Posted by: Dawud Israel | May 20, 2008

Self-Righteousness

Self-Righteousness

Two memories figure prominiently in my recollection, in relation to this.

My friend Ali was in a jamaat of Muslims and asked if he could lead. The answer was from a brother, “No, your qiraat (recitation) is not good,” and this same brother pushed another brother up to pray. Now Ali, didn’t know any of these brothers and they didn’t know him or even heard his recitation and yet all of a sudden he is pushed down?

The other story is of Shaykh Suhaib Webb in a story that caused a great deal of controversy–it has been deleted but I still remember this bit. Upon citing his reasons for leaving a certain Muslim organization he told of how a certain brother had told him how he knew nothing of a certain Islamic work in a very harsh and rude manner. The man did not realize that Sh. Suhaib Webb had an Ijazah on the work whereas this person who was accusing him, had nothing and could not even give the proper respect that the shaykh deserved.

In both of these scenarios the one person was being self-righteous. But notice how in each of them the person who was the victim did not tell this person that they were being self-righteous. Now the point I am trying to make is that it is pointless to tell a person they are self-righteous because:

A) If they truly are self-righteous, then they will not change and be even more stubborn–waste of energy
B) If they are not self-righteous, you make a pretty bad mistake and put them down–your sin

Now let’s go further with B. I remember a nice example of how one shouldn’t compare themselves to the Sahabas unless you behave like the Sahabas. And this made sense, but the thing was, the underlying assumption was that no one can become anywhere near as pious as the Sahabas and what I heard was: no can ever come close to the Sahabas!

Now that’s where I have an issue. The truth is we can never attain the position of the Sahabas but we can still attain something truly great–Wilayat. And so my attitude to statements like those is disgust because it’s saying, “You are not a Sahaba therefore can never be Righteous”–this is what is implied that is so troublesome. And the reason it is such a problem is because we have come to wrongly believe that Muslims are incapable of producing righteous people. In other words, that Muslims do not deserve Righteous People and therefore no one can truly be righteous. How recent was it that you expected a Shaykh to say something wrong and then how long ago was it that you expected a Shaykh to perform a miracle?

We Muslims have a tendency to look at the stupid possibilities and not the profound ones–we idiotically give the person who died a kaffir an excuse saying, “Well we don’t know if they were Muslim” as if our deen is supposed to serve and make room for their inadequacies. But when was the last time you ever thought, “Well, I don’t know if that brother is a Friend of Allah”?

Now that is a possibility I am trying to make plain here: We may not be Sahabas but we can be amongst the Awliya–anyone of us could, even the ones we think are the worst. With that in mind, I bring my final point: I personally believe within the next few years we’ll start hearing more reports and seeing videos of authentic miracles performed by righteous Muslims–the great scholars and Walis of the past aren’t just in the past, but Allah brings them into existence at all times.

Islam isn’t just another religion–so why do we act like it’s so ordinary now? I think most people will agree that it is not out of modesty that we rule out the possibility of there being righteous amongst us–but out of a low confidence and self-debasement. We DO deserve the truly righteous to be amongst us and we should realize they ARE among us, and if we truly knew them as we should we would look at ourselves in a far more positive light.

We accuse others of being self-righteous but virtually never assert that others are pious.

Two closing quotes that are attributed both to Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik (or was it Imam ash-Shafi? can’t remember which): “I love the righteous, although I am not one of them.”

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, Ameen.


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