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Be Humble: It’s a Sunnah

The essence of being Muslim is being humble.

The word “Muslim” itself means to submit oneself in ultimate humbleness to Allah.

But it is a great irony of the human soul that when we become more humble and submissive to Allah, we fall into a grave trap. We tend to grow in arrogance because we feel our level of submission is better than that of others.

It was this same trap that Satan fell into. Once upon a time, Iblis (Satan) was so pious that he was allowed to worship with the angels. In one twist of events, Iblis was cast out and became the accursed.

His Offense?

Arrogance, Pride, Boastfulness.

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He refused to bow to Allah’s creation of man because he thought himself to be better than man.

(Remember) when your Lord said to the angels: ‘Truly I am going to create man from clay. So when I have fashioned him and breathed into him (his) soul created by Me, then you fall down prostrate to him…

(Allah) said: ‘O Iblis! What prevents you from prostrating yourself to one whom I have created with both my hands? Are you too proud (to fall prostrate to Adam) or are you one of the high exalted?’

(Iblis) said “I am better than he. You created me from fire, and You created him from clay. (Quran 38: 7176)

It is true that we, mankind and Iblis and his kind, were created differently. And it was this difference that caused Iblis to be proud, to hate mankind and become cursed by Allah. We can see this same arrogance and haughtiness played out every day in the hearts of mankind.

Whether we perceive ourselves to be more pious, more intelligent, better at making money, or just from a better race of people, we too often get caught in the trap of thinking we are better. And we end up hating those who are different from us out of arrogance.

Allah says:

And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth.  Verily, God likes not each arrogant boaster. (Quran 31:18)

Allah has created all of us differently with an array of strengths and weaknesses.

So, how can we avoid becoming arrogant toward others as Satan is toward us?

How can we truly be humble?

The best example is that of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). After all he was truly the best of creation and the most humble.

The Prophet’s Humility with the Less Fortunate

“A woman who was afflicted with partial derangement in her mind said:

“O Messenger of Allah, I want something from you.”

He said:

‘see on which side of the road you would like (to stand and talk) so that I may help you.’ He then stood aside with her on the roadside until she got what she needed.” (Muslim)

In this short hadith, we will find many examples of the humility of the Prophet.

If he wanted to, the Prophet could have stood in the road and spoken to the woman. And he would have been praised for it. But he did not think himself so important to block the road even while doing a good deed.

In addition, Prophet Muhammad does not admonish this woman for approaching him in such a coarse way. Nor does he turn his nose up at her because she is disturbed. He instead treats her with kindness and provides her with what she needs.

Prophet Muhammad knew that no one is more important than another. He also knew that if Allah had willed, he would be in the same mental state as the woman.

The Prophet Muhammad’s Humility at Home

When Aishah was asked about what the Prophet would do in his house, and she said:

“He would serve his family and when the time for prayer came he would go out and pray.” (Bukhari)

As a husband and father, Prophet Muhammad was kind, helpful and humble. The Prophet didn’t expect to be waited on. He did not shout orders at those in his care. Never did he say that his work was outside the home. Wherever there was work, he would pitch in.

Prophet Muhammad understood that the higher your rank the more of a servant you become. And if Allah had willed, Allah would have made him a slave to man.

The Prophet’s Humility with the Poor

“Once, I was walking with the Messenger of God while he was wearing a Yemeni cloak with a collar with rough edges. A Bedouin grabbed him strongly. I looked at the side of his neck and saw that the edge of the cloak left a mark on his neck.

The Bedouin said:

“O Muhammad! Give me [some] of the wealth of God that you have.”

The Messenger of God turned to the Bedouin, smiled and ordered that he be given [some money].” (Bukhari)

Again in this hadith, we see the stellar manners and humility of the Prophet Muhammad shine.

In the face of rudeness, we find that the Prophet doesn’t allow his ego to be wounded. He does not feel the need to exert dominance or even return the harsh treatment. He is not insulted in the least. He laughs at the situation, relieving the tension.

Then even after being treated rudely, The Prophet (peace be upon him) doesn’t send the Bedouin away or abuse him because of his lower economic status. The Prophet treats the poor Bedouin with mercy and sees that the man gets what he needs.

The Prophet Muhammad knew that whatever wealth we have comes from Allah. If Allah had willed, he would have been in the Bedouin’s situation.

The Prophet’s Humility with the Less Pious

A companion of the Prophet named Nu’ayman was addicted to alcohol and continued to drink it despite knowing the ruling against intoxicants. Nu’ayman struggled with his addiction and was flogged twice for being drunk.

Upon the second flogging, Umar who was angered by Nu’ayman’s behavior quipped:

“May God’s curse be on him.”

The Prophet, upon hearing this, was quick to intervene:

“No, no, don’t do (such a thing). Indeed he loves God and His Apostle. The major sin (as this) does not put one outside the community and the mercy of God is close to the believers.” (Al-Bukhari)

The Prophet was not too proud to associate with this man who committed major sin. He did not isolate this man because of his faults. Nor was he too proud to defend Nu’ayman from Umar’s insult.

The Prophet Muhammad knew that Allah created us with weakness and that driving those who sin out of Islam would leave the Ummah empty.

We need to protect ourselves from thinking we are better than others, as Iblis believed he was better than us. We must understand that the foundation of humility is knowing that if we are elevated in status it is only because of Allah. We can be brought to the level of those we look down on if Allah wills.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked Allah for humility by saying:

O Allah, make me live humbly and make me die humbly, and gather me among the humble on the day of resurrection. (At-Tirmidhi)

It is this tradition that we need to cling to so that we can also be gathered on the day of resurrection with the humble, with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

(From Discovering Islam’s archive)

About Theresa Corbin
Theresa Corbin is the author of The Islamic, Adult Coloring Book and co-author of The New Muslim’s Field Guide. Corbin is a French-creole American and Muslimah who converted in 2001. She holds a BA in English Lit and is a writer, editor, and graphic artist who focuses on themes of conversion to Islam, Islamophobia, women's issues, and bridging gaps between peoples of different faiths and cultures. She is a regular contributor for and Al Jumuah magazine. Her work has also been featured on CNN and Washington Post, among other publications. Visit her blog, islamwich, where she discusses the intersection of culture and religion.