Modesty and Arrogance
Modesty is one of the most essential concepts of which we are repeatedly reminded in the Qur’an. Being modest and humble are signs of faith, while arrogance is a characteristic peculiar to disbelief.
If modesty is assumed to be akin to faith, and arrogance to disbelief, it is because faith leads man to understanding and wisdom, while disbelief hinders him from acquiring these virtues. Building a consciousness of Allah through wisdom, the individual who has faith in his heart never dares to conduct himself in an arrogant way. He readily concedes that Allah has control over everything and he, as a man, is only a servant being endowed with many favors. A man of understanding sees the power of Allah in everything and realizes his own weaknesses; Man is weak; he feels hungry, he is prone to diseases, suffers pain. He can never prevent himself from growing older. He did not create himself and likewise he cannot avoid death. With a body prone to weaknesses, he is destined to live for a certain period of time, then he is laid in his grave. Ultimately he will turn to his Creator. He has no reason whatsoever to display arrogance. Even if he thinks he has, the fact remains that everything he is, or has, is the gift of Allah. It is his duty to be grateful rather than display arrogance. acknowledgement of the Creator manifests itself in the way a person conducts himself. He is completely aware of his weakness in the eyes of Allah; yet he does not display this to others. On the contrary, he is known to others for his dignity, honour, modesty, self–confidence and maturity.
Lacking the brains to conceive of Allah, unbelievers remain in the grip of their own vain arrogance and pride. They perceive themselves as having separate identities independent of Allah. Personal plus points like intelligence, wealth, good looks, and renown become matters on which they praise themselves. They never understand that these are endowments made by Allah and can be withdrawn at any time. Another aspect of the unbeliever’s character is the inferiority complex. This is generally the consequence of not being able to attain a particular status, position or standard of living. Totally unaware of such key concepts as submission to Allah and putting one’s trust in Him, unbelievers can suffer from different kinds of complexes, mostly those of inferiority or superiority. Their state is defined in the Qur’an as follows:
Those who dispute about the signs of Allah, without having been invested with any authority, nothing in their breasts but the quest of greatness—which they shall never attain: Seek refuge, then, in Allah. It is He Who hears and sees all things. (Al-Ghafir, 56)
A man in this state finds everything insignificant except his own personal existence. In his eyes, everything is a means to satisfy his ego. He is constantly at pains to praise himself. He denies his failures and never admits that he is the kind of man who is likely to make mistakes. At some point, he develops an intense hatred for religion. That is basically due to the fact that religion teaches man the unique truth, that he is merely a servant of Allah whose existence is totally dependent on Him. Yet, wholly engulfed in self-esteem, he becomes totally blind to the truth shown by religion. In this negation of englightenment, he holds strictly to his own stance on life. The Qur’an refers such people as follows:
And they rejected those Signs in iniquity and arrogance, though their souls were convinced thereof: so see what was the end of those who acted corruptly! (Al-Naml, 14)
Kendi kibirleri içinde boğulmuş ve herşeyi kendi egoları için feda etmeye hazır olan bu insanlar, "yeryüzündeki bozgunculuğun" da gerçek sorumlularıdırlar. Allah ayetlerinde bu insanların durumunu şöyle tarif eder:
There is the type of man whose speech about this world’s life may dazzle you , and he calls Allah to bear witness to what is in his heart; yet is he the most contentious of enemies. No sooner does he leave you than he hastens is to spread mischief throughout the land and destroy crops and cattle. But Allah does not love mischief. When it is said to him, “Fear Allah”, he is led by arrogance to further crime. Enough for him is Hell, an evil bed indeed to lie on.(Al-Baqara, 204-206)
In another verse, the attitude of those who are arrogant is stated as follows:
He hears the signs of Allah rehearsed to him, yet is obstinate and lofty, as if he had not heard them: then announce to him a Grievous Penalty! (Al-Jathiya, 8)
Denying what is conceived of by the soul as true is due to sheer arrogance. this is the key to understanding the significance of pride for one’s eternal life. Displaying arrogance in this world, one chooses a life full of grief and sorrow, both in this world and the hereafter. That is why arrogance is the most bitter enemy of man.
The reason lying behind the straying and rebellion of satan is also arrogance. It is fundamentally the main reason for all types of wicked deeds. This fact is explained in the Qur’an in the story about the deviation of satan:
Behold, your Lord said to the angels: “I am about to create man from clay. When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him My spirit, fall down in obeisance to him.” So the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together: Not so Iblis: he was haughty, and became one of those who reject Faith.(Allah) said: “O Iblis! What prevents you from prostrating yourself to one whom I have created with my hands? Are you haughty? Or do you think he is beneath you?” (Iblis) said: “I am better than he: you created me from fire, and him you created from clay.” (Allah) said: “Then begone for you are rejected, accursed! “And My curse shall be remain on you till the Day of Judgement.” (Sad, 71-78)
The statements used by the satan in the verse are startling indeed; they reflect his ill-will and nasty temper. Satan was possessed by the groundless feeling that he was important and hence superior to Adam. He little acknowledged that it is only Allah who exalts, dignifies or degrades all who are created. Commanding the angels to prostrate themselves to Adam, Allah surely rendered Adam superior to all others. No creature of understanding dares to resist the command of Allah. Yet, satan dared and, as a result, was cursed for all eternity.
