Today we will talk about verse 29 of Surah Aal-Imran:
Say, ˹O Prophet,˺ “Whether you conceal what is in your hearts or reveal it, it is known to Allah. For He knows whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And Allah is Most Capable of everything.”
In the previous verse Allah asks us to know whom to befriend and know whom to be enemy with. The central topic is Allah. Be friend with whomever is Allah’s friend and be enemy with whomever is Allah’s enemy. Much of this topic is related to heart action. Love and hatred, friend or enemy is a heart action. It can only manifest at outer action. There was a provision to pretend to befriend Allah’s enemies in case of fear of persecution. In such case one can show apparent act of kindness and polite words without affecting the faith and love of Allah in the heart.
Speaking about the world of hearts, this verse makes it clear that only Allah has the keys to hearts and knows what is there. No human CCTV or gadget can have access to what a person conceals in his or her heart.
heart or chest?
I was referring to the “heart” in the previous verse when I said “Allah knows what we conceal in our hearts”, but I was not very accurate in translation and so was the translation of Dr Mustafa Khattab that I quoted above. The proper word to use is “Chest” or the Arabic Sadr rather than heart which corresponds to the Arabic word qalb. This is picked up correctly by other translators like Fadel Soleiman, here is his translation of the above verse:
Say, “Whether you hide what is within your chests or disclose it, Allah knows it.” For He knows whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth, for Allah is All-Powerful over everything.
So, let us check the difference between the heart and chest as Quran uses these terms.
Sadr or chest is used 44 times with various derivations in the Quran.
qalb or the hear on the other hand was used in 132 times again with various derivation of the word.
That means Heart is much more important a topic than chest.
This article is not meant to make a detailed study comparing heart and chest and quote and comparing all occurrences in the Quran. Suffice to say here is that “heart” is the nucleus, the engine, the bedroom and the king. It is the center of knowledge and wisdom. It is the powerhouse. It is the recipient of Allah’s light which makes it powerful, healthy and full of joy and vitality. The absence of which makes the heart diseases, hardened, and turned upside down.
The “chest” on the other hand is the house of the heart. It is the veranda that leads to the bedroom. It is the place where the wisdom and knowledge mixes with outside desires and pollutions and human emotions. The devil cannot enter the heart, it can only throw its whispers and evils on the veranda. It is we who then take such whispers and bring in from veranda to the inner bedroom where the heart resides. Chest is the palace of the king and heart is the innermost protected room where the king stays. As king’s palace has lots of dynamics and politics, the chest experiences so much turmoil that can pose danger to the king.
Allah knows what is in the “chest” because the chest is the door to the heart and the door to the king. A person can intentionally open the door to all sorts of external dangers, or he can keep it well protected. Allah knows that very well. When a person keeps the door loose and neglected, a time will come when the king will be vulnerable to all sorts of dangers. Allah knows this negligence. It will be too late to preserve the kingdom if the king is left vulnerable for too long by keeping the chest open to all sort of externalities.
knowledge as well as power
Often, we human being do not give Allah His due respect. He has far more power than we humanly think. He has power and dominion over not only human being, or earth or Jupiter or milky way, He has power over the entire universe and beyond. If that is true, then can’t He catch the hypocrites who pretend to be with Muslims but actually they are with nonbelievers? Or those who claim to pretend being good with infidels but in reality he has heart inclinations towards the infidels. Nothing will go undetected by Allah.
The verse very nicely ended with coupling the power with knowledge. Allah not only knows things, but He also knows and then he is able to punish because He has power to punish. Knowledge itself is power, but when you add the power to punish then that is double the power: power of knowledge and power of punishment.