Discovering One’s Flaws
By Dr.Jasser Auda
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks are due to Allāh, the Lord of al-ā’lamīn. There is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger.
In his well-known book, Al-Hikam (Words of Wisdom), Sheikh Ahmad Ibn ‘Atā'illāh As-Sakandari says:
“Trying to discover the flaws within you is better than trying to discover the worlds hidden from you.”
One may start his journey to Allāh the right way. But unfortunately, he might feel self-conceit or feel that he is doing Allāh a favor and forget the very fact that he or she has many flaws. After setting the rules of how to perfect the beginning of a new phase in the journey, Ibn ‘Atā says: "Trying to discover the flaws within you is better than trying to discover the worlds hidden from you".
If one thinks that he is free from flaws, then surely there is a problem. Flaws are in the nature of human beings. Only Allāh has the perfect attributes, glory to Him.
A believer, who has been active and has done some extra rituals, might feel a certain spiritual awakening. Then, he or she will think that they are able to feel or see the unseen or have the piercing sight about which the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: "Beware of the piercing sight of the believer, for he sees with the light of Allāh ". (At-Tabarāni) Therefore, Ibn ‘Atā' is warning us by saying: "Trying to discover the flaws within you is better than trying to discover the worlds hidden from you".
If one thinks that he is free from flaws, then surely there is a problem. Flaws are in the nature of human beings. Only Allāh has the perfect attributes, glory to Him. And as much perfection Allāh has, as much imperfection we have. Allāh is the Generous, but human is a miser: “Say: "If you were to own all the treasure-houses of my Sustainer's bounty, you would still try to hold on to them tightly for fear of spending: for man has always been avaricious whereas Allāh is limitless in His bounty". (Al-Isrā' 17:100)
Allāh is Almighty, but a human is a weak creature. “Allāh wants to lighten your burdens: for man has been created weak”. (An-Nisā' 4:28) Allāh is always Merciful, but a human could be cruel. Allāh is much-forbearing, but a human has limited patience. Allāh is forgiving, but a human does not forgive easily. Allāh is Wise, but a human is prone to being hasty in judgments. Allāh is The Knower, but a human has very limited knowledge. Allāh is The Just, but humans often do injustice to others.
When you are put to a test, this test will reveal your flaws and shortcomings.
In addition to the above imperfections, one should put effort at this stage of the journey in order to discover the flaws within oneself specific to him or her. This is much better than trying to discover the worlds hidden. One cannot have a true insight about the hidden worlds before purifying himself, in any case.
We should also know that a human will never purify himself completely, but he should do as much as he can. Trying to mend one’s inner self eventually helps in realizing the quality of humbleness. Then, a certain degree of self-purification and humbleness make one spiritually elevated and brings about divinely bestowed knowledge and spiritual insights.
There are several ways through which one could discover his or her flaws. This includes the following:
1. Critics: If someone criticizes you, think twice about this criticism. Could it be criticism that helps me discover one of my flaws? You have to take into consideration every criticism that comes from everybody, even if it comes from those people who are not in good terms with you. You have to ask yourself: What can I learn here?
2. Friends: A good friend helps you discover your flaws when he or she offers you a sincere advice. ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab (radiallāhu ‘anhu) said: "May God have mercy on the person who bestows on me my flaws". ‘Umar considered showing him one of his flaws as a gift that he is presented. A sincere friend comes to you directly and tells you nicely about your flaws. From your end, you should listen deeply to your friend and look within yourself for those flaws and try to work on them.
3. Trials: When you are put to a test, this test will reveal your flaws and shortcomings. Allāh says: “Are they, then, not aware that they are being tested year-in, year-out? And yet, they do not repent from or remember [their mistakes]”. (At-Tawbah 9:126) The verse here is talking about the hypocrites; Allāh always puts them to tests, but they never repent to Him and they do not bethink themselves of Allāh. If you are under pressure or put to test, you have an opportunity to discover your flaws.
We pray to Allāh to help us discover and fix our flaws. We pray to Allāh to grant us forgiveness. He is the Most Generous.
[Via On Islam Monday, Thursday, 13 October 2011]