Satan sets an evil example for those who follow his path. Satan rebel against Allah, and also encourages others to rebel against Him. Hence, an evaluation of Satan based on the following verse will enlighten us about how man is led astray.
Allah said: “O Iblis! what is your reason for not being among those who prostrated themselves?” Iblis said: “I am not one to prostrate myself to man, whom you created from dry clay, from mud moulded into shape.” Allah said: “Begone from here; for you are rejected, accursed. “And the curse shall be on you till the day of Judgment.” Iblis said: “O my Lord! give me then respite till the Day the dead are raised.” Allah said: “Respite is granted to you till the Day of the Time appointed.” Iblis said: “O my Lord! because you have put me in the wrong, I will make wrong fair-seeming to them on the earth, and I will put them all in the wrong. (Al-Hijr, 32-39)
Satan wants others too to go astray. This is a type of psychological satisfaction which is also prevalent among human beings. Just like Satan, one who commits a crime also wants others do the same and be arrested. This is actually an expectation that gives relief to satan; the hope of sharing the crime and thus the penalty too. It is a consolation for those who reject faith and deny the existence of Allah to know that they are surrounded by people who have also gone astray. Sentiments like, “Everyone does it” and, “ If all these people go to hell, so shall I” are commonly expressed. The rationale behind these statements is the logic as explained above. Satan knows Allah, he is totally aware of His existence and also His power. However, driven by his own superiority complex, he expects special treatment and wants to enjoy certain privileges. That is why he goes astray, when he is commanded to prostrate himself to Adam. No less than satan, men too go astray: in the Qur’an it is described how unbelievers do acknowledge the existence of Allah, yet, believing themselves to possess some special features, they want to enjoy certain rights over others. What is more, many people who go astray, still consider themselves to be the “beloved servants of Allah.” In the Qur’an, this mentality is frequently emphasized:
Christians and Jews who say: “We are sons of Allah, and his beloved,” are responded to as follows: “Why then did He punish you for your sins? No, you are but men,- of the men He has created: He forgives whom He pleases, and He punishes whom He pleases : Allah has dominion over the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. All shall return to Him.(Al-Maeda, 18)
The feeling of being privileged and superior may manifest itself in various ways. Islam teaches man that he owes his existence to Allah and that he has nothing except what Allah has endowed him with. Denial of this fact is the main reason why the majority of people go astray. In the manners of satan saying: “I am created from flame,” being a member of a noble family, possessing a lot of money or having good looks make people feel superior. This ultimately becomes the reason of their unmittigated arrogance. The case of Qarun, one of Moses people, is a remarkable example, as is narrated in the following verses from Al-Qasas.
Qarun was doubtless of the people of Moses; but he acted insolently towards them: such were the treasures We had bestowed on him that their very keys would have been a burden to a body of strong men, behold, his people said to him: “Do not exult, for Allah does not love those who exult (in riches). But seek, by means of the wealth which Allah has bestowed on you, the home of the hereafter. Do not forget your share in this world: but do good, as Allah has been good to you, and do not seek occasions for mischief in the land: for Allah does not love those who do mischief.” He said: “This has been given to me because of a certain knowledge which I have.” Did he not know that Allah had destroyed, before him, whole generations, which were superior to him in strength and greater in the amount of riches they had collected? But the wicked are not called immediately to account for their sins. So he went forth among his people in the pride of his worldly glitter. Those whose aim was the life of this said: “Oh! that we had the like of what Qarun has got! For he is truly a lord of mighty good fortune!” But those who had been granted true knowledge said: “Alas for you! The reward of Allah (in the hereafter) is best for those who believe and do good works: but this none shall attain, save those who steadfastly persevere in doing good.” Then We caused the earth to swallow up him and his house; and he had no one at all to help him against Allah; nor could he defend himself. And those who had envied his position the day before began to say the next day: “Ah! it is indeed Allah Who gives abundants to whom He will and sparingly to whom He pleases! had it not been that Allah was gracious to us, He could have caused the earth to swallow us up! Ah! those who reject Allah will assuredly never prosper.” As for the abode of the hereafter We shall give it to those who intend neither high-handedness nor mischief on this earth: and the righteous shall have a blessed end. (Al-Qasas, 76-83)
Just as the verse above suggests, Qarun - and people of his ilk believe they are given favours simply because certain traits they possess make them the deserving of them. They either forget or wholly deny that those traits are in reality, the blessings of Allah.
