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Chapter 5. On The Road To Taqwa: Step One

O Muslim reader! Reaching the status of the muttaqoon (the one with Taqwa) is not an easy matter. However, for the believer who follows the Prophet and adapts the way of the pious predecessors it is easy with the help of Allah. I will outline for you the steps that will take you to that stage.


Taking account of one's own self:

When a person takes account of himself in this world, he will be very successful in the Hereafter. The Quran explains this reality:

'O you who believe! Fear Allah and let each soul see what it has sent forward for the morrow.' [Surah Hashr: 18]

In this verse, there is a reference to taking account of past actions.

Umar says: 'Take account of yourselves before you are audited (by someone else). Weigh your deeds before they are weighed (by someone else).'

Maimoon bin Mahran (rh) says: 'No one can be among the muttaqoon until he checks himself more than he checks his (business) partner.'

Hasan Basri (rh) says: 'A believer is a guardian over himself: he audits himself for Allah. Those who take account of themselves in this world will be audited lightly in the Hereafter. Those who take this issue lightly will find their auditing very difficult.'

Anas ibn Malik says that one day Umar went out (for a walk) and reached an orchard. He said: 'There is a wall (the orchard) between me and Him. O Umar, the leader of the believers! You will fear Allah or else I will punish you (O Umar).'

Malik ibn Dinar (rh) says: 'May Allah have mercy on someone who tells himself: 'Is not your companion like that.' Then he reprimands himself and enforces the Book of Allah.'

He also says: 'I heard Hajjaj say: 'May Allah have mercy on the person who audits himself before it reaches someone else's hands. May Allah have mercy on the person who grabs his actions by the reins and sees where they are taking him. May Allah have mercy on the person who looks at his weights and measures (scales and balances).' He continued to say this until he made me weep.'

Hasan Basri (rh) says regarding the verse: 'No. I do swear by the criticising self...' [Surah Qiyamah: 2] : 'A believer will always be critical of himself in his food, his drink and his speech. A sinner will not criticize himself.'

Taubah ibn Samat (rh) used to take account of himself and is reported to have counted the number of days in his life at the age of sixty. He found there were 21,500 days and shrieked: 'What will happen to me if I meet The King with 21,500 sins? What will happen if there are 10,000 sins in each day?

A person from the predecessors said: 'If a man threw a pebble in his house for every sin he had committed, the house would fill up in no time.'

Imam Ahmed (rh) narrates from Wahab ibn Munabbah (rh): 'It is written in the wise sayings of the family of Dawood - peace be upon them : 'An intelligent person should not be distracted on four occasions: when he is supplicating his Lord; when he is auditing himself; when he is being informed by his friends about his shortcomings and when he is alone with himself.'

Umar, wrote to one of his employees: 'Audit yourself in prosperity before the auditing of adversity. Whoever does  this will be pleased and envied. Whoever is distracted from this by his life and fantasies, will face remorse and loss.'

Imam ibn Qayyim (rh) says: 'To summarise, one should take account of the obligations first. lf there are any losses incurred, they should be made up. Then, one should take account of the prohibitions. If there are any violations one should compensate by repentance asking for forgiveness and performing deeds that erase bad deeds. Then one should tum to the moments of oblivion and distraction. If one finds oneself guilty one should resort to remembrance and tum to Allah. Finally, one should audit the tongue, feet, hands, eyes and ears. Why did they do this and that? Allah says: 'By your Lord! We will indeed question all of them as to what they did.' [Surah Al-Hikr: 92-93]

'...So that He (Allah) may ask the truthful about his truthfulness.' [Surah Ahzaab: 8]

So when even the truthful will be questioned one can imagine the questioning the liars the will face.

'Certainly, the ears, eyes and the heart (faculty of understanding) will all be questioned.' [Surah al-Isra: 34]

So when the servant is to be interrogated about his own limbs, he should take account of himself before he confronts the real auditing.

The servant benefits tremendously from this practice. One of these benefits is that he realises his own mistakes. Whoever does not realise his mistakes, cannot reform or correct them. Those who do realise their mistakes condemn themselves in front of Allah.

