We recognize “bad-natured-ness” and we recognize good nature when we see it. What is thebasis for creating this good nature in ourselves? Muhasabah. Muhasabah is assessing your actions and your nature. We should review what we say and what we have done every day. It would be wonderful if we could take a minute out of every hour and do that—it would be doing it at least 16 minutes every day.
Muhasabat is not just to look at what you have done that is bad, wrong, or that you want to change. It is also an opportunity to thank Allah (swt) for the good that you have done, and to try to focus, hopefully, on the good things (not just the wrongs) that you have done, or the things you would have done differently. But when you do come across those things you have done that are not right, you ask Allah to forgive you. Forgiveness is immediate because you have repented sincerely.
What is muhasabah? It is really an assertion of our loyalty to Allah. We are saying, “All the good that I have done has come from You, and the wrongs I have done I repent of. Please assist me.” You are affirming your relationship with Allah. In his Futuwwah al Maqia, Ibn Araby wrote,
The righteous people at the early centers of Islam used to write down or commit to memory everything they did or said every day. Then they criticized themselves for any evil or sin in their words and deeds, in order to protect themselves from the storms of vanity and the whorls of self-pride. They also asked God’s forgiveness for that evil sin. They used to shelter in the quarantine of repentance against the viruses of errors and deviations, and prostrated in thankfulness to God for the meritorious deeds or words that the Almighty created through them.
Muhasabah is a doorway to the bātin. It is a way of discovering your inwardness. It is a way of discovering one’s inner state, the
environment of one’s niyyat, the depth of your spiritual self. We can exert spiritual effort, along with intellectual effort, to take a look at our inner state through our acts and thoughts. It is also a way to actualize the reflection on the Names and Attributes of Allah in our life; to focus on what the real, essential human values are; and to develop attitudes and characteristics in our
character that will encourage the good actions and inward awareness.
Through this kind of effort, we learn how to distinguish between what is constructive and reflective of our fitrah, and what is destructive and a veil between our fitrah and the Attributes of Allah (swt). Most human beings push the boundaries of constructive (opening) and destructive (constricting) [behavior] in their lives. But to really develop good character, a pattern (station) of
constructive behavior depends on our effort and our will to look at ourselves; and to link what happens with what we said, what we thought, what we really found out was true, and what we did to what Allah guides us in Qur’an and what is in the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw).
It is through this process of continuous self-critique and evaluation that we are able to measure our present state, and prepare ourselves for the future. By looking at the past, we are able to walk confidently and humbly into the future. We realize there is a kind of moment-to-moment, hour-to-hour, day-to-day self-rejuvenation or renewal that takes place inwardly and bonds us to and cements our relationship with Allah. This happens because we have the ability, and we have made the choice to live a spiritual life in relationship to Allah and others. That is to say, we have within us what is necessary to look at our inner world. We try to preserve our spiritual nature, the nature of our soul, as we go through our human existence, keeping our inner senses awake and our inner
feelings active in our lives.