By Imam Murtadha Gusau
From the origin of Islamic history, humility (Khushu/Tawadu’u) has occupied a central place in Muslim piety. This has been in large part due to its defining role in the Qur’an and Hadith (Sunnah), and no less because it stands as the opposite of pride and arrogance (Al-Kibr)—the cardinal sin of both Iblis (Shaitan) and Pharaoh in Scripture.
The sermon examines the defining characteristics of the virtue of humility, its marks or signs, and the dangers that lie in its embodiment. In the process, we shall see how humility occupies a place somewhere in between pride, arrogance, conceit and self-admiration on the one hand, and self-loathing, self-denigration, and outright self-hatred on the other.
Although humility is, in theory, to be exercised towards both Allah and other human beings, the precise nature of its embodiment, as we might expect, varies in relation to both.
Respected brothers and sisters! Arrogance and pride leads people to sickness of mind and incorrect behaviour. People who live in a state of pride, arrogance and deception inhabit a dark internal world.
A pitch black world full of a sincere dread of losing, making a mistake, being disgraced or humiliated, stress, doubt, hatred, anger and passion…This state of mind wears people down and ages them; it has a severe impact on their psychological and physical well-being.
These people, who are spiritually weaker than others, are cold. It is barely possible to expect a pleasant gesture, a sign of love or appreciation, or an encouraging word from them. It is hard to laugh or enjoy oneself in their presence.
Sudden outbursts are common wherever such people are present. Arrogant people’s behaviour is always intended to make them appear more valuable and superior in the eyes of other people.
For this reason, they have an excessive fear of making mistakes. They seek to ingratiate themselves with others for which reason they keep every moment under control and are careful to behave in a determined manner at all times.
Whenever they attend a meeting they try to be the most impressive speakers, the best dressed, to come up with the most intelligent solutions, and to draw the most attention to themselves. They are therefore constantly “on tenterhooks.” Their behaviour is never sincere and genuine. They always dread the prospect of behaving incorrectly.
They think they will never make a mistake. When told that they have made an error, they immediately try to absolve themselves of any blame. The situation of such people is described in these terms in these Qur’anic verses as follows:
“Have you not seen those who claim themselves to be pure? Rather, Allah purifies whom He wills, and injustice is not done to them, [even] as much as a thread [inside a date seed].” [Surah an-Nisa’: 49]
“Do not be like those who left their homes in arrogance, showing off to people and barring them from the way of Allah. Allah encompasses what they do.” [Surah Al-Anfal:47]
Being subject to criticism is something an arrogant person dislikes immensely. When criticised, their facial muscles tense up, and their expression dulls. They are dismayed by concern about damage to their prestige. They assume that, if they are criticised, they will be ridiculed or humiliated by others.
Their gestures are no longer natural, and sudden rises and falls can be heard in their tone of voice. They, therefore, live in a constant state of discomfort. Ultimately, they never find peace and contentment. Arrogant people engage in exaggerated and attention-seeking behaviour in the way they walk, talk and look. In the Noble Qur’an Allah has stated that arrogance is a great failing:
“Do not strut arrogantly about the Earth. You will certainly never split the earth apart nor will you ever rival the mountains in height.” [Surah Al-Isra’: 37]
“As for those who believe and do right actions, He will pay them their wages in full and will give them increase from His favour. As for those who show disdain and grow arrogant, He will punish them with a painful punishment. They will not find any protector or helper for themselves besides Allah.” [Surah Al-Nisa:173]
“As for those who deny Our Signs and are arrogant regarding them, the Gates of Heaven will not be opened for them, and they will not enter the Garden until a camel goes through a needle’s eye. That is how We repay the evildoers.” [Qur’an 7:40]
Those who are arrogant always imagine that every characteristic they possess belongs to themselves. For example, they imagine that their intelligence, their knowledge, their leadership skill, their wealth and riches stems from themselves.
Instead of realising that it is a blessing bestowed on them by Allah and giving thanks for it, they regard it as something to be proud of; they belittle and disparage those around them. As a result of this bad behaviour, their associates find them unattractive and repellent. That means that arrogant people never have true, honest friends who feel a genuine affection for them.
They also find it difficult to demonstrate affection for others. They always want to be the object of love and affection, because in their own eyes they are superior to everybody else. This state of mind leads to another behaviour defect: envy/jealousy (Hasad). They envy the beauty, intelligence, reason, moral values or worldly goods of others.
They regard everything those people possess with jealous. If someone with superior features to their own is present, they immediately want to leave. Their envy means they are invariably unable to get along with others.
