On Arrogance and Humility Part 2

“To go to feasts without being invited is humiliating and a kind of begging.

Abdullah ibn Omar reports the Messenger of Allah (saws) as having said,

“If one does not accept an invitation he is revolting against Allah and His Prophet. If someone goes to a feast or a wedding without being invited, he has entered their house as a thief and left as a plunderer. . .”

To befriend, visit, and frequent dignitaries, people in power, high government officials, judges, generals or influential rich people, with the hope of obtaining benefit from these relationships, is forbidden humility according to our religion, unless these people possess the means of our receiving what is rightfully ours and we are in real need of it. And when we are in the company of these people, to stay standing, to bow, to show excessive respect in action and speech, is demeaning, and the wrong kind of humility.

To work hard, even far beneath our qualifications, to support our families, to help with the menial chores of our houses, shopping, cooking, cleaning, are commendable signs of true humility. To be ordinary in appearance, to wear inexpensive and worn clothes, to befriend the poor and disadvantaged, to eat simple food and not to throw away leftovers, to not seek reputation-building, self-glorifying jobs, not to consider it beneath you to be a shepherd, a gardener, a porter, carpenter or mason, these are true signs of humility. These kinds of manifestations of humility are worthy of great divine rewards, for they resemble the behavior of prophets and saints. But many people do not know it and think of a life like this as reprehensible. They are the arrogant ones who do not know themselves.

Arrogance becomes more dangerous when it is manifested and directed towards someone. Some are arrogant towards man. They are not any better that the accursed devil, who refused to obey Allah, when He asked all the angels to prostrate to Adam. The devil thought that he was created of fire, while Adam was created of earth, and that fire was superior to earth. He did not know himself and he did not know Adam. Therefore, he was punished and rejected from Allah’s Mercy until the end of time.

Some are arrogant toward Allah, like the Pharaoh who said, “I am your exalted lord.” Or like Nimrod, who said to the prophet Abraham (as), “Your Lord may be the God of Heavens. I am the lord of the world”, and dared to challenge Allah to fight him. Allah drowned the Pharaoh and his armies while they were chasing the prophet Moses (as) and the children of Israel. Nimrod was killed by a mosquito which devoured his brain.

Some are arrogant towards the Prophet of Allah (saws), like Abu Jahl, who said, “Is this who God chose as His messenger? Couldn’t He have revealed the Qur’an to a notorious man of Mecca or Medina?”

Ibn Mas’ud relates that the Prophet (saws) said, “Whoever has an atom of pride in his heart will not enter Paradise.” Then one of his companions asked, “What do you say about someone who likes to dress in fine clothes?” and he answered, “Allah is beautiful and likes that which is beautiful. Arrogance is to deny reality and to consider others beneath oneself.”

During his Khalifat, Omar ibn Khattab (ra) was marching upon Damascus with his army. Abu Ubayda ibn Jerrah was with him. They came upon a little lake. Hd. Omar (ra) descended from his camel, took off his shoes, tied them together, and hung them on his shoulder. He took the halter of his camel and together they entered the water. Seeing this in front of the army, Abu Abayda said, “Oh the Commander of the believers, how can you be so humble in front of all your men?” Hd. Omar answered, “Woe to you, Abu Ubayda! If only anyone else other than you thought this way! Thoughts like this will cause the downfall of the Muslims. Don’t you see, we were indeed a very lowly people. Allah raised us to honor and greatness through Islam. If we forget who we are and wish other than Islam, which elevated us, the One who raised us, surely will debase us.”

Muhammad ibn Zeyyad reports that when Abu Hurayra was appointed the governor of Medina, he used to walk into the marketplace with a load of wood on his back and shout, “Open the way, let the governor pass!” and others would cry “Open the way, let the people see their leader pass!”

Imam Tirimizi relates that he heard Jubayr complain that people thought he was proud. He said, “I ride a donkey, I wear coarse wool clothes of the poor, I milk my goats myself and I heard the Messenger of Allah (saws) say, ‘Whoever does [those things] is not proud.'”

Seven qualities are considered to be the cause of pride: education, knowledge, religious piety, fame and nobility of one’s family and descendents, physical attractiveness, physical strength, wealth, achievement, and the number of ones admirers and followers. In reality, none of these qualities need to be the causes of arrogance. On the contrary, they are positive values which every person strives for. The real cause of arrogance is stupidity, and the inability to comprehend what is offered as knowledge. Yet there is no other medicine but knowledge to cure stupidity.”

– adapted from “The Path of Muhammad (SAWS) – A Book on Islamic Morals and Ethics”

by Imam Birgivi: interpreted by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti

On Arrogance and Humility Part 1

“Arrogance is a state in which we are convinced that we have the right to be above others. Justifiable self-regard, wihtout comparing ourselves to others and feeling superior, is not the same thing. That is, at worst, vanity. Arrogance is unlawful in Islam. It is considered to be a disgraceful state.

