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Enslavement of the Hearts

Enslavement of the Hearts
Shaykh Sulaymn as-Sulaym

True Freedom

Without doubt, we all hate the slavery and subjugation we see upon the earth today. That being the subjugation of men over men, where some subjugate others, humiliating them and trampling over them. This is indeed hated. However, what we will talk about today is different to this. It is as Rab’ Ibn ’mir radiallhu ’anhu said,

  “Allh has sent us to deliver whomsoever chooses, from the worship of men, to the ’ubdiyyah (worship and servitude) of Allh. And from the narrowness of this world, to the vastness of this world and the Hereafter. And from the oppression of the (false) religions, to the justice of Islm.” [2]

The Noble Ones

The ’ubdiyyah (submission and worship) mentioned here is the ’ubdiyyah to Allh, which makes a person the noblest of all the creation upon the earth. One of the Salaf said in a couplet:

  “What has made me noble and precious,
Is that You, O Allh, have made me enter into Your submission,
And You have made me one of the followers,
Of Your Prophet, Muhammad sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam.”

This ’ubdiyyah – this submission and worship – is what Allh refers to in His Book:

  “I have not created the Jinn and Mankind, except to worship Me.” [3]  

In another verse, Allh says:

  “O Mankind! Worship your Lord who created you from a single person.” [4]  

But how do we define this ’ubdiyyah? This ’ubdiyyah is all that Allh loves and is pleased with, whether it is an action of the heart, tongue or limbs. [5]We however, will specifically discuss the ’ubdiyyah of the heart. [6]

Enslavement of the Heart

Allh – the Most High – has placed in everyone that He has created, a heart which must be filled; either with submission and servitude to Allh, or with submission and servitude to other than Allh. Every single heart has feelings, desires and inclinations. The question is: will those feelings, desires and inclinations be directed to Allh alone, or will they be directed to other than Allh? Only the former truly being the subjugation and servitude to Allh. The ’ubdiyyah of the heart to things other than Allh are many. Sometimes it is submission and servitude to money, sometimes to power and position, sometimes to women; and other such things that people covet very much. However, what they covet can either lessen their servitude and worship of Allh, or completely nullify it!

The Slave of Wealth

Someone may ask: what is the proof that some people submit themselves to money and other such things? The proof is in the hadth of the Prophet sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam where he said,

  “Wretched is the worshipper of the Dirham, wretched is the worshipper of the Dnr...” [7]

Someone may ask: how does this servitude to money manifest itself and what is it’s nature? It is when the heart becomes so in love with money, that it covers up, or suppresses the love for Allh. Even to the degree that the persons attempts to attain that wealth by any means possible – neither caring whether that wealth comes to him through lawful means; in obedience to Allh and His Messenger sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam, or means that are unlawful and prohibited in the Religion.

Understand by reflection, that every single heart in all created things has feelings, desires and inclinations. It has the desire to love, to gain good and beneficial things for itself; It can feel fear, terror, and also it can submit and surrender. When its feelings, desires and inclinations are all directed towards Allh, then it is a heart that worships and serves Allh alone. Therefore, it fears only Allh, seeks and desires only Allh’s mercy, it loves Allh and whatever He loves; and it surrenders and submits itself only to Allh. However, when these feelings desires and inclinations are directed to other than Allh, then it is a heart which worships and serves that object which has captured and enslaved it.

Significance of Wealth

The forbiddance of the heart submitting to other than Allh should not be misunderstood to mean that Muslims must forsake the world and dealing with it. Rather, the true position of a Muslim is that which was with the Sahbah (Companions) radiallhu ’anhum. They held the wealth in their hands, yet none of this was in their hearts. [8]The point being made is that we are not trying to call the people to the opinion of some of the Sfs, who believe that it was forbidden for a Muslim to possess wealth and take part in any worldly transaction. Rather, it is obligatory for the Muslims to be the richest of people so that they may use this wealth as a means to help people and worship Allh – the One free from all imperfections.

Another form of submitting to other than Allh is when people submit and surrender their hearts to power and leadership. They are willing for humiliation to take hold of them and to abandon their scruples in order to gain votes during elections, or other such similar matters. They are prepared to humble themselves in front of other people, doing whatever is necessary for them to do in order to win over other peoples favour and thus gain that position. This is thus another form of submitting ones heart to other than Allh.

