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Hues of Arrogance: Part 1

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Bismillah

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“Arrogant? Who, ME?! Never. I’m a Muslim.”

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Any Muslim who has studied the Quran and Sunnah in depth and detail would strive to stay away from one of the most disliked vices: arrogance. Be it vanity, conceit, stand-offish-ness, haughtiness, acting holier-than-thou, or “high-and-mighty” – they are careful of being tainted by any color from the spectrum of arrogance or kibr. These negative personality traits were present in those on whom Allah’s wrath descended in the past, and about which the followers of Islam have been duly warned in the Quran and ahadith.

The crux of the matter is, though, that how do we check ourselves in practical life, about whether we are becoming arrogant or not? What actions, qualities or behavior possess the hallmarks of “arrogance”? It is so much easier to nod our heads in unison when listening to warnings targeted at arrogant individuals, at a formal lecture explaining the Quran or Prophetic narrations, than to actually divorce ourselves from our self-absorbed lifestyles long enough to impartially identify traces of arrogance within our own behavior: in our social interactions; in our dealings with family members; in our very intimate thoughts and feelings. What can we do to hold up a magnifying glass to our own face, in order to pick out the microscopic, self-emulating zits that are missed by that first cursory glance at our personalities?

Rejecting the message of Islam, either openly (by verbal renunciation) or by deed:

It was narrated from ‘Abd-Allah Bin Mas’ood [may Allah be pleased with him] that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah 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 Allah, what if a man likes his clothes and his shoes to look good?”
He said, “Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty. Arrogance means rejecting the truth and looking down on people.”

[Sahih Muslim]

Rejecting any part of the Quran or Prophetic narrations silently (i.e. not saying anything outwardly, but obstinately refusing to obey Allah’s commands over time) or by open antagonism – verbally announced kufr and rejection – is indicative of arrogance.

Pharaoh, who is repeatedly quoted in the Quran for his arrogance, said: “O my people! Is not mine the dominion of Egypt, and these rivers flowing underneath me. See you not then? Am I not better than this one [Moses], who is “Mahin” [i.e. has no honor nor any respect, and is weak and despicable] and can scarcely express himself clearly?” [Surah Al-Zukhruf: 51, 52]

O chiefs! I know not that you have an ilah (a god) other than me.” [Surah Al-Qasas: 38]

I am your lord, most high.” [Surah Al-Nazi’at: 24]

Avoiding talking to, or eating with, poor or lower-class people; treating them brusquely and rudely:

I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay.” – Iblees to Allah.

[Surah Al-A’raf 7:11-12]

“Get me a fork, you [bleep!]….” shouts a man at the waiter.
“Get out of my way, you [bleep!]…” shouts the angry woman behind the wheel at an old peasant lady crossing the street.

{In case you’re wondering, “bleep” indicates a sound used to censor curse-words on screen.}

The second trait of arrogance described in the hadith above is “looking down on people”. How you deal with servants and poor people, especially, indicates your true nature and ‘akhlaaq‘. Do you ignore them unless you need them for some work? Do you stay physically away from them, lest their germs or smell get on your ‘spotless’ persona? Do you consider yourself better than them, because you are more educated, well-off, hygienically clean, civilized and better-mannered? Are they like the fly that buzzes around your head – to be rudely whacked away if it gets too close? If so, this is because of arrogance.

“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.'”
[Surah Al-Kahf 18:34]

Considering some people lowly solely on the basis of their race or ethnicity:

“And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allah likes not any arrogant boaster.”
[Surah Luqman 31:18]

Another way of looking down on people, aside from the division of rich vs. poor, is to consider yourself better-looking, more talented, more capable, more attractive, or from a better lineage and social class than others you interact with. This latter trait, which leads to deep-rooted ethnic prejudice and conflict, is the most apparent among Muslims, even so-called pious ones, when choosing which families to socialize with, or which families to marry into.

It’s not uncommon to witness families with jobs at higher grades refusing to meet with families whose breadwinner is at a lower-grade job, no matter how nice the latter might be. Also, for most, the “blood-is-thicker-than-water” syndrome affects their better judgment to such an extent, that they’d overlook grave vices of kith and kin (those part of their “baradari“) but nit-pick the smallest errors and misgivings of another ethnic group. Usage of derogatory words to label other ethnic minorities is another grave sin which this arrogance gives rise to. E.g. “akhrote“, “paaparh”, “paindu”, “karanta“, “chuptta“, “kalla” etc.

