Ibn al-Qayyim: Three Causes of Hearts Feeling Open or Tight and the Effect of That in the Grave


And from the things that bring about an expansive feeling in [one’s] chest is persistent remembrance of Him in all circumstances and in all places, for remembrance [of Allāh] has a wondrous effect on bringing about an expanded feeling in the chest and a sense of delight in the heart, [while] being unmindful [of Him] has an astonishing effect on bringing about a tight feeling in the chest, a feeling of restriction, and a sense of torment.

And from those things [that bring about a feeling of expansion in the chest] is being good to all creatures and benefiting them in whatever way one can [through one’s] wealth, reputation, physical help, as well as other means of doing good, for those who are noble, generous and ever-working the best of deeds are the widest of mankind in their chests, the most good-natured in themselves, and the most delighted and serene at heart, [while] the miser in whom there are no feelings of doing good to others is the tightest of mankind in his chest, the most miserable and troubled in life, the greatest of them in terms of worry and distress….

And from those things is having a courageous heart, for indeed a brave, strong-hearted person has wide feeling in his chest, an easy state of mind, and an expansive heart, [while] a coward is the tightest of mankind in his chest, the most restricted in his heart, never feeling any happiness or delight, nor any sense of pleasure or enjoyment except the animalistic kind; as for the joy in one’s soul, its pleasure, delight and happiness, they are [all] forbidden to every coward, just as they are forbidden to every miser and everyone who turns away from Allāh—far is He above any imperfection—paying no heed to remembering Him, having no knowledge of His the All‑High’s names and attributes, his heart connected to other than Him.

And indeed this pleasure and joy [of having a feeling of expansion in the chest] becomes, in the grave, a meadow, a garden, [while that] tightness and restriction turns into torment and imprisonment. So a slave’s condition in the grave is like the heart’s condition in the chest—in a state of pleasure [or] a state of pain, a state of imprisonment [or] a state of freedom and release.

And no consideration is to be given [with regard to a slave’s expected state in the grave] to a feeling of expansion in the chest that comes about for a temporary reason, nor to a feeling of tightness in the chest from a momentary cause, for there is no doubt that temporary situations disappear, as do the things that bring them about, and indeed the only thing that can be relied upon [in this regard] is that characteristic that has become established as the one that describes the heart [overall], necessitating its [general feeling] of wideness or restriction: that is the scale [to be used in judging this situation], and Allāh is the only one whose help can be sought.


Translator: Mikail ibn Mahboob Ariff
Source: al-Jawziyyah, Ibn Qayyim. Zād al-Maʿād fī Hadyi Khayr al-ʿIbād. Eds. Shuʿaib al-Arnaʾūṭ and ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Arnaʾūṭ. Beirut: Muʾassasah al-Risālah, 1998, 24-5.
Date published: March 27th, 2015