As Salam Alaikum Waramatullahi Wabarakatu
I am excited to start my first blog with this topic- self-reflection.
I really do not know how to introduce this article other than to start with the conventional saying: look at yourself in the mirror, and ask yourself is the person you see who you want to be? We all want to improve to be better, but how do we identify what we need to improve and change?
Mostly, we do things over and over again, complaining of no positive result. We keep pushing, and moving, without taking the time to reflect on what can be improved. Not asking, what is going wrong? We are clouded with ‘I have no time to waste’. Forgetting that we need to identify what needs to change and what we need to keep doing. We need to determine what we can do differently to improve ourselves and be the person we envision ourselves to be. It is when we are able to reflect and look within ourselves that we will be able to identify what is lacking within us.
Self-reflection is something we don’t tend to do, which is a process of self-discovery. Although, it seems easier said than done.
Here are some motivations to enhance self-reflection.
Self-reflection brings about self-awareness which leads to self-improvement. With this we learn to be proactive not reactive. It makes us have a positive reaction to situation because, we have taken time to understand ourselves. We learn not to respond in the heat of the moment and this helps to guard against regretting our decisions. Self-reflection enables us to cope with personal challenges and we are able to know ourselves better.
To achieve a good self-reflection in ourselves we have to be genuine. It is something personal which is a means of improvement. For us to reflect properly, we have to be truthful to ourselves. Avoid trying to compare yourself to others when you are reflecting, because this is all about you. I say this often: ‘we are different, we want different things’.
Self-reflection from an Islamic perspective can be understood in various ways.
The Prophet’s (S.A.W) lifestyle is a perfect example of this. We know that he (S.A.W) was a man of meditation and reflection prior to Prophethood, because he (S.A.W) goes to reflect in cave Hira before he received revelation. The Prophet (S.A.W) was a man of thought who regularly visit Cave Hira. He goes there in seclusion. This was a means for him to escape from the corruption in the society. He was unhappy but, could do nothing to change the situation. This was a process of detachment. He needed to detach from the world by staying in seclusion to think, and reflect on the signs, greatness and wonder of Allah. This shows us the importance of seclusion when reflecting.
Furthermore, in the Quran Allah says: ‘Those who remember Allah standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying): “Our Lord! You have not created this without purpose, glory to You! Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire’. (Quran 3:191) In this way, we are advised to remember Allah and contemplate upon His signs. Looking at the creation of Allah does amazing wonders in our lives. Just contemplating and looking at our surroundings makes us realize how magnificent Allah is: His ability to create so many things at the same time. The verse continues with Allah acknowledging that those who reflect and remember Allah know and say: ’Our Lord you have not created this without a purpose’. These people are able to reflect by looking at the creations of Allah, and they understand that every creation serves a purpose. This reminds us that we are created with a purpose, as we have something to fulfill on earth. It is up to us to engage in self-reflection to search our minds and discover the purpose of our creation. This brings the question, what is our purpose? Allah says: I created not the Jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me. (Quran 51:56) This implies that all we do should be an act of Ibadah. Little acts such as smiling, being kind, and so many more, are examples of how we can worship Allah.
Allah commands us to reflect and look at what deed we have prepared ahead of us. He says: ‘O you who believe! Have Taqwa of Allah and let every person look to what he has sent forth for tomorrow, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what you do.’ (Quran 59:18) Ahead of us is the day we will be alone in our graves, the Day of Judgment, where only our previous deeds will be of benefit to us. “And on the earth are signs for those who have faith with certainty. 21 And also in yourselves. Will you not then see?” (Quran 51:20-21).
Self-reflection brings about change. How can we change what is within ourselves? Through reflecting. We need to reflect and ponder in our hearts and identify what we need to change within ourselves as Allah says: “…Verily, Allah will not change the (good) condition of a people as long as they do not change their state of (goodness) themselves”. (Quran 13:11) This means that we have to put in an effort to change by reflecting and identifying the issues within ourselves. Thereafter we make Dua with sincerity for change and we take decisive steps to implement the changes.
Umar Ibn Khattab (RA) speaks about self-reflection. He said:
“Take stock [account] of yourselves before you are brought to account; weigh yourselves before you are weighted, for that will make the reckoning easier for you tomorrow, if you take stock [account] of yourselves today and prepare yourselves for the great presentation on the Day when you will be brought to Judgment, and not a secret of yours will be hidden”. Narrated by Ibn Abi’d-Dunya in Muhaasabat an-Nafs (p.22).
Ensure to engage in self-reflection at the end of the day or at least once in a week. I advice you write down your thoughts instead of thinking about it. Have a personal journal. There are so many free Apps which can be downloaded on the App store, or preferably get a diary) where you document your day and take account of yourself.
Get questions to reflect on. Here are some questions that can be pondered over:
What are my strength and weakness? are my passion? What do I enjoy doing? What makes me happy?
How sincere are my actions? Why do I do them?
What sin am I committing that I need to change? What sin am I struggling to change? What am I willing to give up for the sake of Allah: knowing that He will replace it with something better. Make Dua to Allah to help you
I hope the above article was beneficial, which will help to engage in self-reflection.
Do you have any other tips on how to maximize self-reflection?
I’d like to hear your thoughts.