When I first started practicing Islam more properly, I realized that a dangerous pitfall was arrogance. This was first noticeable to me due to observation. It’s not pleasant, seeing someone who is religious and then realizing that they look down on others because of it.
It also made me take a good, hard look at myself and think about whether I’m in the same boat. And this was a little scary, because I found it was not easy to do. It’s tough, trying to evaluate yourself and find flaws. Some part of me—my nafs, maybe—was saying, “There’s no need! You’re fine!” These could have also been the whispers of Satan.
So why did I continue? Why bother fighting these appealing thoughts that were telling me to just keep going as I am, rather than searching for arrogance? It was coming across this hadith that convinced me of the gravity of this sin:
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
No one who has the weight of a seed of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise.
“But a man loves to have beautiful clothes and shoes.”
The Prophet said:
Verily, Allah is beautiful, and He loves beauty. Arrogance means rejecting the truth and looking down on people. (Sahih Muslim)
So, I realized that this is no laughing matter. Being humble is basically a requirement of our deen (religion). And what a beautiful religion this is… It brings out the best in us, if we allow it to.
To me, it all comes down to thinking about where we are getting the good things that we have, whether they be material things or strong faith. These are all blessings from Allah Almighty. If He so chooses, He could take them away from us. The fact that we are allowed to keep these blessings says a lot about the mercy of our Lord, and nothing about our status compared to others. Allah is the one who gives and guides.
Worship & Humility
Even our five pillars emphasize the importance of humility. Let’s take a closer look at each of them, to better understand what this means.
The first pillar of Islam is the shahadah (testimony of faith). We declare that we worship and obey none but Allah, and that we accept that Prophet Muhammad is His worshiper and final messenger.
To me, this is the greatest form of humility. It requires a person to set aside any arrogance they may have and humble themselves before God. To decide that they are giving up their will to do whatever they please and live only by Allah’s commands.
The second pillar is salah (the 5 daily prayers). Salah is essential in developing humility because once again, we are submitting ourselves to Allah five times a day, no matter what else is going on. Every Muslim in the world must pray five times a day, and they pray in the same fashion whether they are rich or poor. We bow down and even prostrate to Allah to show that in front of Him, we are nothing.
Next is zakah (obligatory alms). Zakah is required of all Muslims who can afford it. They give to the poor and do not even consider it to be charity, but rather, a right of the poor upon them.
This is another reminder that what we have is not truly ours—it’s a blessing from Allah, which must be uses in the way the He wants. He gave us our wealth and decreed that every eligible Muslim must give a portion of it away to those who need it. Of course, giving sadaqah (voluntary charity) is very rewarding in Islam, but zakat is a basic requirement.
The fourth pillar of Islam is fasting in Ramadan. Muslims around the world do what many would think is impossible: they fast from dawn to sunset, with no food or water for the majority of the hours of the day. Only a few groups of people are excluded from this obligation due to circumstances beyond their control, such as those who are ill, menstruating, or traveling.
Fasting in Ramadan is meant to help us gain more God-consciousness and self-restraint, but there is no doubt that it is also an exercise of humility. It helps us empathize with those who are not eating and drinking for much of the day, not as a religious duty, but because they simply have no other choice.
Lastly, there is hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah). Hajj is a beautiful phenomenon in which people of all colors and backgrounds gather at the holiest site on Earth to do nothing but worship and submit to Allah. They wear the same thing, a minimalist outfit which is basically just a couple of white pieces of fabric (for men) or a simple dress (for women). They all follow the same rituals and tire themselves in an effort to obey the command of Allah to go once during their lifetime (if able).
In my opinion, performing hajj is the pinnacle of humility and there is no room for arrogance in it.
These are just some ways that Islam helps us become humbler in our day-to-day lives. If the thought, “I’m better than so-and-so” ever comes to mind, we can turn back to the five pillars. Most importantly, we should remember that Allah is the ultimate Provider and He is truly the Greatest.