Have you ever embarked on the journey of self-discovery? Have you ever asked yourself who you are? Did you ever care to know and understand your worth, abilities, capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, and challenges? Have you, for once, asked yourself what your principles, beliefs, ideologies and philosophy are? If you have never answered these questions, then you have not discovered yourself. And if you have not discovered yourself, you may not have prepared yourself for a life worth living. Anyone who fails to discover himself is likely to become what others want him or her to be. It is only through self-discovery that one can identify his aspirations and actualize his potentials.
It is important that one sets aside some time to reflect upon one’s life. Many people live a life without ever asking themselves who they are. “who am I?” is a question that every Muslim should ask himself from time to time in order to ascertain whether or not he is on the path of righteousness. “Who am I?” is a necessary enquiry in to one’s moral and spiritual character. Our answers to “who am I?” should help us to define ourselves in terms of character and personality. One should never be afraid of probing and admitting who he really is especially if the result of his self-examination portrays him in the negative.
Let us not allow our daily schedules to rob us of the time for self-assessment. We need to create enough time for such because many things could be against us when we realize we have deviated so much from the path of pious and virtuous men of Allah (SWT). Each time we are privileged to be alone, let us ask ourselves whether we are contented or greedy, modest or ostentatious, kind or cruel, humble or arrogant, generous or selfish, lazy or industrious, trustworthy or corrupt. Let us ask ourselves whether or not we are natural or artificial in the way we behave.
Have you ever sat down before going to bed to ask yourself certain questions about how you spent the day? It is important to ask yourself whether your activities during the day brought you closer to Allah (SWT) or farther away from Him. Your answer should lead you to take advantage of Allah’s respite by seeking His infinite forgiveness and mercy over the sins, mistakes and transgressions you might have committed during the day. Allah (SWT) states in Qur’an 3: 133 “Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your lord, and for a Garden whose width is that (of a whole) of the heavens and the earth prepared for the righteous.”
The next stage of “who am 1?” relates to knowing yourself through the company you keep. Ask yourself and provide answers to questions such as: who are my friends and associates? Are they virtuous or vicious? Are they worth associating with? Does my friendship or association with such people bring any benefits to mankind or humanity? If the company of friends, associates or colleagues you keep are of bad, it simply means you are also bad. The Prophet (SAW) said “Whoever resembles a people (in thought or action) is one of them”
As believers, let us also search our conscience in order to find out how sincerely committed we have been to the social responsibilities placed upon our shoulders by the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW). As husbands, we should ask ourselves whether or not we treat our wife/wives kindly. Do we show enough interest in matters that directly or indirectly concern the wellbeing of our wives? As wives, how respectful and loyal are we to our husband? Do we, as wives, provide adequate protection and care for the wealth, property and children of our husband? As children, are our behaviours and attitudes reflective of those who are obedient to their parents? As parents, do we provide basic needs of life, love, education and training for our children? As believers, are we devouted to our religious duties? As leaders, are we leading with the fear of God? As persons in positions of authority, are we providing decent leadership without allowing our personal interest, tribal or religious sentiments to influence our official conduct and decisions? Since all deeds, according to the Prophet (SAW), will be judged by the intentions that prompted them, are the intentions behind all our actions in our interpersonal relationships founded on sincerity and for the sake of Allah (SWT)?
Imagine that you had a pen and a paper with which you were scoring yourself on each of the questions in the preceding paragraphs, try to guess at this point whether the tallies of your responses are higher on the positive or negative side. Let us accept that it is time to hasten to repent from our unrighteous words and actions because repentance tendered only at the point of death is of no effect. Allah (SWT) states in Qur’an 4:18 “Of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil until death faces one of them and he says, ‘Now have I repented indeed’; nor of those who die rejecting faith: for them have we prepared a punishment most grievous”. It is preferred that we repent from our sins as soon as we realize we have veered off from the straight path. Allah (SWT) asserts this in Qur’an 4: 17 “Allah accepts the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and repent soon afterwards; to them will Allah turn in mercy: For Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom”
The last stage of “who am I?” involves asking yourself whether you are prepared to receive the angel of death, Azrail (AS), if he were to approach you before you finish reading this column. If your response to this enquiry is in the negative, it could mean that you are yet to discover yourself. If you give yourself the impression that you have discovered yourself while you have actually not, you are doing no harm to anyone other than yourself. Remember that Azrail (AS) gives no extra time to anyone whenever it is time for him to act. May Allah (SWT) guide us to discover ourselves in time, realize our shortcomings in time and repent in time so that we can benefit from the infinite mercy of the All-Knowing, amin.