Pride and Arrogance in Islam

Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good- to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are near, neighbours who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet), and what your right hands possess: For Allah loveth not the arrogant, the vainglorious; (Suratul Nisa Ayah 36).

It is narrated on the authority of ‘Abdullah b. Mas’ud that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) observed:

None shall enter the Fire (of Hell) who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of Iman and none shall enter Paradise who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride. (Sahih Muslim Book 001, Number 0165)


From the hadith I have relayed the meaning of, we can see the importance in the sight of Allah about remaining free of Pride. Allah subhana Wa T’ala (SWT) will not let anyone enter Janna who has a mustard seed of pride. How big is a mustard seed? When you see a mustard seed, it’s tiny. It looks about the size of one dhal or lentil. So when you reflect on how much pride has to be in our heart in order for us to be denied paradise, it’s a very small tiny amount. But this tiny amount, like a grain or seed can grow and sprout and cause an infestation of the heart, much like a weed. Our mashaikh have repeatedly warned all the salikeen on the dangers of kibr, and the importance of remaining attached with our sheikh to prevent this disease from spreading like a wildfire.

Pride can take shape and form in many ways, and can attack without notice to the least suspecting. What was shaytan’s downfall? His pride.

And behold, We said to the angels: “Bow down to Adam” and they bowed down. Not so Iblis: he refused and was haughty: He was of those who reject Faith. (Suratul Baqarah Ayah 34)

Shaytan didn’t and doesn’t doubt the existence of Allah. He was an Alim, and was in the majlis of Allah subhana Wa Ta’la with the Angels. This wasn’t the reason for his outcast about the doubt of Allah and his majesty. It was his Pride, or contempt that he held for Adam alayhis Salaam directly led him to disobedience of Allah. He outright defied a command of Allah (SWT). Why? Because of his arrogance, that Adam (AHS) was created from clay, and he was created from fire. “Since fire is better than clay, I’m better than Adam. Why should I bow to him?”

And unless this pride is corrected, unless tazkiyah is done to eliminate this pride, and control the spread and manifestation of this disease, then the pride will remain and prevent us from obtaining the blessing from Allah Subhana Wa T’ala (SWT).

There are other examples of the dangerous road that pride can lead one down.

In Ibrahim’s confrontation with Namrood, the former argues that Allah is the one who gives life and gives death. Namrood responds by bringing out two people sentenced to death. He releases one and kills the other as a poor attempt at making a point that he also brings life and death. Ibrahim refutes by stating that Allah brings the Sun out from the East, and so he asks Namrood to bring it from the West. Namrood is then perplexed and angered. He arranges for Ibrahim to be thrown into a great fire, but Allah protects him from it by commanding the fire to be cool and safe for Ibrahim.

When Firaun (Pharoah) repeatedly challenges Musa Alayhis Salaam (AHS), and whenever Allah’s signs come. Whenever the Azab came down on the people of Firaun, he begged Musa to ask Allah to remove these calamaties, promising repentance. Yet, when the calamites were removed by the Mercy of Allah, Firaun would again resort to his tyrannical and arrogant ways.

Pride takes many forms and shapes. In Imam Al-Mawlud’s discourse, Matharat Al-Qulub, he mentions three different qualities and kinds of arrogance.

The first type is when a person deems himself superior to others. Imam Al-Ghazali Said, “People of knowledge are in greater danger of arrogance than anyone else”, because the knowledge they have might cause them to look down on others who may not have the same level of knowledge.

The second type is arrogance displayed in a person who shows contempt and scorn to others. Once a man (SAW) an old woman calling to the Prophet (SAW) in a boisterous manner. The Prophet (SAW) stopped to talk to the lady without any sign of annoyance. When the man (SAW) the Prophets (SAW) Calm reaction, he Said Muhammad (SAW) is a man unlike the kings of other lands”. The Prophet (SAW) remained humble despite his obvious high station, because he was the perfect human being.

The third type of arrogance mentioned in Matharat Al-Qulub is that of lineage. This type of arrogance is related to the tribalism and high births that the pre Islamic Arabs were so focused upon.

When we discuss pride in our present day, the most common form of pride that we see is looking down upon others. Perhaps we look down upon someone who makes less money. A lot of times people look down on one who is not yet able to get married. A married couple with children may look down on a married couple without children. It is also quite possible that someone who begins to become more spiritual and tries to obtain closeness to Allah begins to look down on those who aren’t yet walking a spiritual path. They may feel that because they have been given a special n’ma from Allah that they are somehow better than others who may not have this blessing. As in the case of Shaytan, who argued with Allah that he was better than Adam, because he had more blessings from Allah. He was created from a better material, or he had more good deeds, or more knowledge. Anyway you look at it, Shaytan held contempt for Adam, and looked down upon him because of his feelings of superiority.

What we must try to remind ourselves, is that rizq comes from Allah and Allah alone. When we have received a special blessing from Allah: whether it is a nice house, or nice car, a pious spouse with children, good health, or strong iman and knowledge, we should remind ourselves to be thankful to Allah. We should beg Allah to grant us the tawfiq to be grateful to Him and allow us to help others with His special blessings. And to protect us from looking down upon others who may have been not been given the same types of blessings.

