This specific heart, the saleem heart, is found in the Quran twice:
“When the only one who will be saved is the one who comes before God with a heart devoted to Him” [26:88]
إِذْ جَاءَ رَبَّهُ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ
“He came to His Lord with a devoted heart” [37:84]
The word saleem in translations is often translated into whole, complete, or devoted. The scholars have differed in the exact meaning behind this heart and the term saleem. Imam Ibn Kathir and Imam AlTabari, in their tafsir (exegesis) state that it is the heart that knows Allah (swt) is the truth, that the Day of Judgement is a certainty, and that Allah (swt) resurrects us after our death. Imam AlRazi says it is a heart that is free from ignorance and poor manners.
There are many sayings that are quoted in the tafsir books from the companions and those that come after them about the meaning of the saleem heart including the heart free from innovation, the heart that fears Allah, the heart that is free from the pain that comes with wealth, the sincere heart. Imam Qurtubi in his tafsir summarizes all of these and explains it as the heart that is free from all negative characteristics and that can be only described positively.
Many of the tafsir scholars also clarify that it is the heart that is free of disbelief but may commit sin, because no one is free of sin [AlTabari, Qurtubi, AlShawkani, Ibn Kathir]. It is important to make this distinction because it would otherwise be an unattainable heart. Although the scholars have differed on the exact definition of the word saleem in this instance, the tafsir scholars conclude that it is a positive heart free of negative characteristics and full of attachment to Allah (swt) that we must try to attain.
The two ayahs have two things in common: (1) both talk about returning to Allah (swt) and (2) they are both tied to Prophet Ibrahim (as). The first is a part of a prayer Prophet Ibrahim (as) asked Allah (swt) asking to be among those that return to Allah (swt) in the Hereafter with a devoted heart and the second is Allah (swt) describing Prophet Ibrahim (as) as coming to Him with a devoted heart.
There are many ayahs in the Quran that provide us with details about Prophet Ibrahim (as), describing things like his patience, gratitude, wisdom, obedience to Allah (swt), and compassion. One of the greatest examples is when Prophet Ibrahim (as) was asked to sacrifice his son for the sake of Allah (swt):
“And when he [the son of Ibrahim] reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, "O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think" [37:102]
He said, "O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast." ۞ And when they had both submitted and he put him down upon his forehead, ۞ We called to him, “O Ibrahim” ۞ You have fulfilled the vision. “Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.” ۞ Indeed this was the clear trial. ۞ And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice, ۞ And We left for him [favorable mention] among later generations: ۞ “Peace upon Ibrahim” [37:102-109]
Are we like this? Will we return to Allah (swt) and be among those with a saleem heart? Is every thing that we do, every thought, every action for Allah (swt)? Probably not - but it’s not too late to start now. It’s never too late to try and be among those that return to Allah (swt) with a saleem heart like that of Prophet Ibrahim (as).
- Dua Aldasouqi