The Humble "I"

Knowing, Doing, Becoming

Beware Spiritual Bankruptcy and the Unexamined Life

cropped-looking2The Prophet, peace be upon him, once remarked: ‘One of you sees the speck of dirt in his brother’s eye, but forgets the splinter in his own eye (yubsiru ahadukum al-qadhat fi ‘ayni akhihi wa yansa al-jidh‘a fi ‘ayni nafsihi).’ [Ibn Hibban, Sahih, no.1848]

Those who don’t think of their own sins often make up for it by dwelling (sometimes, obsessively) on the sins of others. The above hadith teaches us not to become blind to our own sins, yet always bang on about the sins of others. Each Muslim is duty bound by faith to guard against sins, the great and the small; outward and inward, as we would against a raging fire or lethal poison. A serious attempt to know our sins and to then repent is, in the long run, a lightening of the load and a healing: And repent to God, all of you O believers, that you may succeed. [24:31]

In acknowledging our sins, there is bound to be a shattering of some pretensions and the ego feeling some discomfort, yet that is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the anguish of a truck load of unexamined and unrepented sins that lurk in our hearts or stain our souls. Be it a missed prayer or fast; zakat unpaid; back-biting, tale-carrying or slandering; deceit and fraud in money matters or in buying and selling; a feud or a grudge held without lawful justification; ties of kinship severed and broken; denying someone their entitlement or right; the forbidden glance; an unlawful utterance – all of these are sins that must be stopped and repented for.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, once told us of a great tragedy of piety, so to speak, when he said: ‘Do you know who the poor one (muflis) is?’ On receiving the reply that the poor one among them is one who has neither wealth nor property, he stated: ‘The poor one in my nation is he who shall bring on the Day of Resurrection prayer, fasting and zakat, but will come having insulted this one, slandered that one, devoured the property of this one, shed the blood of that one, and beaten this one. This one and that one will be given some of his good deeds. But if his good deeds are exhausted before he pays his dues, some of their sins will be taken and cast upon him; and he will then be flung into Hell.’ [Muslim, no.2581]

A life unexamined and sins unrepented for make us spiritually poor; bankrupt, even! Acknowledging our sins to repent from them may dent our pride somewhat, or cause our conscience some dismay, but ultimately repentance relieves; it lightens; it heals. It is the difference between the pain felt from a decaying tooth – for which one needs to go to the dentist, and the more straight-forward pain which you can feel growing less and less painful once the tooth has been extracted.

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15 thoughts on “Beware Spiritual Bankruptcy and the Unexamined Life

  1. Muhammad Saleem Anwar on said:

    The Adamic way of self-reproach was in absolute contrast to Satanic style of narcissism during the first encounter between the two creatures with mature cerebral faculties. Pick whichever befits you!!! Indeed the true nobility comes from the humility.

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  2. Abdur-rahman on said:

    May Allah swt have Mercy on a man who knows his limits and stays inside those limits. The virtuous people are those who acknowledge the virtue of the people of virtue, especially the scholars, and especially those who are old in age, and especially the parents.

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  3. Subhaan Allaah… so true… the act of true repentance… when compared with the toothache…

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  4. Abdur-rahman on said:

    Is there any recording of view from the scholars where someone sins purposely or should I say, lowers the ‘force field’ purposely and allows the sin to happen, to obtain a greater benefit? I ask this one, because I was beautifully enlightened by my teacher that the heart is surrounded by nur when we do good but it can only absorb that nur when it is broken into pieces when we sin and then sincerely repent and also God loves who turn to Him in repentance for which we have to sin first.

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    • No doubt, kullu bani adam khata’un … “All the children of Adam sin, but the best of those who sin are those who repent.” And no doubt also, that if we didn’t sin, God would replace us with a people who would sin , so He could forgive them.

      But these texts do not encourage deliberate sin and disobedience, which is categorically forbidden. Instead, what they highlight is the fragile nature of Man and the generous and forgiving nature of God.

      And whilst there is no denying that one can learn much through the act of sinning and feeling remorse and broken in front of God, this is still not an excuse to deliberately sin.

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  5. Isn’t it strange how some people have a 20-20 vision when looking at the sins of others but suffer blindness when it comes to themselves.
    Taking account of oneself (muhasaba) is an obligation upon believers and a sign of piety.
    ‘If you don’t have the ability to compete with the pious in righteous deeds then compete with the sinners in asking Allah’s forgiveness’ – Ibn Rajab

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  6. Muhammed Ilyas Mirza on said:

    JazakAllha Khair

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  7. Jazak Allah Khair – I enjoyed reading this. We all need to be reminded from time to time to stop looking and commenting on other peoples flaws and negativities and instead look to ourselves first for these. Isn’t it in Christianity that is said: “Let him who is withour sin cast the first stone….?” None of us are perfect, we all have faults – may Allah give us the sight to better our own selves before critisizing others.

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    • Amin to that. And though the Biblical teaching you mentioned isn’t quite the Islamic response (in Islam, one has the duty to enjoin good and forbid wrong – with gentleness, wisdom, patience and without worsening the situation – even if we are sinners), the insistence on considering our own sins first, is.

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