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Correct Yourself First Before Asking Others

WE SEE FREQUENTLY PEOPLE COMPLAINING ABOUT RAMPANT EVIL PRACTICES, degradation of society, onslaught of vulgarity and obscenity etc. This is generally followed by sermons on righteous path that has been neglected for a long time. In brief it has become our national characteristic to find faults without looking for their remedies in right earnest.

What is unfortunate and disconcerting is the perception and treatment of the problem. Every one joins in and contributes his/her bit by making one remark or the other on the social ills and the drift from the religious practices. In doing so, they place all the blame on others, absolving themselves completely. They totally forget and ignore the fact that they are as much part of the society as others, whom they are blaming. People indulge in this sort of discussion for the sake of discussion and criticize others for the sake of criticism. They have little or no desire to improve the situation or bringing change in the decaying social order. They do not have a clue of the correct track or the righteous path. Neither they try to analyze the situation nor look for the causes which have been instrumental for the drift to the present day degradation.

So, what is really needed? To begin with an honest, sincere and objective analysis of the present situation is required and then an equally honest, sincere, and pragmatic solution is to be found to correct the situation. Unless there is a strong will and commitment to bring about a material change, there is little hope that we could come out of the present predicament by sheer desire. No amount of sermons or criticism for the sake of criticism can bring about any improvement in the present situation. Hence, as the very first step we should make it a habit never to participate in the discussions which are purposeless and devoid of actions and aim at criticizing others.

For analyzing the situation pragmatically, it is easy to recognize that society is made of individuals and we are a part of it. As an individual when we are a part of the society we are to be blamed as much for the degradation as anybody else, because responsibility of ills rest on our shoulders as much. So, why not look at our own actions instead of finding faults with others – Search the Self. It is a lot easier to correct ourselves than to correct others. Now, at this stage the Devil (Satan) is bound to come in the way and show hundred and one ways to absolve oneself and batter the society. For instance, it can be argued:

How can it help the society when only one individual mends his ways and the rest do not change?
How can one individual correct himself in a miasmal environment?
An individual by himself as a mentor or reformer would be an outcast and be jeered at.
An individual is likely to lose the worldly benefits if one adopts the righteous path all by oneself.

So, the easy way out is to stay in the main stream and keep doing as others are doing. It definitely requires a lot of courage and resilience to combat the Devil’s designs. But once the initial shyness is overcome, the sailing should be smooth and calm. When one could bolster enough courage and resilience to act and act single handedly; then is the time for soul searching and realize that what one is doing should not be done and what one is not doing that should be done. Thank God people generally are not in that state of mind where they could be naive and ignorant about the dos and don’ts. Because when they grumble about the degradation of society they surely know what should be done and what not.

Therefore, the bottom line message is; correct yourself first. It is obvious one can not correct himself completely overnight. So, priorities have to be set and then set the ball rolling. For instance, one may not be in the habit of offering prayers (Salah), keeping fast (Sawm), reciting / reading Qur’an, giving obligatory charity, (Zakah), obeying parents etc. On the other hand one might have been in the habit of drinking, gambling, womanizing, cheating, lying, backbiting etc. (Only a few well known dos and don’ts have been listed for reference purpose). In such a situation one should make one’s own selection of things and lay down his priorities i.e. how to go about leaving the don’ts and adopting the dos. One must make a beginning, no matter how insignificant and small, but it must be with a will and conviction so that one sticks to it. Then gradually but firmly one should leave the don’ts and adopt the dos one by one. As one will progress on the righteous path, one will feel the help from Allah (swt), as He has promised in Qur’an:

وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا

“As for those who strive hard in Us (Our cause), We will surely guide them to Our Paths (i.e. Allah’s religion – Islamic Monotheism). (29:69)

For the sake of example, if one does not pray at all, he should start with one (Salah) at least which could be of his choice. If one does not recite Qur’an, he can make a beginning by reciting only a few verses daily. Similarly, if one is a habitual liar or backbiter, he should try to cut down the frequency in such indulgence. Likewise, if one indulges in accepting unlawful gratitude’s (bribe) he should make an effort to cut it down. When one makes a sincere and honest effort to leave the munkirats (what is forbidden) and adopt the Al-Maruf (what should be done) and asks for Allah’s (swt) help and mercy, He will Insha Allah grant him that.

