Would an Arrogant Person Still be able to Live by the Values of Religion?
It is obvious that a person cannot harbour arrogance and, at the same time, perform that which is entailed by the morality commanded in the Qur' an. That is because, the most fundamental principle of Allah' s religion is to acknowledge Allah' s might and to take only Him as a god. An arrogant person, however, considers himself as a being apart and independent of Allah, and seeks to satisfy his own whims and desires. Failing to grasp that he is a servant of Allah, he glorifies himself with what Allah has granted him and becomes arrogant. In other words, he deifies himself. That is why arrogance hinders one from living by the principles of the religion and leads him to commit a form of idolatry.
Deifying himself, an arrogant person contradicts the very basic principle of the true religion; that there is no god but Him. Consequently, such a mindset prevents the arrogant from living according to the morality of the religion. Not surprisingly, the arrogant commonly have no intention of living by the religion, except for a certain group of people, which will be described in the following pages. Many verses in the Qur' an describe the resistance of the arrogant against the morality of the religion and their rejection of it: When they were told, "There is no god but Allah," they were arrogant. They said, "Are we to forsake our gods for a mad poet?" (Surat as-Saffat: 35-36) As the verse above mentions, their desire to be superior hinders them from acknowledging Allah and His messengers. Indeed, the arrogance of the disbelievers may attain such an extent that they even dare open hostility towards Allah. The Qur' an informs us about the mindset assumed by these people when they are summoned to bring Allah to mind:
... When you mention your Lord alone in the Qur' an, they turn their backs and run away. (Surat al-Isra' , 46)
The commands of the religion are designed to instil man with a morality that enables him to be grateful to his Lord, to draw him nearer to Him, and to earn His good pleasure. Considered in this manner, arrogance is a character-trait opposed to the very essence of the religion of Islam. It is a quality displeasing to Allah:
Do not avert your face from people out of haughtiness and do not strut about arrogantly on the earth. Allah does not love anyone who is vain or boastful. (Surah Luqman, 18)
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)
Therefore, seeking to live by the values of the religion-the main purpose of which is earning the good pleasure of Allah-while compromising it with arrogance would be impossible and an obvious contradiction.
The morality of religion calls for modesty and submission to Allah. An arrogant person, however, lacks the virtue of a believer, and thus, fails to attain any depth of faith.
An important sign of modesty is one' s obedience to Allah and His messenger. The fact that an arrogant person cannot show wholehearted obedience in that way, once again, reveals that religion and arrogance are incompatible. The arrogant do not allow any to exercise authority over them. According to them, they are the ones who are the most capable and the best to take decisions. Because they are so sure of themselves, they do not even consider the possibility of the existence of someone else who may know better.
As is known, the hidden arrogance of Satan finally made itself known when he was ordered to show obedience. Because of his arrogance, he desisted and thus became one of the disbelievers. In the Qur' an, Allah places particular emphasis on obedience and gives a detailed account of the sort of obedience a believer must adopt. As Allah defines in the Qur' an, obedience is a very important issue that calls for wholehearted submission and compliance. A person' s outward compliance with the messenger' s decision should also be accompanied with wholehearted submission:
No, by your Lord, they are not believers until they make you their judge in the disputes that break out between them, and then find no resistance within themselves to what you decide and submit themselves completely. (Surat an-Nisa' , 65)
As said earlier, an important sign of the arrogant is their rejection of Allah' s messengers. They struggled against these messengers, since the thought of obeying a person who is virtuous only by his moral excellence, wisdom and faith, and who was sent as a leader to every member of that society, hurt their pride. However, disobedience of the messengers is disobedience of Allah. And, disobedience of Allah, ultimately, brings about a lapse in the practise of religion in a society. It has been revealed in many verses that obedience of the messenger is, in fact, obedience of Allah. A verse reads as follows:
Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah. If anyone turns away, we did not send you to them as their keeper. (Surat an-Nisa' , 80)
As made explicit in this and similar verses, obedience is analogous to a fortress that shuts out the arrogant from the realm of religion. Only modesty, submission and humility can open the gates of this castle.