Loving to receive praise and adulatory attention e.g. having people stand up for you when you enter:

The Prophet Muhammad [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] disliked it when people would stand upon his arrival to a gathering [Tirmidhi]. This is indicative of humility; it, therefore, goes without saying that if you expect or desire people to stand up for you when you arrive, it is because of arrogance. The same goes for desiring to show off, or to receive praise for your achievements from people; for this purpose, displaying trophies, prizes, and plaques, especially on walls where people will see them, is a commonly-witnessed trend among some homes.

Dressing nicely solely with the intention of outshining others:

It was narrated that Abu Hurairah [may Allah be pleased with him] said: “The Prophet said (or Abul-Qasim [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] said): “Whilst a man was walking, dragging his garment with pride, with his hair nicely combed, Allah caused the earth to swallow him and he will go on sinking in it until the Day of Resurrection.””
[Sahih Al-Bukhari – 3297; Sahih Muslim – 2088]

If you dress up nicely as a means of expressing gratitude for Allah’s blessings upon you, it is praiseworthy, as indicated by the hadith that states that ‘Allah loves beauty’; however, if your intention behind trying to look good is to outshine others or to look the best among them, this is because of pride or arrogance.

Waiting to be greeted instead of initiating the salam:

Are you eager to initiate the salam greeting with a Muslim when you meet them? Or do you wait, and expect the other person to turn towards you, or worse, to leave what they are doing to walk towards you with an outstretched hand, to greet you with salam? Remind yourself that the one who is more humble always initiates the salam between two Muslims.

Expecting special attention at gatherings:

How often do you feel offended if people do not give you special treatment at a social gathering? Do you want to be seated at the head of the table, on the best sofa, or in the strategically most important place? Do you get upset if your host does not personally serve each dish to you, or does not walk you to the gate when you leave?

Dominating the conversation with “me, myself and I”:

“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 asses.”
[Surah Luqman: 19]

Do you seem to go on and on about yourself in a monologue when having a normal, everyday conversation with some one else? How much interest do you take in your listeners’ lives? How many times do you show concern, ask questions about their well-being, or give an intent, sympathetic ear to their problems? Do people call you up often, or come to visit without your inviting them? Or is it the opposite?

Taking immediate offense if criticized:

Another indication of the presence of arrogance is to not take criticism, especially if it is well-intended and directed in a polite and appropriately-phrased manner, too well; to get immediately defensive, rude and hostile. Humility shows itself most beautifully in the way a person hurries to accept their mistake and to apologize even if they are not in the wrong.

Refusing to sit on the floor, if necessary, or to eat simple, coarse food:

Several times, one is faced with a situation in which they might need to sit on the floor, particularly when attending a dars or religious lecture, in which all the seats have already been taken. Arrogance will rear its head in the form of an aversion to sitting on the floor, physically below others.

Also, eating simple, coarse food such as lentils, bhaji or leftovers is considered too lowly, or not up-to-the-mark, if traces of arrogance exist in a person’s heart. I once read somewhere that wearing worn-out, but presentable clothing, eating coarse food (e.g. bran bread with yogurt or cheese) and sitting in the company of the poor and downtrodden people of society was a way (sunnah) of the pious predecessors, including most of the Companions. In our homes however, most of us make the maids eat on the floor, in separate cutlery that is not used by the members of the household. We do not even like it if the maid sits at the same level as we do, e.g. on the sofa.

“Don’t drink from that glass! The maid uses it.”

Hanging a garment so low that it drags behind on the floor:

It was narrated that ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Umar [may Allah be pleased with him] said: The Messenger of Allah [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] said: “Whoever lets his garment drag along the ground out of pride, Allah will not look at him on the Day of Resurrection.” Abu Bakr said: “Sometimes my garment slips down on one side, unless I pay attention to it.” The Messenger of Allah [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] said, “You are not doing that out of pride.”
[Sahih Al-Bukhari, 3465]

It was narrated that Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri and Abu Hurairah [may Allah be pleased with them both] said: “The Messenger of Allah [peace and blessings of Allah upon him] said that Allah says:

Might is my garment and pride is my cloak; whoever seeks to compete with me concerning them, I will punish him.””
[Sahih Muslim, 2620]

If you know of any other traits witnessed in day-to-day living that are indicative of arrogance, please leave a comment below to inform the readers about it. Insha’ Allah, in my next post, I will be covering some Islamic remedies for this disease of the heart.