Abu Darda says: 'No one can achieve complete understanding of Islam until he condemns people for the sake of Allah and then returns home and condemns himself even more.

Ayyub Sakhtiyani (rh) says: 'When pious people are mentioned, I remove myself from them (i.e.: I do not count myself in their ranks).'

Muhammed ibn Wasi' (rh) says: 'If sins had an odour, no one would be able to sit near me.'

Yunus ibn Obaid (rh) says: 'I found that there are a hundred qualities of goodness. I did not find a single one of those qualities in myself.'

Uqbah ibn Sahban (rh) says: 'I asked Ayesha about the verse: 'Then We gave (as inheritance) the Book to those whom We chose from among Our servants. Some of them wronged themselves; some were moderate and others raced towards good deeds with the permission of Allah.' [Surah Fatir: 32]

She replied: 'My son! They are in Paradise. Those who raced towards good deeds are those who lived during the time of the Prophet who testified to their sustenance and Paradise. As for those who were moderate, they followed him among his companions and caught up with him. And as for those who wronged themselves are concerned, they are people like me and you.' Ayesha put herself in our category.'

lbn Qayyim (rh) says: 'Condemning oneself is a practice of the truthful. A servant draws closer to Allah in a moment (when he sincerely condemns himself) much more than he would do so through actions.'

Another benefit on auditing oneself is that one realizes Allah's right. Whoever does not realise Allah's right does not stand to benefit from acts of service and worship.

Imam Ahmed (rh) narrates from Wahab (rh) that Musa - peace be upon him - passed by a man who was crying and asking Allah. Musa said: 'O Allah! Have mercy on him for I feel sorry for him.' Allah revealed to Musa : 'If he calls Me until he loses all his strength, I will not answer him unless he acknowledges My right over him.'

Imam Ibn Qayyim (rh) says: 'A benefit of understanding Allah's right over the servant is that it breeds condemnation of oneself and delivers one from showing off and vanity. It also opens the doors of humbleness in front of Allah and closes the doors of conceit. It allows one to realise that salvation is only through Allah's Grace and Mercy. It is Allah's right that He should be obeyed and not disobeyed; that He should be remembered and not forgotten and that He should be appreciated and not un­ appreciated.

Whoever ponders over these issues will know with certainty that he cannot fulfil these conditions and , therefore , has to resort to Allah's Mercy. Such a person will be convinced that he cannot rely on his actions, lest he be destroyed. Many people think about their rights over Allah and not about His rights over them. This is how there are detached from Allah and deprived of the desire to meet Him. This is the epitome of ignorance of their Lord and of themselves.

Imam Ghazali (rh) says : 'Whoever audits himself before he is audited will be checked lightly on the Day of Judgement. He will be able to answer (any questions) and thus, his fate will be good. Whoever does not take account of himself and his actions will suffer regret and grope around in the plains of Qiyamah. His mistakes will lead him to disgrace and scorn. [Ihya: 4/381]

O servant of Allah! Measure yourself against these good qualities. If you find yourself among those who take account, then thank Allah. If you find yourself in the other group, then return to Allah with humbleness as an absconded slave returns to his master.

Imam Ghazali (rh) says: 'It is incumbent on every person who believes in Allah and the Last Day that he should not be oblivious of auditing himself. Every breath of life is a precious jewel which can buy eternal treasures. Wasting these breaths or using them for detrimental purposes is such a great loss which no intelligent person could justify. When a person wakes up he tells himself that the only commodity he has is his life. When life perishes all his capital perishes. This is a new day that Allah has given as a further opportunity to make amends. If He had taken his life away he would want to return for just a single day so that he could do good. So one should deem that one has died and has returned to the world for one more day. One should not waste these precious and invaluable jewels of life.

The day has twenty-four hours. One should strive today and not become lazy and lethargic lest one loses the ranks of the 'Illiyeen (the highest rank of those in Paradise) and forever live in regret.' [Ihya: 4/382]