مَّا جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لِرَجُلٍ مِّن قَلْبَيْنِ فِي جَوْفِهِ ۚ وَمَا جَعَلَ أَزْوَاجَكُمُ اللَّائِي تُظَاهِرُونَ مِنْهُنَّ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ ۚ وَمَا جَعَلَ أَدْعِيَاءَكُمْ أَبْنَاءَكُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ قَوْلُكُم بِأَفْوَاهِكُمْ ۖ وَاللَّهُ يَقُولُ الْحَقَّ وَهُوَ يَهْدِي السَّبِيلَ
God has not made for any man two hearts within his body. Nor has He made your wives whom you declare to be (unlawful to you) as your mothers’ back (to mean that you divorce them) your mothers (in fact). Nor has He made your adopted sons your sons (in fact). Those are only expressions you utter with your mouths. Whereas God speaks the truth and He guides to the right way. (Al-Ahzāb 33:4)
Zayd ibn Harīthah, may God be pleased with him, was a freed slave of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. Since Zayd preferred staying with the Prophet to staying with his biological father, the Prophet adopted him, and after that Zayd was called Zayd ibn Muhammad (i.e. Zayd, son of Muhammad) for a while. With the verse above, the Qur’ān prohibited calling him in attribution to the Prophet, also emphasizing that no one other than the biological parents can be regarded as the parents of someone and everyone’s identity should be attributed to his or her own parents. After the revelation of this verse, Zayd began to be called as Zayd ibn Harīthah. As for those who converted to Islam through Muslims, they were called as “Mawlā so and so” (i.e. the freed slave of so and so), like in the example of Sālim Mawlā Hudayfa.
The second point indicated in the verse above is as follows: a) The Arabs of the pre-Islamic age used to believe that intelligent and efficient people had two hearts; and b) when a husband said to his wife, “You are henceforth as my mother’s back to me,” which is called zihār, that wife was believed to be like the husband’s mother and regarded as divorced.
Thus, the verse abolished these two wrong assertions and practices at once.
The expression, “God has not made for any man two hearts within his body,” also has a metaphorical meaning. The heart mentioned here is not the biological heart; it is what the Muslim Sufis call the Divine faculty in a human being although it has some relationship with the biological heart. Just as the biological heart is the most vital organ of a human being as it pumps blood throughout the body causing death when it stops, so too the spiritual heart or the Divine faculty is the most vital mechanism of human spiritual and moral life. Everybody has both a biological and spiritual heart, not two. No one has two hearts one for believing in God’s Unity, the other for polytheism, one for sincerity, the other for ostentation and hypocrisy, one for the truth, the other for lies and falsehood. In short, the verse means: White is white and black is black. Neither your wives whom you declare to be your mothers are your mothers, nor are your adopted children your real children. Neither do intelligent, efficient people have two hearts. Likewise, you have only one heart, and neither belief in Divine Unity and polytheism, nor sincerity and hypocrisy, nor the truth and falsehood can co-exist in it.
Approaching the verse from another perspective, a human being can be or can be seen in duality because of different conditions in different periods of time. Nevertheless, Islam never permits such an attitude, which is considered to be the beginning point of a vicious cycle because such a position or attitudes make a human being more dangerous than aggressive unbelievers. The Qur’ān calls this attitude hypocrisy and declares that hypocrites are in the deepest pit of Hell. If a person claims to be following the way of God and have close relationship with God although he or she travels along the crooked, deviating ways, it means that such a person is carrying two hearts in his or her breast. The verse under discussion rejects such a position. In fact, God pronounces in two different verses that, “The (true) religion with God is Islam” (Āl ‘Imrān 3:19), and “Whoever seeks as religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted from him” (Āl ‘Imrān 3:85).
Truly, if the way is one, then the heart should be one, too. Those who deviate into different ways will not be able to free from disarray in their thoughts, vision, and hearts. Their claims of belief are no more than mere utterances with their mouths, as stated in the verse. If a person who claims to be a Muslim insults Islam and its values, such a person can only be a hypocrite.
In consequence, nobody carries two hearts and two consciences in their heart. With its sense of reliance and seeking help, that is, the needs of relying on a source of supreme power and seeking help from a supreme source of help that every human being feels in his or her heart, everyone has a single heart, and the heart is a most powerful, undeniable witness of God’s existence and Unity. Just as everyone can have a single spiritual heart, everyone has also a single biological heart, and a single real mother and father. No one can have another mother and father by claiming someone to be his or her mother or father, and no one can have a real child by claiming someone to be his or her child. The Qur’ān refutes and abolishes these dualities and establishes the unity of the truth with its manifestation in the outer world.