The Kinds of Hearts
An Exposition of Hadith by Imam Khomeini
With my continuous chain of transmission reaching up to the Thiqat al- Islam Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni (R) from a group of our companions, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khalid, from his father, from Harun ibn al-Jahm, from al-Mufaddal, from Sa’d, from Abu Ja’far (A) that he said, “Verily, the hearts are [of] four (kinds) the heart that has [both] faith and hypocrisy in it, the heart that is inverted and upside down, the heart that has been sealed and is darkened, the heart that is clear and luminous (al-azhar).” [Sa’d], the narrator, says, “I asked him, “What is meant by ‘al-azhar’?” He replied, “it is a heart that has the likeness of a lamp. As to the heart that has been sealed, it is the heart of a hypocrite. The heart that is luminous is that of the believer, who is thankful when God gives him and is patient when subjected to tribulation. As to the heart that is inverted, it is the heart of the polytheist.” Then he recited this verse: What, is he who walks prone upon his face better guided or he who walks upright on a straight path? (67:22) [Then he added]; “As to the heart wherein is faith and hypocrisy-they were a people who lived in Ta’if; so if one of them should die in the state of hypocrisy, he would perish, and should he die in the state of faith he would attain salvation.”
Mankus means ‘inverted’ (maqlub). [The lexicographers] explain: (i.e. ‘I inverted something’ or ‘I put it means upside down’). According to al-Sihah, ÇáæáÏ ÇáãäßæÓ means a baby whose feet (at birth) come out before its head (ÇáÐí íÎÑÌ ÑÌáÇå ÞÈá ÑÃÓå). Closely associated is the meaning of ãßÈÇð Úáì æÌåå in the noble verse cited by the Imam, for ikbab means falling on one’s face, and therein is a figurative indication of the fact that the hearts of the polytheists (mushrikun) are inverted and their course of spiritual movement is other than the Straight Path, as will be elaborated later on, God willing.
Matbu’ means ‘sealed’ (makhtum), and tab’ with sukun (of the ba’), means ‘sealing’ (khatm), and with its harakah (i.e. taba’) means impurity (danas, wasakh). If it be taken in the sense of ‘sealed,’ it would figuratively mean that the word of truth and Divine truths do not enter such a heart and it does not accept them-not that God, the Exalted, deprives it of His special grace, although this sense is also true. However the aforementioned sense is more appropriate.
‘Azhar’ means ‘white’ (abyad) and ‘luminous’ (mustanir), as mentioned in al-Nihayah. According to a!-Sihah ‘azhar’ means ‘bright’ (nayyir), and the moon is called azhar. Ibn al-Sikkit says: al-azharan means the sun and the moon. Azhar [when spoken of a man] means a white man, of a bright face, and such a woman is Zahra’. To sum up, azhar means luminous and white; hence the sun and moon are called azharan; a white and luminous man is called azhar and a white and luminous women is Zahra’.
‘Ajrad’ is someone who has no hair on his body, and according to al-Sihah, al-jurd means a treeless (open) space. And this figuratively implies the absence of attachment to the world, or freedom from impurity and defilement. We shall expound that which needs explication in this noble tradition in the course of a preface and a few sections.
Reforming The Heart
It should be known that the term ‘heart’ has various meanings in the terminology of the Shari’ah, and that of philosophy and ‘irfan. To discuss that and the related terminological differences, as well as the ranks and degrees of the hearts, is outside the scope of this discourse and is not very beneficial for us. Therefore, it would be better to take the matter in its unexplicated simplicity, as is done in the noble tradition, and discuss that which is important and essential for us.
It should be known that the endeavor to reform the ‘heart,’ on whose wholesomeness and corruption depends one’s felicity and wretchedness, is more essential than an inquiry into its meanings and delving into the technical jargon. In fact, it often happens that intense attention to terms and preoccupation with words and that which relates to them make one totally oblivious of the heart and its reform.
[As a result] one may acquire complete mastery in expounding the meaning and essence of the heart and the terminology of the metaphysicians (hukama’) and the mystics (‘urafa) while one’s heart, na’udhubillah, is one that is either inverted or sealed, like someone who knows well the beneficial and harmful properties of medicines and is able to describe them with expertise without himself refraining from poisonous medicines or making use of the beneficial ones. Such a person perishes despite all his knowledge of pharmacology, which is unable to rescue him.
