Examples of Arrogance in the Quran
The Leader of the Arrogant: Satan
Satan' s arrogance, on account of which he was dismissed from Allah' s mercy and grace, is related in the Qur' an as a lesson to mankind. As we said in the introduction to this book, Allah created Adam (as) and commanded the angels to prostrate themselves to him. They obeyed Allah' s command, with the exception of Iblis, one of the jinn. He claimed to be a creature superior to man, and haughtily disobeyed Allah. For this reason, he was dismissed from the sight of Allah. The reason of Iblis' defiance toward Allah is related in the Qur' an as follows:
He (Allah) said, "What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you to?" He (Iblis) replied, "I am better than him. You created me from fire and You created him from clay." (Surat al-A' raf, 12)
Claiming to be a superior being, Iblis refused to prostrate to a human being. However, the grounds for this claim are invalid. He argued that he was created from fire, while man is created from clay, claiming that fire is superior to clay. In other words, the only basis for his arrogance is simply the difference between the physical make-up of these two substances. However, regardless of their nature,-whether clay or fire-both Iblis and man are beings created by Allah. Disobedience to one' s Creator, on account of such an argument is entirely senseless and the mark of great ingratitude.
Furthermore, an examination into the basis of Iblis' claim would clearly reveal the erroneous nature of his assumption. Fire may well be brighter and more dazzling to the eye. All the same, clay is abundant in minerals and other substances. It abounds with all forms of precious materials and gems. Unless Allah wills, soil does not decay or disintegrate easily. But, this does not hold true for fire; it can be put out instantly. In addition, earth holds another superior quality over fire; it extinguishes it. In any case, whatever the reason may be, no one should ever dare to question Allah' s command. Yet, the overwhelming arrogance of Iblis hindered him from employing his wisdom and grasping the might of Allah, the Creator of all beings. Thus, he failed to measure Allah adequately. Consequently, an insignificant physical difference has proved sufficient grounds to mislead him. This delusion that arose from his arrogance led him to rebel against his own Creator, although he was in Allah' s presence, and was someone fully cognizant of the beauty of Paradise and the torment of Hell:
When We said to the angels, "Prostrate yourselves to Adam!" they prostrated, except for Iblis. He said "What! Am I to prostrate to one You have created out of clay?" (Surat al-Isra' , 61)
The last statement of Iblis in the verse above makes known the extent of his pride. Man' s exaltation by Allah and Iblis' demotion and furthermore, Allah' s demand from him-that he prostrate himself to man-revealed his overbearing pride, which had until then been concealed. The lack of conscientiousness fostered in him because of such a mindset led him to a failure in measuring Allah justly. As a result of this psychology of his, he behaved immorally and disrespectfully towards Allah (Surely Allah is beyond all that). In response to this behaviour, Allah says the following:
He (Allah) said, "Iblis, what prevented you prostrating to what I created with My own Hands? Were you overcome by arrogance or are you one of the exalted?" (Surah Sâd, 75)
Satan' s defiance and his attempt to exalt himself backfired. Allah degraded him and-as a lesson to those who follow his immoral path-drove him away from Paradise:
He (Allah) said, "Get out of it, reviled and driven out. As for those of them who follow you, I will fill up Hell with every one of you." (Surat al-A' raf, 18)
As these verses make clear, Satan' s greatest mistake was to arrive at erroneous conclusions and putting them into practice. This faulty reasoning is one of the fundamental characteristics of all who follow in the footsteps of Satan and become "devilishly arrogant." The detrimental effects of pride on a person are clearly demonstrated in the defiance of Satan, and those who followed him, to his Creator, the Almighty Allah. Maintaining a narrow outlook on things, evaluating everything from one' s own perspective, causes one to become deprived of insight. Such an outlook eventually makes a person apt to perceive and interpret things incorrectly.
