Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Heart is More than Just a Pump ... from "The Intelligent heart the pure heart'' - Courtesy Dr. Gohar Mushtaq Ph.D. (Biophysical & Biochemistry)

The Heart is More than Just a Pump ...

FOR CENTURIES, religious scriptures, poets, physicians and philosophers have regarded the heart as the centre of our personality, the core of our being. In every language and tradition throughout the world, there are numerous phrases expressed in terms of the heart. A lover may 'steal your heart'; an unfeeling person is 'hard-hearted'; a generous person is 'warm-hearted'; while someone who works with full devotion is said to be working 'whole-heartedly'. When people are asked to point to themselves, they usually point to the region of their bodies where the heart resides. This chapter is a brief introduction to this important organ in the light of the Qur'an, Hadith, Muslim theologians and modern science.

The Heart according to the Qur'an and the Hadith

The Arabic word for heart is qalb (from the verb qalaba meaning 'to turn about or upside down') and it appears some 130 times in the Qur'an. It is referred to as the seat of affection and emotion, a quality that we all readily associate with the heart:

And He has united their (i.e. believers') hearts. (Surah AI-Anfal: 63)

However, the Qur'an also clearly specifies the human heart as the centre of intellect3 and wisdom:

                     ... They         have        hearts       wherewith          they        understand          not ...
(Surah AI-A'raf: 179)

Have they not travelled through the land, and have they hearts wherewith to understand and ears wherewith to hear? Verily, it is not the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts which are in the breasts that grow blind. (Surah AI-Hajj: 46)

Verily, therein is indeed a reminder for him who has a heart or gives ear while he is heedful. (Surah Qaf: 37)

These ayat reveal that the heart is a sensory organ that possesses the faculties of insight and understanding and, if perceptive, is capable of recognising truth. Such a heart is described in the Quran as being satisfied (13:28), wide awake (50:37) and strong (18:14). Conversely, the heart that refuses to recognise the Divine Truth is described in the Qur'an as hard (6:43), sealed (9:87), tainted (2:283) and diseased (8:49).

While it is true that when the Qur'an speaks of al-qalb, it encompasses more than the physical heart, it is important to remember that it is within the physical heart that the spiritual heart resides. Therefore, the physical heart can be regarded as the point of interaction between the human body and the spiritual qalb.4 The physical heart acts like a gateway to the human soul. The implication of this is that the physical heart is not just a pumping organ, but that it must have the qualities of intelligence that are mentioned in the Qur'an.

The word fuád has been used in the Qur'an to describe the faculties of the heart. It literally means 'a place of benefit' but carries the meaning of both feeling and rational thinking and is often mentioned in conjunction with the faculties of hearing (sama') and seeing (basar):

And Allah has brought you out from the wombs of your mothers while you know nothing.  And He gave youhearing, sight and hearts that you might give thanks to (to Allah). (Surah An-Nahl: 78)

And follow not that of which you have no knowledge. Verily, the hearing, and the sight, and the heart, of each of those you will be questioned (by Allah). (Surah AI-Isra: 36)

In these ayat, the words sama', basar and fu’ad are used for the three faculties of hearing, seeing and thinking/feeling, which are associated with the ears, eyes and the heart respectively. These are not as unrelated as they first appear to be. The ears and eyes provide information from one's environment, but it is the heart that compiles, analyses and interprets the raw information that has been supplied to it through the ears and eyes. The processed information then governs our actions. The faculty of hearing is mentioned before sight because at birth the sense of hearing is fully functional whereas it takes some weeks for the sense of sight to fully develop so that a baby can recognise distant objects and faces. The heart is mentioned last of all because the faculty of understanding takes many years to develop.

The importance of the heart is re-iterated in the Hadith as an-Nu'man bin Bashir reported that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:

.. .Indeed there is in the body a piece of flesh which if it is sound then the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt then the whole body is corrupt. Indeed it is the heart. (Bukhari and Muslim)

In the commentary of this tradition, Ibn Rajab Hanbali stated that we can regard the heart as the ruler of all the organs of the body and all the organs are its obedient soldiers. If the king is pious, all the soldiers will remain pious and if the king becomes corrupt, all the soldiers will also become corrupt.5 The corruption of the body by the defective heart refers to both physical diseases as well as spiritual diseases as will be shown later in this book.

Another hadith reported by Wabisa bin Mabad ~ elucidates the role of the heart:

I went to the Messenger of Allah (SAW) and he asked me, "Have you come to enquire about piety?" I replied in the affirmative.
Then he said, "Ask your heart regarding it. Piety is that which contents the soul and comforts the heart, and sin is that which causes doubts and perturbs the heart, even if people pronounce it lawful and give you verdicts on such matters again and again." (Ahmad and Ad-Darimi)

This hadith reveals that the heart is the organ that leads one to piety. The pious man has a contented heart, is firm in his action and collected in mind. The sinful man, however, has doubt in his heart, which takes away all stability of action and causes the self to be restless as the Qur'an states:

... And whose hearts are in doubt that ask your leave. So in their doubts they waver. (Surah At- Tawbah: 45)

The Heart according to Muslim Theologians

The role of the heart in the human body has been acknowledged and well understood for centuries by Islamic theologians and mystics.

