William C. Chittick
The human task can only be accomplished in the 'heart', a word that designates the unlimited realm of human awareness and consiousness. The heart alone, among all created things, is given the capacity to encompass God. As the famous extra-Quranic Divine saying puts it, 'My heavens and My earth embrace Me not, but the heart of My believing servant does embrace Me.' To remember God fully and actually is to find Him sitting within the heart, which is His Throne in the microcosm.
Knowledge of things as they actually are can only come through knowing them as disclosures of the Real, as signs and traces displaying God's names and attributes. This is not a theoretical sort of knowledge, but a knowledge of recognition and gnosis. It is to gain a true vision of the Divine omnipresence, the fact that, as the Quran puts it, 'And Allah's is the East and the West, therefore, whither you turn, thither is Allah's purpose; surely Allah is Amplegiving, Knowing. (2:115)' Such knowledge comes by way of dhikr, which is al-hudhur ma a'l-madhkur, 'presence with the One Remembered.'
It is only this sort of knowledge that allows man to see that everything in this world is accursed if he does not see it as displaying the Real, and that he himself is accursed to the extent that he does not know that things do infact display the Real. Once we see the world for what it is, we see that it is nothing but dhikr-Allah - a reminder of God, a mention of God, a remembrance of God. Our response to the world can only be to follow its lead - to mention and to remember God. 'Everything is accursed,' says the hadith, 'except dhikr-Allah.' But everything is dhikr-Allah, so nothing is accursed. The alchemy of dhikr transmutes the accursed into the blessed. The place of that dhikr, where God becomes truly present and man becomes truly blessed, is the heart.
As Ibn Arabi put it:
The greatest sin is what brings about the death of the heart. It dies only by knowing God. This is what is named 'ignorance'. For the heart is the house that God has chosen for Himself in this human configuration. But such a person has misappropriated the house, coming between it and its Owner.
A person like that is the one who most wrongs himself, for he has deprived himself of good that would have come to him from the Owner of the house - had he left the house to Him. This is the deprivation of ignorance (III 179.6)
'O God, carry us in the ships of Thy deliverance, give us to enjoy the pleasure of whispered prayer to Thee, make us drink at the pools of Thy love, let us taste the sweetness of Thy affection and nearness, allow us to struggle in Thee, preoccupy us with obeying Thee, and purify our intentions in devoting works to Thee, for we exist through Thee and belong to Thee, and we have no one to mediate with Thee but Thee!' Imam Sajjad ('A); Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya