top of page

Heartfulness, Detachment, and the Healthy, Dynamic Self

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Modern psychology has popularized the concept of mindfulness from the Buddhist religion. Mindfulness is slowing down one's mental processes so as to quiet the mind and heighten awareness of ones thoughts and emotions. The closest concept to mindfulness in traditional Islamic psychology is heartfulness. In heartfulness, to quiet the mind, the mind is completely bypassed and the focus is instead on the heart. When the heart is purified the mind is quiet. Hence the saying, “I wonder how they can sleep at night, regarding people whose behavior is riddled with vices.

Quieting the mind is a part of inner jihad. Inner jihad is the battle where one's higher self fights the lower self for control of the individual. This is where the higher self fights the base desires from subjegating the faculty of intelligence to do its banal bidding.

A person who is intelligent is not always an intellectual person. Intelligence may be used to pursue mundane goals motivated by an irrational appetite for more and more and more. Whereas, the intellectual person is logical and rational and motivated by the virtues and values in their heart. Therefore, to reach our intellectual potential we have to purify our hearts so that we are not veiled by our vices from recognizing true value. It is by aligning our behavior with values that we can have inner peace. Happiness from a new home, a fancy toy, conquering a love interest, and designer swag do not lead to lasting happiness. One way to purify our hearts is to have firm conviction and do sincere good deeds for the sake of God, rather than for personal gain.

There is a story told by the Persian polymath, Al Ghazali (1054 to 1111 CE) which describes an art competition held by the Persian King of the time. The King gave all artisan groups a piece of marble as a canvas for the competition. Whoever could make the most stunning artistic production from the marble would win the competition. The Persian artisan group went out and got the best paints, the most vibrant colors, the finest brushes and utensils, and applied the most dazzling techniques. The Chinese artisan group did not use anything to decorate the marble and instead polished it day after day. Finally on the day of the competition each side presented their artwork. While the Persian artwork was a spectacular visual feast, the Chinese artwork was polished into a mirror which accurately reflected reality. The King could look into this mirror and see the potential in his heart. Naturally, the Persians artisans lost and the Chinese artisans won as the purpose of Islamic art is to reflect reality and inspire connection to the spiritual heart so as to move in mysterious ways.

In Arabic, the word for heart, qalb, is derived from the root qalaba, which means to turn around or to revolve. This implies when the heart is functioning normally it turns. If the heart is true to its nature it does not attach to anything so that it may continue to turn. Anytime a person attaches to something it fixates the heart. When the heart has fixations, the heart is unable to turn from any situation. A healthy heart on the intellectual person however can be placed in a situation of suffering which would give a layman symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, but will emerge from this oppressive situation unscathed because the heart is able to turn and not attach to that situation. Likewise, the intellectual person could be blessed with immense material wealth but it would not corrupt them because the health heart does not attach to material wealth. Ultimately, in the ideal situation the healthy heart adheres to nothing and nothing adheres to it. This allows the individual who possess such a heart to be dynamic and connected in flux to the experience of primal unity with the world around and in oneself.

When one gets attached to pleasant experiences and or repulsive experiences the heart becomes fixated, no longer turns well, and attention gets locked into this narrow direction. This means that in a crisis situation the heart is unable to do 360 degree scans or find the solution to end lasting personal suffering. In traditional Islamic psychology there are two paths to knowledge. One path is through the mind and intelligence and the other path is through the heart. It is when we polish our heart that we are able to reflect reality and through self reflection we may then see openings to enhance our experience in this world. Obviously, we all have some attachments in this world but to the degree we have less attachments and are able to be in this world but not of it the better off our mental health will be.

One way to decrease the degree of our attachments and expectations in this world is to strike a balance in our vision of this world and everything in it. The balance I speak of is between forgetfulness and neglecting what should be remembered on one hand and attentiveness to what should not be remembered. This allows us to have the proper retention and persistence of images derived by the mind or the imagination, rather than being in a hyper vigilant attentive state or a state of drowsiness.

If you are interested to further explore this topic you may book an executive coaching session with me here

Meanwhile stay tuned for my next blog article. If you have yet to subscribe to my blog you may do from the bottom of the homepage of my website

Wishing you success in all stages of life and education.

Dr. Azadeh

37 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page

Bayt al-Qulub