Quarterly: Issue No 16
ARROGANCE & HUMILITY
The great disease of arrogance has been called ummul-amraadh, or the root of all sicknesses of the heart. Rasoolullah Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, warned that a person having even an atom weight of it in his heart will 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 our social problems will be solved. In reality, the treatment of this disease requires a deeper look.
For that we need to appreciate the difference between adaab or manners, on the one hand and akhlaaq or morals on the other. While adaab deals with one’s external disposition, akhlaaq 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 realize that our proper status is only that of servants of Allah. In fact for a Muslim the real human model is none other than our beloved Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, who is the greatest of all human beings. His greatness lies in being the humblest of all servants of Allah. It is therefore impossible for any Muslim 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 parts 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 Rasoolullah, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, 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 realizes 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 part 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 in the hereafter. 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 and losers who will be punished there, because of his evil that only Allah knew. How foolish it is then to falsely congratulate ourselves over our fleeting "superiority".
What if a person does have edge over another person in measurable worldly terms? How then can he not consider himself superior than the other person in that respect? The point is sometimes made in half jest: it is difficult to be humble when you are so great. Islam does not ask us to reject reality and imagine we don’t have what we really do. Rather it asks us to take a deeper look at the reality and not be misled by a superficial perception of it. And the simple reality that escapes many is that our health, wealth, talents, and power are not of our own creation. Allah gave those to us as a test and He can take them back whenever He wills. Those who are conscious of this reality, their blessings will produce gratitude in them; those who are blind to it will develop pride and arrogance.
Some forms of kibr are subtle. If a person is embarrassed to bow down to Allah in the presence of non-believers, that is the highest form of "kibr” in the face of Allah.
Throughout history, humanity had agreed on the evil of arrogance and the virtue of humbleness (despite its failures in practice). But our modern age is seeing new dogmas that aim at changing the definitions of good and evil. Humbleness is no longer regarded as desirable. Rather, one has to avoid "Inferiority Complex" at all costs. We are made to believe that life is a continuous struggle to move from a position of inferiority to a position of significance. Those who fail to make the progress, develop inferiority complex, which can be treated by increasing self-esteem. Unfortunately today such pseudo-science is accepted as gospel truth.
The truth is that problems arise when we turn away from reality. A humble person is a happy, content, grateful person who thanks Allah 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.
Of the two primary sources of Islamic Law, Sunnah and Hadith is the second most important source. Hadith is a saying of our beloved Prophet conveyed to man. Sunnah is his actions or practices or his silent approval of an action.
To deal with the topic, it is necessary to know the position of Rasoolullah Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam in Islam, because the indispensability of Hadith and Sunnah depends upon the position the Prophet holds.
Analyzing the problem we can visualize three positions:
1. The duty of the Prophet was only to convey the message and nothing more was required from him.
2. He had not only to convey the message but also to act upon it and to explain it. But all that was for the specified period and after his death Qur'an is sufficient to guide humanity.
3. No doubt he had to convey the Divine Message but it was also his duty to act upon it and to explain it to the people. His actions and explanations are a source of guidance forever. His sayings, actions, practices and explanations are a source of light for every Muslim in every age.
With the exception of a few like Al-Mashriqi and his disciple Ghulam Ahmed Parwez, who were the pioneers of the anti-Hadith movement, all learned men (Ulama) of the Muslim Millah are of the unanimous view that the third position above is the only correct assessment of the Prophet's position in Islam. The Qur'an contains numerous reminders of the important position of the Prophet. For instance, the Qur'an says:
"And verily in the messenger of Allah is a good example for him who looks unto Allah and the last day and remembers Allah much." [Al-Ahzab 31]
According to this verse, every Muslim is bound to have the good example of the Prophet as an ideal in life. In another verse he has been made a 'Hakam' for the Muslims by Allah Almighty. No one remains a Muslim if he does not accept the Prophet's decisions and judgements:
"But no, by thy Lord, they can have no faith until they make you (O Prophet!) a judge in all disputes between them and find in their souls no resistance against your decisions but accept them with the fullest conviction."[An-Nisaa: 65]
Allah also says: "When a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger, it does not behove a believer, man or woman, to have choice in their matter. One who disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path." (33:36) Furthermore, Allah says: "What the Messenger gives or teaches you, take it; and what he forbids you, avoid doing it."(59:7)
In connection with the last-mentioned verse, I am marvelled by what is corroborated by Abdullah Ibn Masud (Allah be pleased with him) that is, a woman came to him and told him: "You who says: May Allah's curse be on Al-Namisat [a woman who plucks hers or others eye-brows - to be a thin line - to seek beauty. Such an act is forbidden. It is a mean to change the form of Allah's creation] and Al-Mutanamisat [a woman who asks others to do it for her] and those who tattoo." He said: "Yes." She said, "I read the Book of Allah (Al-Qur'an) from its beginning to its end, I did not find what you have said." He told her: "If you have read it, you would have found it. Have you not read what the Messenger teaches you, take it, and what he forbids you, avoid doing it." She said: "Certainly". He said: "I have heard the Messenger of Allah (Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam) say: "May Allah's curse be on Al-Namisat." (Bukhari & Muslim).
Believing Muslims must be very careful of our modern day Muslim mischief-makers who try to deny the whole corpus of Hadith. May Allah save us from the ‘satanic tentacles’ of such so-called “islamic” scholars.
The Sahabas (may Allah be pleased with them all) accepted our beloved Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam from the bottom of their hearts, knowing fully what that means. From that point on, their lives revolved entirely around this belief. They loved the Prophet more than anybody else in the world. They intently observed his actions and listened to his words. They remembered him all the time. Within the home and outside it, in business or on the battlefield, in their private gatherings or in the courts of emperors. Everywhere they were the most obedient servants of Allah and their beloved Prophet.
Today our lives bear little resemblance to theirs. We praise our beloved Prophet but do not listen to him; we claim to love, but refuse to follow; we claim to believe but lead lives like those who don't. We emphasize what the Sahabas ignored and ignore what they emphasized. They loved the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and reflected this in their daily life.