Pride and Islam

There are few personality traits which must never overcome nature. From among those personality traits the most disliked is “pride”. Self-pride was the reason for which Satan became cursed. This was the reason for which Jews became cursed and most disliked by Allah SWT. It is the only reason which makes the king, a bagger. In short, pride makes a person god of himself. Allah SWT has condemned those who are proud (which means):

“To Him belongs whoever is in the heavens and the earth. And those near Him are not prevented by arrogance from His worship, nor do they tire”. [Al-Quran, surah Al-Anbya, verse 19]

In the verse quoted above, Allah SWT says that no matter what people do, even if they reject the oneness of Allah out of pride, they only worship Him. In every religion, people have an ultimate god, or greatest god, who cannot be seen like Hindus believe in Brahma, Christians believe in a god who has a son, etc. even if they reject Allah SWT, but they cannot reject their ideology of the unseen god which could not be seen. In another place, Allah SWT says that (which means):

“Or who is it that could provide for you if He withheld His provision? But they have persisted in insolence and aversion.” [Al-Quran, surah Al-Mulk, verse 21]

Those, who are in doubt about the blessings they get, should think that what if their blessings are stopped? What will they do if everything which they have is snatched or destroyed what will they do?

An important thing should be noted that these verses are not only for the rejecters of Islam but for everyone who rejects signs of Allah in any form. Today, Muslims have changed their ways they curse their lives and fates when they fell into any trouble, they forget to supplicate an invoke Allah or even pay their thanks to Allah when they get some good news or are happy. When someone forgets Allah, it means he thinks he is self-sufficient which means pride and arrogance.

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Arrogance and Tyranny Will Not Remain Unpunished

Lessons learned from Pharaoh’s body

The Quran is a book of guidance. It is a road map to success and eternal happiness, a gift from the Creator to the creation. It is a book full of signs; God calls them evidence, proofs, and lessons. They prove the existence of God and warn humankind of a Day of Judgement, when each one of us will stand before God weighed down, or held high, by our deeds.

One of the most manifest signs is the story of Moses. It is a story that holds many lessons for humankind. One part of the story, in particular, has intrigued people for centuries – the parting of the Red Sea and the drowning of the Egyptians. All three major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam tell relatively the same Moses story, however, the Quran is able to fill in details and correct misinterpretations. While all versions include the parting of the Red Sea and the drowning of Pharaoh, the Quran tells us that Pharaoh’s body will be preserved for all time, as a sign.

Which means: “So this day We shall deliver your (dead) body (out from the sea) that you may be a sign to those who come after you! And verily, many among mankind are heedless of Our signs.” [Al-Quran surah Yunus, verse 92]

When Pharaoh had power, wealth, good health and strength he refused to acknowledge God. He denied the signs and condemned himself. At the last minute, as the waves crashed over him and his heart constricted in fear, Pharaoh acknowledged God. Pharaoh’s arrogance fell away, but alas it was too late, he saw death approaching and cried out to God with fear and horror. Renowned Islamic scholar Ibn Kathir describes Pharaoh’s death.

“The curtain fell on Pharaoh’s tyranny, and the waves threw his corpse up to the western seashore. The Egyptians saw him and knew that the god whom they worshipped and obeyed was a mere man who could not keep death away from his own neck.”

God calls it a sign for those “who come after”

Many of the Pharaoh’s of Egypt behaved as if they were gods. If a Pharaoh reigned for thirty years there was a ceremony called a Sed-festival where the king was officially turned into a god. Many Pharaoh’s especially those who reigned during what is known as the Second Kingdom built numerous monuments and statues to themselves. Some, particularly Amenhotep III and Ramses II wanted to leave a mark, a reminder of their great strength, wealth and divinity.

