It is found in https://quran.com/en/al-hajj/46:

Have they not travelled throughout the land so their hearts may reason, and their ears may listen? Indeed, it is not the eyes that are blind, but it is the hearts in the chests that grow blind.

From the explanations I've seen online, the idea of a heart thinking is meant to be considered metaphorically, however, I find this argument to not be plausible. Firstly, in Q22:46, it mentions the physical location of the heart here: the hearts in the chests. If such a notion was to be taken metaphorically, why is the location of the heart mentioned? Secondly, the idea of the heart being the center of thought was a notion commonly found during that time and place. Why would the Quran use what would be considered faulty terminology?

2 Answers 2


Most of the time the heart is mentioned in the Quran, it can be replaced with "mind." Arabic simply uses the organ of the heart to represent the mind, notwithstanding whether there is a real biological relationship between the two.

As for your first question: If it is a metaphor, how can the location be mentioned?

This is not a metaphor. A metaphor is defined as a comparison between two objects without the use of words of comparison (e.g. "like").

This is a metonym, which is when one thing (usually physical) is taken to be a literary representation of another thing (usually more abstract). There is often some sort of link between the two which led to people making that metonym. An example is how "White House" is a metonym for the US government.

The organ of the heart in Arabic is a metonym for the mind. As such, specifying the location of the heart adds emphasis, but it doesn't change the fact that the physical heart is itself a literary substitute for the mind.

The mention of "in the chests" here is to emphasize the fact that the blindness being described is something hidden inside them, not something in their outer body.

As for your second question: The relationship between the heart and mind is based on a false understanding of biology, so why would the Quran use it?

Using a word or idiom in a language is not an endorsement of the theory that led to that idiom being created.

It was simply idiomatic in Arabic to refer to the mind with the heart, and that is not affected by what theory this relationship was originally based on.

It is similar to how heart in English is a metonym for love or emotions or aspirations. E.g. "Follow your heart." Using phrases like these would not be considered a mistake or endorsement of the faulty ideas which originally caused this relationship between the two concepts.

Even if someone said "Follow your heart" while pointing to a person's chest or someone said to be poetic "You haven't left any scar on my body, but you have left a scar on the heart in my chest," that would not be an endorsement of any physical link between the heart and emotions.

Rather, all of that is simply using the language as it is, even if the reason the language came to be like that was based on a faulty understanding of biology.

The Quran did not come to teach people biology or rearrange their understanding of human anatomy. To expect that from the Quran would be missing the point.

  • The problem that I find with your answer to my second question is that, during that time period, the heart was thought as the center point of reasoning, and replaced the brain in this aspect. Is it not confusing for the author to use that type of language for the audience? Commented May 22 at 19:17
  • @MuslimLearner Don't see any source of confusion. The message of all the verses is very clear. I suppose the only confusion can come from biology, and that was neither the intention of the Quran nor the interest of the audience to teach or learn.
    – The Z
    Commented May 22 at 21:53

First, if the idea of heart thinking is to be considered metaphorical, why not similarly assume the idea of hearts in the chests as metaphorical as well?

Second, why you think Quran uses faulty terminology? Do the scientists know where cognition and intellect power resides? Is it in brain? Does it have anything to do with heart? It might indeed be considered as a matter of debate, at least to some scientists. The idea is that we have five regular sense, and a magnetic field around our body that can communicate with the surroundings, and the field produced by the heart (measured using ECG probes) is way stronger than that of brain (measured using EEG probes). It is through these fields perhaps that people can feel someone is sad even if not seeing his/her face or hearing his/her face. There may arise many ambiguities here and there when studying such issues but, anyway, personally I don't think the phrasings used in Quran is metaphorical.

Also reading this answer may help, remembering that reasoning is only like a cooking recipe, it only shows what steps if are taken (while having met the prerequisite) the one will most probably experience a claimed state of understanding. Having the proof doesn't mean everyone can understand it, or it will take the same time and effort for everyone to understand it, nor it implies everyone understands it to a same depth, and etc. ... Reasoning is perhaps a mind effort but understanding is something else. Diseases like heart-attack when e.g. someone is scared so badly might be considered as clues in studying how heart reacts to inputs the person as a whole receives from the surrounding. This much only to say not everything is completely clear now to scientists, so that concluding such phrasings as wrong might be misjudgement.

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