This is a translation of the first chapter of the Persian jurist al-Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī’s Bayān al-Farq bayna al-Ṣadr wa-l-Qalb wa-l-Fuʾād wa-l-Lubb.
Abū ʿAbd-Allāh Muḥammad bin ʿAlī al-Tirmidhī said, “Some of the people of knowledge have asked me about the differences between the terms ṣadr, qalb, fuʾād, and lubb, and what has been narrated regarding them. I have thus decided to comment on the matter, with the permission of Allāh, the Exalted, to make the matter more comprehensible.”
Know, may Allāh ﷻ increase you in understanding of the dīn, that the qalb is a name that comprises all the inner stations [of the heart]. From the inner stations, there exists what enters the heart as well and which exits it. The heart resembles the eye, insofar as it consists of what is between the two layers of eyelashes, including the whiteness, the iris, the pupil, and the light therein [that enters]. All of these [layers] have particular meanings other than what is implied by the general term (i.e. the “heart”). Being intertwined, they add to one another, the exterior layers facilitating the entrance of [what is to enter] into the inner layers. It is similar thus to the case of a house, which encompasses what is therein, its surroundings, hallways, and treasury. Every place has a special meaning [and worth] attached to it that may be inapplicable in the case of the entire home. The name of the Ḥaram, as such, is the all-encompassing name for the Ḥaram, from Makkah, its territory, its masjid, and its Old House. Similarly, a lantern is a name that comprises the vial; the place of the wick is not that of the oil, the wick being what the light shines by. The utility of each is what leads to the utility of the lantern as a whole, and so when there is a deficiency in one aspect, the whole likewise becomes deficient. The peanut encompasses the case that comprises the tough flesh, the second [thin] case being the peel that resembles the peel of the brain, the latter subsiding therein, and [then] there are further levels to be found even deeper.
Know, may Allāh ﷻ increase you in understanding of the dīn, that there are two worlds, and for their people there are various levels, as there are levels pertaining to the people of knowledge. Allāh ﷻ said, “And we have raised some over others in rank.”1 He ﷻ also said, “Over every knowledgeable is one greater in knowledge.”2 And every knowledge is exalted, so its place is in the heart, wherein it is hidden, special, and concealed, but discussing the name of the qalb diverts us from progressing with the discussion concerning the stations pertaining to the people. The ṣadr in the heart is as the whiteness of the eye, the courtyard of a house, the boundaries of Makkah, the place of oil in a lantern, or the outer shell of a peanut. The ṣadr is what waswās and calamities enter, just as the eyes are affected negatively by the onset of pimples and sweat; as carpets and other textiles are used to cover and decorate the house which others may enter; or as beasts may enter the arena and boundaries of the Ḥaram; or as the bedding of the lantern may be located above the place of the oil, and if it is above then the oil is, by definition, underneath; or as indicated by the fact that insects sit above the shell of the peanut, for if the shells were to split open, they would enter. The ṣadr is the locus of rancor, desires, and needs, compressing at certain times and expanding in others. It is the dominion of the nafs al-ammārah bi-l-sūʾ (the evil-inclined/carnal soul), and it is because of this it is inclined to assumptions, pride, and being swayed away by its own self. It is also [however] the locus of the light of Islām, as well as the retainment of knowledge that is heard (masmūʿ) and learned of laws (aḥkām) and reports (akhbār) and what is perpetuated through speech, auditory reception is the first cause thereof. It has been named ṣadr because it is the “outer form” (ṣadr) of the qalb, as it appears as well in the name of the first dawn (ṣadr al-nahār), or the outside of the house which is the first boundary thereof. It is where waswās stem from, as does distress, particularly if periods of either are prolonged.
Regarding the qalb, it is the second layer of the heart, lying inside the ṣadr, just as the iris of the eye rests between the whiteness, the area of Makkah lies in the Ḥaram, the wick inside the lantern, the house inside the dwelling, or the peanut inside its shell. It is the locus of the light of belief (īmān), calm, attentive humility (khushūʿ), fear of Allāh ﷻ (taqwā), love (maḥabbah), contentment (riḍā), certainty (yaqīn), fear (khawf), hope (rajāʾ), patience (ṣabr), conviction (qināʿah). It is the spring that provides the foundations for knowledge, resembling a spring of water. Likewise is the case for the ṣadr, as it emerges from the heart as knowledge is directed thereto, insofar as auditory transmissions (simāʿ) are concerned. The qalb produces certainty, permeating the ṣadr. It is the foundation (aṣl) while the ṣadr is the ancillary derivative (farʿ), and the latter is derived from the former. As the Prophet ﷺ said, “Actions are by intentions.”3 He ﷺ implied that the knowledge learned could either be elevated or reduced in goodness depending on the intention. Actions pertain to the self, and the ṣadr is their boundary while the intention is made in the qalb. The qalb is not in the hands of the nafs, by the mercy of Allāh ﷻ, but it is what reigns over the nafs, the latter being its dominion.