We said earlier that all the sciences are absolutely practical and even the transcendental sciences have a practical aspect in them. Here that which we have to say is that the science of the states of the heart and that which relates to their health and sickness, reform and corruption, is something which is purely a preliminary step to action and the way of its reform and remedy. Its mere knowledge and understanding is not considered a human perfection. Hence one’s main attention and goal should be the reform and refinement of the heart so that one may attain to ultimate spiritual felicity and to the higher transcendent stations.
And even if one were well adept in the sciences, the subtleties and the realities, during the course of his journey through ‘the horizons and the souls’, his main concern should be the discovery of his own spiritual states, so that if it were ruinous he should try to remedy it, and if oriented towards salvation, try to make it complete and perfect.
The Basis For The Classification Of The Hearts
One should know that this classification of the hearts made in this noble tradition is one that is non-detailed and general. Every heart has a different rank and degree, whether it is from the viewpoint of shirk and hypocrisy or that of faith and perfection. Apparently, this classification of the hearts is subsequent to acquisition and spiritual conduct, not one based on the nature and constitution of different souls, so as to conflict with traditions concerning fitrah, which state that all people are born with the nature of tawhid and that shirk and hypocrisy are accidental [and not innate in human nature].
However, even if it were on the basis of nature, that would be correct in accordance with one explanation which removes the contradiction and does not lead to predestination, which is something impossible.
Nevertheless, that which is closer to metaphysical proof and more conducive to education is the first probability. And we said earlier that as long as man remains in this world, which is the source of the tree of primal matter with its substantial, formal, and accidental changes and transformations, he can deliver himself from all levels of deficiency, wretchedness, shirk, and hypocrisy and attain to the higher levels of perfection and spiritual felicity. And this is not contrary to the famous hadith that states: The wretched one is wretched in his mother’s womb.
for the meaning of the tradition is not that felicity and wretchedness are innate and incapable of change. Rather, this tradition accords with metaphysical proof, which has been set forth in clarity in its proper place, that wretchedness is derived from deficiency and non-being, and that felicity derives from being and its perfection.
That which belongs to the immaculate tree of being is the sacred Divine Being in accordance with the ranks of causes and means-which is the way of the best of the latter generations and the most perfect of the early ones, the Nasir of the millah and din, i.e. Khwajah Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (Q) or on the basis of manifesting and being manifested (zahiriyyah and mazhariyyah), unity and multiplicity-which is the way of the greatest of philosophers, Hadrat Sadr al-Muta’allihin. And that which derives from deficiency and non-being pertains to the vicious tree of quiddity, which is not the object of creation because of its being below creation (ja’l).
It may be said that the when the noble tradition says that felicity and wretchedness accompany one in the ‘mother’s womb’ that which is meant is the world of corporeal nature (‘alam-e tabiyyat) which is the absolute mother, the womb and the cradle wherein nature nurtures its offsprings. That is, the expression ‘mother’s womb’ is not to be taken in its ordinary sense, because felicity, being perfection and actuality, cannot belong to the primal souls (nafus-e hayuliyyah) except potentially.
Since the literal import is that the felicitous are felicitous in act in the mother’s womb, the contrary of the literal meaning has to be adopted. And since that which has been said is in accordance with metaphysical proofs, the noble tradition has to be interpreted solely in this sense or something equivalent to it. In any case any elaboration of this matter and discussion of its proof is outside the scope of this discourse, though at times the pen rebels and runs contrary to the set aim.
The Reason Why The Kinds Of Hearts Are Confined To The Four
Some [scholars] have said that the reason for confining the kinds of hearts to four is that the hearts either possess faith or they don’t. In the first case, the faith possessed pertains to all that the Messenger has brought or only to a part of that. The first is the heart of the believer (mu’min) and the second is a heart wherein faith and hypocrisy are both present. In the second case, there is either an outward confession of faith or there isn’t. The first is the heart of the hypocrite and the second that of a polytheist (mushrik).
This interpretation does not accord with the noble tradition, which implies that at times there is real faith in all that the Prophet (S) has brought and at times there is hypocrisy. Hence, if one were forced to interpret, it would be better to say that the heart either has faith in all that the Prophet (S) has brought or it doesn’t.
