“The heart (qalb) is that which, if a man knows it, he knows himself, and ‘if he knows himself, he knows his Lord’. It is that which, if a man knows it not, he knows not himself, and if he knows not himself, he knows not his Lord.”
Inspired by the commonly quoted hadith, “He who knows himself, knows his Lord,” amongst Muslim Philosophers such as himself, Ibn’Arabi, Ibn’Sina, Rumi et al. Ghazzali’s further interpretation of this proverb to “know thyself” requires one to “know thy heart;” however, the heart, in this context, should neither be taken scientifically, nor (solely) emotionally. Meaning, although common interpretation also attains the heart a dual definition; first being the organ located on the left side of the chest responsible for blood circulation, and the second retained to its emotive and tender qualities, Islamic approach ameliorates its latter meaning by accepting the heart as “the center of consciousness, awareness, and intelligence.” The qalb, in this sense, is the eye of Rumi, the mirror of Ghazzali, and the sorcerer of khayalof Ibn’Arabi, which is a human’s essence in embracing God in the entirety of his manifestation in both rational understanding and suprarational unveiling.
Vis a vis, when one “lives'' with a numb heart from not knowing it, they lust for the lowest of the low and are brought down to the plane of the demons; while one who awakens their heart by knowing it, watching over it, being mindful of it, and observing what shines on it and in it of the treasures of the world of spirits, mounts up to the highest of the high, advanced to the world of the angels who are drawn near to God (Ghazzali)
En route of awakening our heart, the first step to be taken is to “be present” according to Sheikh Kabir Helminski. He explains, “It begins with that state in which we are whole, and in the present moment, and not live completely in our heads or preoccupy with the desires, comforts, discomforts and pleasures of the body, but when we are living in an awakened state,” which he further expands in his book Living Presence. Helminski states that this presence eventually yields to heartfulness, which correlates with the constant remembrance of God, as surely, “...hearts find tranquility only in the remembrance of Allah,” (Quran, 13:28).
Sheikh Kabir then reiterates this presence within remembrance with the following words,
“Our presence is related to a vast ocean of presence [...], what we call our presence, is sourced in something much greater. Yes, [we] have consciousness, [we] have a little bit of love, [we] have, maybe now and then (!) a little bit of patience…not very much… [we] have these qualities; but these qualities are not even [our] own, they’re sourced, in a vast, infinite ocean of being [...] this is what we mean by God.”
Therefore, the aim of moral discipline should be to purify the heart from the rust of passions and resentments, until like a clear mirror, it reflects the light of God (Ghazzali) with the precondition that one need be conscious of his superiority as the climax of all creation, to learn to know their helplessness, incompetence, and weaknesses in position to the Creator.
1 The Imaginal Worlds of Ibn Arabi.
2 Chittick, William. Ibn ‘Arabi