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Sadaf Farooqi is a postgraduate in Computer Science who has done the Taleem Al-Quran Course from Al-Huda International, Institute of Islamic Education for Women, in Karachi, Pakistan. 11 years on, she is now a homeschooling parent of three children, a blogger, published author and freelance writer. She has written articles regularly for Hiba Magazine, SISTERS Magazine and Saudi Gazette. Sadaf shares her life experiences and insights on her award-winning blog, Sadaf's Space, and intermittently teaches subjects such as Fiqh of Zakah, Aqeedah, Arabic Grammar, and Science of Hadith part-time at a local branch of Al-Huda. She has recently become a published author of a book titled 'Traversing the Highs and Lows of Muslim Marriage'. For most part, her Jihad bil Qalam involves juggling work around persistent power breakdowns and preventing six chubby little hands from her computer! Even though it may not seem so, most of her time is spent not in doing all this, but in what she loves most - reading.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    February 25, 2009 at 1:05 AM

    bismillah was salamu alaykum. the people who brought to fitnah to Madinah, who murdered Uthman radi Allaho anho, who eventually became the Khawaarij — how were such men before they had committed their vile acts? the sahaba describe those men as outwardly showing the most piety. praying constantly and with apparent perfection. fasting zealously and often. taking on outwardly the signs of great piety. but the evil those men did shows that piety was a facade with which they deluded themselves while inwardly they succumbed fully to arrogance.

    may Allah protect us from adopting such evil ways. may He make us always welcome naseeha. and may He keep us always in the company of those whose righteousness flows from a fount of taqwa deep in their hearts, purity unsullied by arrogance, clarity uncolored by hate or envy. ameen.

  2. Kai

    February 25, 2009 at 2:46 AM

    Assalamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahee wa Barakatu

    One should be aware of the danger of arrogance and pride. Especially, if a person does great acts of worship. Shaytan does not like those who worship a lot so he tries many tricks to mislead this person.

    Example: A Muslim brother may spend the last ten nights of Ramadan in the mosque which we call i’tikaaf which is a good deed. However, at Fajr Time he might look down at brothers who did not do i’tikaaf, but just come from home to the mosque. Instead of feeling happy that they come to masjid for Fajr he looks down at them and thinks that he is someone better because he spend all ten days in i’tikaaf, but the other don’t.

    Competing over akhira is good, but it should not be mingled with arrogance.

  3. Farhan

    February 25, 2009 at 11:15 AM

    If one is aware of the arrogance in his heart, how does he remove it?
    What practical steps can I take??

  4. Dawud Israel

    February 25, 2009 at 12:33 PM

    BRILLIANT!!

    There are a number of ways to deal with this:

    1) Consult with the true people of Tasawwuf. Or read some of the works of the early Sufis who were contemporaries of Imam Ahmad and Imam ash-Shafi’i. Recall Bishr al-Hafi who would always walk barefoot because he considered all the earth a carpet of Allah and wanted nothing separating his feet and the carpet of Allah. Or how he would go outside of Mecca to make wudhu because of his shyness in having his sins wet the holy ground of Mecca.

    2) Learn the dua for praise. It is said, when someone praises you or when you praise someone else, and it keeps your heart on Allah when a compliment appears. You can find it here: http://muslimology.wordpress.com/2008/03/06/praising-muslims-and-the-ego-must-read/

    3) Read Riyadus Saliheen! And take the company of the Saliheen (righteous). :D

  5. N

    February 25, 2009 at 11:32 PM

    Jazkillah khayra.

    I’m looking forward to part two.

    Another sign of arrongance: when one stops seeking knowledge because a) they think they have enough knowledge b) their classmates are not at the same level as them

  6. Pingback: Hues of Arrogance - Part 2 | MuslimMatters.org

  7. AnonyMouse

    February 26, 2009 at 1:42 AM

    Excellent, masha’Allah… a wonderful reminder.

    Other examples of arrogance:
    Being impatient in circles of learning (whether it’s studying Arabic, Qur’an, or any regular dars) because you ‘know it already’! Rather than taking it as an opportunity of a reminder which benefits the believer…

    Feeling that you deserve or hold a special place in the community, and feeling offended that others don’t know this/ recognize this/ treat you as you think you ought to be.