In the second case, there is either a pretence of faith or there isn’t. In the first case, the faith is either stable and established in it or [it is unstable], believing at one time and disbelieving at other times, making a pretense of belief in the state of disbelief also. The concluding part of the tradition shows that the repentance of those who apostatize after belief, to revert to unbelief and hypocrisy, is accepted, even if it should occur repeatedly.
In another tradition of the noble al-Kafi, Imam Baqir (A) divides the hearts into three kinds: (1) the inverted heart (qalb-e mankus), wherein there is no good; that is an unbeliever’s heart; (2) the heart wherein there is a black spot, in which there is a conflict between good and evil, each of which seek to overcome the other; (3) the ‘open heart’ (qalb-e maftuh) wherein are lamps whose lights will not go out until the Day of Resurrection; that is the heart of the believer.
This [division] does not conflict with the noble tradition [under exposition], for the first category mentioned in the above tradition includes the two kinds mentioned by the hadith, that is, the hearts of the polytheist and the hypocrite. That is because the hearts of all those three groups (i.e. unbelievers, polytheists and hypocrites) are inverted, and no inconsistency would be involved if inversion be [considered] the salient characteristic of the hearts of an unbeliever and polytheist and being seated the salient characteristic of the hypocrite’s heart, and accordingly each of them is ascribed to either of them in the tradition.
The States Of The Hearts
We shall begin with the believer’s heart so that the state of the other hearts be known in contrast. It should be known that in the transcendental sciences and the true teachings it has been clearly established that the reality of ‘being’ is the reality of ‘light.’ These two terms signify one simple reality without being attributable to any separate multiple aspects. It is also known that that which pertains to perfection and completion derives from being itself.
This is one of the noble principles, and to anyone who has the honor to apprehend it the door to the higher teaching is opened. Our feeble spirits are unable to apprehend the reality of that Being without a help from the Hidden and a success predestined from eternity. It is also known that faith in God belongs to the category of knowledge and is one of the absolute perfections. Hence, being a perfection, it belongs to being itself and the reality of light and manifestation. And that which is other than faith and all that relates to it, is outside the category of the perfections of the human spirit, belonging to the darkness of non-being and quiddity.
The Luminosity Of The Believer’s Heart
Hence it is known that the ‘believer’s heart is luminous. It is narrated in the noble al-Kafi from Imam al-Sadiq (A) that he said, “You see some people who are so perfect in eloquence that they don’t err in [the use of a single letter like] lam or waw, while their hearts are darker than a gloomy night, and there are some people who cannot express what is in their hearts, yet their heart is radiant like a lamp.” Further, the believer’s heart is on the Straight Path and his spiritual movement is on the middle path of humanity. That is because, firstly, he has not deserted his primal divine nature, fashioned in forty days by God, the Exalted, with the hands of His Beauty and Glory.
Thus, he walks on the path of the nature of tawhid, oriented towards absolute perfection and consummate beauty. Inevitably, this spiritual movement from the plane of innate nature to the ultimate point of absolute perfection is without any crookedness, being as it is the path of spiritual rectitude and the middle inner way. However, all other hearts deviate from nature and the straight path. It is narrated of the Noblest Messenger (S) that he drew a straight line on the ground drawing other lines on its either side. Then he said, “This one, the straight and middlemost line, is my path.”
Explanation Of The Believer’s Being On The Straight Path
Secondly, the believer is the follower of the Perfect Man, and since the Perfect Man is the manifestation of all the Names and the Attributes and subject to the Lordship of the Truth, the Exalted, by virtue of the All inclusive Name (ism-e jami), his being is not monopolized by anyone of the Names.
Like his Lord, he is an all-inclusive being and in him, the manifestation of any of the Names is not overshadowed by that of any other Name. He possesses the station of middleness (maqam-e wasafiyyat) and the major mediation (barzakhiyyat-e kubra). Hence, his movement is along the straight and middlemost path of the All-inclusive Name.