As the Prophet ﷺ said, “The hands are wings, the feet are posts, the eyes are armors, the ears are restraints, the heart is mercy, the spleen is deceit, the kidneys are plotters, and the lungs are the nafs. When the ruler is moral, the soldiers are likewise moral, and when the ruler is corrupt, the soldiers are the same.”4 The Prophet ﷺ clarified that the qalb is the ruler, and the ṣadr is as a field for the horseman—that the embellishment of the limbs is the embellishment of the heart, and the corruption of the limbs is the corruption of the heart. The heart is a lamp which lamp is radiated with the light of piety (tuqā) and certainty (yaqīn). When the heart is deprived of this light, every action stems from the nafs separately from the qalb for it hardly considers the events of the ākhira, and so the possessor is not blameworthy if he is sinful, or praiseworthy if obedient. As Allāh ﷻ said, “He blames you for what your hearts have earned.”5
The fuʾād, the third layer within the qalb, is like the pupil of the eye situated within the iris; or as the Masjid al-Ḥarām located in Makkah; or as the room in which the treasury is contained; or as the wick in the middle of the lantern; or as the prime matter of a peanut inside its shell(s). It is this fuʾād that is the locus of cognition (maʿrifah), thoughts (khawāṭir), and dreams (ruʾyah). When a man benefits [in terms of maʿrifah], it is the fuʾād that benefits first, followed by the qalb. It is inside the qalb as the latter is within the ṣadr, as the pearl rests inside the oyster.
The lubb, inside the fuʾād, is the light in the eye [which allows perception], the fire in the wick of the lantern, and the innermost flesh of the peanut as it is found inside its shell. All of these layers are enshrouded by those external to them, the outer layers all subsisting in the inner ones, each interconnected to and collaborating with the other(s) in agreement without conflict, for they are the lights of the dīn and the dīn is one even if it comprises different levels. And it is the lubb which houses the light of tawḥīd and oneness, and it is the final stage [of the heart] and its greatest Sulṭān.
And following these loci, [we see that] the foundation of all is the light of tawḥīd: the secret and the gracious knowledge. Īmān is what preserves the secret and bears witness to the beauty; Islām is the gratefulness for the piety and submission of the qalb to the secret, for tawḥīd is a secret [which stems] from the guidance (hidāyah) of Allāh, the Exalted, for His ﷻ servant and His ﷻ indication towards Him ﷻ, as the ʿaql of the servant is unable to comprehend [the presence of] his Lord ﷻ unless He ﷻ guides him. [It is] the maʿrifah of the grace of Allāh, the Exalted, when He opens for him the doors of His ﷻ bounties without the servant being deserving, and blessing him with His ﷻ guidance (hudā) until he believes that all of [what he has received] is from Allāh, the Exalted. His ﷻ favors upon him are from His ﷻ Grace, and he may not even thank Him ﷻ except by His ﷻ will. For that as well it is a blessing from Him ﷻ to His ﷻ servant, as it bears witness to Allāh’s Grace and protects his secret [of tawḥīd] when he is ambivalent, for he is unable to affirm the howness (kayfiyya) of His ﷻ Lordship. So he then learns that He ﷻ is One (wāḥid), negates similitude (tashbīh) [to Him ﷻ], as well as any howness and or negation (taʿṭīl) [of His ﷻ Attributes]. This is the īmān that bears witness to the grace (birr) and preserves the secret. Islām comprises the actions of the nafs in the obedience of Allāh ﷻ with gratefulness, steadfastness, and submission to His ﷻ Lordship, but turning away from the realization of the secret and acceptance towards his own servitude and his subsistence in [only] what is meant for him, for Islām stands upon the nafs, and the nafs is hidden from the truth and its witnessing. The nafs is unable to grasp the ḥaqāʾiq, for do you not see that the servant is commanded by the īmān in his qalb? He is not burdened [with the obligation] to know this from the facet of howness, for upon him is following and turning away from innovation, and it suffices the nafs to follow in these.
As for the undisclosed stations which lie under the aforementioned, some may only be witnessed by the servant blessed with understanding. May Allāh, the Exalted, allow His servant to taste them, and [clarify] these stations like [the gradually] increasing clarity of water lingering in its vessel. With this example, we may grasp the way of the secret.
End of translation.
And Allāh ﷻ knows best.
- Al-Zukhruf, 32.
- Yūsuf, 76.
- Al-Bukhārī, 1, 1/3. Muslim, 1905. Abū Dāwud, 2201. Sunan al-Tirmidhī, 1647. Sunan Ibn Mājah, 2427.
- Al-Ṭabarānī, 738.
- Baqarah, 225.