By Dr. Yaaseen Masvood

When our Prophet Moosa (alaihis salam) watered the flocks for the daughters of Shuaib (alaihis salam) and then turned back to the shade, he immediately supplicated thus: “My Lord! Truly I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me.” (28:24). This is what true personification of altruism and selflessness is. If Moosa (alahis salam) – a great Prophet to whom Allah spoke directly – expressed to Allah his constant need of the favours of Allah to do such virtuous deeds then what gives us the reason to indulge in acts of vanity and self-glory?

When Prophet Shuaib (alaihis salam) countered the biting sarcasm and caustic comments of the people of Madyan, he responded to them empathetically: “He said: “O my people! Have your considered, if I am on a clear evidence from my Lord and He has provided me a good provision from Him? And I do not intend to differ from you in that which I have forbidden you; I only intend reform as much as I am able. And my success is not through but Allah, Upon Him I have relied and to Him return.” (11:88) What beautiful words coming out of the mouth of a great Prophet, Shuaib (alahis salam)! He claims that not only that his success comes from Allah but also his efforts to set things as far as he could was also not by his personal choice and volition. If this is how a Prophet reacts to his success then what compels us to be snobbish?

We find in the exemplary life of our Prophet ﷺ no single instance where he attributed purification to himself, although if at all it was permitted, he could have been the only one worthy of it. From a purely materialistic point of view, the pinnacle of his success was the conquest of Makkah in the 8th year AH. The way he conducted himself during the victory of a land from which he was forced to migrate has got no parallel in the history of mankind. As the vanquished had become the victor now, the people of Makkah feared for their lives, and rightly so. But, lo and behold, the Prophet ﷺ neither took any one to task nor did he show any act of retribution. Rather, he pardoned all of them saying: “This day let no reproach be cast upon you.” (12:92) He entered Makkah with his head bent low to show humility to Allah. Even during such culmination of victory, never did our Prophet ﷺ ascribe purity to himself.

He would often ask Allah to purify his heart and to cleanse it, supplicating with the words:اللَّهُمَّ آتِ نَفْسِي تَقْوَاهَا وَزَكِّهَا أَنْتَ خَيْرُ مَنْ زَكَّاهَا أَنْتَ وَلِيُّهَا وَمَوْلاَهَا  “O Allah, grant to my soul the sense of righteousness and purify it, for You are the Best Purifier thereof. You are the Protecting Friend thereof, and Guardian thereof.” (Sahih Muslim) If this is how our beloved Prophet ﷺ, the greatest and the most successful human being ever to walk on the face of this earth, showed us the need to cleanse ourselves from ascribing purity to ourselves then how much effort must be taken to be rid ourselves of this vice? Allah alone is Best of Helpers.

Potential reasons why people fall into this sin:

  1. Notion that Allah will accept all our righteous deeds without any need for us to supplicate to Him:

One of the main reasons to fall into this sin of ascribing purity to one’s own self is due to the notion of our righteous deeds being automatically accepted by Allah, in spite of many of our shortcomings while performing that righteous deed. The fact that Ibraheem (alaihis salaam) and his son Ismail (alaihis salaam) after building the House of Allah on the command of Allah raised their hands to ask Allah for acceptance of their righteous deed shows us the need for being ever-concerned about the acceptance of our righteous deeds. They both supplicated thus: ربنا تقبل منا انك انت السميع العليم  “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us. Indeed, You – and You alone – are the All Hearing, the All knowing.” (2:127) If two great Prophets (Peace be to them both), after fulfilling a command of Allah, chose to ask Allah to accept their righteous deed of re-building the first house of worship for Allah then what about our need to keep asking Allah for the acceptance of our acts of worship?

  1. Entertaining thoughts of superiority over others and being judgmental about others:

As Muslims, we have to understand that superiority of one over the other is only through the Taqwa of Allah and this is something that Allah only is aware of, as Allah says: “Surely the noblest of you,  in Allah’s sight, is the one who is most pious of you. Surely Allah is All-knowing, All-aware.” (49:13)

  1. Nurturing the idea that either our sins are too less compared to our good deeds or that we are sinless or our hearts are clean.

Our Prophet ﷺ has said: “All sons of Adam (alaihis salaam) are sinners but the best of sinners are those who repent often”. (Tirmidhi) So, if we have to be the better versions of ourselves, we need to keep repenting to Allah. Further, our Prophet ﷺ had the cleanest of hearts, yet he used to seek Allah’s forgiveness not less than 70 times every single day of his life. If this was the way our Prophet ﷺ , whose past and future sins were not only forgiven by Allah but also attested to by Allah Himself in the Qur’ān, sought forgiveness from Allah then what about us who keep sinning ad infinitum?

Thus, we find that whatever be the reason for us to justify and indulge in self-claims to purity, there have been more pious people of the past, among the Prophets and others, who have had much better and much more deeds of righteousness than any one of us, yet never did they ascribe purity to themselves, out of the fear of the rejection of such deeds by Allah.  Therefore, we should shun this vice and seek only the good pleasure of Almighty Allah in all aspects of our life – be it spiritual or otherwise.

Some of the steps to overcome this malady are as follows:

  1. Realise that self-claims to purity is something that Allah has warned about and never undermine its enormity.
  2. Realise the Greatness of Allah and your lowly origins.
  3. Remember death often and that death could overtake any point of time.
  4. Question your motive behind the actions for indeed actions are judged by intentions.
  5. Remember that actions would also be judged by their endings and that we will be held accountable for all our actions.
  6. Remember the shortcomings in our righteous actions and invoke Allah for the acceptance of the deeds in spite of those shortcomings.
  7. Learn and reflect on the Seerah of our Prophet ﷺ to know how he purified the hearts of people from all such vices.
  8. Try doing acts of righteous deeds in secret such that only Allah knows about it.
  9. Learn the meaning of the verses of Qur’ān on a daily basis, even if only a few verses.
  10. Ask Allah for help, especially from the words used by our Prophet ﷺ for the purification of the soul.

We ask Allah to forgive our shortcomings, accept our righteous deeds and protect us from ascribing purity to our own selves. (Concluded)

[Dr. Yaaseen Masvood is Associate Professor at the College of Management, SRM University, Chennai. He has been associated with the University for about two decades and has also completed his doctoral degree in Islamic Finance from the same university. He can be reached at [email protected]]

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