What Is the Difference between a Hypocrite and Someone with a Dead or Sealed Heart?

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch

Question

What is the difference between a dead heart, a sealed heart, and someone who is a hypocrite? Can a dead heart be revived?

I understand that a heart can be dead due to sins, but I believe it can be revived. I’m sure the same is with a sealed heart, as only Allah can unseal it. I know a person who is a complete hypocrite has no hope.

However, how does a person who has a dead, sealed heart become a hypocrite? Is there a process? Am I wrong, and that having a dead heart, sealed heart means one is a hypocrite and can never come back?

This topic worries me as my heart is 90% dead and I have deep spiritual doubts.

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

Allah Most High describes the various states of the hearts of his creation in the Quran.

Sealing of the Hearts (Tab‘a/Khatm)

“This is how Allah seals the hearts of those unwilling to know ˹the truth˺.” [Quran, 30:59]

“Then after him We sent ˹other˺ messengers to their ˹own˺ people and they came to them with clear proofs. But they would not believe in what they had rejected before. This is how We seal the hearts of the transgressors.” [Quran, 10:74]

“…those who dispute Allah’s signs with no proof given to them. How despicable is that for Allah and the believers! This is how Allah seals the heart of every arrogant tyrant.” [Quran, 40:35]

“Allah has sealed their hearts and their hearing, and their sight is covered. They will suffer a tremendous punishment.” [Quran, 2:7]

Blind Hearts (‘Umy)

“Have they not travelled throughout the land so their hearts may reason, and their ears may listen? Indeed, it is not the eyes that are blind, but it is the hearts in the chests that grow blind.” [Quran, 22:46]

Rusted/Stained (Rān)

“But no! In fact, their hearts have been stained by all ˹the evil˺ they used to commit!” [Quran, 83:14]

Attributes of a Sick Heart

Through reflection on the above verses and other verses like them, we can come to know of the attributes of a sick spiritual heart and attributes that lead to such a state.

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Indeed when the Believer sins, a dark spot comes over their heart. If they repent and seek forgiveness, it is polished away. If they continue (to sin), it (i.e. the darkness) increases, until it overcomes the heart – that is the rusting over (staining) that Allah mentions in the verse: ‘But no! In fact, their hearts have been stained by all ˹the evil˺ they used to commit!’” [Ahmad; Tirmidhi; Ibn Majah]

In the above verses the following sins are mentioned:
1) An aversion to knowing or acknowledging the truth
2) Transgression
3) Disputing Allah’s signs, arrogance, and tyranny
4) Not recognizing the greatness of Allah by reflecting on the creation
5) Committing sins and evil acts

So we can see that sins affect the heart negatively just as good deeds illuminate the heart and bring it to life.

Reviving and Polishing the Heart

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Indeed everything has a polishing and the polishing of the hearts is the remembrance of Allah. There is nothing more effective in attaining salvation from the punishment of Allah than the remembrance of Allah.” They said, ”Not even striving in the way of Allah?” He replied, “Not even if one were to strike with his sword till it breaks.” [Bayhaqi, Ad-Da‘awat al-Kabir]

Repentance:

The first and most important step to reviving and polishing the heart is sound repentance. However, in order for the repentance to be sincere and sound one must meet the following conditions:

(1) Sincere remorse over the sin
(2) Immediately abandoning the sin
(3) Having a firm resolve never to repeat the sin
[Nawawi, Riyadh al-Salihin]

Knowledge and Implementation:

The second step is to seek knowledge of what Allah and His Messenger (may Allah bless him and give him peace) are calling us to and to ask in accordance with that knowledge.

Allah Most High says, “O believers! Respond to Allah and His Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life. And know that Allah stands between a person and their heart and that to Him you will all be gathered.” [Quran, 8:24]

Remembrance of Allah and Voluntary Actions:

In the third step, after learning the obligatory knowledge and implementing the obligatory actions properly (which includes abstaining from the prohibited), one should make abundant remembrance and increase in voluntary worships, aiming for quality and consistency.

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) narrates that Allah Most High says, “My slave cannot draw nearer to Me with anything more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory on him. My slave continues to draw nearer to Me with voluntary (worships) until I love him. And when I love him, I become the eyes by which he sees; the ears by which he hears, the hand by which he grasps, and the feet by which he walks. If he asks of Me, I give him and if he, seeks refuge with Me, I protect him.” [Bukhari]

Lastly, it is incumbent on every Muslim, male and female, whether obedient or disobedient – to have a good opinion of Allah Most High. A good opinion is defined as the assumption of Allah’s intending good for us.

One can come to such an assumption by reflecting on all the blessings that Allah Most High has given us throughout our entire lives – especially the blessing of faith in Him and concern for doing right by Him.

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Having a good opinion (of Allah) is from the beauty of one’s servitude (to Allah).” [Abu Dawud]

Summary

It is virtuous to be critical of the state of one’s heart. However, if one’s self-criticism brings them to the point where they begin to despair – this is an unhealthy level of criticism and is sinful. As Believers, we are prohibited from despair at the mercy of Allah. This in itself is the biggest consolation for even the worst of sinners.

Shaytan wants us to lose hope in Allah’s mercy because he has been cursed and distanced from Allah’s mercy. Learn what it is that Allah wants from you and strive to implement it. Do your best, seek forgiveness whenever you slip, and hope that Allah will accept your worships and forgive your sins. He is the Most Merciful of all those who show mercy.

Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.

هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «حُسْنُ الظَّنِّ مِنْ حسْنِ العِبادةِ» . رَوَاهُ أَحْمد وَأَبُو دَاوُد
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