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Articles Section > Expansion and Contraction of the Heart by Kalamazad Mohammed


Expansion and Contraction of the Heart:
by Imam Kalamazad Mohammed


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The Holy Qur’an informs us that in the alternation of the day and the night there are signs for men of understanding, and Science has opened to us the door of understanding of the physical blessings that accrue to all of God’s creation from this alternation. Naseer Ahmad Faruqui, in his commentary of 2:164 of the Holy Qur’an refers specifically to the phrase: Wakhtilafil-laili wan-nahari and makes the observations that one major benefit, (discernible by even the most ignorant of men), that we obtain from this arrangement is that we can work at leisure and with ease during the day and rest peacefully during the night and despite all the differences and contrasts in this alternation, one thing is sure – it is all in the service of, and to the benefit of man.

However, this alternation is not limited to physical phenomena but has its counterpart in the spiritual world; for example, the vicissitudes of moods, circumstances and specifically here, the expansion and contraction of the heart which are referred to as bast (expansion) and qabz (contraction).

The Holy Qur’an tells us in 2:245: Wal-Lahu yaqbidu wa yabsutu. According to Lane, qabadahu means: he took with the hand, he grasped it, clutched it, seized it; or, he contracted it, or drew it together; and according to Penrice, it means: to contract, take, seize, draw in (its wings in flying), as a bird.

Basatahu, according to Lane, means: he spread it out or forth, expanded it, extended it; that is, Basatal-Lahur-rizqa: God multiplied, enlarged or made ample or plentiful, the means of subsistence; and so he explains the above verse (2:245) as "And God straitens or scants, or makes scanty the means of subsistence to some or withholds the means of subsistence from whom He wills and amplifies, enlarges, or makes ample or plentiful, the same" (p. 2482). We may note in passing that two of the attributes of Allah, Most High, are Al Qabid (He Who contracts things) and Al Basit (He Who opens or expands things).

Lane also records the following explanation of qabz and bast: (There are two) "terms applied by the investigators of truth among the Soofees (Sufis) to two contrary states of heart, from both of which it is seldom or never free: the former (qabz) being an affection of the heart withholding it from dilation and joy; whether the cause thereof be known, as the remembrance of a sin or an offence or of an omission, or be not known; and some of them make other divisions thereof" (p. 2482).

Two sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) come to mind here, both of which seem to be alluding to the two states whilst offering means of profiting from them. Firstly, Abu Huraira reported the Prophet as saying: "For everything there is eagerness, but every eagerness has a slack period; so if one who experiences it does what is right and pursues a middle course, place hopes in him, but if fingers are pointed at him (that is, he did it for name and reputation), do not consider him of any account" (Tirmidhi).

Secondly, Abu Umama reported God’s messenger as saying that his Lord suggested turning the valley of Mecca into gold for him, but he replied: "No, my Lord, but let me have enough to eat and be hungry on alternate days; then when I am hungry I shall make supplication to Thee and make mention of Thee, and when I have enough I shall praise and thank Thee" (Ahmad).

In the following two extracts, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Mujaddid of the 14th Century Hijrah, has described the two states of qabz and bast and has given us suggestions on how to recognise and expel the former from our hearts.

"Man experiences alternate periods of qabz (contraction) and bast (expansion). In times of expansion, enthusiasm increases and the heart begins to open out. More attention is paid to Allah, Most High, at this time, and one begins to derive more pleasure and delight from prayer. But on many occasions there comes upon man that condition in which joy and happiness gradually recede and a straitened condition overspreads the heart. Whenever this even occurs, then its remedy is to engage in istighfar abundantly and to read darud sharif repeatedly. In addition, one should perform salah over and over – that is the prescription for freeing the heart of this constriction" (Malfuzat, vol. 5, p. 10).

Later on, in answer to a companion who was experiencing the above states without understanding their origins and causes, etc. Mirza Sahib gave the following explanation:

"This is called qabz and bast (that is, contraction and expansion). Qabz is the name of that condition when a veil of heedlessness covers the heart and there is little love for God and all kinds of anxiety, fear and grief and worldly apprehensions engulf the mind. And bast is that state when the heart is removed far from the world and is turned towards Allah and the thought of death is ever fresh in the mind, for unless a person consciously and deliberately thinks of his own death, he cannot attain to that state of bast. Death is a regular visitor. There is no man who has not already lost a close relative and nowadays, as the plague is attacking every home, the minds of people are so occupied with the thought of death, that there is no wish to think of anything else at all.

These states of qabz and bast arise in the heart of a person who does not remember death because experience has shown us that on many occasions a person might be in the grips of qabz (contraction) and then an unexpected event occurs and that state of qabz instantaneously disappears. For example, an earthquake may strike without warning, or a sudden death may befall and side by side with these, his heart still opens out (in joy). From this, it is also known that qabz is a temporary state, which can be banished by constant remembrance of death and intimate attachment to Allah, Most High, and that bast (expansion) is a permanent condition.

The mystics hardly ever experience the state of qabz. Ignorant people, however, believe that this world is a place of lengthy residence and so there is much time for doing acts of righteousness in the future, and they thus fall into error. Only Allah knows whether one will be alive tomorrow or not" (Malfuzat, vol. 5, pp. 260-261).

In conclusion, the Holy Qur’an relates that when Korah was destroyed with all his much flaunted wealth, those who had yearned to be in his place and had said: O would that we had the like of what Korah is given (28:79), had the scales removed from their eyes and now said: Ah! (know) that Allah amplifies and straitens the means of subsistence (material and spiritual) for whom He pleases of His servants; had Allah not been gracious to us, He would have abased us. Ah! (know) that the ungrateful are never successful (28:82).

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Articles Section > Expansion and Contraction of the Heart by Kalamazad Mohammed

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