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Lessons From Self-Confidence of the Prophets

Confidence in one’s self and confidence in Allah are often interrelated, as we saw in the previous article. That’s why when you study the personalities of prophets, you’ll find each of them teeming with self-confidence. Why? Because of their high level of confidence in Allah. They are our role models of tawakkul.

“Know yourself.”

Many wise men in history have said it. The prophets showed us how to live it. Knowing yourself entails knowing both positive and negative aspects of your personality. It means you have a very clear idea of who you are, what capabilities Allah has given you, what virtues and vices are potent in you, what potential for good and evil lies hidden inside your heart. It means you have your whole, unbiased picture.

If you want to grow self-confidence, you need to know yourself. Being ignorant of your good qualities can make you insecure in using them, and you can end up wasting the talents that Allah gifted you. Being unaware of your evil potentials, and your limits to doing good, can make you over-confident and arrogant.

The Prophets displayed a clear knowledge of themselves. They knew their own potentials and limits. This enabled them to snatch opportunities of using their talents, and also saved them from overreaching their limits.

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Let’s see two examples of this.

Self-Confidence of Prophet Joseph (peace be upon him)

What would happen to your self-confidence if you were confined in a dungeon for years and years, neglected, forgotten by relatives and friends?

Prophet Joseph was exactly in that state. He had been thrown into prison unjustly. After many years, his innocence was proven. He was brought in front of the king of Egypt.

The king was already quite impressed by him for two reasons: for his skills in dream interpretation and for his refusal to come out of prison until his innocence was proven. Now the king tells him:

Indeed, you are today established [in position] and trusted. (Quran 12:54)

Now comes the proof of the prophet’s confidence. First let’s keep in mind that before he was a prisoner, he used to be a slave. And slavery is the lowest position a person can be in. On top of that, he was a foreigner, a non-Egyptian.

Imagine the king in his courtly glamour receiving the former prisoner-slave foreigner. And that former prisoner-slave foreigner says directly to the king without any hesitation:

Appoint me over the storehouses of the land. Indeed, I am hafidh and alim. (12:55)

Appointment over the storehouses of the land essentially means becoming the state treasurer. That’s a very high position even in prosperous times.

But imagine having that powerful post during an impending famine. You have the ultimate financial control over a poverty-stricken nation. It’s a position of great power, and of great responsibility.

Moreover, this is the first time he was meeting the king, although he was known by description.

Despite all these discouraging factors, Prophet Joseph (peace be upon him) asked the king this job, because he had to. He knew that he could save an entire nation from dying of lack of food, and he knew that Allah had chosen him to do it. And since Allah had given him the responsibility, he knew that he must have the power to fulfill it.

Applying this to our own lives:

What responsibilities has Allah given us? What qualities and talents were we gifted with? Are we using our talents to fulfill our responsibilities? Or are we being held back by our lack of tawakkul and self-confidence?

Self-confidence of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him)

He had fled from his country because Pharaoh had issued an arrest order against him on the charge of murder. That was ten years ago. Now he was on his way back, and he saw a distant fire. He went there and found his Lord. He couldn’t see Him but could hear Him.

His Lord gave him a command that you’d think was more than impossible for him to do –go back and call Pharaoh to Islam. Pharaoh was the very man who had issued his arrest orders. On top of that, there were several other impeding factors:

  1. Moses was indebted to Pharaoh for raising him from a little baby.
  2. He had speech difficulties.
  3. He belonged to a nation that was enslaved by the Egyptians at the time, and thus he was from the lowest social stratum.

But Moses (peace be upon him) wasn’t deterred by any of these factors. He was confident that, since God had given him the responsibility, he definitely had the capabilities to fulfill it. Instead, he made some dua, asking for some specific things that would help him overcome his constraints.

First of all, he asked for self-confidence:

My Lord, expand for me my breast [with assurance] and ease for me my task.

Then he made dua for relieving his speech difficulties:

And untie the knot from my tongue, that they may understand my speech.

Then he asked for his brother as his assistant:

And appoint for me a minister from my family – Aaron, my brother. Increase through him my strength. And let him share my task. (20:25-32)
And my brother Aaron is more fluent than me in tongue, so send him with me as support, verifying me. Indeed, I fear that they will deny me. (28:34)

Applying this to our own lives:

When we are faced with a responsibility that seems to be impossible for us to fulfill, remember this incident in the life of Moses. Remember that God gave you this responsibility because He knows you can do it, even if you yourself may not realize it yet. Think about the shortcomings that might impede you, and make dua for tools to overcome them.