The saleem heart is one of the eight positive hearts that are found in the Quran, it’s one of the hearts that we should try to aspire to attain. Scholars often describe the heart as a vessel and that the end product is dependent on what we put in it. Learning more about the different hearts in the Quran helps us better assess where our own hearts stand. We ask Allah (swt) to be among those with hearts He praises in the Quran.
This specific heart, the saleem heart, is found in the Quran twice:
إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ
“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):
فَلَمَّا بَلَغَ مَعَهُ السَّعْيَ قَالَ يَا بُنَيَّ إِنِّي أَرَىٰ فِي الْمَنَامِ أَنِّي أَذْبَحُكَ فَانظُرْ مَاذَا تَرَىٰ
“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]
Can you just imagine having this kind of conversation? Can you imagine just receiving this kind of command? We probably can’t even imagine this, let alone how would we respond? But this was Prophet Ibrahim (as) and so he responded with nothing but obedience, there was no argument, not even hesitation - there was only obedience to the will of Allah (swt).
قَالَ يَا أَبَتِ افْعَلْ مَا تُؤْمَرُ ۖ سَتَجِدُنِي إِن شَاءَ اللَّهُ مِنَ الصَّابِرِينَ ۞ فَلَمَّا أَسْلَمَا وَتَلَّهُ لِلْجَبِينِ ۞ وَنَادَيْنَاهُ أَن يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ ۞ قَدْ صَدَّقْتَ الرُّؤْيَا ۚ إِنَّا كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ ۞ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَهُوَ الْبَلَاءُ الْمُبِينُ ۞ وَفَدَيْنَاهُ بِذِبْحٍ عَظِيمٍ ۞ وَتَرَكْنَا عَلَيْهِ فِي الْآخِرِينَ ۞ سَلَامٌ عَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ
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]
Prophet Ibrahim (as) was willing to sacrifice literally everything for the sake of Allah (swt), even his own son. Alhamdulilah, for this amazing example. Alhamdulilah, we have access to multiple great examples in the the prophets of Allah (swt). One thing we learn from them about devotion is that when they loved it was for the sake of Allah (swt), when they were angry it was for the sake of Allah (swt), and everything that they gave was for the sake of Allah (swt).
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).
We ask the Almighty to make us among those that return to Him with a heart that is saleem.
- Dua Aldasouqi