What should be the highest priority of the believer?
Understanding and managing priorities is a key element in the process of achieving objectives. It helps to set strong foundations, coherent buildings and effective results. When reflecting on the journey to Allah swt and looking how complex is the system of the soul, the management of priorities is a necessity in order to get to the purification of the soul which will help to achieve success in this world and in the hereafter. “By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness, He has succeeded who purifies it, And he has failed who instills it [with corruption]” (91:7-10).
Which action should then be the highest of the priorities? Without getting into detailed analysis, the highest priority is to watch and safeguard the activities related to the heart. The heart being the center of the whole system of soul, is as the prophet peace and blessings be upon him, said: "Surely there is in the body a small piece of flesh; if it is good, the whole body is good, and if it is corrupted, the whole body is corrupted, and that is the heart,” and he, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Allah does not look at your figures, nor at your attire but He looks at your hearts [and deeds].”
This substantial priority can be conducted into two actions:
1) Set the heart to be an environment to which goodness is attracted. This endeavor is possible with the remembrance of Allah swt. Indeed the remembrance of Allah swt expels out the whispering of Shaytan from the heart and allows in the angel's inspirations. The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him said, “Both Satan and angels are fellow-travelers of the child of Adam. However, Satan gives his pledge about evil things and denies the truth; but the angels promise good and confirm the truth, so if someone finds the latter, then he has to thank Allah, and if he finds the former, he has to seek refuge in Allah from Satan. Then he has to recite “The Evil one threatens you with poverty and bids you to conduct unseemly. Allah promiseth you His forgiveness and bounties. And Allah careth for all and He knoweth all things” (2:268).” Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah (rahimahullaah) said: “There is no doubt that the heart becomes covered with rust, just as metal dishes – silver, and their like – become rusty. So the rust of the heart is polished with Dhikr (remembrance of Allah), for Dhikr polishes the heart until it becomes like a shiny mirror. However, when Dhikr is abandoned, the rust returns; and when it commences then the heart again begins to be cleansed. Thus the heart becoming rusty is due to two matters: sins and neglecting remembrance of Allah. Likewise, it is cleansed and polished by two things: seeking Allah’s forgiveness and Dhikr.”
2) Striving firm to not let anything enter the heart except what pleases Allah and what is permissible. Indeed having the heart open to everything seen, heard and wished will certainly succumb the heart to attachment to whims and images which will divert from the remembrance of Allah, cause deviation and will be difficult to get rid of. One of the righteous predecessors asked at his death bed about his secret action which allowed him to maintain a high level of piety, replied: “I stood firmly at the gate of my heart for forty years not letting anything enter except that which will be beneficial to my hereafter.”
Knowing that Allah intervenes between man and his heart, only then the implementation of the above actions will help to have the heart be guided to the path of uprightness. Allah swt says: "O you who have believed, respond to Allah and to the Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life. And know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart and that to Him you will be gathered” (8:24). The most frequent supplication of the prophet peace and blessings be upon him was “O, Turner of the hearts (Allah, the Most High), turn our hearts to Your obedience,” and “O turner of the hearts, keep our hearts firm on your religion.”