Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself


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Photo: Matt Carman

Originally posted in 2007.

What do you think of when you see a Muslim doing something considered wrong?

Ever look down on them? Think you are better than them? It’s really easy to be self-righteous. It’s even easier to fall prey to this attitude if you sport the outer ‘righteous’ look.

But let’s ask ourselves this question: has Allah written us amongst His righteous servants? Or is that a title we have only given ourselves?

Check this:

I was once sitting at the da`wah (outreach) table on my college campus and a female student approached it. She asked if she could have a Qur’an, and of course, I was happy to give one to her. Then she said, “Can I ask you a question?”  The question sounded kind of deep, so I invited her to sit next to me on the empty chair. She took up the offer.

“Please don’t judge me,” she began. SubhanAllah (glory be to God)! The courage it must have taken for her to come and speak to me, for her to begin with that statement.

After reassuring her, how could I judge her? She began—

She told me that she was Muslim and she became involved in a relationship for the first time in her life with a Muslim guy. Her intention was for long term, but she felt so terrible doing it. She told me when she is with her boyfriend, she feels horrible, even though she thinks she is supposed to feel good. She told me that she knows that this is such a big sin, that she wants to stop, but that it is just so, so hard. And she asked me: Can Allah forgive me?

While this girl was speaking, I was looking at her thinking: look at the struggle she is going through for the sake of God. She hates what she is doing because she knows it’s something He would not be pleased with, she wants so much for God to forgive her, but it is so hard for her to leave what she knows she shouldn’t do.

Her desire to repent became so intense that she came to me, a girl she has never even seen before, who could easily judge her, and poured out her heart. She was so desperate in her wanting to know: Could Allah forgive her? Could He really forgive such a sin?

I told her—man, God is THE MOST MERCIFUL! He will forgive ANYTHING when you turn to Him! I kept telling her about God’s Mercy, about how He is so, so happy to accept the repentance of His creation.

We kept talking about how God must be pleased with her internal struggle because she clearly wants to gain His pleasure despite her difficulty. We looked at the Holy Hadith, where God talks about us and says:

“O child of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O child of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O child of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.” (Ahmad)

She was overwhelmed with emotion. I then shared with her a supplication that, if said with firm belief in the morning or evening, and if death happens on that day or night, the person who said it would be amongst the people of Paradise.

The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon us) taught us the chief supplication (sayyidul istighfaar) of asking for forgiveness as follows:

اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّي لا إِلَهَ إِلا أَنْتَ خَلَقْتَنِي وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ وَأَنَا عَلَى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا صَنَعْتُ أَبُوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ وَأَبُوءُ لَكَ بِذَنْبِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَإِنَّهُ لا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلا أَنْتَ

Allahumma anta rabbi, la ilaha illa anta, khalaqtani wa ana abduka [if you’re a male]/amatuk [if you’re a female], wa ana ‘ala `ahdika wa wa`dika mastata`tu. A`udhu bika min sharri ma sana`tu, abu’u laka bini`matika ‘alaiya, wa abu’u laka bidhanbi, faghfirli, fainnahu la yaghfiru adhdhunuba illa ant.

O Allah! You are my Lord! None has the right to be worshipped but You. You created me and I am Your slave, and I am faithful to my covenant and my promise as much as I can. I seek refuge with You from all the evil I have done. I acknowledge before You all the blessings You have bestowed upon me, and I confess to You all my sins. So I entreat You to forgive my sins, for nobody can forgive sins except You. (Bukhari)

And of course, the most intimate way of feeling close to Allah is to come to Him, from the depths of one’s heart, in the language easiest for oneself, with the words coming from one’s own soul, asking for His forgiveness.

Reflect

I want you to go back to your original answer when I first posed the question. What would you be thinking of someone you see doing something you feel is wrong?

Yes, in that moment, that person might be outwardly sinning if that is what they are doing, but perhaps internally they are struggling and fighting every time they commit the sin, and are continually seeking to turn back to God. Perhaps in some people’s eyes, this person is a ‘sinner’ (and who amongst us is not?). But perhaps in the Sight of Allah, they are more beloved to Him because of their sincere struggle, than those of us who can easily fall into feeling arrogant about our Islamic activism, our Islamic appearance, or our ‘hard-core’ connection with Rabb il`alameen  (the Lord of the Worlds). We need to be careful. Are we really connected? Am I really connected?

And don’t get me wrong: the struggle of those who are trying to stay upright and please God Almighty is a weighty, honorable and noble one.

But for those of us who might have ‘been there’ and left it, and then feel arrogant that we’re no longer involved in the “ways of the sinners,” and perhaps even might feel better than others because we’re so pure and special, then my advice to myself is what Omar  radi allahu `anhu (may God be pleased with him) advised, “Take account of yourselves before you are audited.”

Or in the words of Ice Cube, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.”