The opposite of arrogance is to look at ourselves with the intention of truly knowing ourselves. Self-examination is a virtue, and one that is expected of a Muslim. Whether our self-regard is justifiable or not, whether truly in our hearts we believe that we are superior to others or not, if our conceit is exteriorized, manifested, communicated to others by mind or deed, it is a sin. The worst version of this sin occurs when no justification exists for the feeling of superiority we cherish. Allah Most High, one of whose attributes is The Proud One, is the only one with the right to that name.

Modesty, to appear less than we are, is commendable. Yet, the exaggeration of humbleness to the extent of appearing abject is a sin.

Only knowledge is worth begging for, and worth humbling ourselves to receive.”

– adapted from “The Path of Muhammad (SAWS) – A Book on Islamic Morals and Ethics”
by Imam Birgivi: interpreted by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti

A Ripe Mind

“What my family traditions, my education and my social environment had offered me in the making of my mind, I was from the very beginning of my life, reluctant to rest content with. The bonds of inherited dependance on the past could not hold me under.

The zest of search for truth never forsook me. There is hardly a single conviction in me which has not had to bear the stings of doubt, or a single belief which has not faced the test of denial. I have gulped in poison mixed with every draught applied to my lips, and have also administered to myself Elixir coming forth from every quarter. Whenever I felt thirsty, my parched lips did not resemble the lips of others who were equally thirsty, and when I quenched my thirst, it was not from the same fountain as others did.

Whatever I could gather in this lengthy period of my life in my search of the Qur’anic truth, I have tried to understand to the best of my ability, and spread over the pages of this volume:”

“This is no new tale of fiction, but a confirmation of previous scriptures, and the explanation of all things, and a guidance and mercy to those who believe”

Surah 12(Yusuf) : Ayah 111
The Qur’an

-from the District Jail, Meerut (UP, India)

16th, November 1930
Preface to the 1st Edition,
“The Opening Chapter of the Qur’an”
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

A Poverty of Common Sense

As-Salaam Wa Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatahu,

When one begins to live in India, one becomes well acquainted and eventually come to terms with its local customs, practices, traditions, and even highly prevalent social and cultural
injustices.

As history has shown, neither education, nor intelligence has ever been a panacea for Ignorance (capitalized here as it is the disease known as Ignorance). Whether it is a self-imbibed, or a force-fed generational tonic, prejudices of a social, religious, or racial nature are often bitter but accepted truths on a universal level. Yes, true for all. (If anyone believes it doesn’t apply to him or her, unless you are Western European, your ancestors HAVE been colonized at one stage or another. )

The Caste system, as you may or may not know, in India, is either a birthright to rule, or a sentence to grovel, depending on which tier you figure into. Not only is it still very much alive, it is the rubric by which the majority of Indians live and function by, day to day. From marriage proposals to choosing the ‘right’ candidate for a job to admission seats in professional schools, it is an undeniable reality. It even manifests to the extent of radicalism, such as the violent rejection of low caste presence in a community as exemplified by the burning of Dalit homes in the Belkhed region, Akola less than a month back -(“The Riots and Wrongs of Caste”)

If anything can be said about India and Indians, it is that they are not apologetic about it nor do they sweep it under the rug as a dirty little secret and pretend it doesn’t exist. Things like that usually have a way of rearing their ugly head, or are coaxed out by uncontrolled phenomena, like,…oh I don’t know, Hurricanes? The Tragedy Queen, Katrina-the single most economically devastating natural disaster in US history was also an eye opener and a 101 in how the US govt. conducts itself with the many racial and social sub-classes that thrive on its soil. Apparently, haste is waste when it comes to “pandering” to the American Untouchables(May God forgive Us). But I digress. Unfortunately, when social corruption is rampant and unabashed, cognizance of impending fascism becomes trickier, bigotry is peddled as patriotism, and human rights’ violations can become national policy.

Recently I wrote a blog(Aftershocks) on my experience with a patient, a mother, who’s inability to accept her baby’s gender insulted my sense of decency as a human being and I was called out on being too harsh in my criticism, to the point of being an unsympathetic doctor. Maybe I neglected to mention it, but it was not simply intuition talking. The fact was, when asked, she did indeed vocalize her disappointment about it being a girl. Post partum or peri-natal depression, is a clinical depression, diagnosed as a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration persist during or within a year of the pregnancy. These symptoms peak between postpartum days 3 and 5, and typically resolve spontaneously within 24 to 72 hours. At the other end of the spectrum is the truly devastating puerperal psychosis. This particular disorder, although a legitimate syndrome, was a far cry from the incident I narrated. When working with psychiatric illnesses, the realm is intangible, and so nothing absolute can definitively be purported, but something tells me a direct statement from the mother precludes this discussion. At another similar situation, I overheard a mother lamenting the dark hue of her baby’s skin.

