Journal writing or Muhasabah

My Journals

Salam Alaykum,

this post is derived from an aspect of the first ZeroToHero challenge, the question was why I’m writing a blog instead of writing a personal diary or journal. I actually do keep journals, in plural, for different purposes.

The Art of Manliness has put together a few articles on why and how to keep a journal turning it into a habit and generally habits young men should adopt. Art of Manliness is very American centric in their great men list who kept a journal.

I just read part of a paper (some Notes) by Goerge Makdisi on The Diary in Islamic Historiography. He notes that while the earliest existent diary (in the form we have it now) in the West is the anonymous French Journal d’un bourgeois de Paris de 1405 a 1449 in the Islamic world, that has been developed earlier Ibn Banna Al-Hanbali wrote one in the 11th Century.  He also remarked that he does not think that he was unique in doing so and believes it goes back further based on hadith literature and criticism from the scholars from the time, referencing to handwritten records. For example “Ibn Rajab said:” he recorded extensively in his own handwriting, acquired beautiful authorized works of hadiths, but he transmitted only a few hadiths because he died before the time was ripe for him to become an authorized transmitter.””

Whether it is a Rihla a travel journal, travellers such as Ibn Batuta or Ibn Jubayr wrote or part of Muhasabah, Muslims have written and kept journals.

For me it all started with a talk by Abdel Rahman Murphy I posted on this blog once before. It’s called Project transformation if you want to search it on Youtube. He was talking about constantly having a revolution within yourself, transforming yourself. Watching that I immediately started a “journal”, having had a diary before.

On the 5th of February 2013 at 02:40am, I started my first entry with a list of practical things things to do to revive ones Iman. (faith)

  1. Being honest with yourself, getting over your denials
  2. Be practical, start a journal/diary
  3. Assess and evaluate ones lifestyle
  4. Look at your companions/friends
  5. Be the friend you wish to have

Over time I’ve written in it more and more but also having periods where I get so caught up in life that I forget to write anything. Today, a month to go before the “anniversary” I’ve filled 2 journals (almost), and started a few for different purposes. One dedicated to organising my writings on this blog, as well as recording the improvement of my skills especially in learning CSS and HTML. Another is the actual journal and another is to note down interesting quotes and generally notes from lectures I’ve been to, noting down my progress as wannabe student of knowledge.

So why should we as Muslims especially start a journal?

Essentially because of Muhasabah, you might ask yourself now what that is, since I’ve used it in the title and above without explaining it. This also actually ties back with my theme this month on “Being Thankful”.

Muhasabah is derived from the word hisab meaning bill or invoice, it can be translated as retrospection or self-criticism. In an article on Suhaib Webb this saying by Umar ibn al-Khattab is mentioned.

Umar ibn al-Khattab (radi Allahu `anhu – may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Criticize and appraise yourselves before you are criticized and appraised on the Day of Judgment, and weigh out your deeds, before they are weighed out for you.”

This is essentially what we should do daily, taking time to go over what you have done today in terms of good and bad and a way we can do this is by keeping a diary.

Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya rah. writes about Muhasabah in Madarij as-Salikeen, defining it as:

“Al-Muhasabah is to look and compare between what you have done right and what you have done wrong, so you thank Allah swt. for what you have done right, and you try to correct and fix what you have done wrong.”

With each turn of the page, with each page you fill you realise that the days have passed  and will not come back. Hassan Al-Basri rah. said: “O son of Adam! You are but a bundle of days. As each day passes away, a portion of you vanishes away!” So with each day, we need to make the best out of it, thanking Allah swt. for it and repenting from the sins that we may have done that day. On the Day of Judgement it will be to late to do so.

Look at the favours bestowed on you by Allah swt. and compare it to your sins, reflect on your life, on your actions and your attitude. Constantly try and do more to please Allah swt. and set yourself goals every day. This is a reminder for me first and foremost before it is to any of you.

Wa Allahu ‘Alam,

Wa Salam,


PS: I’m not advertising MOLESKINE even though I click with those notebooks!


#January – Being Thankful

About Mu610

22 year old German Muslim currently studying at Bradford University in the UK. Born in Marburg, raised in Berlin and spent 5 years in Nottingham then moving to Bradford in September '12. Is fluent in German and English and has some knowledge of French and Arabic, has an interest in learning Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and maybe Urdu for now.

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