UNIT NINE – MUHASABA – MURAQABA (Self-Criticism and Self-Supervision)

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Abu Ya’la ibn Shaddad ibn Aws, may Allah be well pleased with him, narrates that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said: “A wise person is one who keeps a watch over his bodily desires and passions, and checks himself from that which is harmful and strives for that which will benefit him after death; and a foolish person is one who subordinates himself to his cravings and desires and expects from Allah the fulfillment of his futile desires.” (Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Qiyama, 25; See also: Sunan ibn Majah, Zuhd, 31).



Shaddad ibn Aws

a) Shaddad ibn Aws is the child of a Muslim family. b) His nickname was Abu Ya’la or Abu Abdu’r-Rahman. c) He was superior in terms of knowledge and mildness of character. d) He narrated approximately fifty hadith from Allah’s Messenger. e) He passed away at age seventy-five in the fiftyeighth year after the Emigration, in the city of Jerusalem.



The indications of wisdom, specified in the hadith as control over one’s carnal self and striving for the Hereafter are, to a large extent, connected to a belief that is complete. Control over one’s carnal self implies making reason sovereign in one’s life. Regulating one’s actions in consideration of their repercussions in the Hereafter is the attitude of the wise, in the true sense of the term. The Qur’anic verse, “…and let every person consider what he has forwarded for the morrow,” (al-Hashr 69:18) demonstrates just how judicious are the works of those who strive for what will benefit them in their life after death. Moreover, Imam Tirmidhi indicates that the expression translated as “who keeps a watch over his bodily desires and passions” refers to “a person who calls their carnal self to account before it is called to account in the Hereafter.” Subsequently, he narrates two views in support of this contention. Umar has said: “Call yourselves to account before you are called to account.” Make preparations for the supreme tribunal. The reckoning in the Hereafter will be easy for those who hold their carnal soul answerable in this world.

An indication of weakness has been regarded in the hadith as subordinating oneself to their carnal desires and fancies and then being in expectation from Allah. Perhaps the sole consolation for those who have become enslaved to their carnal souls is baseless misgiving. The following verses serve as severe caution in this regard:

O human! What is it that deludes you concerning your Lord, the All-Munificent? He Who has created you, fashioned you, and proportioned you (in measures perfect for the purpose of your creation); Having constituted you in whatever form He has willed. (al-Infitar 82:6–8)

It is that supposition of yours which you entertained about your Lord that has tumbled you down into perdition, and so you have come to be among the losers. (Fussilat 41:23)

1. Allah describes to us a scene pertaining to the Hereafter as follows:

On that day you will be arraigned for judgment, and no secret of yours will remain hidden. Then, as for him who is given his record in his right hand, he will say: ‘Here, take and read my record! I surely knew that (one day) I would meet my account.’ And so he will be in a state of life pleasing to him. (al-Haqqa 69:18–21)

As stated in the verse, a person who is aware while in this world that they will one day be brought to account for their actions and who checks themselves accordingly, will not be left stupefied in the Hereafter; their final destination, eternal life in Paradise, will be one with which they are well pleased and in which they will experience a felicity never-ending. It is precisely these people of whom Allah’s Messenger speaks as ‘the wise’ in this hadith.

2. Muhasaba, which denotes reckoning, settling accounts, and self-interrogation, in a spiritual context signifies the daily self-criticism of a believer who, constantly analyzing their deeds and thoughts, responds to goodness with thankfulness and strives to remove sins with repentance.

3. In view of a remarkable address during one of his sermons, Umar interrupted his own address, saying: “O Umar, you were a shepherd taking care of your father’s sheep!”

Hasan al-Basri, suckled by one of the wives of the Prophet, is a great personality. He would interrogate himself every day, saying, “Were you not the same person who thought of such-and-such in your Prayer the other day? How could you do such a thing in the presence of your Lord? See yourself for what you truly are!”

4. How to practice self-criticism:

1. To observe all acts of worship sincerely and earnestly.

2. To see even one’s best acts of worship as wanting.

3. To hold oneself in contempt before others, and to such an extent that one is in perpetual gratitude towards Allah for not being an unbeliever.

4. A person who possesses the gift of eloquent speech must not see himself or herself as knowing everything.



1. Wisdom and foresightedness is reflected in one’s behavior. 2. The delineation between “the wise” and “the foolish” pertains to the situation of evaluating the world and the Hereafter, as well as preparation for life after death. 3. In order for a person to receive the benefit of Divine assistance, they must do what is necessary to this end: “…Allah’s mercy is indeed near to those devoted to doing good…” (al-A’raf 7:56) 4. Allah rewards deeds, not vain desires.



1. Who is the wise person, according to the hadith?

2. At what age and in what year did Shaddad ibn Aws pass away?

3. How has Imam Tirmidhi described the meaning of the expression, “who keeps a watch over his bodily desires and passions”?

4. Call yourselves to ……… before you are ……… to ………. .

5. What is the meaning of ‘being deluded in relation to Allah’?

6. What is the literal meaning of muhasaba?

7. What did Umar once say during his sermon, so as to overcome his carnal self?

8. What are the necessary criteria for self-criticism?

9. About whom and for which reason did the Prophet utter the following statement: “By Allah, such was the repentance of this woman that were it to be divided among seventy people of Medina, it would suffice”?

10. What lessons can be taken from the hadith?



Tekines, Ayhan. “An Introduction to Hadith” Tughra Books Press. January 2013.