Muhassaba

“Take account of yourself before you are taken to account” – Ali (ra)

Many recovery programmes, such as that of the twelve steps and others, recommend recovering addicts to make daily inventories. Through these inventories, we can assess the things we have done well, the things we have done badly, the things we can improve on. Islam teaches us this concept, and the companions of the Prophet often engaged in this practise.

Muhassaba means to bring oneself to account completely – realistically including one’s strengths and flaws. Self-awareness is paramount in Islam and that is why daily reflection is encouraged. Further emphasis is placed on the akhira, as Muslims are encouraged to assess themselves before death, when they will be judged by God. This is illustrated in the

Qur’anic verse

“On that Day will men proceed in groups, sorted out, to be shown their Deeds. Then shall anyone who has done an atom’s weight of good, see it! And anyone who has done an atom’s weight of evil, shall see it.” (Qur’an 99:6-8)

“By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right; Truly he succeeds that purifies it, And he fails that corrupts it” (Surat Ash-Shams; 91:7-10)

Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Hold yourself to account before you are judged, and weigh your actions before they are weighed against you.”

The more we neglect our souls the more we become heedless of Allah, heedless of our ownselves. Heedless of our purprose in life. Every recoverying Muslim needs to make muhassaba a vital part of their programme if they want to achieve a successful sobriety. 

`Umar himself, may Allah be pleased with him, used to whip his foot at night and say to himself: “Tell me, what have you done today?!”

Maimun bin Mahran, a famous companion of the Prophet, used to say: “A pious person scrupulously examines and appraises himself more than he would a tyrant ruler and a tight-fisted partner!”

Al-Hasan said: “A believer polices his own Self; he criticizes and appraises it for the sake of Allah. The Final Appraisal (Hisab) may turn out to be mild on some people simply because they were wont to appraise themselves in this life; and the Final Appraisal on the Day of Resurrection may turn out to be rigorous on a people who took this life with levity, and thought they would not be called to account”.

Then he described how this self-criticism and appraisal operates in practice: “A fascinating thought (or idea) suddenly comes to the mind of a believer. He says to himself: ‘By Allah this is fascinating, I need it! But no, never. Get lost! I am prohibited from executing you!'” (This is self-criticism and appraisal before the event).

And: “A believer may inadvertently do something. He would then turn to himself and say: ‘What do you mean by this? By Allah, I cannot find an excuse for this. I shall never repeat it, insha’Allah!'” (This is self-criticism and appraisal after the event).

When we self-reflect we realise what parts of ourselves need to change. Realisation of our wrongs is the first step towards doing something about them.

“Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change themselves.”  

(Qur’an, 13:11)

Throughout our addiction we have tried to claim that we were not responsible for our actions. Now that we are embracing recovery we need to own up and face up to our mistakes so that we can correct them.  Knowing you have negative traits and not doing anything about them can be a kind of arrogance and can cause us to keep sinning further. Recovery isnt just about giving up substances or gamblings etc. Rather, it is about embracing Islam fully, striving to perfect character and develop relationships with ourselves and others. 

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