The Station of Muraqabah (Self-Criticism)

By Imam Ibn Al Qayyim


Allah Almighty says, “And know that Allah knows what is in your hearts, so take heed of Him,” [2:235] and He says, “And Allah watches over all things,” [33:52] and He says, “And He is with you wherever you may be,” [57:4] and He Almighty says, “Does he [the rebellious man] not know that Allah does see?” [96:14] and He says,”Verily you are before our eyes,” [52:48] and He says, “He knows what the eyes steal and the hearts conceal,” [40:19] and there are many other such verses.

In the renown hadeeth, Gabriel, alayhes salam, “asked the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, about ihsan (excellence), to which he said, “[it is] to worship Allah as if you see Him, for even though you see Him not, He does see you.” (Bukhari and Muslim) This report makes it clear that muraqabah is the servant’s perpetual recognition and certainty of the knowledge of the Lord Almighty and Glorified of his appearance as well as his secrets. It is the fruit of the recognition that Allah is watching over him, observing him, hearing his words, aware of his deeds at every moment, in every breath, in every wink of an eye.

It has been said that whosoever is aware of God in his thoughts will be mindful of Him in regard to his actions. Al-Junaid said, “Whosoever has attained true muraqabah fears losing any moment with his Lord and fears nothing else.” Thun-Nun said, “The sign of muraqabah is to prefer what Allah has revealed, honor what Allah has honored, and belittle what Allah has belittled.” Ibraheem al-Khawwas said, “Muraqabah is purifying the outwardly and the inwardly for God Almighty.”

It has been said that in this journey to Allah, the best thing one can commit oneself to is muhasabah (self-evaluation), muraqabah (self-criticism or selfwatch) and wise management of one’s actions by His knowledge.

Abu Hafs counseled Abu Uthman an-Naisaburi thus: “Be a preacher to your heart whenever you sit before the people (to teach or preach), let not their large numbers and attention deceive you-for they see only your outside while God sees your inside.”

The masters of this path are unanimous that watching for God in one’s thoughts (khawatir) is the means to securing muraqabah in action, for whosoever looked to God in secret, Allah will be conscious of Him in open and hidden actions.

Muraqabah is to worship Allah through his names al-Raqeeb (the Watcher), al-Hafeedh (the Protector), al-Aleem (the Omniscient), as-Samee’ (All-hearing) and al-Baseer (All-seeing). Whosoever understands these names and worships Allah by their meaning and requisite, attains the station of muraqabah.

The most perceptive and subtle of ways to describe muraqabah is that it is to look for the Truth Almighty in one’s journey to Him with constancy, revolving between intoxicating glorification (ta’dheem muth’hil), rewarding proximity (mudanaa hamila), and motivating bliss (suroor ba’ith).

Intoxicating glorification is the filling of the heart with God’s glory to the point that the heart becomes disinclined to glorify or turn to anyone else. One must never abandon this recognition of God’s glory and majesty even in moments of ecstatic closeness to God,

and God’s reverence must always accompany us in worship, for if one feels drowned in feeling of God’s love and intimacy but does not complete them with reverence, he is led to transgress the boundaries of worship and proper conduct. Any love that is not accompanied by respect of the Beloved leads to separation from Him and falling from His grace.

Thus, the attribute of muraqabah comprises of five things: journeying towards Allah, constancy in this journey, attentiveness of the heart with it, reverence towards the Beloved, and such absorption in his majesty that none else is remembered.

As for ‘rewarding proximity,’ it means the nearness that earns the journeyer of this path these five things.

The ‘motivating bliss’ means pleasure and reverence that one finds in that nearness to God-for the bliss and serenity of the heart and the coolness of the eyes that come from closeness to God have no equal whatsoever in the pleasures of this world.There is nothing even remotely comparable to it. It is a heavenly state-so much so that one of the knowers (of God) have said, “There are times in which I say to myself that if the residents of Paradise experience the feeling I have, they indeed enjoy a good life!”

Indubitably, this bliss motivates one toward constancy in journey to Allah Almighty and encourages one to put in greater effort in seeking God’s good pleasure. One who does not experience this bliss or anything like it ought to blame his faith and deeds, for faith sure has a sweetness and whoever fails to taste it should retrace his steps and start over again in order to capture the spiritual light that will enable him to do so.

The Prophet of Allah, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, has mentioned the taste of faith and its sweetness and connected them to the truthfulness of one’s faith, saying: “He indeed has experienced the taste of faith who is pleased with Allah as his Lord, Islam as his religion, and Muhammad as his Messenger.” (Muslim and Ahmad)

He, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, also said, “Whoever finds in himself three things, has found the sweetness of faith: to hold Allah and His Messenger dearer than all else, to love someone for nothing but God, and to hate to return to disbelief after Allah has saved one from it as one hates to be thrown into the fire.” (Muslim and Bukhari)

I have heard Shaikh al-Islam Ibn Taimiyyah, may Allah bless his soul, say, “If you do not find sweetness and serenity in wake of a (righteous) deed, consider it deficient, for the Lord Almighty is most Grateful! In other words, He Almighty surely rewards a righteous person for his deed in this world immediately with a sweetness that he finds in his heart, in the expansion of his chest and coolness of his eyes, and if one fails to experience this, one’s deed must have been deficient.”

The consequences of one’s righteous deeds are bound to come back to him, for deeds have consequences that surely accrue to those who perform them and make them part of their life. Regular salahs for instance, prevent one from immodesty and vice, discipline his morals and cultivate in him/her what the Lord Almighty loves. Similarly, fasting strengthens one’s determination and his scrupulous soul (an-Nafs al-Lawwamah) and endows him with spiritual insight (baseerah) that shows him the right path and makes him among the God-conscious. Similarly, all righteous deeds have remuneration in that they set straight one’s affairs in this life here and now and make life of the family and the society happy and successful while the deeds that are unrighteous have the opposite consequences, [as God says in the Qur’an:] “For those who do good is good” and “for those who work evil is evil.”


[Al Jumuah Magazine]

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Filed under Aqidah/Belief, Islam, Religion, Tasawwuf

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