When one changes and moulds one’s life style in line with the precepts of Islam, one will most certainly find oneself peaceful and contended. But attainment of that exalted condition is both easy and difficult. It is easy in the sense that Allah’s (swt) help and blessings will follow all along at every step if one endeavors to tread the righteous path with sincerity, zeal, conviction, and perseverance. Also, it is difficult in the sense that one will achieve nothing if one tries to change others before changing oneself. So, the key to success is that one should apply and adopt all the principles and precepts of the Deen (Islam) in one’s own day to day life and present oneself as a model to begin with. Incidentally, by presenting oneself as a model of that one desires others to follow, one would be emulating Rasulullah (saw) as he never asked anyone to do or perform something which he would not be doing himself.

Having attained the position of self modeling, one can then be in a persuasive position to influence others. It is the law of Nature [Allah (swt)] that every human being enjoys a sphere of influence in which his / her opinion and advice carry weight. Rasulullah (saw) has also pointed out toward this Divine rule and said:

كلكم راعٍ وكُلُّكُمْ مَسْؤْلٌ عَنْ رَعِيَّته – مسلم,ابواب الجهاد باب هاجاء فى الامام

Each one of you has (control) a sphere of influence and every one will be asked about those who were under his influence.

It is very true. If we look around we can see that every individual has his/her own sphere of influence, big or small, where people within that sphere look up and listen to him/her for advice and opinion. If this sphere is very small; it consists of at least the family members. Therefore, if none else, a person can at least influence his own family members and his goal (of influencing) becomes easier if his family members see him practicing the same things which he asks them to do. So, as the saying goes, charity begins at home; make a beginning to influence your family members first. It is not only the softest nut to crack, but also the religions (Deeni) duty to make one’s family members tread the righteous path. For Allah (swt) has said in Qur’an:

يَأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ قُواْ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا

“O you who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell).” (66:6)

Influencing family members to follow one’s advice and preaching is much easier than convincing others to adopt his ways. Also, this is a Sunnah, as Rasulullah (saw) did the same when he received the first message from Allah (swt) i.e. he (saw) presented it to his family members to begin with.

It is true that initially one would face some resistance even from the family members also. Some will adopt the change quicker than others, some might accept the change in piecemeal; while, still others would threaten to revolt being the members of the same family they should all see the wisdom and truth in the righteous path and will rally around the leader of the family sooner or later.

When the family members come along and start following the Islamic teachings and precepts, one has succeeded in creating a small world for oneself and the family around him. This by itself should be a great source of the feeling of happiness and contentment. If one could correct oneself and make one’s family members follow the precepts of Islam, it will undoubtedly be a great achievement; an achievement for which one could expect the mercy and blessedness of Allah (swt) the Almighty.

Now, if we pause a little and look back where we had started from. It was about the complaint and criticism of others and the society for drifting from the righteous path and indulgence in unethical and un-Islamic deeds and actions. In this regard all that people are doing is nothing more than lip service and no constructive work. By passing judgments in the cozy atmosphere of drawing rooms, one cannot expect to correct and alleviate the ills of society and un-Islamic way of life. It is a futile and inane exercise with no positive or concrete results.

So, why waste time unnecessarily with no outcome. Instead, why not do something positive and rewarding; also, something on which you have control and can exercise restrain. If one could achieve sanity and purity of purpose through Islamic teachings and precepts in one’s own house hold, it shall indeed be a big leap forward. Those who are genuinely concerned with the present drift from Islamic teachings can make a beginning within their own family.

This way a number of house holds/families will emerge acting upon the teachings and precepts of Islam. Such house holds should act as oasis in the desert and might help others to emulate and change their way for the better.

Anas (ra) says: “A person who was wearing yellow colored clothing was sitting by Rasulullah (saw). It was the habit of Rasulullah (saw) not to bluntly express things he did not approve of. (Therefore he kept silent). When that person left, Rasulullah (saw) said to those present, ‘It would have been better if you told him not to wear yellow clothing’.” (Shamaa-il Tirmidhi pg.363)

Source: Darul Uloom al-Madania

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