All other beings are dominated by one of the encompassing or non- encompassing Names of which they are manifestations. Their origin and return is from and to that Name. The Name opposite to it is latent in it and plays no active role in it except from the aspect of the unity of all the Names-something whose explanation is not appropriate here. Hence God, the Exalted, at the station of the All-inclusive Name and the Lord of Man (rabb al-insan), is on the Straight Path, as He says: Verily my Lord is on the Straight Path. (11:56)
That means the station of middleness and all-inclusiveness (jami’iyyat) without the predominance of an Attribute over another and without the manifestation of one Name rather than that of another. A being subject to the Lordship of that Sacred Being at this station is also on the Straight Path, without any station or aspect overshadowing another station or aspect.
Hence [the believer] in the course of his real upward ascension [i.e. prayer] and the ultimate point of proximity [to the Divine], after making an admission of servitude, after referring every worship and service by every worshipper to that Sacred Essence and ascribing all help in all stations of expansiveness and straits (qabd wa bast) exclusively to that Sacred Being, by declaring: Thee only we worship and Thee only we ask for help. (1:5)
says: Guide us to the Straight Path. (1:6)
This is the same path as that of the Lord of the Perfect Man, the former from the [active] aspect of manifesting (zahirriyyat) and Lordship (rububiyyat) and the latter from the [passive] aspect of being manifested [mazhariyyat] and creaturehood [marbubiyyat]. None of the other existents and beings in movement towards Allah are on the Straight Path, but are deviant, inclining either towards (Divine) Grace and Beauty or towards Might and Glory.
The faithful (mu’minin), since they are followers of the Perfect Man and walk in his footsteps, they journey by the light of his guidance and the lamp of his knowledge (ma’rifah) in submission to the sacred being of the Perfect Man.
They don’t take any step by themselves and do not allow their intellect to meddle with the character of the spiritual journey towards Allah. For this reason, their path is also straight, and in the company of the Perfect Man their fulfillment (wusal) is subordinate to the fulfillment of the Perfect Man, provided that they protect their clear hearts from the workings of the devils, the ego, and egoism, and submit themselves totally in the journey to the Perfect Man and the station of ultimate prophecy.
Some Stratagems Of Satan
One of the evil workings of Satan is to make man turn the face of his heart away from the Straight Path and towards some coquettish person (shukh) or guru (shaykh). One of the great masterpieces of Satan, who whispers into the hearts of men, is that he, with gay and nonchalant discourse and deceptive manipulations, makes some spiritual gurus (shuyukh) enamored to some coquette, justifying this major sin, or an act of spiritual polytheism, on the pretext that if the heart were to have a singular attachment one can succeed faster in curtailing worldly attachments.
At [other] times he turns some mindless coquette towards some demonic guru, one who seduces people or is rather a satanic highwayman. The pretext offered for this act of explicit polytheism (shirk-e jali) is that the guru is a Perfect Man and that only through the Perfect Man, one can attain to the realm of absolute transcendence, which is not manifested except in the mirror of the guru.
At the end of their lives, the two of them-that one with the memory of his favorite’s cheek and this one with the inverted face of his guru-join the world of demons and Satans, and neither the former gets rid of his bestial attachment nor the latter reaches the goal through this blind alley.
It should be known that since the believer’s journey is on a Straight Path and his heart is upright, his orientation is towards Allah and his way is the middle path. As a result, in that world too his path is clear and straight, his posture upright, and his appearance and character, his inward and outward, have a human form and shape.
One can understand the character of the heart of the polytheists in contrast to this. As his heart deviates from the Divine nature, and strays from the central point of perfection and the hub of light and beauty, departing from submission to the absolute Guide and Guardian (Wali) and preoccupied with its own ego and egoism, the world and its ornaments, consequently in the other worlds also it is not resurrected with the straight human character and form but in the form of an animal with a head turned about.
That is so because, in that world, form and shape are subject to the character of the heart and the outward reflects the inward and the shell is the image of the kernel. The matter of that realm is not averse to accepting the inward malakuti forms as in this world, and this thesis has been established in its proper place.
Hence the hearts which are averse to the Truth and Reality and deviate from straight nature, oriented and directed as they are towards the world, their image too, like themselves, deviates from straightness, being inverted, facing the world and physical nature (tabi’at), which is the lowest of the low. Perhaps, in that world some would walk on their faces with their feet upwards, some on their bellies, and some on their hands and feet, like animals, the way they in fact walked in this world: Is he who goes inverted on his face more rightly guided or he who walks upright on a straight path?