The Sincere ’Ubdiyyah to Allh:

As opposed to all of this, the true ’ubdiyyah to Allh, the true submission and surrender of ones heart to Allh, is the same as when we say: Tawhd - to single out Allh alone for worship. When the person has this ’ubdiyyah, he worships Allh alone, fears Allh alone, loves Allh and all his inclinations and desires are directed only to Allh. For this reason, Tawhd is the greatest deed a person can perform and the most beneficial deed a person can possess for himself upon the Day of Judgement. This is why the Prophet sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam said,

  “Whoever witnesses: L ilh illallh[9], sincerely, from his heart, will enter Paradise.” [10]

Meaning, he actualised Tawhd in his life. Likewise, based upon this, we understand that any act of worship, any good action or nice manner – when it is not accompanied by this Tawhd – will not be accepted by Allh upon the Day of Judgement, no matter of what value it seemingly was.

The Greatness of Tawhd

What shows to you the greatness of this submission and worship of Allh in the heart, is the incident related in Sahhul-Bukhr (6/494) that the Prophet sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam said,

  “A man sinned greatly against himself. So when death came, he said to his sons: When I die, burn me and crush me and scatter my ashes into the sea. For by Allh, if my Lord takes possession of me, He will punish me in a manner in which He has not punished anyone. So they did that to him. Then Allh said to the earth: Bring forth what you have taken – and there he was! Allh said to him: What induced you to do what you did? The man said: Due to fear of You, O my Lord. So Allh forgave him because of this.”

This shows us the greatness of khashyah (fear), since this fear he had was one of the meanings included in al-’ubdiyyah – the servitude to Allh.

This is why all actions – even if they were to fill the heavens and the earth – will not be accepted by Allh, unless these actions have sprouted from a person having pure submission, worship and servitude to Allh, worshipping Allh alone and not associating any partner along with Him in this worship – not falling into Shirk. [11]Allh – the One free from all imperfections – says:

  “Allh does not forgive that any partners should be set-up with Him, but He forgives anything lesser than that to whomsoever He chooses. Whomsoever commits Shirk with Allh has indeed invented the most grievous sin.” [12]  

Allh – the One free from all imperfections – also says:

  “And We came forth to what they brought from their actions, and We made it scattered dust.”  

That which shows us the greatness of Tawhd also is this second incident: A Jewish boy who used to serve the Prophet sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam had become ill. So the Prophet sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam went to visit him and sat by his head and said:

  Accept Islm (meaning: Testify to L ilh ilallhu Muhammadur-Raslullh).” The boy looked at his father who was with him. So his father said to him: Obey Abl-Qsim (i.e. the Prophet) sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam. So he accepted Islm. As the Prophet sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam was leaving, he said: “All praise is for Allh who saved this boy from the Fire.” [13]

Meaning, that although this person had no good deeds, yet because of his saying this statement purely and sincerely from his heart, it was enough to save him from the Hellfire, and cause Him to enter Paradise.

The Fruits of Tawhd

So as this Tawhd strengthens in the heart, becoming stronger, firmer, and more well-rooted, then as a result, one’s deeds will likewise multiply and his worship of Allh will become greater and more firm. Since, if a person realizes with ihkls (sincerity) and yaqn (certainty) in his heart. [14]That Allh – the Most High – is the one who has created him, then he knows that he should only worship Allh – the One free from all imperfections. As this becomes firmer in his heart, good deeds become more apparent and multiply in number.

Reflect upon the great Wisdom of Allh, in that when he created Hellfire, He created it with different levels and degrees. The highest level being the one having the least punishment and torment in it – which is for those people who had Tawhd, yet had many sins. Though they will be punished at this level, until they are purified from their sins – due to this Tawhd and ’ubdiyyah to Allh alone in their hearts – they will eventually be saved from the Fire and admitted into Paradise. This level of Hellfire will then have no inhabitants left in it. This shows the greatness and virtue of Tawhd and the worship of Allh alone, due to which they will eventually be rescued from the Hellfire, not being eternally condemned in it.

The Prophetic Method

What also shows the importance of Tawhd is the life and example of the Prophet sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam. It can be divided into two stages: The first stage is when he sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam was in Makkah. The second stage was in al-Madnah. In Makkah his message was only to teach one thing; the worship of Allh alone without any partners – Tawhd or ’ubdiyyah to Allh alone. The Prophet sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam did not call the people the leave any other sin, or to do any other good deed. During this period he only called the people to single out Allh in worship, since this is the foundation upon which all else is built.

We must understand that once a person has truly submitted his heart to the worship of Allh alone, he will then begin to fulfill all the obligations which Allh has placed upon him to the best of his ability. This is made clear by the statement of ’’ishah radiallhu ’anh - who said:

  “The first part (of the Qur‘n) to be revealed was a Srah giving a detailed account of Paradise and Hell. Then, when people entered into the fold of Islm, came the revelation of what was hall (lawful) and harm (unlawful). Had the first revelation been: ‘Do not drink wine,’ they would have said: ‘We shall never give up wine.’ Had the first revelation been: Do not commit adultery and fornication, they would have said: ‘We shall never give up adultery and fornication.’ ” [15]

This then is the foundation for which, if a person agrees, he will then agree and desire to give up all other sins and acts of disobedience.