(God said to Moses) (Which means): “Go to Pharaoh; verily he has transgressed all bounds (he is arrogant and too proud and has refused to believe in God). And say to him: “Would you purify yourself (from the sin of disbelief by becoming a believer)?” [Al-Quran, surah An-Nazi’at, verse 17 – 18]

Then he (Pharaoh) gathered his people and cried aloud, “I am your lord, most high. “So God seized him with punishment for his last and first transgression. Verily, in this is an instructive admonition for whosoever fears Allah. [Al-Quran, surah An-Nazi’at, verse 24 – 25]

Pharaoh said: “O chiefs! I know not that you have a god other than me. So kindle for me (a fire), O Haman, to bake (bricks out of) clay, and set up for me a lofty tower in order that I may look at (or look for) the God of Moses…” [Al-Quran, surah al-Qasas, verse 38]

The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt were known for their excesses, their beliefs in multiple gods and at times their cruelty and oppression of slaves, and ordinary citizens. When a human being believes himself to be a god, he is arrogant and tyrannical, yet as in this case of the Pharaoh of Moses (whoever he may, or may not have been) who was at the height of his arrogance, God was still willing to forgive him. He sent sign after sign and proof after proof of His existence, but Pharaoh chose to live as if there was no tomorrow. Pharaoh chose to reject the offer of forgiveness and for him and those like him, there is always a tomorrow and inevitably a judgment.

Go you and your brother with My signs and do not, you both, slacken and become weak in My Remembrance. Go, both of you, to Pharaoh, verily he has transgressed (all bounds in disbelief and disobedience and behaved as an arrogant and as a tyrant). And speak to him mildly, perhaps he may accept admonition or fear (God).” [Quran, Surah Taha, verse 43 – 44]

The signs sent by God to Pharaoh were meant to be a reminder, but he rejected those signs out of his arrogance and became one of the losers.

We are able to look at the preserved body of a Pharaoh, any pharaoh, and be reminded of God’s words. We can also look at the behavior of people today, who behave as if they were 21st-century pharaohs and remember how God punished the pharaohs of the past. The end result of Pharaoh is a reminder for all of humankind.

It reminds us that those who knowingly choose not to worship God in the manner He rightly deserves, risk never being guided to the right path. How many signs will God send? One, one million? Is it worth giving up eternal bliss for moments of happiness based on arrogance and ego? In the Hall of Mummies, in the Cairo Museum lie a group of men and women who just may have discovered the answer.

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Overcoming Arrogance

Arrogance is a blameworthy characteristic which is the feature of Iblees (Satan) and his cohorts in this world, those on whose hearts Allah has placed a seal…

Arrogance is a blameworthy characteristic which is the feature of Iblees (Satan) and his cohorts in this world, those on whose hearts Allah has placed a seal.

The first one who showed arrogance towards Allah and His creation was the accursed Iblees (satan), when Allah commanded him to prostrate to Prophet Adam and he refused and was arrogant, and said, “I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay.”

Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And surely, We created you (your father Adam) and then gave you shape (the noble shape of a human being); then We told the angels, ‘Prostrate yourselves to Adam’, and they prostrated themselves, except Iblees (Satan), he refused to be of those who prostrated themselves. (Allah) said: ‘What prevented you (O Iblees) that you did not prostrate yourself, when I commanded you?’ Iblees said: ‘I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay'” [Al-Quran, Surah al-A’raaf 7:11-12]

Arrogance is one of the characteristics of Iblees, so whoever wants to be arrogant should realize that he is acquiring a characteristic of the devils, and that he is not acquiring a characteristic of the noble angels who obeyed their Lord and fell down prostrate.

Moreover, arrogance may be the cause of a person being deprived of Paradise and may mean that the Lord of Glory will not even look at him, as it says in the following hadith (meaning):

It was narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “No one who has an atom’s-weight of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise.” A man said, “O Messenger of Allaah, what if a man likes his clothes and his shoes to look good?” He said, “Allaah is Beautiful and loves beauty. Arrogance means rejecting the truth and looking down on people.” [Narrated by Muslim no. 91].

Secondly, pride is an attribute that is not befitting for anyone except Allah. Whoever seeks to compete with Allah in that, Allah will destroy him, wreak vengeance on him and make things difficult for him.

It was narrated that Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri and Abu Hurayrah said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Might is His garment and pride is His cloak; whoever seeks to compete with Me concerning them, I will punish him.” [Narrated by Muslim no. 2620[.

