Narrated by Ḥaḍrat Nu‘mān bin Bashīr, Allāh be pleased with him:
I heard the Prophet of Allāh (peace and blessings of Allāh be on him) say, “In the body is a piece of flesh, when it gets well, the whole body gets well and when it becomes unhealthy, the whole body gets unhealthy and hark! That piece is the heart.”
In this Ḥadīth, a charming philosophy, aimed at reforming one’s self has been enunciated. It says that the heart is the fountainhead of all the actions of man. If the heart of a man entertains good and pure thoughts, all his deeds will necessarily be directed towards the path of virtue. But if the heart has dirty and offensive ideas, the deeds must necessarily follow the path of vice, for the feelings entertained by the heart are like seeds and action is the tree that grows out of the seed. Therefore, for the purpose of reformation, one must first worry about the heart.
If leaders of a community and the press infuse in the minds of the masses the feelings of virtue, and the college and school teachers similarly touch the hearts of the students, as also the parents those of their children, and instill in them the love of God, of the Prophet and of the faith, and feelings of welfare for the community, and the spirit of service and sacrifice and truthfulness, and sow in them the seeds of honesty, then there is little occasion to worry for good deeds on their part. The purity of mind will itself stimulate the growth of the tree of virtue. But if the heart is sick, the plant of good deeds will not grow and if it grew at all, it would wither away soon.
The truth is that the human heart is the central repository of righteousness, the fountainhead and source of all virtuous deeds. If the heart is in good shape, the activity of the hands and the feet and the tongue and the eyes also becomes healthy. But if the heart is filthy then all the deeds of man smell of stench and filth. Even the seemingly good deeds of such a person are but lifeless imitations or hypocritical advertisements devoid of any reality. It is thus the duty of every reformer to concentrate on the cure of the heart first for the heart is like the root and no dirty root would grow into a holy tree.
Taken from Forty Gems of Beauty