Don’t discuss the misdemeanours of Muslims, they say, at a time when we are being attacked left, right and centre. To which we might respond: were it not for our misdemeanours, would we find ourselves in this position? But in any case, when exactly would the right time be?
At a time when the Muslims of Mecca were being persecuted, the Qur’an still addressed them: don’t kill each other; restrain your anger; do not be arrogant; don’t engage in bribery; do not lie; don’t break promises; stand out firmly for justice; protect orphans; treat women well; feed the poor; don’t be miserly; be just; walk on the earth with humility; do not give half measure; honour your guests; keep your trusts; and so on.
We are called to the best of behaviours, whatever the conditions we find ourselves in. If we won’t take ourselves to account, sadly others will do it for us. Our Lord may give us respite for a while, but ultimately He will deal with us justly, reminding us that we are not a chosen people, except for those who do righteous deeds.
Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but righteousness is one who believes in God, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask, and for freeing slaves; and who establishes prayer and gives zakah, fulfil their promise when they promise, and are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous. — Qur’an 2:177
So when would be the right time to hold ourselves to account? The Qur’an does not ask us to await an appointed time, when our conditions have improved. In fact, quite the reverse:
It is the same [to Him] concerning you whether one conceals [his] speech or one publicises it and whether one is hidden by night or conspicuous [among others] by day. For each one are successive [angels] before and behind him who protect him by the decree of Allah. Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron. — Qur’an 13:10-11
Far from treating us as a chosen people, deserving of special treatment, we are simultaneously offered forgiveness, so long as we stay away from the worst of deeds, and warned against puffing ourselves up with pride at our supposed piety. For those of us on the verge of despair, there is hope, but also perspective.
Those who avoid the major sins and immoralities, only [committing] slight ones. Indeed, your Lord is vast in forgiveness. He was most knowing of you when He produced you from the earth and when you were fetuses in the wombs of your mothers. So do not claim yourselves to be pure; He is most knowing of who fears Him. — Qur’an 53:32
Walk on the earth with humility, says the Book. Humble yourselves. Do good deeds. Repent when you wrong your own soul. Turn to your Lord in repentance. If there is a time to take ourselves to account, it is now — irregardless of the actions of others. Now is the time to be just, to tell the truth and correct ourselves. Indeed, your Lord is vast in forgiveness.