Over the weekend I was laying in my bed, thinking about how accountability works. I was imagining the vast spectrum of sinful actions that people can succumb to, and wondering how in the world it was possible for us to be judged by the same standard when what might be a weakness for one might not be a weakness for another.
I couldn’t help but take note of the many “grave” haraams that I don’t participate in. I don’t drink, and have never tried smoking or recreational drugs. I am not promiscuous and I don’t actively watch porn. I don’t steal, murder, or otherwise violently act upon others. When looking at my prospects for the hereafter, it seems things might be pretty promising for me, considering how many horrible people there are who engage in those very things. Not only that, they boast and brag about it!
Yet, I’m not that naive. I will be held accountable to something. I do sin, and make poor decisions. Some of them are obvious, like neglecting salat or getting impatient. I still wondered though, how will Allah look at me on Judgement Day, and decide what’s just for me, when compared to those who are acting worse than I?
Then I realized that it wasn’t about who I am “better than”. When Allah judges all of us, he’s not judging comparing us to one another. He’s not going to look at me and my cumulative deeds on this earth, and decide that I deserve paradise because I wasn’t as bad as the person who lives downstairs. Of course intentions are going to play a role, and of course the example of Prophet Muhammad (saws) is going to be the standard we measure against, but what standard is that exactly? Perfection?
No, because we know that Allah would destroy a perfect creation and replace it with one who depended on Him alone for not only forgiveness, but for strength to do anything right. We are not expected to be perfect per se, so what are we expected to do? A lot of times we hear the answer- to try our best. Too many times I know I’ve taken that and put it together like this: “I need to try my best to be better than those around me.”
But that’s not it. When we are to excel, it’s not against each other, but against ourselves. The crucial point we will be judged upon (I believe) is whether we tried to better ourselves from whatever we might have been the year before, the month before, the day before, the moment before. Looking at it from that angle, all of a sudden the choices I make are no less serious than those of any other sinner. Looking at it that way, I have just as much hope for mercy if I can control my argumentative nafs, as someone who controls their violent nafs.
So now I feel the weight of conviction. I can no longer skate by soothing myself with the idea that just because I’m “not as bad” as some others, that I’m going to be ok in the next life. I will have to answer for my tone of voice, my argumentative demeanor, my impatient sighs, my missed ibadah, my wasted resources, and much, much more. Yet, if I can learn to bring even these habits and qualities under submission, I can hope in the same mercy that awaits all the repentant.
Ya Allah, give me the strength and mindfulness to keep my focus on my own weaknesses, and please provide me the means to better myself until I’ve pleased You and not my self. Amin.