It was only after Tawhd, the worship of Allh alone; and the willingness to submit to Him, was understood by the Companions - radiallhu ’anhum - and it had settled in their hearts, that Allh – the One free from all imperfections – began to order them with the various commands. It was then that the command was revealed to establish Prayer, pay the zakt (obligatory charity), fast in Ramadhn, then afterwards the command to make Hajj; and so on until all the commands which Allh – the Most High – and the Messenger sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam have forbidden. Once this worship of Allh alone, and the submission to Him have settled in the hearts, it is also upon the Muslim to leave, forsake and avoid that which Allh and His Messenger have forbidden.

The Principle of Ease

There is a very important principle here which shows the greatness of the Religion of Islm and the Shar’ah in terms of prohibitions; whether they came by way of the Qur‘n or from the tongue of the Messenger sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam. It is required of the Muslim to give up all that Allh and His Messenger sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam have forbidden, without compromise or distinction. As for the orders of Allh, whether in the Qur‘n or from the Prophet sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam, the Muslim is required to fulfill them to the best of his ability. This is because the Religion is one of ease. For example, regarding the command to perform Hajj, Allh revealed in His Book:

  “It is a command upon mankind to perform Hajj for Allh to the House, for whomsoever has the means to do so.” [16]  

Meaning, the command is to be fulfilled is one is able, to the best of his ability. Since no Muslim – man or woman – can fulfill every command of Allh, whether it be from the obligatory duties or the recommended ones. As for those matters that Allh and His Messenger have forbidden, then they must be completely avoided, without any weakening in resolve. [17]This message of ’ubdiyyah to Allh – the One free from all imperfections – and singling Him out alone for worship, is the common message of all the Prophets and Messengers ’alayhimus-salm. Every single Prophet and Messenger came to his people saying:

  “O people: Worship Allh alone, none other than Him has the right to be worshipped.” [18]  

This was the message of the Prophet Nh, Ibrhm, Ms, ’s Ibn Maryam ’alayhimus-salm; and the seal and last of the Prophets, Muhammad sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam. They all came with this same message.


1. From a talk delivered by the honourable Shaykh – hafidhahullh – at the Jam’iyyatul-Qur’n was-Sunnah conference, 1994 U.S.A.
2. al-Bidyah wan-Nihyah (7/40) of Ibn Kathr
3. Srahtudh-Dhriyt 51:55
4. Sratun-Nis 4:1
5. Imm al-Maqrz says in Tajrdut-Tawhdil-Mufd (p. 82), “And know that al-’Ibdah (worship) has four principles, and they are, [i] ascertaining that which Allh and His Messenger love and are pleased with, establishing that with [ii] the heart, [iii] the tongue and [iv] the limbs. So al-’ubdiyyah is a comprehensive term for all of these four stages.”
6. As regards the importance of the heart, the Prophet sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam said, “Indeed there is a piece of flesh in the body, if it is correct, the whole body is correct, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt. Indeed that is the heart.” Related by al-Bukhr (1/126) and Muslim (no. 1599) from an-Nu’mn Ibn Bashr radiallhu ’anhu.
7. Related by al-Bukhr (no. 6435) and Ibn Mjah (no. 4132) from Ab Hurayrah radiallhu ’anhu.
8. Ibn Taymiyyah says in Wasiyyatus-Sughr (p. 55): “He should regard wealth like he regards the toilet. He has need of it, but it has no place in his heart and he resorts to it only when necessary.”
9. L ilha ilallh: None has the right to be worshipped except Allh.
10. Sahh: Related by Ibn Hibbn (no. 4) and Ahmad (5/236) from Mu’dh radiallhu ’anhu. It was authenticated by Shaykh al-Albn in as-Sahhah (no. 2355).
11. Shirk: It is to associate partners with Allh in those matters which are particular to Him.
12. Sratun-Nis 4:48
13. Related by al-Bukhr and Ahmad, from Anas radiallhu ’anhu.
14. Ikhls (purity and sincerity) and yaqn (certainty) being two of the seven conditions of for the establishment and acceptability of L ilha ilallh. The meaning, virtues and conditions of this kalimah will be discussed further in the next issue - if Allh wills.
15. Related by al-Bukhr - from Ysuf ibn Mhik.
16. Srah l-’Imrn 3:97
17. This principle is taken from the hadth of the Prophet sallallhu ’alayhi wa sallam: “Whatever I have forbidden you, then avoid as much of it as you can. Whatever I have ordered you to do, then do as much of it as you are able.” Related by al-Bukhr (no. 7288) and Muslim (no. 1337)
18. Srah A’rf 7:59





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