  8. Anon

    February 26, 2009 at 4:11 PM

    “Recall Bishr al-Hafi who would always walk barefoot because he considered all the earth a carpet of Allah and wanted nothing separating his feet and the carpet of Allah.”

    And recall the Prophet of Allah- salAllahu `alayhi wa sallam- who knew better about His Lord and how to worship Him, and wore shoes.

  9. Khan Shahid

    February 27, 2009 at 8:24 AM

    Salaamun Alaikum

    Alhamdulillah a very thought provoking topic

    I would like to add has not Allah made both of types(Arrogance & Humble ) so we may understand them and judge.

    Its finally Allah who wishes we may be guided or misguided.

    JazakAllah

  10. Al-Madrasi

    February 28, 2009 at 11:39 PM

    “Recall Bishr al-Hafi who would always walk barefoot because he considered all the earth a carpet of Allah and wanted nothing separating his feet and the carpet of Allah.”

    And recall the Prophet of Allah- salAllahu `alayhi wa sallam- who knew better about His Lord and how to worship Him, and wore shoes.

    @anon, MashaAllah, jazakallah for the right reminder…

    just out of curiosity, is it criticizing some one considered arrogance (like the Br./Sr. anon as quoted :-) ) ?

  11. Innocent Sister

    March 1, 2009 at 1:28 AM

    Dang man…this is a nice post…I got an example too…

    Accusing some innocent sister of being annoying and labeling her a troll when she makes sort of suggestion or speaks out against something she find unIslamic on a Muslim blog.

  12. J

    March 1, 2009 at 2:35 AM

    “And recall the Prophet of Allah- salAllahu `alayhi wa sallam- who knew better about His Lord and how to worship Him, and wore shoes.”

    Great post, Anon. Jazakh-Allah khair. That’s a great way to respond to Sufis.

  13. abumoosa

    March 1, 2009 at 5:11 AM

    And recall the numerous comments of some authors at MM who would do well to revisit this article before they pull out their ‘quick draw McGraw’ responses. May Allah guide us all and rectify us before we are taken to acocunt.

    Wa’assalaam

  14. Umm Ismael

    March 5, 2009 at 9:18 AM

    Asslam u alaikum wr wb
    Alhamdulillah and Jazakillah for the much needed reminder. There are some personal examples that have made me sit upand take notice:
    1) Thinking that ‘I’or ‘We’have the right aqeedah and thus treating or labeling someone as misguided. This is one of the worst formsof fitnah that people have fallen into. You know having that high and mighty attitude within oneself while displaying piety and quoting text from the Quran and Sunnah. Thats a trap shaytaan lays for even the most learned of us. While it is exemplary to strive for the truth, it should be with a mixture of fear (lest one ever falls into misguidance) and hope (of reward from ALLAH for seeking the right path). Coupled with sabr (towards those who have a different point of view) and shukr(to ALLAH for opening ones own heart to the truth). Criticism of incorrect manhaj should be with naseehah and NOT vice.
    2) Another situation which shaytaan puts a lot of females into is when one compares oneself against ones inlaws. Deep down the feeling of ‘I’m better’ or ‘ Our way is better’ resides within us. I am guilty of this trait. This eventually erupts as backbiting and illwill.
    I recommend Minhaj Al Qasideen by Ibn Al Jozi as a book which combines the treatment of the heart as the sufis recommended it in the light of the Quran and Sunnah. When we divorce the two from each other, that is where mischief starts brewing. And ALLAH Knows Best.

  15. Sadaf

    March 8, 2009 at 3:05 AM

    I agree, Umm Ismael. We are all guilty of the thoughts and attitude you have pointed out.
    Jazakillahu Khairan for your well-intended input and valid analysis of this human behavior.
    We need to make giving sadaqah and doing istighfar a constant part of our lives to make up for our slips and mistakes in this regard. At least that is a means by which I hope Allah will forgive my sins on the Day of Akhirah.

  16. Sarah

    April 6, 2009 at 9:40 AM

    This may well have been published somewhere on MM already, but sometimes I find the line between humbleness and sheer lack of self-esteem a very, very fine line especialyl amongst girls. Any chance of an article on that?

  17. Pingback: Hues of Arrogance « Imtiyaz2110’s Weblog

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