I begin with the Name of Allaah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.
“Say: “Will you inform Allaah about your religion? While Allaah knows all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, and Allaah is All-Aware of everything.”? Qur’an 49:16
Throughout history there has always been one common trait that is found among the righteous ones, the praiseworthy trait of humility and being in a constant state of fear and hope regarding their sins and apparent righteous deeds. It is not consistent with the character make-up of the righteous to be self-righteous.
In the narration of Abu Dawud, classed as Hasan by al-Albani in Saheeh Abi Dawud on the strength of Abu Bakrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “The supplication of the one who is in distress: O Allaah, for Your mercy I hope, so do not abandon me to myself even for the blink of an eye. Set all my affairs straight, there is no god but You.”
It is clear from this supplication of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that no individual can survive the journey on the righteous path without the perpetual help of Allaah. Being guided by Allaah to differentiate between truth and falsehood does not mean that such an individual is not in need of his Lord to keep him firm on the righteous path nor does it mean that he is not in need of his brothers to advise him when he slips. It also does not mean that certainly he is among the pious but it means that he should constantly hope to be among the pious while being afraid of being misguided after having been guided.
Self-righteousness is the quality or state of being self-righteous and that is to be convinced of one’s own righteousness especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others. Truth has no plural, it is but one especially Divine Truth. In the midst of many confused belief systems (Aqaa’id) there is one that is legitimate just as the Prophet (peace be upon him) has rightfully stated in a narration by Abu Dawud and others; classed as saheeh by al-Haakim and by Ibn Hajar in Takhreej al-Kashshaaf on the strength of Mu’awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said that the Messenger of Allaah (peace be upon him) stood among us and said: “Those who came before you of the people of the Book split into seventy-two sects, and this ummah will split into seventy-three: seventy-to in Hell and one in Paradise, and that is the Jamaa’ah (main body of Muslims).” In another narration recorded as hasan by al-Tirmidhi, he (peace be upon him) described this saved-sect as: “(Those who follow) that which I and my companions follow.” From these two narrations it is clear that the path of righteousness has been defined clearly by the Prophet (peace be upon him).
It is on this basis that Imam al-Lalikain in Sharh Usool ‘Itiqaad Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa’ah recorded the statement of the great companion, Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said: “Al-Jamaa’ah (main body of Muslims) is what is consistent with the truth even if you are alone (on the path).” It is upon each and every Muslim to strive to be upon that which the Prophet and his companions were upon and must not deviate from that path. However, it is not upon the Muslim to attribute piety to himself to such an extent that he sees others less pious than himself and pass judgement on their religiosity. Allaah Exalted be He, warned against self-righteousness in more than one place in the Glorious Qur’an, He says: ““Say: “Will you inform Allaah about your religion? While Allaah knows all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, and Allaah is All-Aware of everything.”? Qur’an 49:16. Ibn Katheer in commenting on this verse, he said; “will you inform Allaah of what is in your hearts?” Yet in another verse Allaah Exalted be He says: “He (Allaah) knows you well when He created you from the earth (Adam), and when you were fetuses in your mothers’ wombs. So ascribe not purity to yourselves. He knows best him who fears Allaah and keep his duty to Him.” Qur’an 53:32. Again, ibn Katheer commented; “(this verse) is forbidden one from ascribing purity and praising himself and thinking highly of his actions.
However, whomsoever Allaah has guided, and he identifies with that divine guidance and expresses gratitude for having been guided or to clearly distinguish himself from the people of innovation, then Islam has okayed it and it is allowed to do so but not to the extent of claiming salvation rather than hoping for it. The Muslim seeks salvation by learning relentlessly about his deen while striving to put his knowledge into practice and at the same time he warned others of the dangers of their deviation while praying sincerely to Allaah to guide the misguided among the Ummah. It is not befitting for a Muslim to desire misguidance for others and to declare everyone misguided while attributing guidance to himself alone, if he does that he will be guilty of praising himself regarding an issue which he has no knowledge of whether Allaah has accepted or not. Allaah Exalted be He, says: “Have you not seen those who claim sanctity (purity) for themselves. Nay, but Allaah sanctifies whom He wills, and they will not be dealh with unjustly, even equal to the extent of a Fatil (a thread inside a date seed)” Qur’an 4:49
In a series of verses describing the pious ones, He says: “Their sides forsake their beds, to invoke their Lord in fear and hope, and they spend out of what We have bestowed on them.” Qur’an 32:16. Again, He says: “They used to sleep but little by night. And in the hours before dawn, they were asking for forgiveness.” Qur’an 51:17-18. Also, “And in some parts of the night (also) offer Salah with it (Qur’an) as an additional prayer for you. It may be that your Lord will raise you to Maqam Mahmud.” Qur’an 17:79 and In Qur’an 39: 9 Allaah says: “Is one who is obedient to Allah, Ana’a Al-Layl prostrating and standing fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord…”
In all of these verses describing those found in the habit of performing Tahajjud (night prayer), there is one common thing and that is fear and hope. They are in the habit of not sleeping to supplicate Allaah, to pray to Allaah, yet they round it up with seeking forgiveness, with fear and hope. They have not taken it upon themselves the slogan of being the successful ones rather they hope to be from among the successful ones despite their obedience to Allaah. There is no scholar no matter how knowledgeable he is nor a worshipper no matter how devout he is that can claim that his deeds have been accepted, he can only hope and pray that Allaah accepts it.
In conclusion, when a Muslim sees others on the wrong path, then it is upon him to correct them and pray that Allaah guides them, because even the one upon the truth today is not assured of tomorrow hence, he should say a lot of du’aa’ such as “Yaa muqallib al-quloob thabbit qalbi ala deenak (O Controller of the hearts, make my heart adhere firmly to Your religion)” and “Yaa musarrif al-quloob, sarrif qalbi ila ta’aatika wa ta’aati rasoolika (O Director of the hearts, direct my heart to obey You and Your Messenger).