So what’s up with the heart anyway? A pure one is hard to find, and though there are plenty of decent ones, they tend to develop spots after a while. People try to use the heart as a metaphor for your true self or sincere desires (follow your heart?) but what they don’t realize is that the heart is not a compass. It’s more like a headstrong puppy on a leash that pulls you in whatever direction in wants, whether or not it’s the right one. Sometimes it goes the right way, but other times it wants to run out into the street into traffic because it smelled something interesting there. Bad heart, sit. I said sit!
Your brain and the heart vie for control, the brain being the more logical of the two. The brain is more like a compass, granted, it’s not perfect, but at least it can think where the heart only feels and living on your emotions is illogical. What you feel today is not what you’ll feel tomorrow, and the person you were completely in love with ten years ago who made you vow you’d never love again… you forgot their name. That’s because your brain is smart enough to move on. Good brain. *pat pat*
So not everyone has such good brains, but then, almost no one has an entirely good heart, so you’re still better off using your brain instead. Say you’re presented with two glasses of yellow liquid that look exactly the same. One’s lemonade and the other’s bathroom cleaning acid. Which one do you drink? The one you *feel* most right about? Or the one that smells lemony while the other smells caustic? One glass is pleasantly cool, the other one has gotten hot because the acid is starting to corrode the cup. You use your brains and pick the lemonade, hooray!
So the brain’s smarter. Yeah, the heart’s more in tune to emotion, but is emotion always a good thing? Emotionally speaking, you may want to punch the person who’s stabbed you in the arm, but logically, you realize it’s a doctor and that was a vaccination. Or you may want to talk to the woman who winked at you, but you realize she’s a prostitute. Yeah, you may feel attracted to her, but you logically know the moral, ethical, and health problems associated with such a liason.
So emotion is both good and bad and you’re stuck relying on your brain, no matter how squishy it is. You realize that na? So why is how you feel about religious devotion such an important thing? Why is it that if you sit down for zhikr and you don’t feel that Masha’Allah-SubhanAllah kinda feeling, you feel like there’s no point for you to do zhikr? I mean, what’s an act of worship without sincerity right? Ah, but where does sincerity come from darling, surely sincerity is not exclusive to the heart.
If sincerity is the perfect harmony of your intentions and your actions, then know that intentions are made in the brain, whether or not the headstrong puppy on the leash agrees where they should be going. After all, he wants to sniff trees, not jog. You want to go to the masjid, he wants to cavort with dogs. It is hard to train your heart, and even the most well-disciplined heart will sometimes turn whimpering away from the brain’s goals, but the brain must battle to keep it under control. This battle being a righteous struggle makes it a Jihad.
It is, in fact, Jihad-e-Nafs- the struggle to bring the self in line with the righteousness we logically know as compared to the unrighteousness we longingly feel. A sincere act of worship is one with sincere intentions, and having made the intention to do something for the sake of seeking God’s pleasure, the struggle to get that Masha’Allah-SubhanAllah kind of feeling does not take away from the experience, but only adds.
It is the same case with reading the Qur’an, a person who recites perfectly and without error earns blessings, but a person who struggles and reads with difficulty, possibly even making mistakes, they get double the blessings. One set for the act itself, and one set for the struggle. A person to whom zhikr comes naturally will be rewarded, but a person who sits down and makes themselves do zhikr even when the heart is whining that it wants to watch tv, they will be blessed more in proportion to the effort it took them.
There may be some people in this world to whom religiousness is a second nature the same way that some people are just born athletic. The rest of us though, being neither athletic nor spiritual, have to train harder, push ourselves farther to get to the level of performance that we seek, and the reward for our struggle is greater than that of their effortlessness.
Rejoice in the struggle, for there are blessings in the tears.