Another form of arrogance, or considering oneself superior, is what we call the hidden arrogance. Generally, the attitudes of people with hidden arrogance vary greatly from that of the arrogant. The most significant difference between the two is that an arrogant person can be readily recognised from his outward appearance, whereas it is difficult for someone with hidden arrogance.
Arrogant people commonly reveal their arrogance by boasting openly. Yet, the other group of arrogant people conceal their arrogance. These people pay special attention to masking this reprehensible quality. Therefore, the question is: Why do they need to hide their arrogance? Why do they put such effort?
There are various reasons for this. These people, who are more intelligent than arrogant people, are, in actuality, very well aware of what is right and wrong. For this reason, they can sense that arrogant manners are liable to produce undesirable effects in others and upset them. Since they attach too much importance to the opinions of others, they prefer to hide their arrogance, and thereby, not lose their approval. They are well aware that being modest is recognised as a virtue and thus they pretend to be so.
These people believe that they are the "most intelligent" and "the most upright." They deify themselves. Making a mistake or appearing incompetent hurts their pride. This being the case, they strive to maintain a perfect image in the eyes of people. That is why they do not want to be known as arrogant and feel ashamed if they sense that people have formed such an opinion about them. They fear losing the approval of others rather than fearing Allah and seeking His good pleasure alone.
One thing they enjoy is secretly mocking others. This is one way to satisfy their lower desires. Yet, they also pay meticulous attention not to make others notice this wickedness of theirs.
Their method of concealing their arrogance is quite devious; primarily, they try to put forth themselves as ideal people. It is essential for them to be known as "virtuous," being the reason why they aim to present themselves as "perfect" and "innocent." Earning the adulation and approval of others, to be admired by them, and thus, assuaging their arrogance becomes their main pursuit.
The arrogant boast continually, trying to bring attention with their qualities. People with hidden arrogance, however, avoid such overt attempts. Their schemes are more subtle, or more precisely, more wicked. They tend to create the appropriate conditions that will lead others to praise them.
Such a type of arrogance is dangerous; it is something like an iceberg. (About 90 percent of its mass is below the surface of the water.) It is easy to avoid people who are arrogant, in common sense of the word, since they are easily recognised. But, it is otherwise with those who conceal their arrogance. Their arrogance becomes obvious only in time, making it more difficult to admonish to them or to explain to them the situation they are in.
In general, this state of mind makes itself known after one has assumed a position of authority or responsibility; that is, by these circumstances, their hidden disease is accentuated. They attribute this responsibility to their superior features; and, it is quite difficult to persuade them otherwise. And, should they succeed at their task, they become excessively proud about it.
There are many other situations that cause this hidden arrogance to surface. For instance, upon losing his position of prestige, a person who appears modest outwardly may adopt an attitude otherwise unexpected of him; he may become introverted, diffident, and surly. This behaviour is telling marks of arrogance. A modest person' s temperament never changes, no matter what happens to him. Such a person knows that there is good in whatever happens, and strives to earn the good pleasure of Allah no matter what the circumstances. As for an attitude to the contrary, however, it becomes obvious that the person in question attaches undue importance to prestige and status, thereby revealing his arrogance.
A modest person, on the other hand, is one purified of all such manners. He is self-satisfied and at ease. Yet, it also deserves mention that over-exaggerated modesty is also an important form of arrogance. Because, where modesty is valued, a person who nurtures hidden arrogance strives to earn the approval and appreciation of others by pretending to be modest.
As we said earlier, hidden arrogance is dangerous, since it manifests itself in ways we do not expect. And, being confronted with a person' s hidden personality can be quite shocking. For instance, when faced with failure or criticism, a person who is not known to be arrogant may lose his temper and conduct himself quite unseemly. That is because, the idea of others being aware of his failure deeply hurts his pride. It may well be that his arrogance had never surfaced only because his wishes or expectations had never been challenged. However, believing that he has lost all his prestige in the eyes of people, now he has no qualms about revealing his arrogance and wickedness, which had till then been hidden.
Hidden arrogance may also appear in the form of acts of immorality. A person may lie in order to conceal his own imperfection, or he may try to make others' failures known to others in order to make himself appear better. Should a flaw of his be noticed, he would try to avoid all possible reactions, and defend his base nature. For this end, he resorts to evil methods, such as weeping or making others pity him.
The arrogant express their discontent through silent protest; they give the cold shoulder, overreact, or become ill-tempered. Therefore, one who encounters such clear signs will easily be able to diagnose arrogance. In the case of hidden arrogance, however, almost all of these signs are not recognisable. Such people, by all appearances, are cheerful, and of normal vitality. Normally, their behaviour doesn' t betray a hint of deviousness. Even, in some cases, they pose modesty so successfully that they are able to fool others. However, these people have one distinguishing trait; an excessively high opinion of themselves. They somehow believe they are "the best" in either their profession, at school, in their surroundings. And, this notion has even penetrated to their subconscious. As we said earlier, when they receive an undesired reaction, their real character surfaces; abruptly, they become belligerent. Falsely believing that they have been subjected to unfair treatment, they suffer an unhealthy mental state. This tendency is indicative of a weakness in them. Essentially, when they encounter something undesirable, their arrogance become evident and they begin to suffer a kind of "insanity."
Those who conceal their arrogance and claim purity for themselves may for a while manage to hide their pride from others, but Allah surely knows and makes known what is concealed in their hearts. One verse reads:
There is no doubt that Allah knows what they keep secret and what they make public. He does not love people puffed up with pride. (Surat an-Nahl, 23)
The most significant characteristic common to both groups-that is, those who are arrogant and those with hidden arrogance-is the inevitable end they will meet: Hell. The Qur' an informs us about the end of those who are arrogant, whether overtly or deceitfully, and who are too proud to worship Allah. One of these verses is as follows:
Enter the gates of Hell, remaining in it timelessly, for ever. How evil is the abode of the arrogant! (Surat an-Nahl, 29)