Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
by Maryam Amir-Ebrahimi
What do you think of when you see a sister who isn’t wearing hijab? How about a brother who is laughing with many girls?
Ever look down on them? Think you’re better than them? It’s easy to be self-righteous. It’s even easier to fall prey to this attitude if you sport the ‘righteous’ look.
But let’s ask ourselves this question: has Allah written us amongst His righteous servants? Or is that a title we have only given ourselves?
I was once sitting at the table for my on-campus Muslim Students Association (MSA) and a female student, dressed in typical jeans and a t-shirt approached me. I was decked out in my hijab and jilbab and I really had no idea what she was thinking as she made the move to speak to me. She asked if she could have a Qur’an, and of course, I was happy to give one to her. Then she said, “Can I ask you a question?” “Sure,” I answered. The question sounded kind of deep, so I invited her to sit next to me on the empty chair. She took up the offer.
“Please don’t judge me,” she began. Allah Akbar (God is the greatest)! I had a feeling this was a Muslim sister. SubhanAllah, the courage it must have taken for her to come and speak to me, considering that we were dressed so differently from each other.
After reassuring her, how could I judge her?, she began—
She told me that she became involved in a relationship for the first time in her life with a Muslim guy. Her intention was to eventually get married, but she felt so terrible doing it, even though she was supposed to feel good. She told me that she knew her relationship was a big sin and that she wanted to stop, but she explained that it was just too hard. And she asked me…Can Allah forgive me? Subhan’Allah (glorified is Allah).
While this girl was speaking, I was looking at her thinking: look at the jihad she is going through for Allah. She hates what she is doing, she asks Allah to forgive her, but it is so hard for her to leave the sin. Her desire to repent became so intense that she came to a girl she has never met before, who could easily judge her, and poured out her heart. And the most amazing part is that she wanted to know, can Allah forgive her? Could He subhanahu wa ta’ala (glorious and exalted is He) really forgive such a sin?
I told her, Allah is Ghafurun Raheem! Allah is the Most Forgiving and Especially Merciful! He will forgive ANYTHING. Even if a person commits fornication Allah will forgive this person if they repent and leave it. I kept telling her about Allah’s Mercy, about how Allah is so, so happy to turn and accept the repentance of His slaves.
We kept talking about how Allah must be pleased with her struggle – that she was making jihad (inner struggle) everyday. She was like, YEAH! What I loved so much from this conversation is that we looked at Sayyidul Istighfar (the chief du`a’ (supplication) for seeking forgiveness). This is the du`a’ in which the Prophet ﷺ has told us, “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.”
Allahumma anta rabbee la ilaha illa ant, khalaqtanee wa-ana `abduk, wa-ana `ala `ahdika wawa`dika mas-tata`t, `Aoothu bika min sharri ma sana`t, aboo-o laka bini`matika `alay, wa-aboo-o bithanbee, faghfir lee fa-innahu la yaghfiruth-thunooba illa ant.
‘O Allah, You are my Lord, none has the right to be worshipped except You, You created me and I am Your servant and I abide to Your covenant and promise as best I can, I take refuge in You from the evil of which I committed. I acknowledge Your favor upon me and I acknowledge my sin, so forgive me, for verily none can forgive sin except You.’
I told her to keep strong with her salah (prayer), because of course, Allah is Forgiving, but He is also strong in punishment, and we have to be careful not to do things that make us eligible to be punished. After some time we departed and I’m still in wonderment. I was not supposed to be at the da`wah table at that time; we were looking for someone to sit there but no one was available, so we pushed back what we had planned to do and Allah destined for me to be there. How Allah knows, while we know not.
While the sister and I were sitting and talking, another female student walked up to the da`wah table. She was considerably unclothed, and she came up and asked for a copy of the Qur’an. “I’m Muslim,” she told me. ALLAHU AKBAR. Look at the good in the Muslims. Look at how intensely the Muslims desire, seek, need and want Allah; the woman who comes to the MSA table could be wearing practically nothing but is still affirming her identity as a Muslim woman, as an individual – albeit struggling, just like all of us—who submits to Allah. Before she left she asked me, “Does Ramadan start on this date?” Look how the people are seeking this Month of Mercy.
Let us go back to the original question. What would you think of a Muslim brother or sister who is wearing basically nothing? What about a brother or sister who is hanging out with a bunch of people from the opposite gender?
Perhaps an individual may be outwardly committing mistakes, but perhaps internally such an individual is struggling and fighting every time he or she makes those errors. Perhaps in some people’s eyes, such individuals are ‘sinners.’ But perhaps in the Sight of Allah, these individuals are more beloved to Allah because of their struggle; more beloved to Him than of us who can easily fall into feeling arrogant about our Islamic activism, our Islamic appearance, or our ‘hard-core’ connection with the Rabb al-`alameen (Lord, Master, Provider and Sustainer of all the worlds). We need to be careful. Are we really connected? Am I really connected?
And do not get me wrong: the struggle of those who are trying to stay straight, to dress properly, to please Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala is a weighty, honorable and noble one. May Allah make us amongst those He uses to spread His deen (way of life), those whom He guides and keeps guided, and those who wear the dress that pleases Him, both externally and internally, ameen.
But for those of us who might have ‘been there’ and left it, and then feel arrogant that we’re no longer involved in the “ways of the sinners,” and perhaps even might feel better than others because we’re so pure and special, then my advice to myself is what Umar ibn al Khattab used to say, “Take account of yourselves before you are audited.”
Put in our language it is what I’ve heard Ustadh Suhaib say numerous times:
“Check yourself before you wreck yourself.”
May Allah help us and guide us to perpetually, continually, sincerely, and endlessly please Him, and may He make it easy for all of us to eagerly and continually turn back to Him, and leave whatever sins we are committing and replace them with good works for His Sake. Ameen.
The author would greatly appreciate if you all would give some advice on how we can humble ourselves [in our hearts] and renew our sincerity for His Sake.