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The Heart Plays a Central Role in Spiritual Attainment: Learnings from Quran and Upanishads

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam

26 June 2021

Heart Is the Dwelling Place of the Supreme Self

Main Points:

1. Quran says God's remembrance gives solace to the heart.

2. The holy prophet says Marfat is the act of the heart.

3. Upanishads say the Supreme Self is seated in man's heart.


Heart, Body and Mind are three constituents of a man's existence. A balanced co-ordination between these three constituents leads man to intellectual and spiritual knowledge and enlightenment. The Heart plays a central or pivotal role in the attainment of enlightenment (Marfat). Man needs to contemplate on the Supreme Self to attain spiritual union with Him. Zikr or remembrance of the Supreme Self is the most important part of spiritual enlightenment. And Zikr or remembrance takes place with the involvement of heart. Without the involvement of heart, remembrance becomes a mechanical activity controlled by Mind and leads man to nowhere. Therefore, the Heart is the centre of the process of spiritual enlightenment of man.

According to Upanishads, Purusha (Supreme Self) should be contemplated in the Heart in order to attain His realisation. In her article titled "Revelation as the Nature of Upanishadic Knowledge" Alena Adamkova sums up the sayings of Katha Upanishad on the topic in the following words:

"On the microcosmic level, Purusha is concentrated in the subtle sphere in the heart but He is not an object of vision-comprehension and nobody is able to see Him through his physical eye. He can be comprehended only with the help of the intellect (ruler of the mind situated in the heart) by a process of deep contemplation or concentrated thinking (manan)."

The Supreme Self can be cognised in the heart through contemplation and deep meditation. He cannot be cognised only through knowledge. A deep love of God and spiritual attachment to God is necessary for attaining enlightenment. Katha Upanishad says:

"Purush (Supreme Creator), the indwelling Self, of the size of a thumb, is ever seated in the hearts of man. One should unerringly separate Him from one's body like a stalk from a Munja grass."

Strikingly similar to Katha Upanishad's saying is the Quran's position on the centrality of heart in spiritual attainment. It says:

"And know that God comes in between Man and his heart. (Al Anfal: 24)

God separates man (his body) from his heart. In other words, God guards man's heart from his physical desires and machinations because the heart of man is the dwelling place of God.

Therefore, since the Supreme Self dwells in man's heart, his realisation can only be attained by man through contemplation on God in his heart. The holy Prophet of Islam pbuh also said the same thing:

"Al marfati feyl il qalb" (Enlightenment is the act of heart. Sahih Bukhari)

In other words, spiritual enlightenment can be attained through the heart. Indian philosopher and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore also wrote in his book Brahma Mantra, 1901):

"Paramatama ke je kebal jnaner dvara janiba taha nahe, taha ke hridayer dvara anubhab kariba". (Paramatma is not to be realised only through knowledge, He should be cognised in our heart.)

The Quran emphasises on the role of heart in attaining marfat through deep meditation, contemplation and remembrance which involves the heart.

"Ala Bizikrillahi Tatmainnul Qulub."(Ar Ra'ad:28)

(Heart gets solace in the remembrance of God)

Therefore, man's heart is central in the attainment of spiritual enlightenment. Spiritual enlightenment cannot be attained solely on the basis of knowledge because heart, not mind is the dwelling place of the Supreme Soul.


Sohail Arshad is a columnist with


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