Self-Criticism

By Dr.Yusuf Al-Qaradawi 

It is  necessary for individuals to always pause at the end of each day to assess themselves and run through their achievements, such as raising pertinent question like: What have they done in the course of the day? Why have they done it? What have they omitted? And why have they omitted it? More importantly, are we tread on the right path?

It would be excellent if this self-criticism or muhasabah were to be done consistantly, perhaps every day before retiring to bed. This period of self-criticism and appraisal should certainly be counted among one’s moments of progress; it is a moment when one impartially sits as a judge over oneself and reviews yearnings and motivations. It is a moment when the believer appoints, out of conscience, an investigator to probe his or her actions, and a judge to condemn or acquit. In this way, one progresses from the state of “the soul that incites to evil” to the state of “the self-reproaching soul,” which reproaches its owner whenever one plunge into sin or falls short of expectations.

It is narrated in one hadith that “it behooves any wise person to have four periods of time” and one of the four periods is “a period in which one engages in self-criticism.”

The Second Caliph, `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab said, “Criticize and appraise yourselves before you are criticized and appraised on the Day of Judgment, and weigh out your deeds, before they are weighed out for you.” He himself used to whip his foot at night and say to himself, “Tell me, what have you done today?”

Maimun Ibn Mahran, a famous Companion of the Prophet, used to say, “A pious person scrupulously examines and appraises himself more than he would a tyrant ruler and a tight-fisted partner!”

Al-Hasan said, “A believer polices his own self; he criticizes and appraises it for the sake of Allah. Actually, the final appraisal (on the Day of Judgment) may turn mild on some people simply because they were wont to appraise themselves in this life; on the other hand, it may turn out to be rigorous on people who took this life with levity, and thought they would not be called to account.” Al-Hasan went on, explaining how this self-criticism operates in practice.

“A tempting thought (or idea) may occur to the believer. He says to himself, ‘By Allah, this is a fascinating idea; I would like to do it! But no, never. Get lost! I am prohibited from executing you!’” This is self-criticism and appraisal before action.

And, “a believer may inadvertently do something. He would then turn to himself and say, ‘What did you mean by this? By Allah, I cannot find an excuse for this. I shall never repeat it, insha’ Allah!’” This is self-criticism and appraisal after action.

If a believer fails to observe this brief period of soul-checking daily, then that person should at least try to do so once every few days or once a week. In this way, people can draw up the balance sheets of their lives, depicting their spiritual assets and liabilities.

A believer should also have a longer period of this practice at the end of each month and an even longer period at the end of each year, when bidding farewell to one year and preparing for another. This is the time to critically review the past and plan for the future. This is the spiritual equivalent of one’s final accounts for the year.

One blameworthy innovation [bid’ah]initiated by the West and, unfortunately, imitated by some Muslims, is the annual birthday celebration, where people are invited to a party and served with delicious food and drink. They light a number of candles, each one representing a year in the lifetime of the celebrant. Gifts are presented and pleasantries exchanged on the occasion. Rather than this blind, useless imitation, it is better for a wise person to seize this occasion—which marks the expiry of one whole year of one’s lifetime—to reconsider and reflect upon his or her life.

At the end of every year, a careful trader applies the brakes in order to measure the past year’s performance and to establish his or her financial position at the end of it. The trader wants to know his or her profit, loss, assets, and liabilities. Likewise, believers ought to call themselves to account for one whole year of their lives that have expired and about which Allah will question them.

A year is not a short time. It is a period of twelve months: a month is, on average, thirty days, each day has twenty-four hours, each hour sixty minutes, and each minute sixty seconds. And every second should be counted as a blessing, a favor from Allah, and a trust in one’s hands.

Al-Basri,may Allah have mercy on Al-Hasan, when he said, “O son of Adam! You are but a bundle of days. As each day passes away, a portion of you vanishes away!”

Abu `Ali Ad-Daqqaq used to recite the following lines: Each day that passes, a portion of me it takes away, On the heart, a bitter taste it leaves, and then glides away.

Reference:

[I] Source: Time in the Life of a Muslim, Taha Publishers Ltd. 2000 , cited with some modifications from: http://islaam.com/Article.aspx?id=631

[2] Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi is the head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), and the president of The International Association of Muslim Scholars (IAMS). He has been active in the field of da`wah and the Islamic Movement for more than half a century.

[Via Islam Online]

About Md Radzi Ahmad
A retired Malaysian civil servant. Served the Malaysian government for thirty-one years. Posted to London, Rangoon, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Bangkok. Born in Kampong Hutan Kandeh, Alor Star, Kedah. Educated at Sultan Abdul Hamid College, Alor Star and University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. Currently resides in Subang Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan,Malaysia.Blessed with three children, a son, two daughters, daughter in law and two grandaughters.

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