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5412318/10/2016

Importance of reflection and taking stock of oneself

Question: 248273

I have recently begun a form of reflective mediation every night after ‘Isha prayer. I sit in silence focusing on my breathing and I reflect on my past, the sins I have commited, and the good deeds I have done. I then focus on the future and what do I need to do to keep striving in the way of Allah. There are similar sufi practices such as Muraqabah and Muhaasabah.

I base these actions on the hadith of Umar ibn Khattab (ra), “Take account of yourselves before you are taken to account, weigh your deeds before they are weighed.”

Is this form of silent dhikr/ meditation bid’ah? Does it go against the Quran and Sunnah?

How can I be reflective of my life in a way that is Shariah compliant?

Praise be to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah and his family.

Reflecting upon signs in the universe and Islamic teachings
mentioned in the texts is one of the great acts of worship enjoined and
encouraged in the Qur’an.

Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the
meaning):

“Those who remember Allah
(always, and in prayers) standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides,
and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying):
Our Lord! You have not created (all) this without purpose, glory to You!
(Exalted are You above all that they associate with You as partners). Give
us salvation from the torment of the Fire”

[Aal ‘Imraan 3:191]

“Allah is He Who raised the
heavens without any pillars that you can see. Then, He rose above (Istawâ)
the Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty). He has subjected the sun
and the moon (to continue going round), each running (its course) for a term
appointed. He manages and regulates all affairs, He explains the Ayât
(proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) in detail,
that you may believe with certainty in the meeting with your Lord.

And it is
He Who spread out the earth, and placed therein firm mountains and rivers
and of every kind of fruits He made Zawjain Ithnaîn (two in pairs – may mean
two kinds or it may mean: of two varieties, e.g. black and white, sweet and
sour, small and big) He brings the night as a cover over the day. Verily, in
these things, there are Ayât (proofs, evidences, lessons, signs, etc.) for
people who reflect”

[ar-Ra‘d 13:2-3]

“Allah it is He Who has
subjected to you the sea, that ships may sail through it by His Command, and
that you may seek of His Bounty, and that you may be thankful,

And has
subjected to you all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth; it
is all as a favour and kindness from Him. Verily, in it are signs for a
people who think deeply”

[al-Jaathiyah 45:12-13].

This refers to reflecting upon the signs in the universe such
as the heavens, the earth, mountains and rivers; that also includes
reflecting upon one’s own self and how one was formed and created, as Allah,
may He be glorified, says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And on the earth are signs for
those who have Faith with certainty,

And also
in your own selves. Will you not then see?”

[adh-Dhaariyaat 51:20-21].

With regard to reflecting upon Islamic teachings mentioned in
the texts, Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):

“(This is) a Book (the Qur’an) which We have sent down to
you, full of blessings that they may ponder over its Verses, and that men of
understanding may remember”

[Saad 38:29].

Part of reflecting and pondering is looking at what one has
sent on ahead of deeds.

The Qur’an teaches us to do that in the verse where it says
(interpretation of the meaning):

“O you who believe! Fear Allah and keep your duty to Him. And
let every person look to what he has sent forth for tomorrow, and fear
Allah. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what you do”

[al-Hashr 59:18].

This is taking stock of oneself. There is a famous report
from ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) that speaks of it:

Take stock of yourselves before you are brought to account;
weigh yourselves before you are weighed, for that will make the Reckoning
easier for you tomorrow, if you take stock of yourselves today and prepare
yourselves for the great presentation on the Day when you will be be brought
to Judgement, and not a secret of yours will be hidden.

Narrated by Ibn Abi’d-Dunya in Muhaasabat an-Nafs (p.
22); Ahmad in az-Zuhd (p. 120); Abu Nu‘aym in al-Hilyah
(1/52). It was classed as da‘eef by al-Albaani in ad-Da‘eefah (1201)
and by Abu Ishaaq al-Huwayni in his Takhreej li Tafseer Ibn Katheer
(1/478). He said: The men of its isnaad are thiqaat (trustworthy) but there
is a break in the chain between Thaabit ibn al-Hajjaaj and ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab,
because he never met him. End quote.

