We continue our new Ramadan series by our Tarbiyah Editor Sh Ali Hammuda, called ‘Sacred Truths’.
This article and video series will take you on a journey of universal principles from the Qur’an relating to the the trials and circumstances we face in our everyday lives.
Stay tuned for the release of episodes throughout the month—sign up here to get them sent straight to your inbox!
The third principle
Man has a tendency to argue a case for his actions, even when fully aware that they are, in reality, completely unjustifiable. When, however, the remedy of this Qur’anic principle is applied to these actions, the behaviour is exposed for what it truly is; a flimsy veil used to cover a flimsy side to his persona. Indeed, there is something that Allah has instilled within each and every one of us that alerts to sins when encountered..
Al-Nawwās ibn Sam’ān said:
سألتُ رسولَ اللهِ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّمَ عن البِرِّ والإثمِ ؟
“I asked the Prophet ﷺ about piety and sin.”
البِرُّ حُسنُ الخُلُقِ . والإثمُ ما حاك في صدرِك ، وكرهتَ أن يطَّلِعَ عليه الناسُ
Below are some of the classical examples of this principle overlooked:
1. The obligations & prohibitions of Islam
One may come to learn of an Islamic injunction – whether it is a commandment or a prohibition, whether it pertains to rituals, dress code, finance, relationships, consumables, etc.- but endeavours to find a way around the instruction to accommodate one’s preference, career choice, family tradition, ‘talent’, appetite, etc, behaving as Imām Ibn Taymiyya said:
فإنه يعتذر عن نفسه بأعذار ويجادل عنها، وهو يبصرها بخلاف ذلك
“He provides justifications for himself and argues a case for them whilst knowing that the truth is the stark opposite of it.” 
At the root of such behaviour is a fundamental discomfort with the divine ruling, but finds oneself unable to openly articulate this discomfort, thus masking it with an ‘opinion’ which one knows deep down is completely erroneous, as Imām Ibn al-Qayyim said, 
فسبحان الله! كم من حزازة في نفوس كثير من الناس من كثير من النصوص وبودهم أن لو لم ترد؟ وكم من حرارة في أكبادهم منها، وكم من شجى في حلوقهم منها ومن موردها؟
Naturally, there will always be aspects of the religion that you may struggle to apply due to a weakness in īmān. But, even in such a situation, beware of falling prey to the temptation of justifications. Instead, acknowledge that it is a weakness; that you are not where you would like to be in your Islamic journey, as you humbly recite “man is a witness against himself, even if he presents his excuses”. These are the people who are near to Allah, for they demonstrate to Him that, despite their hearts falling short on an Islamic matter, they remain fundamentally pleased with Allah, pleased with His messenger ﷺ and pleased with the entirety of Islam with all of its wise commandments and merciful prohibitions. Then, beg Allah for help in upholding His religion. This is when the flavour of Iman is experienced.
The Prophet ﷺ said:
ذاق طعم الإيمان ، من رضي بالله ربا وبالإسلام دينا وبمحمد رسولا
2. The fault finders
Not for one moment am I suggesting a suspension of the enjoining of good and the forbidding of evil under the guise of “focus on your own issues”. I, however, do cast blame at the fault finders who actively seek out the failings of people, experiencing perhaps subtle pleasure at such discoveries, whilst behaving as deaf, dumb and blind to their own failings. Commenting on this Qur’anic principle – “man is a witness against himself. Even if he presents his excuses” – Qatāda said:
إذا شئت والله رأيته بصيراً بعيوب الناس وذنوبهم، غافلاً عن ذنوبه
“You will, by Allah, find such a person well aware of the faults of people and their sins, whilst being oblivious to his own.”
This, indeed, is one of the clearest signs of Allah’s forsaking such a person, as Bakr ibn ‘Abd Allāh al-Muzanī said:
إذا رأيتم الرجل موكلاً بعيوب الناس، ناسيا لعيبه، فاعلموا أنه قد مُكِرَ بِهِ
What is the fruit of this principle?
Applied wholeheartedly, what is the first fruit that this Qur’anic principle will cause to blossom in one’s life? Repentance and immediate change. That is because one who humbly confesses that he is indeed a “witness against himself, even if he presents his excuses” will cast aside all futile justifications for personal shortcomings, dismiss all attempts at cover-ups using erroneous opinions, and will meet head-on their faults and errors with revelation, tackling them one after another till, he surrenders at the doorstep of servitude. After all, paradise cannot be accessed without repentance, repentance cannot be arrived at without humility, and humility cannot be arrived at in the absence of this principle.
