It is necessary for an individual to pause at the end of each day that has
passed, in order to check himself and run through his achievements: What has he
done in the course of the day? Why has he done it? What has he omitted? Why has
he omitted it?
How excellent it would be if this self-criticism were to take place before one
retired to bed.
This period of self-criticism and appraisal should certainly be counted among
man's moments of progress; it is a moment when man impartially sits as a judge
over himself and reviews his yearnings and inclinations, his instincts and
motivations. It is a moment when the believer appoints, out of his conviction, a
policeman to watch over himself, an investigator to probe him, and a judge to
condemn or acquit him. In this way he progresses from the state of "the soul
that incites to evil" to the state of "the self- reproaching soul" which
reproaches its owner whenever he plunges into sin, or falls short of
In a Hadith we quoted before it was said: "It behooves any sane person to have
four periods of time" and one of the four periods is "a period in which he
engages in self-criticism."
The commander of the faithful, Umar Bin al-Khattab says: "Criticize and appraise
yourselves before you are criticized and appraised on the Day of Judgment, and
weigh out your deeds before they are weighed out for you." (Transl.: "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." (Quran: Al Zalzalah/6-8))
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 himself; 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 wont 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
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).
If a believer fails to observe this brief period of soul-searching daily, then
he should at least try to do so once every few days, or once a week. In this
way, he draws up his life balance sheet, depicting to him his (spiritual) assets
A believer should also have a longer period of this practice at the end of each
month, and an even longer period at the end of the year, when he bids farewell
to one year and prepares for and welcomes another.
This is the time to critically review the past and plan for the future. This is
the (spiritual) equivalent of his final accounts for the year.
One blameworthy innovation initiated by the West and unfortunately imitated by
some Muslims, is the annual birthday celebration, where people are invited to a
party and served with delicious food and drink.
At times, people obsequiously yield to meaningless rituals and imitative
practices for which Allah has sent down no authority. For example, they light a
number of candles, each one representing a year in the lifetime of the
celebrant. Having lit the candles, the celebrant then histrionically proceeds to
blow them out. Gifts are presented and pleasantries exchanged on the occasion.
Rather than this blind, useless imitation, it is better for an intelligent and
sensible person to seize this occasion, which marks the expiry of one year of
his lifetime, to reconsider and reflect upon his life. At the end of every year,
a careful trader applies the brakes in order to measure his performance over the
past year, and establish his financial position at the end of it. He wants to
know his profit or loss, and his assets and liabilities; i.e. his claims and the
claims against him. An intelligent, sensible person ought to do likewise, in
respect of his life. More than that, he should beseech Allah to bless his life,
make his day better than yesterday, and his tomorrow better than today.
It is worthier for an intelligent and sensible person to call himself to account
for one whole year of his life that has expired, in respect of which Allah, the
Exalted, will question him. A year is not a short time. It is a period of twelve
months; a month is on average thirty days; each day has twenty-four hours, each
hour sixty minutes, and each minute sixty seconds. And every second should be
counted as a blessing, a favor upon him from Allah and a trust from Allah in his
It is worthier for this intelligent and sensible person to commiserate with
himself over the turning of a page in the book of his life. Each day that passes
is, as it were, a leaf that has withered and fallen from the tree of his life.
May Allah have mercy on Al-Hasan al-Basri when he says: "O son of Adam! You are
but a bundle of days. As each day passes away, a portion of you vanishes away!"
Abu Ali ad-Daqqaq used to chant the following lines:
"Each day that passes, a portion of me it takes away,
On the heart, a bitter taste it leaves, and then glides away."
Another poet says:
"Man rejoices as long as the nights continue to pass by,
Yet, he too, as they vanish gradually perishes away. "
Yet another poet says:
"We take delight in every day that we have lived,
Yet each day that passes is a portion (gone) of a lifetime."
This is the view that every intelligent and sensible person ought to take.
However, intelligent and sensible people are few in this world.
By: Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi