Seeing Ourselves Through the Lens of The Qur’an

by Dinah Khattab

I  often think of how Prophet Yusuf’s confidence and sense of self-worth were not affected throughout his life despite the many challenges he faced. It always remained the same. For example, when he was released from prison after being wrongly accused, he said: 

 “Appoint me over the storehouses of the land. Indeed, I will be a knowing guardian” Surah Yusuf, v.55

Throughout all the hardships and tests he experienced, he did not doubt his self-worth or capabilities.

He described himself as a knowing guardian.

He was aware of the strengths that Allah gifted him.

He was aware of his status as an honoured creature.

He was aware that he has a role in this Life above his own desires and pleasures.

How does Islamic Psychology help us build a self-image that is solely derived from Allah’s words and not dependent on man-made everchanging criteria and measurements?

One of the features of the Nafs that is mentioned in the Quran is that it has thoughts and assumptions that affect the way it behaves.

Allah has mentioned the word ( الظن — settled thoughts and perceptions)  throughout different verses of the Quran describing human actions:

“Then what is your thought about the Lord of the worlds?” Surah Al Safat,v. 87

“And that was your assumption which you assumed about your Lord. It has brought you to ruin, and you have become among the losers.” Surah Al Safat, v. 23

Both Ayas show us that the origin of the way we act is dependent on our perceptions and assumptions and thoughts.

So what are our assumptions about our Self-worth?

What are our perceptions about ourselves? What makes us worthy?

There is a direct positive relationship between our assumptions and perceptions of Allah and our perceptions towards our Nafs.

If our perception of Allah is correct our perception towards ourselves will get corrected respectively.

In a constantly changing world, we have ongoing changing ideas and triggers of thoughts that are carried and thrown to us every day in different ways to answer the question of what makes one a worthy person.

What makes you a successful person?

How can we measure the qualities of a successful mother or father?

… a good house or home?

… a good body image?

What personal characteristics are valid? What are they not?

Indeed there is a huge need to return to the Quran and Sunnah as the trusted source for building our thoughts and perceptions. Building our thoughts through the Quran is the only way towards our own intellectual and emotional security.

I would like to introduce 3 different verses of the Quran as a foundation for building our perception of ourselves:

1- Honored by Allah :

“And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.” Surat Al Israa, v. 70

2- Created in the best way possible:

“We have certainly created man in the best of stature” ِSurah Al-Teen, v. 4

3-Honoured by the ability to learn and choose and honoured by having the Angels perform sujood in front of the Prophet, Adam:

“And He taught Adam the names – all of them. Then He showed them to the angels and said, “Inform Me of the names of these, if you are truthful.

They said, “Exalted are You; we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Indeed, it is You who is the Knowing, the Wise.”

He said, “O Adam, inform them of their names.” And when he had informed them of their names, He said, “Did I not tell you that I know the unseen [aspects] of the heavens and the earth? And I know what you reveal and what you have concealed.” 

And [mention] when We said to the angels, “Prostrate before Adam”; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers.” Surah Al-Baqara,v. 32-34

How far can building our self-worth and self-perception differ if we draw it through these verses? What will be different? 

How far can perceiving ourselves as Allah’s honoured creatures for whom the Angels have been ordered to perform sujood help us in taking responsibility for doing Allah’s orders in this Life?

There will always be triggers that come across our path that make us question our self-worth like words we hear from others or ads that keep telling us what beauty looks like and what kind of people are worth following.

However, having an inventory of such verses would help us push those triggers and thoughts away. It would create an inner experience of push and pull between disruptive and constructive thoughts that can reflect our nature and ability to choose. However, we need to always remember that thoughts driven by the Quran are a perfect match to our innate Fitrah and thus they help create a state of peace and tranquillity.

A scenario built on the words of Allah…

I am a creature that Allah created 

Honored and created in the best form possible

Allah has blessed me with various blessings that help me perform my responsibility on this Earth

There is only one standard to whom I should refer:

Allah’s words

How pious am I? How obedient to Allah am I? How repentant am I? How often am I returning to Allah? How nurturing am I to my Soul? How much time do I spend acquiring beneficial knowledge?

Defining ourselves through the lens of the Quran is a liberating concept that will empower us and help us get closer to the best version of ourselves.

It will help us acknowledge that our weak nature as creatures does not contradict appreciating our self-worth blessed by Allah and seeing ourselves as the most honoured creatures. Our main role is to keep this status of honorship the more we stick to Allah’s commands.

It will instil the responsibility inside each one of us that we have a role to carry on this earth with the skills and blessings that Allah gave to each of us. It will help us walk on this Earth with courage and confidence just like Prophet Yusuf (AS).

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