, Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him, emphasised the need of purification of the heart when he said:
” Truly in the body is a piece of flesh which, if it be whole, all the body is whole and which, if it be diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly it is the heart.” [Hadith, found in the collections of Bukhari and Muslim]
The Messenger of Allah, Allah’s prayer and peace be upon has said:
”Islam is outward confession and faith [iman] is in the heart” and pointed to his chest thrice and then said,” Taqwa [awareness of God] is here, taqwa is here.” [Hadith in the Musnad of Ahmad]
Thus it is clear that the root is the inner, and the branch is the outer, for this was and is the way of the Messenger of Allah Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him. During the period of the Prophet’s life in Makkah, there was emphasis on calling people to affirm the Oneness of God, to invocation of “La ilaha ilAllah”, there is no deity except God. The outward actions of prayer, fasting in the month of Ramadan, and alms giving, were not made obligatory until 10 years after the start of Prophethood. In this time, the emphasis was on turning people away from their previous bad habits and ignorance of the Divine. The emphasis was on purification of the heart – for if it was whole then the whole body was whole.
This is what the companions of the Prophet understood. Our Master Abu Hurayrah, may God be pleased with him, would say:
“ The heart is the king and the limbs are its army, and when the king is treated then its army is also treated, and when the king is diseased the its army is also diseased.”
The purification of the heart reaps rewards not only in enabling good outward behaviour, but in providing peace and succour to the heart in this life time:
“To a Happy state shall indeed attain he who causes this self to grow in purity.”[Ash shams 9]