In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
The command to purify our hearts from sin was an essential Islamic teaching ever since the early stages of the revelation in Mecca. This is known as “purification of the soul” (tazkiyyat an-nafs).
قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّاهَا
He has succeeded who purifies the soul, and he has failed who corrupts the soul.
Surah Ash-Shams 91:9-10
And Allah said:
يَوْمَ لَا يَنفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ
A day when there will be no benefit in wealth or children, but only in he who comes to Allah with a pure heart.
Surah Ash-Shu’ara 26:88-89
We learn from these verses that our success in the Hereafter depends upon the purification of our hearts in this life. We must purify our hearts from spiritual sins such as greed, malice, envy, arrogance, and worldliness. In their place, we must adorn the heart with spiritual virtues such as generosity, compassion, benevolence, humility, and asceticism.
Purification of the heart was one of the first commands with which Moses, upon him be peace, was sent to Pharaoh.
اذْهَبْ إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ إِنَّهُ طَغَىٰ فَقُلْ هَل لَّكَ إِلَىٰ أَن تَزَكَّىٰ
Go to Pharaoh, for verily, he is a transgressor. Say to him: Will you purify yourself?
Surah An-Naz’iat 79:17-18
Purity of heart is also one of the defining characteristics of Abraham, upon him be peace.
وَإِنَّ مِن شِيعَتِهِ لَإِبْرَاهِيمَ إِذْ جَاءَ رَبَّهُ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ
Verily, among his people was Abraham, when he came to his Lord with a pure heart.
Surah As-Saffat 37:83-84
One of the primary methods we can use to purify our hearts is to perform sincere supplications and prayers according to the prophetic way (sunnah).
قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّىٰ وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّىٰ
He has succeeded who purifies himself, who remembers the name of his Lord and prays.
Surah Al-A’la 87:14-15
When we exalt Allah and ask for our sins to be forgiven, this removes arrogance from our hearts and makes us humble. When we pray for Allah to guide others, this removes malice and hatred from our hearts and makes us love others for the sake of Allah. When we remember the Hereafter and the Day of Resurrection, this makes us less attached to the world and more inclined to help others.
In this way, the Messenger of Allah, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, would purify his heart every morning and evening by performing supplications and prayers.
Anas ibn Malik, RadhiAllahu Anhu, reported: The Messenger of Allah, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said to me:
يَا بُنَيَّ إِنْ قَدَرْتَ أَنْ تُصْبِحَ وَتُمْسِيَ لَيْسَ فِي قَلْبِكَ غِشٌّ لِأَحَدٍ فَافْعَلْ
O boy, if you are able every morning and evening to remove any rancor from your heart towards anyone, then do so.
Then the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said to me:
يَا بُنَيَّ وَذَلِكَ مِنْ سُنَّتِي وَمَنْ أَحْيَا سُنَّتِي فَقَدْ أَحَبَّنِي وَمَنْ أَحَبَّنِي كَانَ مَعِي فِي الْجَنَّة
O boy, that is my tradition and whoever revives my tradition has loved me, and whoever loves me will be with me in Paradise.
Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 2678, Grade: Hasan
The ritual prayer is meant to prevent us from committing sins and immoral deeds.
إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ تَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ ۗ وَلَذِكْرُ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ
Verily, the prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater.
Surah Al-Ankabut 29:45
Abu Huraira, RadhiAllahu Anhu, reported: A man came to the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, and he said, “Indeed, so-and-so prays in the night but he steals in the morning.”
The Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said:
إِنَّهُ سَيَنْهَاهُ مَا يَقُولُ
Verily, it should prevent him from doing that.
Source: Musnad Ahmad 9486, Grade: Sahih