The servant is not afflicted with a punishment greater in severity than the hardening of the heart and its being distant from Allaah. The Fire was created to melt the hardened heart, this heart which is the most distant of hearts from Allaah. If the heart becomes hardened the eye becomes dry [and finds no joy or tranquillity].
There are four matters, when the limits are transgressed with regards to them, harden the heart: food, sleep, speech and sexual intercourse. A body afflicted by disease does not derive nourishment from food and water and similarly a diseased heart does not benefit from admonishment or exhortation.
Whosoever desires to purify his heart then let him give preference to Allaah over his base desires.
The heart that clings to its base desires is veiled from Allaah in accordance to the strength of its attachment to them. The hearts are the vessels of Allaah upon His earth, hence the most beloved of them to Him are those that are most tender, pure and resistant to deviation.
[A reference to the hadeeth, 'Truly, Allaah has vessels from amongst the people of the earth, and the vessels of your Lord are the hearts of his righteous slaves, and the most beloved of them to Him are the softest and most tender ones' and it is hasan. Refer to as-Saheehah (no. 1691)]
The transgressors preoccupied their hearts with the pursuance of this world. If only they had preoccupied them with Allaah and seeking the Hereafter then they would have instead reflected upon the meaning of His Words and His Signs that are witnessed in creation. Their hearts would have returned to their owners (in whose chests they reside) bestowing upon them marvelous wisdom and pearls of benefit.
When the heart is nourished with dhikr, its thirst quenched with contemplation and cleansed from corruption, it shall witness remarkable and wondrous matters and be inspired with wisdom.
Not every individual who is endowed with knowledge and wisdom and dons its robe is from among its people. Rather the People of Knowledge and Wisdom are those who have infused life into their hearts by slaughtering their desires. As for the one who has destroyed his heart and given precedence to his desires then knowledge and wisdom are deprived from his tongue.
The destruction of the heart occurs through possessing a sense of security and negligence. The heart is fortified through fear of Allaah and dhikr. If the heart renounces the pleasures of this world then it will be directed towards pursuing the bliss of the Hereafter and it will be amongst those who call to it. Should the heart become content with the pleasures of this world the bliss of the Hereafter ceases to be pursued.
Yearning for Allaah and His meeting is like a gentle breeze blowing upon the heart, blowing away the blazing desire for this world. Whosoever causes his heart to settle with his Lord shall find himself in a calm and tranquil condition and whosoever sends it amongst the people shall be disturbed and excessively perturbed. This is because the love of Allaah can never enter the heart which contains love of this world until the camel passes through the eye of a needle.
Therefore the most beloved servant to Allaah is the one whom He places in His servitude, whom He selects for His Love, whom He causes to purify his worship for Him, who dedicates his life to Him, his tongue to His dhikr and his limbs to His service.
The heart becomes sick as the body becomes sick and its cure lies in repentance and seeking protection from evil.
It becomes rusty as a mirror becomes rusty and it is polished through dhikr.
It becomes naked as the body becomes naked and its adornment comes about through taqwaa.
It becomes hungry and thirsty as the body becomes hungry and thirsty and its hunger and thirst is satiated through knowledge, love, reliance, repentance and servitude to Allaah.
Al-Fawaa`id [pp. 111-112] of ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, may Allaah have mercy upon him.
[The translation is taken from 'An Explanation of Riyaadh as-Saaliheen Vol. 1, Trans. Abu Sulaymaan and modified.]