It is possible that this metaphor in the metaphoric world becomes a reality in the realm of reality and manifestation of spirituality. In some noble traditions relating to the exegesis of this noble verse, the ‘Straight Path’ is interpreted as referring to Hadrat Amir al-Mu’minin and the Infallible Imams (A): In al-Kafi, al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Abu al-Hasan al-Madhi (Imam Musa al-Kazim) that Muhammad bin al-Fudayl says: When asked concerning the meaning of the verse, “Is he who goes inverted on his face more rightly guided or he who walks upright on a straight path?” the Imam replied, “Verily, God has struck a similitude [in this verse]: one who deviates from the wilayah of ‘Ali (A) is like one who walks on his face and is not guided, and He has made one who follows him as one who walks upright on a straight path, and ‘the Straight Path’ is Amir al-Mu’minin (A).”
In another tradition, the ‘Straight Path’ is explained as meaning ‘Ali (A) and the rest of the Imams (A).
Also, it is narrated in the noble al-Kafi from Fudayl that he said, “I entered the Holy Mosque (of Makkah) with Imam al-Baqir (A) and he was leaning upon me. Then he threw his blessed glance upon the people as we stood at the Door of Bani Shaybah. Then he said, ‘O Fudayl, they used to circumambulate in this manner [even] during the days of the Jahiliyyah!
They neither recognized any truth nor followed any creed. O Fudayl, look at them, they walk inverted on their faces! May God damn them, they are a disfigured creation walking on their faces.” Then he recited the noble verse, Is he who goes inverted on his face more rightly guided or he who walks upright on a straight path. Then he added, “By God, that means ‘Ali (A) and his awsiya’ (A).”
In the foregoing, we have explained how the journey and the movement of the Perfect Man are on the Straight Path. However, the exposition of the matter that the Perfect Man is the Straight Path itself is beyond our purpose in this discourse.
The Hypocrite’s Heart And The Difference Between It And The Believer’s Heart
The states of the heart of the believer and the polytheist-and even that of the unbeliever-became known from the exposition in the foregoing section. A comparison also discloses the state of the hypocrite’s heart. That is because the believer’s heart has nor departed from its original innocent and clear nature and it naturally accepts any truths relating to faith and the true teaching. The harmony and compatibility between the nourishment-which consists of the truths and the teachings-and the nourished one-which is the heart in its state of original nature-is preserved.
Hence in another tradition of the noble al-Kafi, the believer’s heart has been said to be ‘open’ (maftuh), and although this ‘opening’ may refer to one of the ‘threefold openings’ (futhat-e thalathah), this meaning is also appropriate.
However, as the hypocrite’s heart has obscurities and darkness formed in it contrary to the human nature, such as ignorant prejudices (ta’assubhaye jahiliyyat), blameworthy moral traits, vanity, ambition, and other qualities contrary to the [primal] nature, it is closed and sealed. It is not at all receptive to the word of truth and its tablet is like a page of paper that is totally blackened, on which nothing can be inscribed. Its pretense of religiosity, arising from its satanic character, is a means to secure worldly benefit and advancement in mundane matters.
It should be known that the hearts of the polytheist and the hypocrite are both inverted and sealed, as is clear and evident. But the attribution of one of these qualities to each of them in particular is for the reason that, as the hearts of the polytheists are turned in worship towards other than That which is Absolute Perfection, they have two properties and characteristics: one is sincere humility [in front of the object of worship] and another is the deficiency and obfuscation created by this humility, which is diverted towards imperfect beings and creatures.
Hence, their hearts are inverted and this is their predominant characteristic. As to the hypocrite, he is either a polytheist in reality -and in this respect he shares equally with the polytheists the quality of inversion of the heart- besides possessing an additional quality [i.e. hypocrisy], or he is an unbeliever in reality and possesses no religiosity.
Although his heart too is inverted, it has another quality, which is predominant. That additional quality is his outward pretense of following the truth. He enters the congregation of the followers of the Truth and hears all the truthful preaching that is heard by the believers. Yet, while the believer absorbs them due to his inner purity and open heart, the hypocrite fails to receive them due to the darkness and obscurities of his heart, which is closed and sealed.
