Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar
We welcome the New Hijri year 1439 and pray that Allah, in his infinite Grace and Compassion will bless us and our families with good health, protect us from all calamities, and keep us busy in the New Year with deeds that will draw us closer to Him and to each other.
The beginning of a New Hijri Year is a good time for Muslims to take stock of their lives and to resolve to make some positive changes. In other words, this is a good time to make some New Year resolutions or simply to renew our old ones. My purpose in this khutbah is to prompt us to self-introspection on our personal achievements as well as our shortcomings of the past year and resolve to make some positive changes in our lives and to do better in the New Hijri Year 1439. Such a self-introspective exercise known as muhasaba is a great virtue in Islam, and I believe we should undergo such an introspective process more than once a year.
The Islamic concept of muḥāsabah or self-introspection is well known and there have been voluminous references and discussions of it by numerous classical Islamic scholars. Muḥāsabah is derived from the Arabic root word hasiba, which means to consider, think, or reckon. It appears 109 times in 25 derivative forms throughout the Glorious Qur’ān. It appears most often in relation to the Day of Judgment which is also referred to as Yawm al Hisāb, the day on which all human beings will be held accountable for their deeds in this life (Qur’an 14:41; 38:16; 38:53; 40:27).
Moreover, one of the attributes ascribed to Allah is Hasib, meaning the Perfect Reckoner (Qur’an 4:6; 4:86; 33:39). In other words, Allah is the one who keeps a complete account of all our deeds. Hence, as believers we are obliged to live our lives with muhasaba i.e. thoughtfully and introspectively.
In order to elucidate explain the concept of muhasabah further, I would like to share the understandings of muhasaba by Isma`il ibn Kathir (d.1373). He uses the concept of muhasaba to explain the meaning of verse 18 in sura al-Hashr (The Gathering), chapter 59, in which Allah, the Sublime, proclaims: O Believers! Remain Conscious of your duty to Allah and let every person consider carefully what it has prepared or put forward for tomorrow.
Ibn Kathir interprets the above to mean ‘take account of your lives (hasibuanfusakum) before Allah ultimately reckons with you (qablaantuhasibu)’.
On the basis of ibn Kathir’s interpretation, we may understand this verse to mean that Allah exhorts us not to live heedless lives, but rather to live purposeful and intentional lives – to be introspective and aware of our own strengths and shortcomings, and to constantly look for ways and means to improve our lives. Ibn Kathir’s interpretation of Qur’an 59:18 encapsulate what it means to live one’s life with muhasaba.
The importance of this central Islamic concept of muḥāsabah emphasizes renewal, growth and hope. We look inward, we look back and in so doing, we find the important tools and keys with which to build the foundation for the journey forward. And it is with this journey forward in mind that I would like to suggest that we make a few modest New Year’s resolutions.
New Year Resolutions
Ideally, the conscientious Muslim is one who should resolve to be a better person each and every day, and not just once a year. We should all have New Day resolutions, rather than New Year resolutions, that way each of us will be in a constant state of renewal and rebirth. Such an attitude and positive disposition for self-improvement and striving for excellence is affirmed and supported by a saying attributed to the pious tabi`i Al-Hasan al-Basri (d.728) who is reported to have advised us as follows: “Every day when the dawn breaks, two angels call out: O child of Adam! I am a new day and I witness your actions: so seize this new opportunity of this new day to do what is good, because once I have gone, I will not return again until the Day of Judgment.”
I remind you and myself that New Year resolutions are like good intentions. And Allah’s grace and compassion is such that HE rewards us for these good intentions, even if we fail to implement them.I encourage each one of you to make a modest list of New Year resolutions. Your list of New Year resolutions should be balanced and should include spiritual, as well as physical, intellectual and social goals. For example, it is commendable if one of your resolutions is to make more of your daily salahs on time or that in the coming year you will keep more voluntary (sunnah) fasts.
You should, however, not limit yourself to these noble and worthy goals but also make some modest resolutions concerning your physical health and well-being, improving your inter- personal relations with members of your family and friends and advancing and improving your education.
I would especially like to encourage us to make New Year resolutions that will help us to transcend the self-centred culture that has become pervasive in our consumer driven society.
Let us resolve to give more generously of ourselves by spending more time and energy to making a positive impact on the lives of others less fortunate than ourselves. More especially, let us resolve to work hard in the New Year to make a positive contribution towards bridging the class divide that remains at the root of gross inequality in our society. May this New Hijri Year 1439 be one in which we are safe from all kinds of calamities.