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