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Love Yourself … in Moderation

My small son fell ill for some time.

Once when I inquired after him, I was told: “He hit his younger brother.” I knew he was fine.

A woman spoke about her beauty and how others admired her in spite of the fact that she had had a number of children.

She complained that she never attended any public function without being propositioned, since she looked like she was a single woman much younger than her actual age.


Self-love is human nature. This is why Prophet Muhammad said:

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None of you believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim, 13)

The Prophet once said to Abu Dharr:

I truly love for you what I love for myself. (Muslim, 1826)

It is profound that he said this in the following context:

“Abu Dharr, I see that you are weak, and I truly love for you what I love for myself. Therefore, never become a leader, not even over two persons, and never manage the property of an orphan.”

Self-love compels many people to seek positions of leadership, wealth, and power. Rightly channeled, it can lead to good works, an upright reputation, and a wholesome livelihood. It can keep us from falling into shameful and destructive behaviors, and make us conduct ourselves in a way that will lead to our salvation in the Hereafter.

True self-love means to choose the right path for our well-being. It means to have the self-respect to shun base and ignoble conduct, no matter what the cost. It means to engage with the “self” as if it were another person whom we have to guide with wisdom. We congratulate it on its successes and point out to it its shortcomings.

Allah says:

And I swear by the self and by Him who proportioned it, and inspired it with the discernment of what is wrong and right for it. He is indeed successful who purifies it, and he is indeed a failure who corrupts it. (91: 7-10)

Thousands of our habits and thought processes are a result of our instinctive love of self. Those habits help to keep us from harm. We naturally fear for our lives, love what is pleasant for us and hate what is harmful.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self actualization is the pinnacle of human needs. People commit injustices when they tip the balance in favor of their baser interests. Allah says:

Indeed he was unjust and ignorant. (33: 72)

A Reflection in the Mirror

Narcissus saw his reflection in a pool of water and fell in love with what he saw. He was unable to love anyone else. He never married, since no one else could ever measure up to him. From this Greek myth we get the term narcissism and its associated psychological complex, the narcissistic personality disorder.More men suffer from this disorder than women. This is possibly because men are afforded more opportunities in society to achieve, and it may be due to the emotional makeup of women, in that they are more predisposed to loving others and are more willing to make sacrifices for the sake of their loved ones.

A man spent many years searching for the perfect woman. One day he found her, but he still did not get married. Someone asked him why and he said:

“Yes, I found the perfect woman, but she was also looking for the perfect man!”

Some aspects of narcissism are not bad, since they stem from the natural instinct of human beings to love themselves. All the same, a study conducted in 2013 revealed that narcissism is one of the five most prevalent disorders affecting people.

I had a secondary school teacher who was extremely well-read. He used to boast to us:

“I can answer any question you might have.”

After successfully answering a question, he would add:

“The man who stands before you is no ordinary man.”

One day, a student asked him:

“What is the narcissistic personality disorder?”

He replied: “What is this? I have never heard of this before in my life!”

About Salman al-Ouda
Muslim scholar. Al-Ouda is a member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars and on its Board of Trustees. He is a director of the Arabic edition of the website Islam Today and appears on a number of TV shows and authors newspaper articles.