What examples do we have of this principle in action? We have Prophet Adam and Hawwā who, after falling prey to the devil’s deception, humbly acknowledged their mistake and at once announced:
رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَا أَنْفُسَنَا وَإِنْ لَمْ تَغْفِرْ لَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ
“Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers.” 
The outcome was not a disappointment; wholesale forgiveness for both.
We also find Prophet Musa who, after accidently killing a person, flung aside all justifications and at once proclaimed:
رَبِّ إِنِّي ظَلَمْتُ نَفْسِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَغَفَرَ لَهُ
“‘My Lord! I have wronged myself so forgive me’ so Allah forgave him..” 
We also have the companions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ whom Allah praised by saying:
وَآخَرُونَ اعْتَرَفُوا بِذُنُوبِهِمْ
“And there are others who have acknowledged their sins…” 
Seeing that this verse came after the description of the hypocrites who, in opposition to this Qur’anic principle, do not acknowledge their sins, Imam Ibn Taymiyya said:
فعلم أن من لم يعترف بذنبه كان من المنافقين
In conclusion, I relate a remarkable case study of this principle in action taken from the life of the great Imām Ibn Hazm. Far from ignoring his faults, let alone searching for excuses to justify them, he targeted them in an immense display of honesty and created a plan for each one. He said:
كانت فيّ عيوب، فلم أزل بالرياضة واطلاعي على ما قالت الأنبياء صلوات الله عليهم والأفاضل من الحكماء المتأخرين والمتقدمين،في الأخلاق وآداب النفس أعاني مداواتها ،حتى أعان الله عز وجل على أكثر ذلك بتوفيقه ومنّه
“I had many faults, which I remedied by an immense effort and reading the statements of the prophets and wise men from the past and present with respect to manners and etiquettes. I struggled against myself in trying to cure them, until Allah assisted me in overcoming the majority of my problems through His grace and bounty.”
فمنها: كلف في الرضاء[استرضاء الأصدقاء والإخوان] ،وإفراط في الغضب، فلم أزل أداوي ذلك حتى وقفت عند ترك إظهار الغضب جملة بالكلام والفعل، وامتنعت مما لا يحل من الانتصار وتحملت من ذلك ثقلاً شديداً ،وصبرت على مضض مؤلم كان ربما أمرضني
“Some of these issues included: seeking to please one’s friends excessively and violent temper. So, I continued remedying them until I learned how to not exhibit my anger in speech and actions. I also desisted from defending myself in unacceptable ways which was extremely taxing for me, yet I exercised patience despite the pain which, at times, made me ill.”
ومنها : عجب شديد، فناظر عقلي نفسي بما يعرفه من عيوبها حتى ذهب كله ولم يبق له والحمد لله أثر، بل كلفت نفسي احتقار قدرها جملة واستعمال التواضع
“Other issues included enormous self-admiration, so a dialogue transpired between my intellect and soul, where my faults were discussed, till all of my self-admiration disappeared without a trace, alhamdulillah, remaining. In fact, I have compelled my soul to belittle itself and to employ humility.”
…والله المستعان على الباقي”
“ .. and I ask Allah to assist me to rid the rest.” 
Ignoring this principle after this final paragraph is essentially the choice to carry one’s flaws into the next article or into the next relationship over and over again till the brick wall of a harsh reality is collided with. This may happen in this world, and will certainly happen in the hereafter if it is not treated beforehand. . So, make a decisive decision to remove the veils of excuses for good and begin your journey into how they are to be treated. Beware of surrendering to the fallacies of “this is simply who I am”, “I’ve been raised upon this all my life”, or “I could be worse”, for the Day of Judgement will bring with it an unflinching examination of the truth that will shatter all excuses. The wise one, therefore, shatters them well in advance of that Day.
 Al-Qur’an, 75:14-15
 Majmoo’ Al-Fataawaa
 Al-Risāla al-Tabūkiyya
 Muslim, on the authority of Al-‘Abbās
 Tafsīr al-Tabarī
 Safwat al-Safwa
 Al-Qur’an, 7:23
 Al-Qur’an, 28:16
 Al-Qur’an, 9:102
 Al-Saarim al-Maslool
 Rasā’il Ibn Hazm