Allah has given a troublesome mood to these people who are grabbed by the sickness of pride and arrogance. In the same way, they gain nothing but trouble, sorrow and unhappiness in the life of this world, they also forgo the Hereafter and, most important of all, the love of Allah. Allah has revealed in one verse that He does not love the arrogant:
“Do not avert your face from people out of haughtiness and do not strut about arrogantly on the Earth. Allah does not love anyone who is vain or boastful.” [Surah Luqman: 18]
• Here are some Qur’anic verses on Pride and Arrogance
Allah Almighty says: “And do not turn your face away from people in contempt, nor go about in the land exulting overmuch; surely Allah does not love any self-conceited boaster.” (Qur’an, 31:18)
Dear servants of Allah! Know that pride and arrogance are destroyers of faith (iman) – it deeply cuts into one’s spirituality and can damage another’s feeling of well-being and happiness as well. As Muslims, it remains our duty to protect our morals of humbleness, respect and empathy.
We must ensure we are continuously remembering our duty to treat everyone with the same feelings of respect we would expect from others. After all, we all are only servants of Allah and therefore have no right to harbour any feelings of pride or arrogance. Here are ten verses from the Noble Qur’an that reminds us of the dangers of pride and arrogance, in the hopes that we may all strive to become better Muslims:1. Evilness and Pride
Allah the Most High says: “It shall be said: Enter the gates of hell to abide therein; so evil is the abode of the proud.” [Qur’an, 39:72]
Here, the Qur’an reminds us just how evil the feeling of pride can be – it not only damages oneself but it damages all those around the ones with pride. We must not forget the seriousness in combatting pride – and how deeply evil it can become.
- The Hearts are Sealed for Those with Pride. Allah the Most High says: “Thus does Allah set a seal over the heart of every proud, haughty one.” [Qur’an, 40:35]
My beloved people! This powerful Qur’anic verse is a reminder of the terrifying loss of faith and goodness that comes from pride and arrogance – here the Qur’an states that Allah will “set a seal over the heart” of those who harbour pride and arrogance. A seal over the heart, that grows from pride and arrogance, will deeply affect one’s faith (iman) and connection to Allah Himself, Who we should forever be striving to become closer with.
- Pride is Ignorance. Allah the Most High says: “…so (as for) those who do not believe in the hereafter, their hearts are ignorant and they are proud.” [Qur’an, 16:22]
By equating the concepts of ignorance with having pride, the Qur’an teaches us that to have pride itself is to be blatantly ignorant. We must not become those who from meaningless pride and arrogance become embarrassingly ignorant, and forget our true purpose in life: to worship Allah alone in everything that we do here on earth.
- Doing Good Will Help Combat Pride and Arrogance. Allah Almighty says: “Then as for those who believe and do good, He will pay them fully their rewards and give them more out of His grace, and as for those who disdain and are proud, He will chastise them with a painful chastisement.” [Qur’an, 4:172-173]
Here, the Qur’an reminds us that being a good and blessed person is the opposite of those with pride and arrogance – it is a powerful statement on just how evil and condemning it is to be a person who boasts of pride and selfishness. We must always strive towards being on the side of those who do good, to help not only ourselves but the society we live in as well.
- Let Go of Pride to Embrace the Blessings of Allah. Allah Almighty says: “And your Lord says, Call upon Me, I will answer you, surely those who are too proud for My service shall soon enter hell abased.” [Qur’an, 40:60]
Pride and arrogance encompasses not only how we deal with others but how we deal with Allah Himself – for those who get caught up in becoming powerful and arrogant in this world, they can easily fall into the trap of believing that Allah is not worthy of submission and servitude. We must not become arrogant in order to keep ourselves as faithful worshippers of Allah.
- Pride and Arrogance Will Make You Deaf to the Call of Allah. Allah Almighty says: “But my call has only made them flee the more: And whenever I have called them that you may forgive, they put their fingers in their ears, cover themselves with their garments, and persist and are puffed up with pride.” [Qur’an, 71:6-7]
Once fueled by feelings and emotions of arrogance and pride, it can become easy to forget how to listen or to humble oneself – and this can ruin the relationship you have with not only those around you but with Allah Himself as well. To become deaf to the call of Allah, as this verse alludes to, will destroy both faith and our Ummah (nation or society). It, therefore, remains imperative that we continuously struggle towards ridding ourselves of feelings of pride and arrogance.
- Pride and Arrogance Will Lead to Sin. Allah the Most High says: “And when it is said to him, guard against (the punishment of) Allah; pride carries him off to sin; therefore hell is sufficient for him; and certainly it is an evil resting place.” [Qur’an, 2:206]
On top of pride and arrogance already being a thing of evil, here the Qur’an reminds us that it can also lead one down a path of committing more sin and acts that are unfaithful towards our duty to Allah. Pride, arrogance and sin are partners in bringing a Muslim towards the path to punishment and abandonment by Allah – and while we recognise that Allah Knows Best, it remains imperative on our part to ensure we are not actively allowing ourselves to fall in that path.