In addition, arrogance is a disease that dulls all moral qualities and hardens one' s heart. That is, apart from being a distasteful quality, the other character traits caused by arrogance wholly contradict the moral excellence commanded by the Qur' an. A believer is generous, self-sacrificing, patient, compassionate, committed, loyal and tolerant. An arrogant person, however, can never master these superior moral qualities in their true sense. He is stingy, selfish, impatient, inconsiderate and unjust. Surely, his character prevents him from properly fulfilling the commands of religion. Indeed, the primary purpose of the morality of religion is to help man to attain the moral excellence with which Allah is pleased.
What Happens If An Arrogant Person Claims That He Lives by the Morality of Religion?
Throughout this book, we have stressed that an arrogant person cannot be sincere about living by the principles of religion, and that the character of an arrogant person is entirely incompatible with the model of faith described in the Qur' an. Yet, there are some who claim otherwise; that is, there are certain "hypocrites" who harbour excessive arrogance in themselves, although they maintain that they live by the morality of Islam.
This has not been an uncommon assertion in the history of Islam. In the Qur' an, Allah informs us that such people have existed throughout history, including the time of the Prophet Muhammad (saas). The Qur' an offers a detailed account of the basic character traits of hypocrites, to make known the true face of these people, and thereby, to protect believers from their ploys.
In the Qur' an, Allah tells about a group of people among the believers who maintained that they believed, although, in actuality, they did not. These possessed all the character traits peculiar to the arrogant, like disobedience and disloyalty. These people were the hypocrites. For their personal reasons, hypocrites remain within the company of the believers, but hide their disbelief. However, they can be readily discerned by their manners and attitude that greatly differ from that of believers. The Qur' an outlines the attitude, behaviour, and language typical of hypocrites. In this way, it becomes quite easy for believers to distinguish who are the hypocrites.
The main reason why we should now consider the hypocrites is that this group, distinguished by their arrogance and conceit, provide an example of the fact that the arrogant are unable to even pretend to live by the principles of the religion. Indeed, the hypocrites fail to comply with many commands revealed in the Qur' an, obedience and respect to the messenger being the foremost of them. Outwardly, they fulfil many acts of worship, yet, they perform them reluctantly, thus revealing their inner motives.
In the following pages, in light of the verses of the Qur' an, we will examine the reasons why the arrogant cannot live by the principles of the religion, and what sort of inconsistencies appear when they attempt to.
The Arrogant Cannot Measure Allah According to His True Measure
In the previous sections, we stressed that arrogance is a character trait peculiar to Satan. Satan, who is, in actuality, a being that is quite capable of appreciating the infinite might of Allah, has entirely abandoned his reason, and thus, has adopted a totally unfounded line of reasoning. For this reason, he dared to rebel against Allah. In the same manner, the arrogant suffer from a lack of understanding. This fault is most obvious in the case of hypocrites, because, they are also known particularly for their arrogance. This trait clearly manifests itself in their failure to measure Allah with due measure. Allah relates this in a verse as follows:
Each time a sura is sent down, they look at one another, implying, "Can anyone see you?" Then they turn away. Allah has turned their hearts away because they are people who do not understand. (Surat at-Tawba, 127)
As the verse also makes clear, hypocrites, who are known for their arrogance, fail to understand that Allah sees, hears and witnesses everything. Indeed, that they can even think they can deceive Allah (Surely Allah is beyond that) reveals the extent of their ineptitude. The following verse stresses this point:
Among the people there are some who say, "We believe in Allah and the Last Day," when they are not believers. They think they deceive Allah and those who believe. They deceive no one but themselves but they are not aware of it. (Surat al-Baqara, 8-9)
Hypocrites Cannot Be Obedient or Respectful
Modesty entails respect, while arrogance entails derision. The arrogant are incapable of showing respect to others. This becomes even more difficult for them in the case of obedience to a messenger. They take pleasure only in derision, impudence and arrogance. Since arrogant people deem their opinions superior to others, they do not recognise the good in the teachings of the messengers or willingly submit to them. However, Allah refers to wholehearted obedience as one of the most necessary conditions for Islam, and in His book revealed this apparent lack of obedience of the hypocrites:
When they are summoned to Allah and His Messenger, so that he can judge between them, a group of them immediately turn away. But if right is on their side, they come to him most submissively! Is there a sickness in their hearts or do they have misgivings or do they fear that Allah and His Messenger will be unjust to them? No, it is simply that they are wrongdoers. (Surat an-Nur, 48-50)
Hypocrites Cannot Keep Their Minds Occupied With the Remembrance of Allah
One of the most telling traits of those who have become arrogant is their failure to keep their minds occupied with the remembrance of Allah. That is because, praising Allah, exalting Him, and appreciating His might, makes a person recognise his own weaknesses and conceive his position as a servant before Allah. However, this is what most hurts the pride of the arrogant. They deliberately avoid bringing Allah to mind, which makes them vulnerable to Satan' s temptations:
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)
Hypocrites Cannot Listen to the Qur' an
These people, infected with Pharaonic arrogance, are also not disposed to listening to Allah' s Book. Every verse in the Qur' an is a warning and admonition reminding them of their subjection and weakness. However, because of their arrogance, they cannot bear hearing about their weaknesses, nor can they accept admonition:
Those whose eyes were blind to My remembrance and whose ears were unable to hear. (Surat al-Kahf, 101)
Hypocrites Cannot Be Loyal
The religion entails loyalty and devotion. However, because hypocrites only pursue their personal desires and seek prestige, they follow the dictates of their own interests. It is senseless to expect loyalty and devotion from an arrogant person, since he is only loyal to himself:
... Far better for them would be obedience [to Allah' s call] and a word that could win [His] approval: for, since the matter has been resolved [by His revelation], it would be but for their own good to remain true to Allah. (Surah Muhammad, 21)
They Are Not Forbearing Through Difficulties
The commands of the religion are very easy to fulfill, and even enjoyable, for those who submit themselves only to Allah, put trust in Him, and prefer the abode of the hereafter to the life of this world. However, some tasks required by the religion are not in conformity with the interests of the hypocrites, who seek only worldly benefits from it. Thus, by resorting to various forms of deceit, they avoid fulfilling the commands of the Qur' an that demand forbearance, sacrifice and steadfastness:
If it had been a case of easy gains and a short journey, they would have followed you, but the distance was too great for them. They will swear by Allah: "Had we been able to, we would have gone out with you." They are destroying their own selves. Allah knows that they are lying. (Surat at-Tawba, 42)
Hypocrites Cannot Spend Willingly for the Cause of Allah
Spending one' s wealth in the cause of Allah, without expectation of anything in return, is another thing the arrogant cannot bear. However, in order not to attract attention from the believers, they do so only reluctantly:
Nothing prevents what they give from being accepted from them but the fact that they have rejected Allah and His Messenger, and that they only come to salat lethargically, and that they only give reluctantly. (Surat at-Tawba, 54)
The same verse also makes clear that they also attend prayer without earnestness.
In this section, we explained that it is difficult, and even impossible, for arrogant people to live by the principles of religion. We said that those who are arrogant and feel proud cannot even imitate a devout person. Even those who are talented may be able to imitate the character traits of a believer for a certain period of time, but their true character will eventually show forth when they feel their interests are at stake.
The sincere modesty and humility of a person is a sign of his devotion. Similarly, the arrogance of a person who claims he is a believer indicates his hypocrisy, or at least his inclination to hypocrisy.
To conclude, an arrogant person can never live by the principles of the religion in its true sense. Even if he were to memorize the entire book of Allah, it would not matter. On the contrary, he is held even more responsible since he does not practise the commands of which he is aware. Ultimately, he belittles himself to the point where he lives the religion as a hypocrite. To be a sincere Muslim, he must first quit idolizing his lower-self, and abandon pride and arrogance. That is, he must become conscious of his weaknesses and status as servant of Allah. The pure religious outlook can only be grounded on such a foundation.