Imam Ghazali, in his intellectual masterpiece, Ihya Ulum ad- Din (Revival of the Islamic Sciences), wrote in detail about the human heart:

"Although the spiritual heart (qalb), which is the controlling centre of the soul, is different from the physical human heart, its functioning is related and directed by it .... Every quality that appears in the heart will have its influence flowing to the organs so they act only in accordance with that quality. In the same manner, the effect of every action that is committed from the organs may reach the heart. And this keeps on occurring in a circular fashion."6

Abdur Rahman Ibn al-Jawzee, in his book, Minhajul Qasideen, expressed the following views about the human heart:

"We should understand that the heart holds the supreme position in the human body. It is this organ that recognises Allah and works to get close to Allah. Other organs are its subordinates. The heart by its nature quests for the path of righteousness. It is true that whoever has recognised his heart has recognised Allah."7

Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziya, while discussing the relationship between the human heart and mind stated:

"The truth, however, seems to be that the intellectual function starts at the heart, then finds its elaboration and fruitation in the head." 8
Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, the Islamic theologian and poet, mentioned the intelligence of the human heart in his famous Mathnawi in the following poetic verses:

"There are two kinds of intelligence.
One is like that acquired by a child at school,
From books and teachers, new ideas and rnemorisation.
Your intelligence may become superior to others,
But retaining all that knowledge is a heavy load.
You who are occupied in searching for knowledge
are a preserving tablet,
But the preserved tablet is the one who has gone beyond all this.
For the other kind of intelligence is the gift of God:
Its fountain is in the midst of the soul.
When the water of God-given knowledge gushes from the breast,
It doesn't become fetid or impure.
And if its way to the outside is blocked, what harm is there?
For it gushes continually from the house of the heart.
The acquired intelligence is like the conduits
which run into the house from the streets:
If those pipes become blocked, the house is bereft of water.
Seek the fountain from within yourself" 9
(Mathnawi Vol. IV, 1960-68)

I t is worthwhile noting that these scholars wrote about the function of the human heart and its faculty of intellect with such clarity at a time when no sophisticated biomedical engineering instruments were available, yet their insights into the workings of the heart appear to be those of a modern scientist.

The Heart according to Modern Science

The analogy of the heart to a pump was first made in the nineteenth century. The steam engine had just been invented and the pumping movements of its pistons impressed physiologists to the extent that they likened this motion to that of the heart. 10

Even if we look at the pumping efficiency alone of the heart, it is remarkable. The heart beats about 100,000 times a day, forty million times a year and it beats non-stop throughout a lifetime. It pumps two gallons of blood per minute and over 100 gallons per hour. The vascular system that is transporting this life-giving blood around the body is over 60,000 miles long, which is more than twice the circumference of the earth. 11 From the moment it begins beating (around week twelve of gestation) until the moment it stops, the human heart works tirelessly. In an average lifetime, the heart beats more than two and a half billion times without ever pausing to rest.

However, science has now conceded that which the Qur' an stated fourteen centuries ago - that the heart is not just a pumping organ. Recently, a new medical field known as neurocardiology has emerged, which studies the science of the nervous system in the heart. J. Andrew Armour, M.D., Ph.D., is a pioneer in the field of neurocardiology for his groundbreaking research in the area of anatomy and function of the heart's intrinsic nervous system. He has uncovered the presence of neurons in the heart; the same type of cells that are also present in the human brain. There are over 40,000 of these neurons in a human heart - a quantity comparable to a small centre of the human brain. Furthermore, the nervous system of the heart is made up of these neurons, which are capable of processing information without the help of neurons from the brain. The neurons of the heart obtain information from the rest of the body and make appropriate adjustments and send back this information from the heart to the rest of the body including the brain. In addition to this, these neurons possess a kind of short- term memory, which allows them to function independently of the central nervous system. These findings prompted Armour to refer to the nervous system of the heart as the "little brain in the heart"12 and he draws the following conclusions about the functions of the heart as a result of his research:

"The heart possesses its own little brain, capable of complex computational analysis on its own. Data clearly indicate that the intrinsic cardiac nervous system acts as much more than a simple relay station for the extrinsic autonomic projections to the heart...

An understanding of the complex anatomy and function of the heart's nervous system contributes an additional dimension to the newly emerging view of the heart as a sophisticated information processing centre, functioning not only in concert with the brain but also independent of it." 13

3 The word intellect derives from the Latin 'intellectus' which means the faculty that can perceive the transcendent – a  quality of the heart.
4 Haq, Manzurul. 'Heart': The Locus of Human Psyche  in Ansari, Z. A., Ed. (1981). Qur'anic Concepts of Human Psyche. Islamabad, International Institute of Islamic Thought.
5. Ibn Rajab, Hanbali (1995). Jami al-Uloom wal Hukam (Commentary on An-Nawawi's Forty Ahadith) (Urdu language). Lahore, Al-Faisal Publishers & Booksellers
6. G. Ghazali, Imam Abu Hamid (1978). lhya UiUIIl ad-Din. Karachi, Darn] Isha'at Publishers.
7. Ibn al-Jawzee, Imam Abdur Rahman (1992). Minhajul Qasideen. Lahore, Idara Marif Islami Publishers.
8.AI-Qoz, Arias Abdul-Hameed (Capt.) (2000). Men & Tile Universe: Reflections of Ibn Al-Qayyim. Riyadh, Darussalam.
9. Helminski, Kabir (1999), The Knowing Heart: A Sufi Path of Transformation. Boston, Shambhala publications
10. Pearce, Joseph Chilton (2002). The Biology of Transcendence. Rochester, Vermont, Park Street Press.
11. Schiefelbein, S. The Powerful River. In: Poole, R. ed. (1986). The Incredible Machine. Washington, D.C., The National Geographic Society.
12. Armour,J. Andrew, M.D., Ph.D. & Ardell,Jeffry L., Ph.D. ed. (1994). Neurocardiotogv. New York, Oxford University Press.
13.  Armour, J. Andrew, M.D., Ph.D. (2003). Neurocardiology: Anatomical and Functional Principles.
Boulder Creek, California, Institute of HeartMath.

Important information on Position of Music status in Quran and Hadith and Scientific reasoning http://guidingchristiansandidolators.blogspot.ae/2013/02/music-status-in-islam-allowed-or-not.html

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