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Faith Between Pride and Arrogance

28 January, 2024
Q Peace be upon you. I am a 17 year old boy and a student. I want to know what Islam says about being proud and what are the solutions to clean it from the heart? Because I hate pride, but I get it in most incidents. Al-hamdhulillah, Allah grants me success in my studies. Many times I feel proud when I get the highest marks. I cannot tolerate when it happens, because I heard that who has it, will go to the hell. I will be very thankful to you, to make my faith more pure. May Allah reward you the best.


Salam Dear Mohamed,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

It is heartwarming to see someone of your age so concerned about maintaining a pure heart and strong faith. May God always guide you to do what’s best.

To answer your question, let’s remember some relevant principles of Islam, and then apply them to your specific case. I’m using this method to give you an example of how to think and address other worries in the future.

Some Basic Principles of Islam

God created humans as vicegerents on earth, their mission is to explore, learn, and develop the earth’s resources and fill it with goodness and progress, while being mindful of the Creator and respectful to His laws in the universe He created. This is the essence of belief and worship in Islam as a practical and spiritual system.

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Consequently, God divided the skills to achieve this mission among humans in varying measures, so they would work in teams that compliment each other. Humans are required to discover their talents, find their calling in life, then team up with others to work for doing good deeds throughout their lifetime.

Islam is a religion of balance and equilibrium. It requires its followers to always choose the middle road between two extremes. This applies to worship, psychology, and everyday life decisions.

Intention is the basis for judging a deed; and the place of intention is the heart; and only God can see into people’s hearts. Before doing anything, we are supposed to identify our intention for doing it, and check to see if it matches God’s law. If there is no valid intention for a deed, then it should be avoided.

The Quran teaches that everything we have is from God, not from ourselves, and it is neither a privilege nor a punishment, but a test. The test of a gift is whether we will protect it and put it to good use. The test of a trial is whether we will persevere and go on doing good, or turn our backs on God and go astray.

There are numerous examples in the Quran detailing these two types of tests which we are all subject to at every stage of our life.

Islam recognizes the dynamics of human nature, and doesn’t expect humans to turn into sinless pure angels, or else live with a guilt complex for failing to attain the impossible.

Rather, it offers people tools for limitless self-growth and improvement, and allows for imperfections and human weaknesses. And so, motivation, reward, and desire for recognition are not labeled as sins because they are essential elements for individuals to achieve progress.

Faith Between Pride and Arrogance

Islam rewards and encourages knowledge, innovation, excellence, success, as well as the high-flyers and achievers who produce them. The only rule is the intention behind the success: is it for self-actualization only, or also for pleasing God and serving humanity? The first option breeds arrogance and causes destruction; the second is a solid foundation for all-encompassing goodness.

Fair competition is encouraged in the Quran, as long as it is in doing good and the results do not allow some to think too highly of themselves, causing them to be sarcastic, arrogant, or disrespectful towards others.

False Pride

Pride is not a sin, but it is arrogance (or false pride) that is condemned. On the other hand, dignity is actually a precious trait of Muslims, which makes them refuse to be put down or humiliated, and strive to be the best at what they do for the sake of God and the good of themselves and their community.

Umar ibn Al-Khattab (the Prophet’s Companion) said about the Muslims: “We’re a people whom God has dignified with Islam.”

Muslims are actually instructed to rejoice and express their happiness when they succeed or get good things:

{Say: “In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy, in that let them rejoice”: that is better than the wealth they hoard.} (Yunus 10:58)

{They rejoice in the bounty provided by Allah.} (Aal `Imran 3:170)

What Do These Principles Mean to You?

When God bestows on you the great gift of wisdom and a good mind, this is not a privilege requiring boasting, nor is it a calamity causing you distress, rather, it is a tough test requiring your full attention and dedication. The Quran states:

{He grants wisdom to whom He pleases; and he to whom wisdom is granted receives indeed a benefit overflowing; but none will grasp the message but men of understanding.} (Al-Baqarah 2:269)

You need to make the best use of your precious gift, while admitting its source to be God Himself, and not your own cleverness. This is how you curb your feelings of conceit and allow your softer, humbler side to surface.

We are taught that this is the only way to thank God for His gifts, not just by praying in gratitude, but by practically putting those gifts to the best ethical use possible, while constantly reminding ourselves of their true divine source, and recognizing we are only vehicles for spreading goodness on earth.

Between Two Extremes

You should stand on the solid ground between the two extremes of self-denial, and self-idolization. Your intellectual talent is a precious asset, so you should cherish it and nurture it, polish it and use it optimally within God’s limits, while continually reminding yourself of the responsibility that comes with this gift, not just the privileges.

You are not required to deny yourself the joy of achievement, nor are you expected to fear the consequences of drawing on your success to move forward and continue achieving.

Self-motivation is a virtue which all the Prophet’s Companions possessed in abundance. This is actually how they succeeded at monumental tasks — with exceptional quality, and in record time.

The trick is to avoid letting the exhilaration of success — a massive driving force — turn into a hurdle which slows down your progress as you stop to admire yourself and forget your mission.

Your audience is God Himself and not other people. He can see straight into your heart and He knows your truth. This is how you avoid showing off in front of others especially those who don’t have your talents.

Good Muslims are not supposed to be a vain, know-it-all show off. They do not practice boasting and bragging. Conceit, vanity, smugness, arrogance, snobbery, pretentiousness, condescension, and self-importance haughtiness are not among their characteristics, simply because they are always mindful of God.

You are permitted to off-set your blessings in gratitude to your generous Lord, and as inspiration for others:

{But the bounty of your Lord; rehearse and proclaim!} (Ad-Duha 93:11)

How Can You Identify Conceit?

Modesty is a great virtue. The famous Islamic scholar, Imam Abu Hamed Al-Ghazali, defined conceit as the feeling that you are better than any other creation of God. The cure is to compare yourself to those above you and better than you and strive to improve yourself continuously.

Simply, the more you really know yourself and know God, the less you are a victim of arrogance, because you start realizing your actual status and position in this world, and know that the universe does not revolve around you or your dreams and disappointments.

I hope this answers your question. Please stay in touch and update us on your progress.


(From Ask About Islam archive)

About Sahar El-Nadi
Sahar El-Nadi is an Egyptian freelance journalist who traveled to 25 countries around the world and currently based in Cairo. Sahar also worked in many people-related careers in parallel, including presenting public events and TV programs; instructing training courses in communication skills; cross cultural issues; image consulting for public speakers; orientation for first-time visitors to the Middle East; and localization consulting for international educational projects.