- Pride Will Only Hurt Other Muslims. Allah Almighty says: “And do not turn your face away from people in contempt, nor go about in the land exulting overmuch; surely Allah does not love any self-conceited boaster.” [Qur’an, 31:18]
Here we are reminded by the Qur’an that our pride and arrogance will not only damage our own well-being, but it can also damage and hurt those people around us who remain innocent. We must remember to stay humble and respectful towards others, and remind ourselves of the fact that we are all unique but also equal creations of Allah – we have absolutely no right to think ourselves better than another human being on earth.
- Acknowledge Allah’s Power to Help Destroy Pride and Arrogance
Allah Almighty says:
“And they control not for themselves any harm or profit, and they control not death nor life, nor raising (the dead) to life.” [Qur’an, 25:3]
Once understood, the notions of pride and arrogance are embarrassingly shameful – how can one continue to act with pride with the knowledge that everything on earth, including our power and weaknesses, is a creation of Allah? At the end of the day, we have no power over anything, and we must attribute and remain thankful for everything to Allah and Allah alone.
- Recognise the Beauty of Humbleness
Allah the Most High says:
“And the servants of the Beneficent Allah are they who walk on the earth in humbleness…” [Qur’an, 25: 63]
To walk through life with the quiet humbleness and inner strength reflective of great Islamic figures such as the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) should be a characteristic of us all. Unfortunately, it can become easy to fall into the trap of having feelings of pride and arrogance – while recognising that we all fall prey to sin and should with genuine feelings of repent be praying to Allah for guidance, it is also imperative on us all to ensure we are not becoming one of the ignorant who believes themselves above everything else in this world. Let us all pray we are given the blessing to find beauty in humbleness and strength in selflessness.
Respected brothers and sisters! Arrogance and pride is the blamable characteristic of a person that Allah Almighty disliked the most. As mentioned, arrogance is the feature of Iblis (Shaitan) and his followers in this world. We all know that the first one who showed arrogance towards Allah Almighty and His creation was the Shaitan (Iblis). When Allah Almighty commanded Iblis to prostrate to Adam he refused to do so and was arrogant, and said:
“I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay.”
Allah Almighty said in Noble Qur’an about the greatest sin, arrogance and pride in these words:
“[To them] it will be said, “Enter the gates of Hell to abide eternally therein, and wretched is the residence of the arrogant.” [Qur’an, 39:72]
According to the Noble Qur’an arrogance and pride is the sin that will be severely punished by Allah Almighty. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said that pride is the disease which is the greatest sin in the sight of Allah Almighty; one who is proud is arrogant. People who are arrogant will not enter paradise. Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“One will not enter Paradise if one has an atom’s weight of arrogance in his/her heart.” [Tirmidhi]
Arrogance and pride is when an individual thinks too deeply about himself, and when he tends, moreover, to consider others as inferior to him, that is arrogance or pride. On the contrary, when one thinks of himself as small and insignificant is known to be modest and this characteristic is called modesty. When someone considers others as superior to himself that is called humility. Allah loves those who possess these great qualities and disliked those who in any case have the arrogance. In Noble Qur’an, Allah Almighty said:
“… truly He likes not the proud.” [Qur’an, 16:23]
Pride and arrogance is disliked the most because it is a thick veil which hides one’s shortcomings from his own view, and thus prevents him from removing them and attaining perfection.
Arrogance leads people to the sickness of mind and incorrect behaviour. People who live in a state of pride and betrayal reside in a dark internal world. A world full of a sincere dread of losing, making a mistake, being humiliated, stress, doubt, hatred, anger, and passion. Arrogant people’s behaviour is always expected to make them appear more valuable and superior in the eyes of other people, in other words they feel superior from others. Allah Almighty turns the arrogant people away from being guided with his signs. For those people Allah Almighty says in Noble Qur’an:
“I will turn away from My Ayahs (verses of the Qur’an) those who behave arrogantly on the earth, without a right, and (even) if they see all the Ayahs (proofs, evidence, verses, lessons signs, revelations, etc.), they will not believe in them…” [Qur’an; 7:146]
The most severe arrogance is being arrogant against Allah Almighty by rejecting submission and worshipping Him. Allah Almighty says about these arrogant people in Noble Qur’an:
“Verily! Those who disdain My worship (because of arrogance), they will surely enter Hell in humiliation!” [Qur’an, 40:60]
May Allah Almighty keep us all away from this disease of arrogance and pride! Ameen.
All praises and thanks are due to Allah alone, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.
Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: [email protected] or +2348038289761.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Safar 02, 1443 A.H. (September 10, 2021).