Know Thyself – the Balance between the Inward and the Outward in Islam
Know your Self Worth
Where do you stand with Allah Almighty? What is your self-worth? Wrongly estimating our own value could have severe repercussions.
How then do we ensure that we have a better on handle on where we stand with Allah Almighty?
We may weigh little in Allah Almighty ’s eyes, but think we are worth more. Through Allah Almighty’s shield and mercy, He protects our self from others and covers our mistakes/sins and shortcomings, so people have a good opinion of us, but between us and Allah our faults are not veiled. He knows every tiny fault and sin, so we need to know our place with Allah Almighty more accurately.
Are you among muqarabeen (close to Allah) or among the sinners?
Do not assume you are better than you are. The scholar Ibn Ata’ illah al Iskandari said:
People do praise you for the things they know about you, so you yourself have to criticise yourself for the things you know about yourself.’
Do not let people’s praise puff you up and define your sense of self-worth. Otherwise it will affect you, the more you believe it. This deception will lead you in the wrong direction. Deep down you shouldn’t be overwhelmed by what people say about you because they do not have the full picture of you. Deep down it is you who knows the things you have done wrong. Not them.
Of course this does not mean that people should not have a good opinion of you. Your dealings with them should leave them feeling pleased with you and this will stand you in good stead in your after life. For after death, the Prophet (peace be on him) said,
‘Any Muslim who has four witnesses that said good about him, Allah will admit him to Paradise.’
We said: And three? He said: ‘And three.’ We said: And two? He said: ‘And two.’ And then we did not ask for one. (Bukhari.)
Matching the Inward with the Outward.
It is tough to match our inward with our outward. We spend a long time getting ready every day, but how much time do we spend on our hearts?
Keep reviewing your actions and intentions. Imam Muhasib was nicknamed ‘muhasibi’ because he was always taking account of himself – doing muhasaba. The more up-to-date we keep our account, the less trouble we have at the end of the year. Daily muhasaba means when our time comes, our accounts will be in better shape. We will have fulfilled our obligations and not have to pay compensation from our hasanat (good deeds).
Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said: “Do you know who is the bankrupt?” They said: “The bankrupt among us is one who has neither money with him nor any property”. He said, “The real bankrupt of my Ummah would be he who would come on the Day of Resurrection with Salat (Prayers), Saum (Fasting) and Sadaqah (Zakat and Charity). He comes having reviled others, brought calamity against others, unlawfully devoured the wealth of others, shed the blood of others and beat others; so his good deeds would be credited to the account of those (who suffered at his hand and tongue). If his good deeds are not enough to clear the account, their sins would be entered in his account and he would be thrown in the (Hell) Fire”. (Muslim)
Review Your Thoughts
Be the one who keeps reviewing every thought that goes through their mind.
Go to the root of every thought – and ask yourself ‘Why did it come into my mind like this? Why am I thinking this way? What is the underlying reason for this?’
We change what we do because of what people will say. If you change your behaviour based on what people would say if they saw what you did, then what about Allah Almighty, who is watching us all the time? Are we refraining from something to please Allah Almighty or to please people? This is where intention comes in. Actions are only by intention.
Don’t Give into Your Nafs
Go against your nafs. (This doesn’t mean you eat chicken because your nafs tells you to eat zaatar) When you lose balance you go off track. The closest people to adl are those who are doing muhasaba, and those who are furthest are those who are heedless. The people of ghafla.
Those who have ghafla have no presence with Allah Almighty. They do not do muhasaba, they are not keen on purifying their actions and intentions, and they are not bothered (ta’awa). They think lapses are not a big deal for them so they dismiss them easily for example by fatwa-hunting until they can justify their actions to themselves.
Know Who is Watching You
If you were only to understand and know who is watching you then this will protect you against your heedlessness. But because you don’t understand, you have no ‘haya’ or shyness in sinning. Allah knows what is in our hearts and senses. But we tend to appreciate people’s opinions more than Allah Almighty’s. If people knew what we are doing in secret, they might run away, so why bother about people’s opinions when Allah has seen everything. So this is how little we are in Allah’s eyes. You want the earth to open and to sink inside when you realise the reality. When we are heedless we can’t see this. What matters is our status in Allah’s eyes, not what is in people’s eyes.
Don’t Crave Praise
When you perform an act of worship, you may think that if people find out about it they will praise you and you crave their appreciation. And if you do that action in secret and you are dying for them to know, this is a sign of insincerity. Sincerity is not wanting anyone to know about it. Throw people’s opinions behind your back. You are purely after Allah Almighty’s pleasure .
Allah is Al Ghani. He needs no one. If we consider Him when we do our actions and love Him then this is a good mechanism to avoid wrong doing.
Consider Yourself Lower than You Are
The best among al fadail (the virtues) and the most beneficial to you is to consider yourself lower than you are. If you are level 2 then consider yourself level 1. Rather than consider yourself level 20 when you are level 2.
Be sure to make your inward better than your outward.
Give everyone their right. Forgive their wrongdoings. Be just with everyone, even if it is against your own self.
Knowing yourself (anyarifa qadru nafsihi) properly enables you perform adl. It is the key for adl – Miftahul adli.
Talk delivered by Shaykh Haytham Tamim on 20th January 2018.
Based on Adab an Nufus (The Etiquette of the Souls) by Imam al Harith Muhasibi, (781–857) who was the founder of the Baghdad School of Islamic philosophy, including the Sufi masters Junayd al Baghdadi and influenced many subsequent theologians, such as al Ghazali. It is a simple guide to spirituality from the third century scholar whose nickname Mushasibi (the one takes account) specialised in introspection, and moral and spiritual development.
July 30, 2021