On arrogance and humbleness


The Spirit Of Islam

Khalid Baig

IT has been called ummul-amraz, or the root of all sicknesses of the heart. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) warned that a person having even an iota of it in his heart would never enter paradise. This deadliest of all sins is kibr or arrogance. No one likes arrogance — in others. We never like a person who is haughty, too proud, or condescending. We detest a person who belittles us and has a huge ego. Similarly we love people who are humble, polite, and easy to talk to. We love people who give us respect and honour. Thus if we follow the principle of treating others the way we like to be treated, most of these problems might be cured. In reality, the treatment of ummul-amraz requires a deeper look.
For that we need to appreciate the difference between adab or manners, on the one hand and akhlaq or morals on the other. While adab deal with one’s external disposition, akhlaq as defined by Islam deal with our inner thoughts, feeling, and attitudes. In a healthy personality, the manners and morals are in harmony. But it is also possible to have the former without having the latter. The first concerns itself with how a person deals with others. The second is concerned with what a person thinks of himself. Two persons showing humbleness in their dealings with others, may have exactly opposite ideas in their minds. One may do it out of his or her “generosity”; the other may do it because he genuinely thinks that he is not better than the other person. The first person only has a shell of humbleness, which will crumble when tested. It is the second person who is really free of arrogance.
Real greatness belongs only to Allah, our Lord, Creator, and Master. Human beings are just a creation of Allah — and a very small creation in comparison to the unimaginably vast universe. Anyone who understands this will realise that our proper status is only that of servants of Allah. In fact for a Muslim the real human model is none other than the Holy Prophet (PBUH), who is the greatest of all human beings. His greatness lies in being the humblest of all servants of Allah! It is impossible for any person who has this consciousness to entertain any notions of his own greatness.
This leads us to the definition of kibr, given in a famous hadith: “Kibr is to knowingly reject Truth and to belittle other people.” This hadith exposes two strains of this deadly disease, both dealing with our exaggerated ideas of self-importance.
The first suggests that I am more important than the Truth. The second suggests that I am more important than other people. We know about the Quraish and Jews of Arabia who had come in contact with the Holy Prophet (PBUH), and who knew in the heart of their hearts that he indeed was the Messenger of Allah. Their arrogance, though, kept them from accepting it. History has recorded statements from some of them who said we know he is the Promised Prophet but we will keep on opposing him to maintain our leadership.
While that was the most blatant form of arrogance, we can witness the same attitude on a smaller scale in our discussions and arguments. A person realises that he was wrong, but then his pride keeps him from admitting it. No matter how polite or “humble” that person may appear to be ordinarily, this test shows the presence of arrogance in his heart. It is arrogance that keeps a person from saying “I am sorry.”
The second strain involves our feeling of superiority with respect to other people. Islam’s teaching is that one should never consider oneself greater than other people, because that Judgment will come from Allah, and Allah alone, on the Day of Judgment. None of us knows what our end will be, whether we will end up being a winner or loser over there. The person who appears to be nobody here may end up with eternal bliss because of his goodness that only Allah knew. The person who is a big shot here may end up among the sinners who will be punished there, because of his evil that only Allah knew.
How foolish, it is then to congratulate ourselves over our fleeting “superiority”. The truth is that problems arise when we turn away from reality. A humble person is a happy, content, grateful person who thanks God for his blessings and has no notions of his own superiority. False notions of superiority or of one’s entitlements in life, on the other hand, lead to frustrations and complexes.
— Courtesy: Albalagh.org