The Bitter better
Last year, some sessions were arranged by Iqra Society on for Purification of the hearts series. Two of its talks were on “Curing arrogance” and “Curing hatred” For this purpose, I had the task of inviting the girls to the event.
One thing which I particularly noticed was that how people were simply not interested in attending curing arrogance lecture and somehow extremely interested in curing hatred. When I started analyzing why it was so, I came to the conclusion that most of us think that we may have hatred in our hearts but definitely not arrogance. The peril of this mindset is unimaginable as arrogance with ignorance is one of the worst combinations.
So then what is arrogance, you may ask? Arrogance means boasting about oneself.
It isn’t only just that. The fact that you think you are better than someone else is enough to qualify you for being arrogant. We have heard about the story of creation of Hazrat Adam A.S all our lives and about how Allah asked the angels and the jinn to do sajdah to Hazrat Adam A.S and how Iblees refused to obey Allah but how many of us actually take the lesson from it? What was it about Iblees that even after being the only jinn invited to this auspicious grand event of creation of Hazrat Adam A.S amongst the company of angels, it was enough for him to be considered a mardood shaytan from a maqbool jinn? What was it about Iblees that even after leaving no place in the world where he had not done sajdah, Allah has promised to put him in Hell for eternity? It was his disobedience because of his arrogance in saying “I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay.”(Surah Araf: verse 12)
Unfortunately our sorry state is such that by acquiring wealth, power, good looks and even knowledge, we start looking upon those who don’t have it. We may not actually say “I am better” but the mindset reveals in all our actions. So whether it is the waiter at the restaurant who delays bringing food by a few minutes, or the maid at home who forgets to clean one hidden corner of the home, we do not even think twice before criticizing him or her. What have they done to get such treatment? Are we superior just because we have been born in a well-to-do family and they have not? Our Prophet S.A.W was excellent to his servant and never felt he was better even though he was Nabi of Allah. Anas b. Mâlik said: “I worked as a servant for the Prophet (peace be upon him) in his residence and on his journeys. No matter what I did, he never once said to me: “Now why did you do that?” Likewise, no matter what I might have failed to do, he never once said to me: “Now why didn’t you do that?”
‘With power comes responsibility’ is a very famous quote. However, in our part of the world, with power also comes the perception of status. Most of us like to flaunt about how many conferences we have worked for, what high positions we have in a particular society, what big organizations we have interned at and so on. It is considered arrogant when the purpose is to make the next person feel inferior or when we want better treatment on the basis of this power, for e.g. refusing to eat in the dish used by a member working at a lower position. We mustn’t forget that it is our deen is one which asks the king to pray behind a slave if he is late for the prayers at the masjid. Hazrat Umar R.A, even though he was one of the greatest leaders and administrators of all times, displayed extreme amount of humility and wore simple clothes and ate simple food. Firoun, on the other hand, was also one of the greatest leaders in history, but extremely arrogant since he claimed Ana Rabbakumul Aala’a. ‘I am your Rubb Most High’.
One of the most unfortunate things is that I-am-better-than-you attitude is sometimes seen in those who have more Islamic knowledge and/or appear to be more practicing Muslims than others. The reality check is that just because a person has more knowledge, attends Islamic lectures, perform prayers, observes hijab, etc. doesn’t mean that the person consider him/herself better than the one who doesn’t do all this. Nobody has a right to pass judgment about others when Allah will not judge anyone until the Day of Judgment. Also, Qabilyyat and Qabooliyat are two different things because it is only up to Allah to accept or reject the ibadat. The tragedy of the tale is that with knowledge comes arrogance but the tip to avoid this trap is to remember that one of the very knowledgeable being is Shaytan and we already know where Shaytan will end up.
We should always remember that the only way to be better in the eyes of Allah is not achieved by wearing a branded lawn, carrying an expensive laptop, speaking perfect English, having a degree from a famous institution, or being a CEO of a company, but it is achieved only through Taqwa i.e. piety. All these things are “dunya” if they pull us away from the remembrance of Allah and dunya is not even worth a mosquito’s wing in the sight of Allah. Otherwise, He would not have given the unbelievers anything in this world.
Our prophet’s life is a model of excellence for us and it is him who we need to consider our role model for every sphere of life, be it humility or any other thing that Allah has asked. Imagine his martaba that he has been considered Rehmat-ul-lil-Alameen ‘Mercy of the Worlds’ and the only other being for Whom Allah has used the word Alamin is for Himself: Rubb-il-Alameen or ‘Lord of the Worlds’ Prophet S.A.W was such an extremely humble person that when he walked, it seemed as if he was coming down from a hill. He would not completely fill his stomach and would sleep on ground without any velvety mattresses.
We must also know that the use of word “I” in itself carry an element of arrogance. In basic Arabic, the word “I” is translated as “ana” This is the same ana which is used in Urdu for ego. Some ulema, in fact, used to avoid using the word “I” altogether. A story from Surah Kahf also explains the attitude of Hazrat Khidr when he was with Hazrat Musa on a journey. Hazrat Khidr had special knowledge which Allah had revealed to Him and according to which he was taking actions. Verses 79-82 from Surah Kahf contain his speech with respect to the actions he was undertaking. Notice how he attributed anything with a negative connotation to himself out of his humility and the rest to Allah SWT. This is the style which we can also adopt in order to avoid arrogance.
Verse 79 “In respect of the boat – it belonged to the poor people who worked on the river, so I wished to flaw it – and behind them was a king who would capture every sound ship.”
Kahf 18:80 “And in respect of the boy – his parents were Muslims and we feared that he may incite them to rebellion and disbelief.”
Kahf 18:81 “So we wished that their Lord may bestow them a child – better, purer and nearer to mercy.”
Kahf 18:82 “And in respect of the wall – it belonged to two orphan boys of the city, and beneath it was their treasure, and their father was a virtuous man; therefore your Lord willed that they should reach their maturity and remove their treasure; by the mercy of your Lord; and I have not done this at my own command; this is the interpretation of the matters you could not patiently bear.” (Hazrat Khidr was given the knowledge of the hidden – as in all three explanations he gave).
Lastly, doing basic chores like picking up shoes from the ground, cleaning floor or carrying our own baggage even if somebody’s help is offered help bring our self ego down. Also, reminding ourselves about what we have been made of and where will we go back again belittles our inflating pride. Our dua to Allah is to save us from even the minutest form of arrogance that can become a cause of His displeasure and stop us from entering Jannah. May Allah help us all. Ameen
The article was published (with slight modifications) in ‘Reconnection’ – IBA Iqra Society’s official Magazine under the name “Takabbur- A common disease”