Hadith on Hearts: The heart of the believer is between the two fingers of the Most Merciful

Hadith on Hearts: The heart of the believer is between the two fingers of the Most Merciful

Nawwas bin Sam’an Al-Kilabi said:

“I heard the Messenger of Allah say: ‘There is no heart that is not between two of the Fingers of the Most Merciful. If He wills, He guides it and if He wills, He sends it astray.’ The Messenger of Allah used to say: ‘O You Who makes hearts steadfast make our hearts steadfast in adhering to Your religion.’ And he said: ‘The Scale is in the Hand of the Most Merciful; He will cause some peoples to rise and others to fall until the day of Resurrection.'”
حَدَّثَنَا هِشَامُ بْنُ عَمَّارٍ، حَدَّثَنَا صَدَقَةُ بْنُ خَالِدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ جَابِرٍ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ بُسْرَ بْنَ عُبَيْدِ اللَّهِ، يَقُولُ سَمِعْتُ أَبَا إِدْرِيسَ الْخَوْلاَنِيَّ، يَقُولُ حَدَّثَنِي النَّوَّاسُ بْنُ سَمْعَانَ الْكِلاَبِيُّ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ يَقُولُ ‏”‏ مَا مِنْ قَلْبٍ إِلاَّ بَيْنَ إِصْبَعَيْنِ مِنْ أَصَابِعِ الرَّحْمَنِ إِنْ شَاءَ أَقَامَهُ وَإِنْ شَاءَ أَزَاغَهُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ وَكَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ يَقُولُ ‏”‏ يَا مُثَبِّتَ الْقُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قُلُوبَنَا عَلَى دِينِكَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ وَالْمِيزَانُ بِيَدِ الرَّحْمَنِ يَرْفَعُ أَقْوَامًا وَيَخْفِضُ آخَرِينَ إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

Sunan Ibn Majah – The Book of the Sunnah

English reference : Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 199

Arabic reference : Book 1, Hadith 204


Imām al-Izz Ibn ʿAbd al-Salām was asked about the meaning of this ḥadīth.

He replied:

“The meaning of the Prophet’s saying, “The heart of the believer is between two fingers of the Merciful” is that Allāh exerts His custody over it with His power and determination as He wills, changing it from disbelief to belief and from obedience to disobedience or the reverse.”

[al-ʿIzz ibn ʿAbd al-Salām, Fatāwā (p. 55-57) and al-Fatāwā al-Mawsiliyya (p. 45-47)].


Imām Ibn al-Jawzī said:

“The learned will also know that the meaning of flipping the hearts between two fingers means having control over the hearts because having something between two fingers indicates the absolute control over it.”

Ṣayd al-Khāṭir, p. 265.


Imām al-Khaṭṭābī said:

“It means that the hearts are under his power and dominion. They were mentioned specifically because Allāh Almighty has made the heart the seat of passing thoughts, will, resolutions and intentions, which are all the introductories of actions.

Then He made all the limbs dependent on the heart in their motions and stillness, thereby showing that our actions are all measured out by Allāh and created, and that nothing happens without His will

The Prophet (ﷺ) exemplified for His Companions the Divine pre-eternal power with the illustration clearest to their own understandings, for none has more power over something than when he has it between his fingers.

It may also mean the two favors of benefit and protection or the two traces of Divine favor and justice.”

[al-Asmāʾ wa ʿl-Ṣifāt (Kawtharī ed. (p. 341); Hāshidī ed. (2:174)].


Imām al-Ghazālī elaborates:

“[…] “The heart of the believer is between two fingers of the Compassionate.” The ignorant envisages two organs that are composed of flesh, bones, nerves, includes fingertips and fingernails, and are attached to the palm.

For the scholar, if indicates a metaphorical meaning rather than a literal one. It signifies what the finger is for. It is as if He called His power “a finger” because the function of the finger—and its spirit and nature—is the ability to turn things as it pleases.

Similarly, the association in the Exalted’s statement, “and He is with you wherever you may he,” conveys the purpose of the association—namely, to have knowledge and awareness.

It is a common practice of the Arabs to express the effect by mentioning the cause, and hence to borrow the cause as a metaphor for the effect.”

[al-Iqtiṣād fī al-Iʿtiqād, (p. 57-58).


Imām al-Ghazālī reported :

that the reliable Ḥanbalī Imāms he met in Baghdad during his time mentioned that Imām Aḥmad’s interpretation of this ḥadīth was that it meant, “the spirit of the two fingers.”

Imām al-Ghazālī says: “[…] And it is spiritual rational finger. I mean that the spirit of the finger is what by which altering things is made easy. And the heart of man is between the touch of the angel and the devil.

And by them, God, be He exalted, alters hearts. So he used the two fingers to indirectly refer to them.”

[As quoted by Abdullah ibn Hamid Ali ‘The Attributes of God: Ibn al-Jawzī’s Dafʿ Shubah al-Tashbīh bi-Akaff al-Tanzīh’, (p. 142-143)].


Imām Ibn Jahbal al-Kilābī said:

“We have already clarified the use of the fingers and its wisdom in the context of the transformation effected by them. What is turned around by the fingers is easier, lighter, and faster.

Therefore, the Creator wanted to show the lightness of the heavens, the earth, and all creation in comparison to His Power, and to express the swiftness of the hearts transformation by placing it between the two fingers as well as its helplessness and insignificance.

Both the heart and all creatures are as nothing to the Merciful with respect to His power over them and their insignificance.

It was also said that “between the two fingers” is a figurative expression for the two dispositions. One disposition comes from the angel inspiring one to choose goodness and confirm truth, the other coming from the devil inspiring one to choose evil and deny truth.”

[As quoted in al-Raddu ʿala Man Qāla bil-Jiha, GF Haddad’s translation, (p. 122-123).]


In Iljam al-ʿawwām an ʿilm al-kalām, al-Ghazālī states:

“…It is the duty of both layperson and the non-layperson to realize decisively and with certainty that the Messenger ﷺ did not mean by that (hand) “a material object,” which is an organ composed of flesh, blood and bone.

[He must also realize] that such a thing is impossible regarding Allāh (subḥānahū wa taʿāla), and that He is exonerated from such things.” After reporting the ijmāʾ of both the Salaf and the Khalaf over the kufr of one who worships a material body, he states:

“So let us believe that it (i.e. the hand) is an expression of a particular meaning that is neither a material body (jism) nor accidents of a material object (ʿaraḍ), and that the meaning in this case is befitting the attributes of majesty and pride.

If one does not know what THE MEANING is, and does not comprehend the essence of its reality, he is not religiously burdened with [comprehending] it by any means.

That is because knowing its explanation and meaning is NOT an obligation of his, but rather it is compulsory for him not to indulge in such matters.”

[Iljam al-ʿawwām an ʿilm al-kalām (p. 25-27)]

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