When we drive our vehicles we are advised to be careful and watch for our blind spots so that we don’t collide with another vehicle. As a driver, there are certain spots where our eyes cannot see and the mirrors of our vehicles cannot reach, hence, we need to look out for those blind spots and turn around to see with our own eyes whether a vehicle is coming up or not.
We also have blind spots when it comes to our individual personalities. These blind spots are what others see in us but we don’t see in ourselves. Blind spots that represent our weaknesses, our bad habits or negativities which we may not realize about ourselves. We all have blind spots, we just don’t know what they are. We should make efforts as devout Muslims to discover these areas where improvement is needed in our moral conduct, ethics, behavior and other areas.
Our nafs (lower self) is our biggest and most staunch enemy that is permanently and continuously at war with reason. By listening to Satanic whispers, our nafs attacks reason to get it isolated and ultimately silenced, so that it becomes the sole-contender in the battlefield. Naturally, defeating such a treacherous enemy is no easy task, but requires determination, resistance, perseverance, and struggle. A struggle not only for once or twice, but a continuous one till the last breath of life.
Imam Ali (as) has said, “Take over the possession of yourself through continuous struggle.” (Ghirar al-Hukm) He also said, “A wise man keeps himself engaged in struggle against his self, thus, reforming and preventing him from indulging into passions and amusements, and in this manner subdues him ultimately taking over his possession. Such a wise person is so preoccupied in his self-refinement that he is totally detached with the world, whatever it contains and its dwellers.” (Ghirar al-Hukm) Indeed this is the Greater struggle (Jihad al-Akbar) which the Prophet (sa) spoke out.
Although we have our blind spots, Allah (swt) makes us accountable to our deeds as He says in the Holy Quran, “Oh, but man is telling witness against himself, although he tender his excuses.” (75:14-15) The question is not why we have our blind spots but how do we discover them? And how do we deal with them when we are aware of them?
The Holy Prophet (sa) has said, “A believer is a mirror of his brother.” Since we often times cannot see our hidden faults, sometimes we have to rely on others, particularly our family members and close friends, those who spend much time with us to shed light on a bad habit or observation that requires improvement. We have to give them the trust and tolerance to listen more than we talk. And to hear others before hearing ourselves. Our ego shouldn’t be a barrier that comes in between us and our ability to identify our shortcomings and work to improve them. In that respect, the Prophet (sa) has said, “He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of arrogance shall not enter Paradise.” When we reflect on this narration, it is not surprising to realize why just an atom of arrogance will prevent us from the mercy of Allah (swt), because it is ego and arrogance which prevents us from realizing and admitting our shortcomings, and therefore, not allowing us to tread the path of self-reformation. There is immense impact on us as human beings if we fail to be humble and acknowledge our areas of weaknesses and strive to become better human beings.
Once we become aware of our shortcomings and weaknesses which were hidden from our eyes, the first step is to admit and acknowledge them. If we can’t understand the feedback that someone has given us, we should ask questions with pure intention and without tone of anger. Often times our tendency is to judge challenging feedback as we receive it. This is half of the job done towards self-reform. If we can’t understand the feedback received, we should enlist help from those whom we trust to help examine the feedback. After the stage of realization, comes the intention to create change within oneself to address that feedback, for Allah (swt) does not change a group of people until they change themselves. Our growth will depend on our ability to receive difficult feedback and act upon it.
Moving forward, let us pay attention to blind spots and make effort to discover them so that we don’t end up hurting ourselves or hurting others but instead can be a beautiful reflection of good deeds and virtues.