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Chapter 5.1. On The Road To Taqwa: Step Two


Disciplining the self when it has shortcomings

Dear Muslim brother! When a servant engages in obeying his Lord, the servant inevitably has shortcomings. This is why the predecessors punished themselves on those occasions. Although this might seem to be easy, they used to punish themselves quite severely because obedience can be very difficult on oneself.

Umar donated a piece of land worth 200,000 dirhams when he missed Asr prayers in congregation.

Ibn Umar used to stay awake the whole of the night if he missed a prayer in congregation and then he would free two slaves.

Tameem Dari failed to wake up for Tahajjud (pre­ dawn) prayers one night. He stayed awake the whole of the next year.

Talha became preoccupied with a bird on his wall (of an orchard) while in prayer. He donated the wall to charity as compensation for that mistake.

Hassan ibn Abi Sinan passed by an apartment and asked when it was built. He deliberated for a moment and realised he had asked about something that did not concern him. He disciplined himself by fasting for a whole year.

Abdullah ibn Qais says: 'We were in a battle with the enemy in our midst and people screaming (on a very hot day). A man from the tribe of Ummama was talking to himself: 'Did I not witness this battle and that battle. You reminded me about my family so I listened to you and returned home. By Allah' I will punish you by either having you taken to task or leaving you.

I observed this man on that day and saw that he was leading people to the enemy who then dispersed. The enemy countered and we dispersed but this man held his ground the whole time until he was martyred. I found on his body and on the body of his mount more than sixty stab wounds.

Imam Ghazali (rh) says: 'This is how people of determination disciplined themselves. The amazing thing is that you are willing to punish your family members for their blunders and shortcomings on the pretence that if you let them off, they would rebel against you. But then you let yourself off the hook even though it is your biggest enemy and is more likely to rebel against you. The harm it inflicts upon you is far greater than the harm your family can inflict. The most they can do is disturb your worldly life which will perish one day. Yourself, on the other hand, ruffles the everlasting life of the Hereafter. It is much more worthy of punishment. [Ihya: 4/395]