Hues Of Arrogance
‘ARROGANT? Who, me?! Never. I’m a Muslim.’
Any Muslim who has studied Qur’an and Sunnah in depth and detail would strive to stay away from one of the most disliked vices: Arrogance. Be it vanity, conceit, standoffishness, 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 whom the followers of Islam have been duly warned in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
The crux of the matter is: how do we check ourselves in practical life if we are becoming arrogant or not? What actions, qualities or behavior constitutes 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 lecture, than to actually purge ourselves from 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?
The Prophet (peace 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 Qur’an 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 declaring Kufr and rejection – is indicative of arrogance. Pharaoh, who is repeatedly quoted in the Qur’an 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?” (Qur’an, 43:51-52)
“O chiefs! I know not that you have an ilah (a god) other than me…” (Qur’an, 28:38)
“I am your lord, most high.” (Qur’an, 79:24)
Being rude to the poor
“...Iblis said: ‘I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay.’” (Qur’an, 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 man behind the wheel at an old peasant man crossing the street.
The second trait of arrogance described in the Hadith above is “looking down on people.” How you deal with servants and poor people indicates your true nature and ‘Akhlaaq (manners).’ 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.” (Qur’an, 18:34)
Being a racist
“And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allah likes not any arrogant boaster.” (Qur’an, 31:18)
Another way of looking down on people is to consider yourself better-looking 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 refusing to meet with families from a different ethnic background or social status.
They even overlook grave vices of kith and kin but nit-pick the smallest errors and misgivings of another ethnic groups. Usage of derogatory words (Bangali, Paki, Paindu, Kaala, etc) to label other ethnic minorities is another grave sin which this arrogance gives rise to.
Wanting praise and attention
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) disliked it when people would stand upon his arrival at a gathering. (Al-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.
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?
The Prophet (peace 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.” (Al-Bukhari, no. 3297 and Muslim, no. 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 pride and outshining others, then this is arrogance.
Waiting to be greeted
Are you eager to initiate the greeting of Salam to other Muslims when you meet them? Or do you wait, and expect the other person to greet you first? Remind yourself that the one who is more humble always initiates the salam between two Muslims.
It’s all about me
Do you seem to go on and on about yourself in a monologue when having a normal, everyday conversation with some one else? Are your conversations always centered around “I”? How much interest do you take to listen? How many times do you show concern for others? Do you call people to enquire of their well-being?
Refusing to eat simple food
Eating simple food such as lentils or leftovers is considered too lowly by some. Consider this: our Prophet (peace be upon him) never ate or lived luxuriously in his entire lfe. The houses were simple, the food was coarse and the clothes were patched in those times. In our homes, however, the maids eat on the floor and 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 i.e. the sofa.
“Don’t drink from that glass! The maid uses it.” Don’t we hear that often?
In a Hadith Qudsi, Prophet Muhammad (peace be 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, no. 2620)
In continuation of this topic, some Islamic remedies for this disease of the heart will follow In Sha Allah.