Posted: June 8, 2011 in English Version

By Padepokan Guru Indonesia (PaGI)

By: Muhibbin Syah
(Lecturer at UIN Bandung)

Allah, the almighty God, created human beings uniquely and perfectly in the sense that they, contrasted to any other organisms, had much more physical as well as psychological abilities. These abilities are believed to have enabled them to appropriately – if not exactly – perceive and react to their environment. It is true, that both their perception and response are led and regulated by the substance which has psychological dimension rather than physical one. In Islamic teaching, this inner substance is definitely thought of as what so called “qalb”. With regard to this, the Holy Quran repeatedly tells us that the quality of our faith (iman) and devotion (taqwa) depends very much on the qalb.

It is the case, that many educated people particularly those who are religiously-educated ones claim to know certainly what the qalb is at least in accordance with their respective religion teachers’ opinion and references taught to them. Nevertheless, do they really have any further understanding of this Arabic-psychological key-word (i.e. the qalb)?

Physical and psychological sense of the qalb

The Arabic word qalb is clearly derived from an Arabic word which is meant turn over or reverse the position of (Elias & Elias, 1982: 559). As a noun, the qalb physical meaning is similar to heart (jantung), NOT liver (hati) as it has been traditionally translated into Indonesian. We may, respecting this, say al-i’tilal al-qalb (penyakit jantung) to call heart disease in English (Baαlbaki, 1973: 418).

There are significant deferences between physical and psychological sense of the word qalb. As a psychological term, the word qalb can neither be perceived as heart nor as liver. Heart, physically, is a hollow muscular organ that pumps blood through the body (Hornby, 1994: 578), whereas liver is a multilobbed highly reddish-brown glandular organ in the human abdominal cavity (McLeod, 1989: 587). According to Elias & Elias (1982:451) qalb is the same sense as essence or intelligence /mind. Meanwhile, an Arabic-Indonesian dictionary “Al-Munawwir” (1989: 1027) translates qalb into Indonesian among other things as akal and akal itself is thought of as ingatan or mental.

Mental and cognitive function

With respect to this, it is exceptionally clear that psychologically, the qalb has two senses. Firstly, the sense of qalb related to the mental function of mankind, and secondly that of concerning cognitive function available in the mental life of mankind. With regard to the sense relevant to the mental function, God almighty firmly said: Allah has set a seal on their qalbs and on their hearing and on their eyes is a veil; great is the penalty for them” (al-Baqarah, verse 7). In addition to this, He also said that: “In their qalbs is a disease, and Allah has increased their disease; and grievous the penalty for them because they are false to themselves” (al-Baqarah, verse 10). Surely, the qalbs mentioned in both verse 7 and 10 of al-Baqarah quoted above should be thought of as neither heart nor liver. The reason is, that such a heart-illness does not refer to physical illness similar to, let’s say for example, heart-attack. Rather, it is a mental sickness relative to the mankind’s psychological domain, whereas their hearts themselves are physically healthy.

In relation to the sense regarded to the cognitive function of mankind, God almighty said: “Do they not travel through the land, so that their qalbs may thus learn wisdom and their ears may thus learn to hear?” (al-Hajj, verse 46). Besides, He also uttered categorically that: “Many are the demons and men We have made for Hell, (because) they have qalbs wherewith they understand not” (al-A’araf , verse 179).

The verses concerning the qalbs that have capability of knowing and comprehending as well as thinking (ya’qilun/yafqahun) should also be believed to have been irrelevant to physical hearts of mankind (Syah, 2010: 153). Related to this, we had better perceive the qalb as either intelligence or mind despite disagreement owing to our prior traditional view.

Implication and conclusion

On the basis of the qalb sense and function previously discussed, it is important for us to take another understanding of the term into account. A particular aspect of the advanced understanding of the qalb, which is prominent, is that heart does not possess any psychological function, and neither does liver. In contrast, it is brain that has not only physical but also psychological function.

For this reason, it is strongly suggested that every single of religious knowledge and skill and any other elements of faith and devotion be taught and deeply cultivated inside of every Moslem student’s brain, not in their heart. Heart is, of course, important since it pumps blood through our bodies. Brain, however, undoubtedly always plays more important roles in spite of our misunderstanding for ages!

In view of the qalb’s important roles, a strategy regarding efforts to develop and enhance its psychological abilities seemingly needs to be established. Concerning this, it is worth a try to imitate the strategy for developing cognitive domain designed by Syah (2010: 86) for inventing a strategy model for developing the qalb especially in or through religious education at schools, the madrasahs, and the pesantrens (Islamic boarding schools).


Ali, Abdullah Yusuf. 1989. The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary. New revised edition. Brentwood Maryland: Amana Corporation.

Ba’albaki, Munir. 1973. Al Mawrid: A Modern English – Arabic Dictionary. Sixth edition, Beirut: Dar El-Ilm Lil- Malayen.

Elias, Elias A & Elias Ed. E. 1982. Elias’ Modern Dictionary Arabic- English. Cairo: Elias Modern Publishing House & Co.

Hornby, AS. 1994. Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary of Current English. Fourth edition. New Yorkshire: Oxford University Press.

Mc Leod, William T (managing editor). 1989. The New Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus. Glasgow: William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd.

Munawir, Ahmad Warson. 1984. Al- Munawwir: Kamus Arab-Indonesia. Edisi lux. Yogyakarta: Pustaka Progressif.

Sternberg, Robert J. 2006. Cognitive Psychology. 4th Edition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education.

Syah, Muhibbin. 2010. Psikologi Pendidikan dengan Pendekatan Baru. Cet. ke-15 (Edisi revisi). Bandung: PT Remaja Rosdakarya

____________. 2010. Islamic English: A Competency-based Reading Comprehension. Cetakan ke-3. Jakarta: PT Remaja Rosdakarya.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s