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9 Comments

  1. Salim says:

    Yes Allah is forgiving but he is also just in punishment. Laws are laws and Allah knows best.

    • zainab fida ahsan says:

      Indeed Allah Is The Most Merciful and The Most Just, and there is no conflict in that.
      The issue at hand however, is how to deal with another slave of Allah, regardless of ‘how’ much sinful or messed up they are…how do we address people who have committed zulm, transgression against their own self?
      The situation is sensitive and Allah ta’ala has not advised us to let the person despair of His Rahmah and give up hope of returning back to Him. Rather, we should convey the hope and Allah’s readiness to accept the tawbah of His slave and let them start afresh…one can learn this from the advice to RasulAllah (saws) as in the ayah 39:53 .

      what you said is a good reminder brother, and I hope I can remember this and try to balance hope and fear! ameen.

      The only point I am trying to make here is that when a person confesses his sin and feels hopeless out of regret, we shouldm;t discourage them and reassure them of the Mercy of Allah.

      May Allah ta’ala protect us and help us to fulfill our huquq justly, ameen.

      indeed all flaws and mistakes are my own and from the shayateen,

      and what khayr, goodness can there ever be, except from Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala?

      Regards
      Wassalam alaykum!

      • Salim says:

        That comment i made has been edited by the moderators. That was the last sentence of my paragraph Which was deleted, so the point i was making may not have come across fully.
        I agree with what you say sister and peoples hope should only ever be with Allah, who else.

  2. Hyde says:

    The sin that can break the toughest of all. The guilt, the duplicity, the living the lie…good article.

  3. sister says:

    I LOVE YOU SISTER MARYAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MAY ALLAH HONOR YOU IN THIS LIFE AND THE NEXT, AND MAY HE GIVE YOU MORE THAN WHAT I CAN EVER ASK FOR MYSELF. MAY HE ALLOW YOU TO PASS SIRAT IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE. MAY HE GIVE YOU A HOUSE NEXT TO ALLAH AND HIS MESSENGER. MAY HE EASE ALL OF YOUR MATTERS, MAY HE LOVE YOU ALWAYS, AND MAY HE GRANT YOU BLESSINGS UPON BLESSINGS UPON BLESSINGS. PLEASE KEEP WRITING! MAY ALLAH BLESS YOU! AMEEN YA RABB!

  4. liza says:

    I am trying to change into a better person, a better muslim insyaAllah. But the thing is i feel extremely ashamed of myself because of my past,especially so whenever i see the person who reminded me of my sins. And the thing is i still have to see the person daily at work and constantly being reminded of all the sins we did in the past. How do i move on from here? Sometimes, i really feel like quitting my job…

    • Spreadpeace says:

      Long term its better to be in a different surrounding and everything is new. Nobody knows you and you can approach your life towards the direction you want to take it to. May Allah make it easy for you

  5. Kirana says:

    Here in Malaysia I have just witnessed mass judging. All that happened was that someone organised an event that invited people to touch a dog (healthy and clean and presumably friendly) and then learn how to do ritual purification. Now Malaysia is of the Shafie school, which holds that dogs are unclean to touch. But the vitriol that came after from all kinds of vigilante religious police and cyberwarriors, was incredible. They went so far as to say it was a sign of the end of days and that those Muslims who participated were lost.

    Now of course the Maliki school holds a completely different view on dogs, which grieved me greatly to see so much self-righteous vehemence that would certainly offend our fellow Sunni of the Maliki school since it was tantamount to saying that a perfectly acceptable thing in the Maliki school is so terrible that it was a sign of qiyamah.

    I mention this because a brother above commented on Allah’s laws. And maybe where he is, this is the more pressing concern. But in other places, the judgmental attitude of some people is such that even for allowed things (not even sins, or at worst, a minor sin) they feel confident to loudly judge without knowledge, to be the gravest of sins and indicative of weakness of faith. This recurs at least once a year, and a severe strain on inter-mazhab and inter-racial/religious relations.

    A negative side effect is that, just like the boy who cried wolf, when they should want to speak against real sin, real negative social trend, the youth and young professionals will no longer take the warning seriously because they have shown themselves to be lacking in intelligence, knowledge, and humility, and thus untrustworthy in judgement. It worries me, but I don’t know what I can do about it except watch myself and look for my own family.

  6. Abdulrawzaq says:

    Alhamdulillah for making me sight an interesting and opinion leading article on line today….I’ve been involved in a particular sin for years now.Though it’s not what I like to see myself doing but each time I try to fight my heart upon it, I end up loosing my heart to my former state….there are times when I stop and assess myself,Subhanallah!,I realise this is the biggest of my sins despite its minority…I pray Allah grants me that mind to migrate from my current state of being to the Islamal high one,if not the highest….. SISTER MARYAM,MAY ALLAH REWARD YOU IN THIS LIFE AND THE NEXT.SO KEEP WRITING……I am saying: JAZAAKILLAH KHAIR.

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