Satan' s Provocation
Because of his unsound reasoning, Satan saw man as the main cause of his humiliation. Thus, he asked Allah for an amount of time to be able to mislead man, and thus, to take revenge upon him. His aim is to lead man away from the straight path, and by that, to make him rebellious towards Allah. It hurt his pride to see man exalted above him, and himself humbled. The story of Satan is related in the Qur' an as follows:
He (Allah) said, "What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you to?" He (Iblis) replied, "I am better than him. You created me from fire and You created him from clay." He (Allah) said, "Descend from Heaven. It is not for you to be arrogant in it. So get out! You are one of the abased." He (Iblis) said, "Grant me a reprieve until the day they are raised up." He (Allah) said, "You are one of the reprieved." He (Iblis) said, "By Your misguidance of me, I will lie in ambush for them on your straight path. Then I will come at them, from in front of them and behind them, from their right and from their left. You will not find most of them thankful." (Surat al-A' raf, 12-17)
In the aftermath of this pledge, Iblis initiated his struggle against man. Within the time granted to him, he would employ any means to prevent mankind from Allah' s way, and to make them follow him. As a matter of fact, the Qur' an informs us that many follow Satan, and thus, are reduced to the lowest of the low. Since that time, Iblis has misled many and made them side with him. Aside from man, he has also had many followers among the jinn. These jinn and people who follow Iblis maintain the same attribute as "Satan." ("Satan," derived from the Arabic word "shatana" which means "removed," is the attribute of every evildoer who is arrogant towards Allah, and therefore, is removed from His mercy and grace.) These jinns and men follow in the footsteps of Iblis, and make it their main goal to lead people astray, just as how they themselves have been misled by their own arrogance. The cause of these jinn and men are related in the Qur' an as follows:
In this way We have appointed as enemies to every Prophet satans from both mankind and from the jinn, who inspire each other with delusions by means of specious words-if your Lord had willed, they would not have done it, so abandon them and all they fabricate-so that the hearts of those who do not believe in the hereafter incline towards them and are pleased with them and perpetrate whatever they perpetrate. (Surat al-An' am, 112-113)
The arrogance of Satan is the major sign of those who are misled by him and who exhibit similarity to him. Arrogance is like the seal or signature of Satan, with which he stamps whoever adheres to him. As we have discussed, this disease of Satan, who was driven out by Allah due to his arrogance, poses a mortal danger to mankind. That is because, Satan, for the purpose of drawing man nearer to him, and making him a devoted follower, strives primarily to infect people with arrogance. A person seized by the disease of arrogance loses his conscientiousness and wisdom. Arrogance hardens the heart. This is why, contrary to the wiles of Satan, believers are encouraged to be modest:
... Your Allah is One God so submit to Him. Give good news to the humble-hearted. (Surat al-Hajj, 34)
The effects of Satan' s influence may appear in various forms. As is known, rather than employing what Allah has granted him to draw nearer to Him, and feeling grateful to Him, Satan became pretentious. Failing to consider that Allah could reduce him to insignificance whenever He wills, He revolted against Allah' s command. Indeed, the adherents of Satan show forth this quality of his in many ways. For instance, though a person might render some service to Allah, he should consider this service as an opportunity granted by his Lord to earn His good pleasure. Otherwise, believing that one can attain success by one' s own efforts, without having been under Allah' s ordinance, and being boastful thereof, would be errant. Because, attributing that success to one' s own abilities, and being proud is a characteristic peculiar to Satan. Indeed, Qarun, who believed that his wealth was an outcome of his qualities, and thus, boasted, "…I have only been given it because of knowledge I have…" (Surat al-Qasas: 78), is an important example of one who was severely punished by Allah for his evildoing.
One must remember that Satan approaches man stealthily, avoiding notice. He is in no hurry. With repetition and persistence, he can gradually deceive people, a method that proves successful over the long term. If one fails to be on the alert against this stealthy method of Satan, its effect strengthens in time. For instance, if a person would enjoy some minor success, Satan would jump on the opportunity to tempt him. The insinuations made by Satan into the mind of that person would probably not include discernable expressions of arrogance. Such a person would, for instance, not openly say, "It is I alone who have accomplished this task." Satan employs a more deceptive strategy; he penetrates deeply into one' s heart, but gradually. If a person fails to recognise that his success belongs to no one but Allah alone, he, in time, starts to believe in his own abilities and think that he possesses power independent of Allah.
If this sentiment turns into a permanent state of mind, conceit becomes one of his character traits. Such a person is a law unto himself; he does what he considers right, and sees himself better and wiser than anyone else. The inner-voice that insinuates feelings of superiority in him becomes louder. A person infected in such a way suffers from detrimental spiritual afflictions. In time, his heart grows insensitive to Allah' s signs. Indeed, the Qur' an reveals that only those who are not vain can truly believe in Allah' s signs:
The people who truly believe in Our Signs are those who fall to the ground prostrating when they are reminded of them, and glorify their Lord with praise, and are not arrogant. (Surat as-Sajda,15)
The End of Those who Follow Satan
Satan exercises particular influence on conceited people. Those who are devoid of the faith and the wisdom to comprehend Allah' s power-those who constitute "the majority of the people," as referred to in the Qur' an-follow Satan' s path, joining the horde of his followers. One verse reads:
Satan has gained mastery over them and made them forget the remembrance of Allah. Such people are the party of Satan. No indeed! It is the party of Satan who are the losers. (Surat al-Mujadala, 19)
In the hereafter, those who side with Satan will no doubt be the most humiliated. They will be sent to Hell; furthermore, Satan will abandon them. At that moment they will realise that Satan made them only hollow promises, and that his words were merely deceptive. Yet, it will be too late; the Hellfire will already be awaiting them, making the promise of Satan:
When the affair is decided Satan will say, "Allah made you a promise, a promise of truth, and I made you a promise but broke my promise. I had no authority over you, except that I called you and you responded to me. Do not, therefore, blame me but blame yourselves. I cannot come to your aid nor you to mine. I reject the way you associated me with Allah before." The wrongdoers will have a painful punishment.(Surah Ibrahim, 22)