Mind & Heart
Is the Heart just a pump?
3 min read

Blaise Pascal said:  

“The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.” 

Scientists assumed for a long time that only the brain is in command. But now we know that communication Heart-Brain works both ways. 

The Heart’s Little Brain 

In the 70s, two researchers, John and Beatrice Lacey were examining the communication between the heart and the brain. What they found was fascinating: the heart can influence the brain and change our perception of the world. 

It seemed as the heart was acting on his own. The heart was not only capable of sending information to the brain, but also have authority over it.  

If you never wondered why you acted irrationally in the past, this could be the beginning of an explanation. 

In 1991, a team of scientists led by Dr. Andrew Armour, of the University of Montreal, discovered that the heart has its “little brain” composed of approximately 40,000 neurons. They behave just like the neurons in the brain- meaning the heart has its nervous system, his intelligence. 

We are at the beginning of understanding the key role that the heart plays in our functioning. The research has shown that the heart sends more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. Besides, the intrinsic neural system of the heart has both short-term and long-term memory functions. 

The heart’s little brain is capable of remembering, thinking, and learning. He’s also acting like an emotion processor. He translates the language of the body into an understandable message for the brain.  

The heart is not anymore just a pump, but an operator who can act independently of the brain and affect our perceptions, behavior, and performance.  

Take care of your Heart 

In her HuffPost article, the former CEO of HealthMath Institute, Deborah Rozman explains how experiencing positive emotions such as caring and appreciation, gives the heart a coherent and harmonious rhythm. This state of the heart is then communicated to the brain and the rest of the body. The results are more mental clarity, creativity, emotional balance, and personal effectiveness. 

In the Harvard Business Review article, ‘Pull the Plug on Stress’, members of the same institute lay down their 5 steps technique, called ‘freeze-frame’, to control the heart and manage stress. 

Now we know that the heart plays a role in pain modulation and stress-related illnesses. Maybe we can start understanding things like intuition, self-healing, or heart wisdom. It has become clear today that the quality of our life depends on the quality of our hearts. 

The Heart in Islam 

More than 1400 years ago, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, stressed the importance of the heart when he said: 

“Verily, in the body is a piece of flesh which, if sound, the entire body is sound, and if corrupt, the entire body is corrupt. Truly, it is the heart.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari] 

In another hadith, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said that a person bad deed affects the heart and requires actions to be cleansed. 

“Verily, when the servant commits a sin, a black mark appears upon his heart. If he abandons the sin, seeks forgiveness, and repents, then his heart will be polished. If he returns to the sin, the blackness will be increased until it overcomes his heart. It is the covering that Allah has mentioned: No, rather a covering is over their hearts from what they have earned. (Quran 83:14)” [Sahih Al-Tirmidhi] 

Remembering God, seeking his forgiveness, bettering one’s character, helping the ones in need, or any other acts of worship, are all means to purify the heart. As a result, the believer is given a luminous heart. In his book, Madarij as-Salikeen, Ibn al-Qayyim describes the light of the heart as: 

“A light that Allah throws into the heart of a believer that allows him to distinguish between truth and falsehood.”   

When we lead ourselves and others, we need to pay close attention to our hearts. Our thoughts, plans, and decisions will be greatly affected by the quality of our hearts.