Taking account of yourself

Abu Ya’la Shaddād ibn Aws reported that the Prophet (May God bless him and grant him peace) said: “The intelligent man is the one who takes himself to account  and works for what will come after death. The foolish man is the one who follows his own whims and hopes that his desires will be gratified by God (Exalted is He).” [Tirmidhī]

It is reported from the Caliph Umar (May God be pleased with him): “Call yourself to account when you are in bliss before the reckoning of that severe Day, for whoever calls himself to account when he is in bliss will win the pleasure of God (Exalted is He) and achieve happiness, and whoever allows his life and desires to occupy all his attention and cause him to be negligent will be a regretful loser.”

An astute trader will continually take account of his business lest it should run into bankruptcy. He will strive to optimise profitability whilst reducing costs as far as possible.  As believers, we are encouraged to take account ourselves lest we should fall into ‘spiritual bankruptcy’. People of the earlier generations would sit and take account (Muhāsabah) before every prayer; thanking God (Exalted is He) for any good acts whilst seeking forgiveness for any misdemeanours. Given our modern lives, we ought to spend at least one moment a day (or before reclining to bed) taking account of our actions during the day. Making a habit of performing Muhāsabah can help put one in planning mode for the day ahead, and to remember that each day is a new opportunity to do better and make amends for the past.

And only God (Exalted is He) knows best.

The Arabic word for reflecting on one’s spiritual state and taking one’s deeds into account,Muhāsabah, is a word form that indicates and connotes duality (just as mujādala would mean an argument between two people, and mushāraka a partnership between two).  This implies that when one takes oneself into account, one should do so in an objective, thorough and just way, just as if one’s nafs (ego) is another person one is working to help improve and encourage towards good.


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