By Dr. Yaaseen Masvood

The Qur’ān (53:32) says: فلا تزكوا انفسكم (So ascribe not purity to yourselves.)

We live in a time and age where we crave for attention of our actions from others, seeking recognition of the work we do or the accomplishments we have achieved. From flaunting ‘selfies’ of such righteous deeds on the social media to heaping praises on oneself during conversation with others, this trait has become commonplace. While such a behaviour might make most of us think that it is perfectly fine to do so, Allah censures such behaviour and admonishes us to be wary of such acts in the light of the above verse from Surah An-Najm. 

While it is human to feel good about having accomplished certain acts of worship or virtuous deeds, it is completely against the teachings of Islam to boast about such deeds to others. Such a behaviour not only brings to question the motive of our actions, it also gives us a sense of false-claims and may result in the nullification of the reward from Our Creator. Allah’s protection is sought!

Claiming purity for oneself and thinking high of one’s actions is blameworthy and should not be resorted to at any cost. Allah has forbidden claims of purity for oneself, praising oneself and thinking high of one’s own actions. Praising oneself due to one’s righteous deeds, bearing witness for oneself that one is righteous, displaying a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, recommending oneself, freeing oneself of sins and disobedience, commending oneself for acts of righteousness, absolving oneself of any mistakes or sins in any of act of goodness are some of the various forms in which this malady manifests itself. So, one should never indulge in self-praise, saying: I pray so many nawafil, I am charitable, I fast, I strive in the path of Allah, I perform pilgrimage, I am good to my parents, I do such and such…. Hence, one should never say or do such things.

If all of these are forbidden, what about claiming purity on parochial sectarian grounds? This is a trait that Allah does not want His believing slaves to indulge in, as this was from the characteristics of the Jews and Christians. They attributed purity to themselves merely on the basis of their tenets of belief and claimed superiority over the rest of the creation, so much so they even said that none except them will enter the paradise.

The trait of self-admiration and vanity is something that is detested by Allah because ultimate purity of one’s own self is decided by the amount of fear that one has got towards Allah and this is something that only Allah has knowledge of. This is what is brought about in concluding part of the verse from Sura Najm. Allah concludes this verse, saying: He knows best who has Taqwa. (53:32) This means that if you have fear of Allah, indeed Allah has more knowledge of you and there is no need for you to say: I did such and such. This also means that one should never inform people of one’s purity in a praiseworthy manner. Thus, this is a highly undesirable trait and is condemned by Allah.

People who praise themselves are the farthest from purification because they are pleased and beguiled by their deeds and they are alluding to them over Allah and have given themselves a status that Allah has not given. Allah says in another ayah (4:49): “Have you not seen those who claim sanctity for themselves. In fact, Allah sanctifies whom He wills and they shall not be wronged even to the measure of a thread of a date-stone.”

Al Hasan and Qatadah said: This ayah was revealed about Jews and Christians when they said: We are Allah’s children and His loved ones. In this ayah Allah chastised the Jews and Christians for claiming purity for themselves.

The sublime teachings of the Qur’ān and the excellent example of our Prophet ﷺ are replete with exhortations to eradicate this evil mindset and nip it in the bud itself whenever it raises its ugly face. The following instances bear ample testimony to this fact:

Allah says: “O You who believe! Do not render in vain your Sadaqa (charity), by reminders of your generosity or by injury, like him who spends his wealth to be seen of men and he does not believe in Allah nor in the Last Day.” (2:264) This ayah makes it clear that the reward for charity will be nullified if it is done for reminders or for show-off.

When Allah is making a mention of those who do not believe in the Hereafter, He says the following: “Those who do good deeds only to be seen.” (107:7) In a similar ayah, Allah talks about the people with hypocrisy in their hearts and says: “And when they stand up for Salah, they stand with laziness, to be seen of men.” (4:142) Such people do not have sincerity when worshipping Allah and they show off to people so that they gain closeness to them.