Just like rizq comes from Allah, Allah can also remove this rizq. For a salik to remain grateful is very important, and is key to his success.

Another danger of how pride can affect us is by preventing us from seeking knowledge. We may begin to feel that we know everything, so why bother seeking out an expert who has toiled and struggled hard to obtain true knowledge from Allah. Nowadays it seems that everywhere you go everyone is an Alim. It seems when you even suggest someone to seek the advice of a mufti or an Alim, their response might be “what for, we have everything we have in the Quran that we need. Why do we need an alim or mufti for?”. It is this kibr that becomes detrimental, and leads one down a road of self interpretation. Of preventing them to seek the company of the righteous, and to sit at the feet of scholars and allow fez to come to them.

One example: A brother who likes to argue the point of halal meat. He is of the opinion that unless it’s been proven haram, then he treats it as halal. One day, a conversation took place on the topic of dietary supplements that use gelatin. It’s a standard in the dietary supplement industry, that most capsules that contain gelatin use pork gelatin, unless otherwise specified. When this brother was advised of this fact, and that he should be careful in consuming gelatin products, his rationale led him to state that in the Quran we are not forbidden the bones of swine, only the flesh. So therefore it’s okay to eat the bones as long as I’m not eating the flesh. He was left to his own interpretation, and came up with this logic to make it okay to consume pork gelatin. May Allah SWT guide us, and give us the correct understanding of this deen, Ameen.

In one hadith of the Prophet (SAW),

Anas b. Malik reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying:

Neither nurse mutual hatred, nor jealousy, nor enmity, and become as fellow. brothers and servants of Allah. It is not lawful for a Muslim that he should keep his relations estranged with his brother beyond three days.

So we can see above, the importance of keeping good relations with our brothers and sisters. To not let rancor enter our hearts. We should make du’a for our brothers and sisters, and we should also make du’a for our enemies. Make du’a for their hidaya, and guidance. We should make du’a for our nonmuslim friends, acquaintances, and co-workers. Our neighbors. We should constantly beg Allah to guide them to the path of Islam, because we do not know the state of our own nafs and iman at the time of death. There is sometimes a theme amongst people of the book, and Muslims alike that we condemn everyone who does not conform with our way of thinking. But since when were we able to look into the hearts of men? Since when did Allah give authority for any human being to point fingers at another and decide their fate?

This is another level of pride, when we are so sure of our own salvation from Allah that we can freely point the finger at anyone and everyone?

In another hadith, the Prophet (SAW) once said to his companions do you want to see a man of paradise? A man then passed by, and the Prophet (SAW) said that man is one of the people of paradise. So a companion of the Prophet decided to learn what it was about this man that earned such a commendation from the messenger of Allah (SAW). He spent time with this man, and observed him closely. He noticed that he did not perform the night prayer vigil, or anything extraordinary. He appeared to be an average man of medina. The companion finally told the man what the Prophet (SAW) had said about him and asked if he did anything special. And the man replied, the only thing that I can think of other than what everyone else does, is that I make sure that I never sleep with any rancor in my heart towards another. That was his secret.

So we should try to remove this rancor, or even hint of hatred, jealousy or envy. The scholars have indicated that one way to remove any hatred of another is to make sincere du’a for that person. By name, asking Allah for good for them and their families in this life and the next. To ask for their forgiveness from Allah. Because who is to say that we are better than someone, just because we do not like them, or that we do not agree with them?

In the sight of Allah we are all faqir – we are all poor. We are born into this world without clothes and without the ability to feed ourselves. Without the ability to even walk. It is our parents who nurture us and feed us and clothe us and show us love and attention, only by the Mercy of Allah. When we become older, it is Allah who has given us the faculties such as sight and hearing, intelligence, and the ability to understand concepts, in order that we may learn and be productive when we reach maturity. Why? So we can be thankful to Him. So we can understand that without his Mercy, we would have and be absolutely nothing. What about the person, given great strength and health, and when it is removed by Allah? They can barely function to support themselves, they can barely get out of bed? It is for Allah to provide rizq to His servants. But for man, we are created in a state of hastiness. We forget, that what we learn ultimately is not something special about us.

It is something special that Allah has Given us. It is an Amana or trust from Allah to be used in the correct way. It is to be used in a halal way, and the best way we can use it is for our akhira. If Allah has given us a special gift of memorization, we should try to use this in memorizing Qur’an. If Allah subhana wa t’ala has given us capacity to have great wealth, we should use it in taking care of the poor and needy. If Allah has given us the gift of speech, we should use it to perpetuate his message by giving dawa and teaching other Muslims about how to follow Islam. By utilizing the gifts that Allah has given us, we stand more of a chance of remaining grateful to Him, and allowing these gifts to benefit us not only in the dunya, but in the hereafter for our akhira as well.

