Assalam alaikoum wa Rahmatullaah wa Barakaatuh,
[Transcribed from “A commentary on Ibn Taymiyyah’s Essy on the Heart” translated by Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips]
The main causes that lead to a hardened heart are identified in the following six verses from the Qur’an that expound on the topic of hardened hearts.
1. Ignoring Allah’s Signs
“Then your hearts became hardened after that, being like stones or even harder…” [2:74]
After the miracle of a dead man briefly coming back to life and identifying his murderers when his corpse was struck with a part of the sacrificed cow, the Jews denied it and their hearts became hardened. Allah went on to say in a parable that some stones are even softer than their hearts as they acknowledge the truth to which they were called. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol. 1, pp.260-1)
Human hearts become hardened whenever they ignore the signs of Allah. The signs of Allah are for human guidance. Consequently, when they are deliberately and consistently ignored, the heart becomes hardened to them and they have no effect. Allah’s signs are all around humans and even within themselves. Before, during and after a person commits a sin, a variety of warning signals go off like alarms. Prior to committing a sin the innate conscience recognizes the sin, so the potential sinner can stop himself or herself before the thought becomes an act. This conscience is the awareness of good and evil which Allah inspired in each and every human heart, saying: “He inspired it know its corruption and piety.”
Then again, as the potential sinner plods ahead ignoring his conscience, the angel assigned to every person advises him not to go ahead. Following the spiritual signs, Allah then sends a series of physical signs to discourage the potential sinner. The physical signs could be another person’s advice, a telephone call, a flat tire, etc. They give the potential sinner a chance to re-think what he is about to do. If he reverses his decision he earns for himself a reward from Allah as the Prophet sallallahy alayhi salam said: “Whoever intends to do evil deed and does not do it earns one reward.”
Even while actually doing the sin, further signs are sent so that the sinner can stop before completing the act. And after the sin, other signs are sent to encourage the sinner to repent. When these signs are continually ignored, the heart develops a shell which effectively seals it off from the signs and their effects.