Al-Nawawi said: “This is how it is narrated in all texts. The pronoun in the words ‘His garment’ and ‘His cloak’ refers to Allaah, and there is something omitted; what is meant is ‘Allaah says, ‘whoever seeks to compete with Me concerning them, I will punish him’. What is meant by ‘seeks to compete with Me’ is seeking to acquire that characteristic in the sense of sharing in it. This is a stern warning against arrogance which clearly demonstrates that it is haraam.” [Sharh Muslim, 16/173]

Everyone who tries to be arrogant and put himself above others, Allah will bring him down among the lowest of the low, and will humiliate him, because he is going against reality, so Allah will punish him by thwarting his aims; the punishment is to fit the crime.

The one who is arrogant towards the people will be trampled beneath the feet of the people on the Day of Resurrection, as a punishment for his arrogance.

It was narrated from ‘Amr ibn Shu’ayb via his father and grandfather that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “On the Day of Resurrection, the arrogant will be gathered like ants in the form of men. Humiliation will overwhelm them from all sides. They will be driven to a prison in Hell called Bawlas, with the hottest fire rising over them, and they will be given to drink of the juice of the inhabitants of Hell, which is teenat al-khabaal.” [Narrated by al-Tirmidhi no. 2492; graded as hasan by al-Albani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi no. 2025]

Arrogance is of several types, including the following:

1 — When a person does not accept the truth and produces false arguments against it, as we have mentioned in the hadih of ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood, “Arrogance means rejecting the truth and looking down on people.”

2 — When a person admires himself for his beauty or handsomeness, or the fineness of his food or clothing, so he feels proud and arrogant and feels superior to people.

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said (or Abu’l-Qaasim (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said): “Whilst a man was walking, dragging his garment with pride, with his hair nicely combed, Allaah caused the earth to swallow him and he will go on sinking in it until the Day of Resurrection.” [Narrated by al-Bukhari no. 3297; Muslim no. 2088]

A similar case is the story of the friend of the man whose companion spoke to him arrogantly. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And he had property (or fruit) and he said to his companion, in the course of mutual talk: ‘I am more than you in wealth and stronger in respect of men'” [Al-Quran, Surah al-Kahf 18:34] It may be that he was boasting about his tribe and lineage.

One of the remedies for arrogance is to think of yourself as being just like other people and realize that they are like you, they were born from a mother and a father just as you were, and that taqwa (piety, fear of Allah) is the true criterion of superiority.

Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Verily, the most honourable of you with Allaah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. he is one of the Muttaqoon (the pious)” [Al-Quran, Surah al-Hujuraat 49:13]

The arrogant Muslim should realize that no matter what he achieves, he is still too weak to attain a stature like the mountains in height or rend nor penetrate the earth (cf. al-Isra’ 17:37), as Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allaah likes not any arrogant boaster. And be moderate (or show no insolence) in your walking, and lower your voice. Verily, the harshest of all voices is the braying of the donkeys” [Al-Quran, Surah Luqmaan 31:18-19]

Al-Qurtubi said: “The phrase ‘nor walk in insolence through the earth’ is a prohibition of arrogance and is enjoining humility. Marah (translated here as insolence) is excessive joy, or it was said that it means being arrogant in walking or thinking too highly of oneself.”

Qutaadah said: “It means showing off in walking; or it was said that it means vanity.”

All of these suggestions are close in meaning, but they may be divided into two categories: those which are blameworthy and those which are praiseworthy. Arrogance, vanity, showing off and thinking too highly of oneself are blameworthy; joy and energy are praiseworthy. [Tafseer al-Qurtubi, 10/260]

Another remedy for arrogance is for a person to realize that on the Day of Resurrection he will be gathered in a small form like an ant which will be trampled underfoot. Arrogant people are hated by other people just as they are hated by Allaah; people love humble, tolerant and gentle people, and they hate those who are harsh and cruel to people.

Another remedy is to remember that he and urine came out of the same place; that he began as a despised drop of sperm and he will end up as a rotten corpse, and that in between he is a vessel for feces. So what does he have to feel so proud and arrogant about?!

We ask Allah to rid us all of arrogance and make us humble. And Allaah knows best.

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