“This can’t be my baby! Yeh to bahut “kaala”hai!(He’s too dark!) What am I to do?!”

Is this also post-partum depression? Or is it safe to say that this is an unjust and ludicrous reaction? Only in the west do we make apologies for and victimize blatant ignorance. We must recognize our role as human beings, and the rights others have on us as a result. What could I have done for the newborn of the female persuasion who was treated with such contempt? Corrupt law enforcement and the virtual non-entity of competent social organizations is not only discouraging, it is a cul-de-sac of despair that every Indian has accepted as a pervasive daily reality. What I did do is make earnest dua for her and Insh’allah it will be answered.

Extreme gender issues like female infanticide and foeticide are also a far cry from being forgotten brutalities. The uses of the Ultrasound in pregnancy can range from a crucial diagnostic tool or as a sniper in the application of sex-selective abortion.(Missing girls of Morena – Frontline, Oct.7, 2005) I am as unapologetic of my hatred of this as is India in its persevering silence in the face of such frank antipathy.

What is to be done? These issues need to be addressed coherently and passionately. But before this happens, keep in mind, Americans had their Revolutionary War in the late 18th century, and the Civil Rights movement snailed its way forward only in the 1960’s. Today, India is still a nation whose socio-political spheres are in continuous upheaval, regardless of it’s steady and rapidly growing economy. Considering as a nation, India kicked off the shackles of British Colonialism not 60 yrs ago and is still struggling to balance it’s legs after a Polio-like paralysis for a 100 years, it will obviously take some time for socio-political reform. This is a lengthy discussion, and cannot be contained nor given its due credence in a paragraph or even 10. However, sufficed it to say, it will take nothing short of a unified effort of like-minded intellectuals and activists(or both if possible)* influencing the political strata, warping the polemic of centuries’ old addiction to perverse tradition, and mass cooperation after consolidation of these ‘self-evident truths’ for these issues to be addressed productively. However, as any addict on the road to reform will tell you, the first step is to recognize you have a problem. In the time it takes for us to make that “Giant Leap for Mankind”, I fear the suffering will shamefully continue.

I love India. The nobility of our people, the allure of our cuisine, the richness of our cultural heritage, (almost) all of it. The degenerate practices and downright wickedness being carried out by those claiming to be true citizens of this beautiful nation is dragging this country into a reproachable state, and humiliating even the most enthusiastic of its patriots. It must be condemned. ). That being said, it is very easy for Non-Indians or even Indians who haven’t had any practical exposure to their country, to sit on high and point their oblivious fingers at the woes of a ‘third-world democracy’ and talk about how de-evolved they all are. I’d rather these individuals learn the ground-level situation firsthand and then base a just critique on the matter. This is what is known as an informed opinion. Anything else just translates into fickle foolishness, guilty of the same ignorance that spawned all these despicable customs in the first place.#

#- Please feel free to draw parallels.

Insh’allah, I pray that those without knowledge of all the facts will not rush to judge before passing the blame of judgement on to others. Dialogue with the intention of harnessing relevant and purposeful knowledge (minus the purpose of debasing peers and contemporaries) is always encouraged and is a much a healthier alternative to derisive debates. Insh’allah may Allah give us the capacity and the strength to right wrongs wherever we see them and if we are unable to right them, help us to make the intention in our hearts. Ya Allah, we pray that you help us to always side with the oppressed against the oppressor. Ameen. There is no Might or Power except in Allah.

As-Salaam Wa Alaykum Wa Rahamtullahi Wa Barakatahu
May Peace and Blessing and the Mercy of Allah be upon You

*”An intellectual who is not an activist is a waste of space.

-Oscar Wilde

Leave for Labor

As of tonight, 8 p.m., I join the Labour Ward, or LT as they call it here in India (LT, like the OT, is a “Theatre”. It’s the British standard term for a room. Why not just call it a room? I don’t know. Influences of Shakespeare? ‘All the world’s a stage. We’re only actors?’ Anyway…). So, will be on blog hiatus for the next two consecutive weeks. Please make dua for me insh’allah as I learn to effectively deliver babies by the dozens and all such great stuff. Till then, Fee Amaan’allah(May God be with you)!

In the world, but not of it?

An interview conducted with a Shaykh I admire, love, respect, read and who’s student I one day hope of having the honor to become. A few months back, I had the privelege to not only meet him but attend his Friday Khutbah(sermon) for 4 straight Fridays. I miss his countenance greatly and realize what a gift it was to simply be in his presence.

The World is Beautiful
An interview with Sheikh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi
by Carter Phipps