Is it the heart that sends a message to the brain, or the brain that sends a message to the heart?
“It is interesting to note that the heart starts beating in the unborn fetus even before the brain has been formed.”
And in fact, in the Quran, Allah relates the heart with understanding or thinking many times.
Surah Al-Munafiqun [63: 3] That is because they believed, then disbelieved, therefore their hearts are sealed, so they understand not.
What does a heart has to do with understanding? Isn’t it the brain that does the ‘thinking’ part, which leads to understanding?
Another few examples:
Surah Al-An’am [6: 25] : And of them there are some who listen to you; but We have set veils on their hearts, so they understand it not, and deafness in their ears; if they see every one of the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) they will not believe therein; to the point that when they come to you to argue with you, the disbelievers say: “These are nothing but tales of the men of old.”
Surah Al-Isra [17: 46] : And We have put coverings over their hearts lest, they should understand it (the Qur’an), and in their ears deafness. And when you make mention of your Lord Alone [La ilaha ill-Allah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah) Islamic Monotheism] in the Qur’an, they turn on their backs, fleeing in extreme dislikeness.
Surah At-Tawbah [9: 87] : …. Their hearts are sealed up (from all kinds of goodness and right guidance), so they understand not.
Back to the question, who does the thinking? The heart or the brain? Why did Allah relates the heart with understanding in the Quran?
According to science, the heart communicates with the brain and the rest of the body in 4 ways:
- Neurologically (through transmissions of nerve impulses),
- Biochemically (through hormones and neurotransmitters),
- Biophysically (through pressure waves).
- Energetically (through electromagnetic field interactions).
Through these biological communication systems, the heart has a significant influence on the function of our brains and all our systems.
This new scientific evidence shows that the heart uses these methods to send our brain extensive emotional and intuitive signals. Along with this understanding that the heart is in constant communication with the brain, scientists are discovering that our hearts may actually be the “intelligent force” behind the intuitive thoughts and feelings we all experience.
All these findings are nothing less but validation of the authentic saying of Prophet Mohammad, “Inside the human body there is a morsel of flesh which, if healthy, the whole body is healthy and which, if diseased, the whole body is diseased.” Then he pointed to his heart and said “This piece of flesh is this heart.”
In Arabic, the word Qolb (qof-lam-ba) is heart, and the word Qobl (qof-ba-lam) is before.
Just like the word Ilm (‘ain-lam-mim) is knowledge, and the word ‘Amal (‘ain-mim-lam) is action. Just switch the last two letters, and you get two different words, and these two are related. Knowledge and action are related to each other.
But what about Qolb and Qobl? What does ‘heart’ has to do with the word ‘before’?
In Surah Al-A’raf, [7: 172] :
[7 : 172] : And (remember) when your Lord brought forth from the Children of Adam, from their loins, their seed (or from Adam’s loin his offspring) and made them made them bear witness about themselves, He said, ‘Am I not your Lord?’ and they replied, ‘Yes, we bear witness.’ So you cannot say on the Day of Resurrection, ‘We were not aware of this,’
The heart knows something that it knew before it came into this realm. We knew a covenant that we took in another dimension, as mentioned in this verse. It was a sacred covenant. And it began with ‘alastu birabbikum’ – “Am I not your Lord?” And we replied as spirit, we replied in affirmative, ‘bala shahidna’ – “Indeed, You are our Lord and we witness to this.” We were brought into this world, and the world is a place of remembrance. It is to remember the previous existence. It is to recollect, to recall. This is why we called ‘zikrullah’ as ‘zikrullah’ because we are remembering what we are already knew. (‘Zikr’ means ‘remember’). We cannot remember something that we do not know previously. And this is the highest form of knowledge in our tradition. It is to know your Lord. [Source: Hamza Yusuf – Crisis of Knowledge]
Every human heart that came in to the world knows to this truth, as we already testified before we were born into this world. The heart knows who his Lord is. But the nafs has made him forget who his Lord is. And this is because we then become tainted with the dunya. That is why Allah sent Messengers as a reminder, to remind us who our Lord is.
And now we ask, how do we bring our ibadah to life? The first is to recognize that the spiritual heart has died. The ibadah is dead. In the middle of prayer, we suddenly ask, “Did I pray?” “How many rakaah did I pray?”
One of the spiritual signs that the spiritual heart has died is that the people don’t weep. Another sign is when they hear the Quran, it has no impact on their heart.
One of the ways to bring the heart to life is by reading the Quran with reflection. This is important because we have to know why things happen. Once we understand “Why” Allah has asked us to do this thing. Understanding causes the heart a desire to fulfill that thing because you are now using your intellect. And when the intellect is behind something, it’s not the same as when just you just following order. When you actually believe in something, you have conviction. And when there’s conviction, then there’s action. And when there’s action, there’s change. You will change, and things around you will change. So, reading the Quran with reflection is one of the reasons that Allah bring the life to heart.
Something to ponder on: How many people out there that went to an Islamic school, read the Quran but yet has no affect on their hearts? How many Muslim out there who didn’t pray even though they went to Islamic schools ever since they were a child?
p/s: When you read the Quran, begin with ta’wudz, because we don’t want the devil to influence our understanding of the Quran.
As mentioned in Surah An-Nahl [16: 98] :
[16 : 98] : So when you want to recite the Quran, seek refuge with Allah from Shaitan (Satan), the outcast (the cursed one).