Our Prophet Muhammad (S) Had His Heart Cleansed – How Are We Cleansing Our Own?
How many of us are actively or even unknowingly seeking to purify our hearts and mind from pain and disease, however, it manifests in our lives? So many of us seem to be searching for what will improve our lives and seeking to eliminate what takes us away from Allah (S) and His bounties.
The story of the physical purification of the Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) heart serves to encourage us to strive to purify our hearts and minds from disease (disbelief, doubt, arrogance, anxieties, etc.) and engage in a lifelong journey of personal healing from past trauma. Is this life not a test, for which continuously cleansing our hearts can only be beneficial?
Many Muslims seek the Islamic guidance sent to Prophet Muhammad (saw) by adhering to his advice (through words and actions) and learning about his life, each aspect of which has a unique importance to their journey through this life to the hereafter. They will absorb as much as they can about the Messenger from birth to death and maintain a love for the Prophet that surpasses love for themselves, partners, family and close friends.
Our distinct reverence for Prophet Muhammad (saw) leads us to endear him to us; many of us connect to his trials and triumphs and learn from his sunnah (traditions and practices). The Prophet’s life contains obvious and subtle methods and practices for his followers to grow spiritually and much more. By consistently studying who he was and what he did, we can find things to implement to improve our spiritual, mental, physical and interpersonal lives.
Let us take one of the best examples from the life of our Prophet – the physical cleansing of his heart.
As I read about the profound events he experienced as a child and before the blessed night journey (Isra' wal Miraj) to the heavens, when angels cleansed him of his sins, I am often moved to tears.
Note: There are additional stories about angels cleansing the Prophet’s heart at other times in his life, but the two above instances are the most authentic occurrences, so I will focus only on them.
Angels and the Cleansing of Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) Heart
The most reliable sources report that the angels cleansed Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) heart twice.
When the Prophet lived under the care of his foster mother Halimah bint Abi Dhuayb and the Banu Sa’d, the angel Jibreel approached him while he was at play and removed a blood clot from the Prophet’s heart before cleaning it:
Anas ibn Maalik (ra) narrated that Jibreel came to the Messenger of Allah (saw) when he was playing with the other boys. He took hold of him and threw him to the ground, then he opened his chest and took out his heart, from which he took a clot of blood and said: “This was the Shaytaan’s share of you.” Then he washed it in a gold vessel filled with Zamzam. Then he put it back together and returned it to its place. The boys ran to his mother – his nurse – and said: "Muhammad has been killed!" They went to him and his color had changed. Anas said: “I used to see the mark of that stitching on his chest.”
Once the Prophet grew and became a noble man and Messenger of Allah (S), the angel Jibreel came to him again to cleanse his heart before they embarked on the night of the Isra' wal Miraj:
Abu Dharr narrated that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “The roof of my house was opened when I was in Makkah, and Jibreel (ra) came down and split open my chest, then he washed it with Zamzam water. Then he brought a golden basin filled with wisdom and faith and emptied it into my chest. Then he sealed it…”
In each instance, Jibreel (ra) washed the Prophet's noble heart and purified the blessed Messenger), preparing him to accept Allah’s (S) glorious and final revelation to mankind. The second time, Jibreel (ra) also filled the Prophet’s (saw) chest with wisdom and faith.
The cleansing of Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) heart shows the importance of physical and spiritual purification. Concentrating on the spiritual aspect of purification helps us appreciate the significance in constant purification of our bodies, hearts and minds. While the Prophet’s experience was unique to him, we can use it as an example to embark on mental and emotional healing journeys that will allow us to attain spiritual purity – or at least as close to it as we can get, Insha’Allah.
Spiritual Cleansing through Islam
Purifying one’s heart and mind has been an essential part of Islam since the early stages of the faith. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) stressed the importance of having a pure heart and mind, saying, “Surely the best of property is a clean heart.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
Achieving a purification of the heart requires effort and sincerity on our part. It cannot be achieved overnight; it takes time, patience, and perseverance. The following are some things you can do on a regular basis to help purify your heart and mind:
1. Completing obligatory prayers,
2. Reciting Quran and it’s meaning,
3. Making dhikr and praising Allah (S),
4. Offering du’a (supplication) and
5. Repenting for your sins.
By cleansing your spirit, you will be able to release negative energy that may interfere with your decision making and clear your mind, fortifying you to seek faith-based answers to core life issues and supplementing them with proper medical and practical support. Many Muslims who engage in acts of worship experience a sense of inner peace and strength that helps them to cope with difficult situations.
Purification of the soul is a continuous journey. Commit yourself to regularly cleansing your soul and connecting with your spirituality. Doing so will help you live a more fulfilling life and help you engage in personal healing.
Spiritual Purification and Trauma
Spiritual purification through worship can be fulfilling, but some people may find issues stemming from unhealed trauma hinders them from engaging in acts of worship.
For those who may have difficulties starting or maintaining worship or deepening our connection with the Prophet Muhammad (saw) due to past traumas, here are some things that may help:
1. Find a safe and comfortable place to worship. This could be your home, a friend’s house or even outdoors in nature.
2. Start small and gradually increase the length and intensity of your worship as you feel comfortable.
3. Focus on the present moment and let go of any expectations for how your worship should look or feel.
4. Allow yourself to experience emotions without judgment, and know that it’s okay to seek professional help if needed.
Trauma can prevent someone from being able to live a healthy, happy life if it's not dealt with in some way. Through therapy, medication, and other treatments, many people can work through their trauma and engage in purifying worship alongside it. However, if you find that your spiritual practice is suffering because of your unhealed trauma, there are a few things you can do:
1. Talk to your therapist about it. If you're seeing a therapist for your PTSD or other mental health issues stemming from trauma, they may be able to help you work through any blocks you have when it comes to worship or spiritual practices.
2. Join a support group for survivors of trauma. There are often groups available for specific types of traumas (such as sexual assault or combat-related PTSD), which can provide additional support and understanding as you deal with your own healing journey.
3. Seek resources specifically geared towards helping people with PTSD worship safely and effectively. This could include books, blog posts, articles, videos, etc. that offer tips and advice on how.
4. Seek out trauma-informed imams, shaykhas and mentors in your life who can help you work through trauma in a way that helps you worship and seek that purification and cleansing of your heart. Check out the work of The Peaceful Families Project to help find religious mentors who can possibly be of help.
Prioritizing our Purifying and Healing Journey
Prioritizing the spiritual cleansing of our heart on a regular basis can, Insha’Allah, only help us grow closer to Allah (S) and make our lives better. And if you are living with trauma, then embarking on a healing journey from past trauma can also help with obstacles to spiritual goals to purify your heart and draw closer to Allah.
The first step is acknowledging the pain you have been holding onto. This can be difficult, but it is important to recognize what has happened to begin working through it. Once you have acknowledged the hurt, start journaling about your experiences. Writing can be therapeutic and help you to process your emotions healthily.
There is such a profound awe and reverence I feel when I reflect back on the times that our Prophet of Islam had his heart physically cleansed. Can you imagine the impact that had on keeping his heart spiritually on sirat ul mustaqeen (the straight path) and his ability to have such love and protection for his ummah? It helps motivate me to continuously work towards the purification of my own heart, something we should all strive to do as Muslims, Insha’Allah.
May Allah (S) make it easy upon us all and bless us all. Ameen.
How do you work on purifying and cleansing your own heart? What helps you? Share with us in the comments below.