Question: Some people, though they do not offer any acts of worship and commit all sins, say, “My heart is pure. What matters is the purity of the heart.” Is it possible for a person avoiding salat to have a pure heart?
First of all, I will define the spiritual heart (qalb) and biological heart. The spiritual heart is not the piece of flesh located in the left-hand side of the chest. This piece of flesh is the biological heart, which has been created in animals, too. The spiritual heart (qalb), which is invisible, is a force existing within the biological heart. It is like the existence of electricity in a light bulb. The spiritual heart is something peculiar to humans. Animals do not have it.

(Throughout this article, I mean spiritual heart (qalb) by the word heart.)

All the limbs of the body are under the command of the heart. All the pieces of knowledge perceived by our sense organs assemble in the heart. Believing, loving, and fearing are all the heart’s business. It is the heart that believes or disbelieves. The heart is the place of good moral qualities as well as the wicked ones. In order to purify the heart, doing riyazat and mujahada is necessary. Riyazat means not fulfilling the desires of the nafs. The nafs craves for prohibited (haram) and disliked (makruh) things. We have to abstain from them. Mujahada means doing the things that the nafs does not want to do. It does not want to do good deeds and acts of worship. Therefore, the heart must be purified by doing good deeds and acts of worship. Allahu ta’ala sent the religions and prophets so that humans may purify their hearts. A person with a pure heart obeys what our religion orders and refrains from what it forbids. However, a person with a wicked heart abstains from Islam. He regards the orders of our religion as bigotry and fanaticism, and he considers the refusal to obey its orders to be modernism, civilization, and freedom.

A person who abandons salat and does not perform the other acts of worship cannot have a pure heart. A sinning person’s heart cannot be pure because sins blacken the heart. Abandoning salat is one of the major sins. In fact, some scholars said that one who does not perform salat is a disbeliever. The heart of a person who avoids salat and who drinks alcohol has become completely black. Committing all evil deeds and then saying “What matters is the purity of the heart” is the tactic of heathens or religiously ignorant people. A writer praises a sinner in his book by saying, “He used to drink alcohol to excess. He used to put wine into the basin of the bath and drink it from there. Despite these, he had a very pure heart.” While Allahu ta’ala and our Master the Prophet say that a person avoiding salat and drinking alcohol cannot have a pure heart, this ignorant writer is trying to deny the truth of what Allah and His Messenger said.

A hadith-i sharif says:
(When a person commits a sin, a black dot forms inside his heart. If he makes repentance, this mark is removed. If he does not make repentance and commits a sin again, this mark becomes bigger and covers the whole heart. His heart becomes completely black.) [Haraiti]

Hadrat Imam-i Rabbani states:
Not to do the orders of Allahu ta’ala is caused by a sickness in the heart. A sickness in the heart means that it does not believe in Islam thoroughly. The sign of the existence of faith in the heart is to do the commands of Islam willingly. [It can be inferred from these statements how ignorant utterance it is to say, “My heart is pure. What matters is the heart,” while one commits sins and abandons salat.] The heart is the home of love. Any heart without it is said to be dead. Either love for Allahu ta’ala or love for the world is in one’s heart. When the love for the world is expelled from the heart by performing dhikr and worship, it will be purified. Love for Allahu ta’ala will be infused into this purified heart automatically. When one commits sins, one’s heart becomes dark and ill. Consequently, love for the world settles in it, and love for Allahu ta’ala disappears. An example of this is: If a bottle is filled with water, the air in it will be expelled automatically. When the water is poured out, air will come into the bottle again automatically. Water cannot enter a glass unless the air in it is expelled. When water is put into it, nothing else can be put into it unless the water is emptied. The heart is like a glass. It must be cleaned from all things so that it may be filled with the love for Allah. Love for two or more things cannot coexist in one heart. The Qur’an al-karim says (what means), “Allah did not create two hearts within a human” (Al-Ahzab 4).

The nafs-i ammara disbelieves Islam. Therefore, it is necessary to cleanse the nafs from evils and fill it with virtues. The 9th and 10th verses of Ash-Shams Sura say (what means), “He who purifies his nafs [he who purified it of evil and filled it with virtues] has been saved. He who has left his nafs in sins and aberration has suffered a loss.”

It is written in the book Hadiqa:
It is out of place for those who commit harams to say, “You should look at my heart. It is pure.” It is both self-deception and to deceive Muslims. Only a person who lives by Islam can have a pure heart. Our Master the Prophet said, “The hearts of those who continue to commit sins will become sealed over time, so that they will not be able to do deeds that bring thawab anymore” (Bazzar).

Repeating the phrase La ilaha ill-Allah many times is very effective in purifying the heart. It will be good if one keeps saying it for a while each day. It can be said without wudu’ as well as with wudu’.

Nothing in the world could be more effective than the beautiful utterance La ilaha ill-Allah Muhammadun rasul-Allah to extinguish the wrath of our Lord. Inasmuch as this nice utterance is capable of assuaging the wrath that is operative enough to drag one into Hell, then a fortiori it must bring down His wrath incurred on account of matters of lesser importance. This lovable phrase is the key to the 99 treasures of mercy reserved for the hereafter. For the cleansing of the darkness of disbelief and dirt of polytheism, no aid could be more adequately antidotal than this graceful utterance. Once a person attains belief in this phrase, the mote of faith blossoms. (Vol. 2, Letter 37)

In order for the remembrance of Allah and repeating the utterance La ilaha ill-Allah to produce the result that is intended, it is essential to obey our religion. Performing fards and sunnats and avoiding harams and doubtful things are necessary. (Vol. 1, Letter 190)

When the heart loves the things other than Allahu ta’ala, it gets black and rusty. This rust must be cleansed. The best cleanser is to obey Islam. Obeying Islam wipes out the desires of the nafs that blacken the heart.