So one of the ways that we are taught to help eliminate this pride is the importance of dhikr of Allah (SWT) and sitting down in the dhikr of Allah SWT. In remembrance of Allah, we can find the cure for the rust of our hearts. It is the important process of the salik to travel this journey of remembrance, and to constantly seek the advice and knowledge from our mashaikh to travel this journey. By doing so we hope to achieve the closeness to Allah SWT, and to separate ourselves from our nafsani desires. To further ourselves from the temptations of Shaytan, and to rid ourselves of these spiritual diseases like pride and hatred and jealousy. By staying consistent in dhikr of Allah (SWT), we are able to hopefully find more importance in our akhira so we can repeatedly ask Allah for His forgiveness, and really reflect that this dunya is a temporary stay. This dunya is important in the fact that it is our test, where ultimately we need to keep our eyes on the prize. It’s a means to the end, which is our akhira. And whatever means we focus on in this life, will be the indicator of where we are going to end up when we pass away.

When you look at the process of olives, you can also see a sign of the patience needed to enjoy the fruits of doing dhikr of Allah (SWT) and remembering Him. When you grow an olive tree, it first of all takes a few years for that tree to begin to bear fruit. It doesn’t happen the first season, it usually takes about 4-5 years for that tree to start bearing fruit. Even then the fruit that it bears is relative to the size of the olive tree. Furthermore, when you begin to harvest the olive fruits, when ripe. You still cannot eat the olives from most trees, save one or two types, directly from the tree. They are just too bitter and pretty much inedible. The olive has to go through a process of curing in order for some of the chemicals to be eliminated from the skin of the olive, in order for it to become what we come to know when we eat an olive.

Similarly, when we go through the process of tazkiyah, patience is required by us to first of all get to the point of bearing fruit. We have to get accustomed to sitting in dhikr of Allah (SWT), then getting to the point of clearing our mind, and then activating our lataif. It takes time to progress through the different stages and lessons. And once we begin to bear fruit, that’s just when the process is beginning. We then Insha’Allah start to see the real benefits of how we act, how we think, and this process also takes time. And Insha’Allah when we keep progressing, just like the olive tree, then Insha’Allah we hope that we then can begin to really benefit from the process. And what a special blessing to have in front of us living examples of the outcome of this fruit, when we are able to sit in the company of our shuyukh. When we sit in the suhbah of our shuyukh, we are able to benefit and feel even closer to Allah. And we can see where we are heading Insha’Allah which is by leading our lives in the example of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

At the same time, I can see how far I’ve come, I see how far I still have to go. I contemplate on where I’ve been and I ask Allah to protect me from returning to that. Sometimes, I have nightmares about returning to that lifestyle. I hope for more important things, and I’m really able to put this life into perspective. I really have come to realize, that it is so important not to waste the time that Allah swt has given us. I’ve already felt I’ve wasted so much time, and there are times I just feel sad that I wasn’t guided to this 10 years ago, or 15 years ago. Perhaps my life would be so much different now. But Alhamdulillah, this is khayr from Allah that whatever experiences we have, have been important lessons for us going forward. I have become so much more tolerant of people in a sense. On the topic of pride, I know I still have so much to work on. There are so many people that would surprise us, if just given the chance.

For example, at my work, there is a person who is a supervisor in our finance dept. Not a very high position, nor prestigious one, but Alhamdulillah I have a lot of respect for the person and they work they do. They don’t make a lot of money, but Alhamdulillah they take pride in doing their work and doing it well. How shocking it was for me to find out this person has a master’s degree, and is working on a PHD full time and almost graduated, yet is doing pretty much a standard data entry job. SubhanAllah, my esteem and respect rose 10 times for them not because of their education, but because of their humbleness, and their dedication despite their education, to work at a job that might be considered average or menial by many, because of the importance of doing this for their akhira. And it reminded me of how far I need to go. They do not look down on others doing these types of jobs, even though they could very well work in a higher field; in fact they are working right alongside with people doing the same job.

By doing dhikr of Allah (SWT) and practicing the remembrance of Allah, I have observed myself to become more patient in some situations. I try to remind myself that these obstacles or situations are temporary at best. I try to remind myself what is pleasing to Allah first, before I act. And there are times I make many mistakes and try to rectify myself and prevent myself from doing it again.

Instead of trying to live in oblivion, I find myself wondering at every step and turn how many mistakes did I make? I want to take account of myself now, so I can try to correct myself. Alhamdulillah. And this is directly from doing dhikr of Allah (SWT), and trying to remain in a remembrance of Allah.

Lastly,Narrated Anas RA: The Prophet (SAW) said,

“None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself.”

Oh Allah to protect us from kibr, and all the spiritual diseases of the heart. Oh Allah to grant us hidaya and forgiveness from Your Rahma and please do not allow us to go astray. Please keep us on the siratul Mustaqim. Oh Allah give strength to those among us who are weak, give provision to those among us without, give pious spouses and children among us without, and let us be thankful and grateful to you. Ameen.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    rassia
    July 12, 2013 at 6:28 am

    May ALLAH reward you

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