Muhammad bin Amr bin Ataa said: I called my daughter Barrah (the pious one), and Zaynab bint Abu Salamah said to me: “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ forbade using this name. I was originally called Barrah and he said: لا تزكوا انفسكم ان الله اعلم باهل البر منكم “Do not ascribe purity to yourselves, Allah knows best who the pious people among you are.” They said: What should we call her?  He ﷺ said: Call her Zaynab”. (Sahih Muslim)

In another instance, when Abu Bakr (radiyallahu anhu) asked the Prophet ﷺ for a dua that he could use it in prayer, he taught Abu Bakr these words:

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي ظَلَمْتُ نَفْسِي ظُلْمًا كَثِيرًا – وَلاَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلاَّ أَنْتَ فَاغْفِرْ لِي مَغْفِرَةً مِنْ عِنْدِكَ وَارْحَمْنِي إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ‏.‏

“O Allah, I have done great wrong to myself much wrong – there is none to forgive the sins but You only. Grant me pardon from Yourself, have mercy upon me for You are much Forgiving and Compassionate.” (Sahih Muslim).

If we ponder upon the words of this dua, the enormity of such claims would become clear to us. When Abu Bakr (radiyallahu anhu), the best of mankind after Prophets, is asked to acknowledge to Allah that he has wronged himself so much, that none except Allah could forgive then how would it be fair for people of our ilk, who keep sinning day in and day out, to claim any amount of purity for our own selves? The fact that this supplication is to be recited at the end of tashahhud – an occasion of dua’s acceptance – only adds more significance to it.

The words of Sayyidul Isthigfar (Chief dua of forgiveness) is also another case in point:

حَدَّثَنِي شَدَّادُ بْنُ أَوْسٍ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ سَيِّدُ الاِسْتِغْفَارِ أَنْ تَقُولَ اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّي، لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ أَنْتَ، خَلَقْتَنِي وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ، وَأَنَا عَلَى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ، أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا صَنَعْتُ، أَبُوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَىَّ وَأَبُوءُ لَكَ بِذَنْبِي، فَاغْفِرْ لِي، فَإِنَّهُ لاَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلاَّ أَنْتَ ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ وَمَنْ قَالَهَا مِنَ النَّهَارِ مُوقِنًا بِهَا، فَمَاتَ مِنْ يَوْمِهِ قَبْلَ أَنْ يُمْسِيَ، فَهُوَ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ، وَمَنْ قَالَهَا مِنَ اللَّيْلِ وَهْوَ مُوقِنٌ بِهَا، فَمَاتَ قَبْلَ أَنْ يُصْبِحَ، فَهْوَ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ ‏”‏‏.‏

Narrated Shaddad bin Aus: The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “The most superior way of asking for forgiveness from Allah is: “Allahumma anta Rabbi la ilaha illa anta, Khalaqtani wa ana `Abduka, wa ana `ala `ahdika wa wa`dika mastata`tu, A`udhu bika min Sharri ma sana`tu, abu’u Laka bini`matika `alaiya, wa abu’u laka bidhanbi faghfir lee fa innahu la yaghfiru adhdhunuba illa anta.” (O Allah! You are my Lord, none has the right to be worshipped except You, You created me and I am Your servant and abide to Your covenant and promise as best as I can, I take refuge in You from the evil of which I have committed. I acknowledge Your favour upon me and I acknowledge my sin, so forgive me, for verily none can forgive sin except You). The Prophet ﷺ added. “If somebody recites it during the day with firm faith in it, and dies on the same day before the evening, he will be from the people of Paradise; and if somebody recites it at night with firm faith in it, and dies before the morning, he will be from the people of Paradise.” (Sahih al-Bukhari). 

If these beautiful words of our Prophet ﷺ clearly bring out the need to confess our shortcomings in all our acts of obedience to Allah then what about our sins and acts of disobedience?

When the first Prophet of Allah and the father of mankind, Adam (alaihis salam) and his wife ate the fruit of forbidden tree, they expressed remorse and said: “Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers.” (7:23) If this is how our first Prophet and his wife supplicated for one single slip from the command of Allah and repented repeatedly until they got the forgiveness of Allah then how would it be fair for any one of us to even think of claiming purity for our own selves, leave alone indulging in such acts?

When Yoonus (alaihis salam) left his place of Dawah, without the permission of Allah, he was subjected to the trial of being under the belly of a whale. During those dark moments, he turned to Allah attributing to himself the wrong doing, saying: “There is none worthy of worship but You, Glory be to You, I am from the wrong doers.”(21:87) If this was the way one of our great Prophets, in whose name an entire sura is mentioned in the Qur’ān, supplicated for a small lapse that he fell into then what audacity can give us the false sense to claim self-admiration?

(to be concluded)

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