The reason for singling out for mention from among the attributes of the believer the two characteristics, of gratitude on being favored with gifts and patience in trials is the salient character of these two among the believer’s qualities. These are two of the major virtues from which other virtues branch out, and we have alluded to this in the exposition of some of the earlier traditions.
Further, the tradition refers to two of the Divine Attributes, of Glory and Beauty, or Might and Grace, each of which is manifested in the condition of tribulation and the condition of being well provided. And although tribulation belongs to the Attributes of Grace, but since it manifests through Might, it is reckoned as belonging to it, as mentioned in the discussions on Divine Names and Attributes. The believer always observes the duties of servitude between the two manifestations.
Neglect Of The Truth Results In The Inversion Of The Heart
From the foregoing discussion it is known that the souls, though they should have belief in God and Resurrection, become inverted if they are totally absorbed by attention towards the world and preoccupied with mundane advancements while being neglectful of God. The criterion in respect of the inversion of the heart is the neglect of God and attention to the world and its cultivation.
Such belief is either not faith, as mentioned in the exposition of some of the earlier traditions, or is an insignificant and inadequate faith that is not inconsistent with the inversion of the heart. In fact, one who makes a pretense of belief in transcendence and Resurrection but has no trepidation arising from such a belief and whom this belief does not lead to act with his bodily members, such a one is to be considered as belonging to the hypocrites, not as one of the believers. Possibly this sort of apparent believers, like the people of Ta’if, who in the noble tradition are mentioned as being typical of those who are believers at one time and hypocrites at another time, may altogether lose this hollow faith which has no sovereignty in the realm of their physical, bodily existence (mulk).
They might leave this world in a state of complete hypocrisy to be resurrected amongst the hypocrites. This is one of the crucial matters to which our weak spirits must attach great importance, taking care that the effects of faith become established in our manifest and hidden, inner, and outer, being. In the same way as we claim to possess faith in the heart, we should make our outward being also subject to its authority, so that the roots of faith become established in our hearts, not to be destroyed by any kind of obstacle or hindrance, transformation and change, so that this Divine trust of a celestial and pure heart, fashioned with its Divine nature, is returned to the Sacred Being unaffected and unsoiled by the workings of Satan and hands of treachery. And to Allah belongs all praise, at every beginning and end. ‘
 Usul al-Kafi, vol. II, p. 422, “kitab al-Iman wa al-kufr” “bab fi Zulmah qalb al-munafiq” hadith 2.
 Al-Nihayah, vol. ii, p. 321, under z.h.r.
 Author’s Note. It should be known that that which is meant here is not that the science of ethics and the things which lead to the salvation and damnation of the soul are not necessary. Rather, what is meant it that that science is to considered as a mere preliminary to action, not as something of independent worth is whose pursuit and in collecting whose technical jargon one should spend a lifetime and be kept from one’s real goal.
 See under the exposition of Twenty-sixth Hadith.
 See Seventeenth Hadith.
 Bihar al-anwar, vol. v, p. 153, “kitab al adl wa al-ma’ad’ “bab al-sa’adah wa al shaqawah” hadith 1, with a slight difference in wording.
 Usul al-Kafi, vol. ii, p. 423, “kitab al-iman wa al-kufr” “bab Zulmah qalb al-munafiq” hadith 3.
 Usul al-Kafi, vol. ii, p. 422, “kitab al-iman wa al-kufr” “bab Zulmah qalb al-munafiq” hadith 1:
 Sadr al-Muta’allihin, Tafsir al-Quran al-Karim, vol. iv, p. 52, exegesis of 2:256 (ayat al-Kursi); See also al-Majlisi, ‘Ilm al-yaqin, vol. ii, p. 967.
 Al-Kafi, vol. i, p. 432, “Kitab al-hujjah” “bab fihi nukat wa nutaf min al-tamzil fi al-Wilayah” hadith 91.
 Bihar al-anwar, vol. XXIV, p. 15, “kitab Imamah” bab 24, hadith 17:
 Rawdat al-Kafi, p. 288, hadith 434:
 These are; al-fath al-qarib, al-fath al-mubin, and al-fath al-mutlaq.
 See Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Twenty-first Hadith.
 See Ninth, Twentieth and Twenty-sixth Hadith.