Taking stock of oneself is required before doing any deed,
whilst doing it and after doing it, at all times.

Ibn Qudaamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

With regard to taking stock of oneself after the deed is
done, Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):

“O you who believe! Fear Allah and keep your duty to Him. And
let every person look to what he has sent forth for tomorrow”

[al-Hashr 59:18].

This refers to taking stock of oneself after doing any deed.
Therefore ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said: Take stock of
yourselves before you are brought to account.

Al-Hasan said: The believer is responsible for himself and
must take stock of himself. And he said: The believer may see something (of
worldly matters) by accident and like it, so he says: By Allah I desire you
and you are something that I need, but by Allah I do not have the means to
attain you; there is no way, for there is a barrier between me and you. And
he may do something without thinking, so he starts checking himself, saying:
Why did I do or say that? By Allah I will never go back to that again, if
Allah wills.

The believers are people who are restrained by the Qur’an,
which protects them and prevents them from indulging in that which could
bring about their doom. The believer is a prisoner in this world, striving
to ransom himself (from Hell), and nothing will make him feel secure until
he meets Allah, may He be glorified and exalted. He knows that he will be
brought to account for his hearing, his sight, his tongue and his physical
faculties; he will be brought to account for all of that.

So it should be understood that just as the individual should
have a time at the beginning of the day when he pledges to restrain himself
and to do righteous deeds, he should also have a time at the end of the day
when he examines himself and takes stock of himself and all that he did,
just as traders in this world do with their partners at the end of every
year or month or day. What is meant by taking stock is that he should look
at his capital and his profits and losses, so that he may see whether he is
gaining or losing. In religious terms, his capital is the obligatory duties;
his profit is supererogatory deeds; and his loss is sin. So let him take
stock, first of all, of obligatory duties, and if he commits a sin, let him
impose on himself some sort of punishment, so as to make up for his
heedlessness.

It was said that Tawbah ibn as-Summah was in ar-Raqqah, and
he used to take stock of himself. One day when he was doing that, he
realised that he was sixty years old. He worked out the number of days of
his life, and realised that it was twenty-one thousand and five hundred
days. He screamed and said: Woe is me! Am I going to meet the Sovereign with
twenty-one thousand and five hundred sins? How about if there were ten
thousand sins every day?! Then he fell down dead, and they heard a voice
saying: How quickly he was taken to al-Firdaws al-A‘la (the highest
Paradise)!

This is how a person should take stock of himself with every
breath he takes, with every sin of the heart (i.e., thoughts, feelings and
emotions) and every action he does, at every moment. If a man were to throw
a stone into his house for every sin he commits, his house would be filled
within a very short period of time. But he does not pay much attention to
remembering his sins, although they have already been recorded against him.
“Allah has kept
account of it, while they have forgotten it”
[al-Mujaadilah 58:6].

End quote from Mukhtasar Minhaaj al-Qaasideen (p. 373)

Thus you will realise that what you are doing of reflecting
upon what you have committed of sins and what you have sent forth of good
deeds, and what you have resolved to do in the future, is all something
praiseworthy and required, and it comes under the heading of pondering,
reflecting and taking stock. It is not an innovation (bid‘ah), and it does
not matter whether the Sufis or anyone else does that.

What matters is that pondering and reflecting leads one to
focus more on obedience to Allah and doing good deeds, and does not lead to
despair and loss of hope.

But you should understand that repentance, reflection and
checking and taking stock of oneself does not require special rituals,
breathing exercises or special programs, and does not need to be done at any
specific time of the night or day. Rather whenever it is possible for a
person to be alone with his Lord, focus his mind on Him and converse with
Him, that is the time for such acts of worship.

If there is any time that is preferred for that, then it is
something that is to be learned from the Lawgiver, such as the latter part
of the night and so on.

And Allah knows best.

Source

Islam Q&A

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