The statement of Qarun: “This has been given to me because of a certain knowledge which I have” is a manifestation of this attitude. Such a person is apt to “exult,” as mentioned in the above verses. This is basically why we witness self-important and overbearing attitudes in people when they attain success, prosperity and power. Such are essentially the individuals who presume themselves to be the “beloved servants of Allah”:
Man does not weary of asking for good things, but when evil befalls him, he gives up all hope and is lost in despair. When we give him a taste of some Mercy from Ourself, after some adversity has touched him, he is sure to say, “This is due to my merit: Do not think that the hour of judgment will ever become; but if I am brought back to my Lord, I have much good stored in His sight!” But We will show the unbelievers the truth of all that they did, and We shall give them the taste of a severe penalty. (Fussilat, 49-50)
Those who conduct themselves with an air of superiority and constantly praise themselves, are referred to as follows in the Qur'an:
Have you not seen those who claim sanctity for themselves? Allah sanctities whom He pleases. But never will they fail to receive justice in the least little thing. (An-Nisa, 49)
Believers, on the other hand, never feel sure being of exactly the type of person who, in the eyes of Allah, deserves to attain heaven. That is why, the believers pray to their Lord both “in fear and hope” (As-Sajda, 16). They turn to Allah and pray.” defend us from the torment of the Fire!” (Al-Baqara, 201); “Let not our hearts deviate now after You have guided us” (Al-Imran, 8); “take our souls to you as Muslims who bow to your will!” (Al-Araf, 126). Out of sheer arrogance a man assumes himself to be one who is deserving of paradise. Yet, arrogance is the greatest hindrance to one’s eternal salvation, “for Allah does not love the vainglorious boaster.” (Al-Hadid, 23)
The theme of “arrogance” is frequently taken up in the Qur’an. The following verses call upon man repeatedly to avoid arrogance:
Nor walk on the earth with insolence: for you cannot rend the earth asunder, nor reach the mountains in height. (Al-Isra, 37)
In the Qur’an, the believers are frequently reminded to be modest and moderate. Believers rigorously avoid arrogance since they can comprehend the verse “Allah does not love any vainglorious boaster.” Accordingly, the Qur’an declares that modesty is the basic virtue of a believer:
...But your Allah is One Allah: then submit your wills to Him (in Islam): and give the good news to those who humble themselves. (Al-Hajj, 34)
This is rather an important point to consider. Whether a person believes or goes astray entirely depends on his arrogance or modesty. The consequences of being arrogant are explained in the following verse:
Those who behave arrogantly on the earth in defiance of right will be turned away from My signs. Even if they see all the signs, they will not believe in them; and if they see the way of right conduct, they will not adopt it as the way; but if they see the way of error, that is the way they will adopt. For they have rejected our signs, and failed to take warning from them. (Al-Araf, 146)
The common shortcoming in all the unbelivers of the past was their arrogance.
My Signs come to you and you rejected them: you were haughty, and became one of those who reject faith!(Az-Zumar, 59)
The arrogant are the people of Hell who are destined to dwell there for eternity:
To those who reject Our signs and treat them with arrogance, no opening will there be of the gates of heaven, nor will they enter the garden, until a camel can pass through the eye of a needle. Such is Our reward for those in sin. For them there is Hell, as a couch (below) and sheets of fire will cover them: such is Our requital of those who do wrong. (Al-Araf, 40-41)
Those who opposed and rebelled against the Messengers were arrogant, as were those who fought against them. The people, defined as “leaders of the unbelievers”, or “those who behaved proudly ” in the Qur’an, declined to obey the messenger due to their pride and arrogance. They simply rejected the guidance of another human being to the righteous way. Their perverseness knew no bounds. The pride of the leaders of communities is frequently mentioned in the Qur’an.
The leaders of those who behaved proudly among his people said to those who were reckoned powerless - those among them who believed: “Do you really believe that Salih is a messenger from his Lord?” They replied: “We do indeed believe in the revelation which has been sent through him.Those who were haughty said: “For our part, we reject what you believe in.” (Al-Araf, 75-76)
Arrogant people set the highest value upon social status, prosperity and fame. Any messenger who cannot lay claim to any of these material props will therefore be rejected outright by them as a person they presume to be incapable of leading humanity to the right path. The commonest shared trait of unbelievers is their propensity to revolt against Allah’s chosen messengers.
In the Qur’an, the rebellion of the children of Israel against Talut, a leader sent to them, is thus narrated:
Their Prophet said to them: “Allah had appointed Talut as your king.” They said: “How can he exercise authority over us when we are better fitted than He to exercise authority, and he is not even gifted with wealth in abundance?” He said: “Allah has chosen him above you, and has gifted him abundantly with knowledge and bodily prowess: Allah grants His authority to whom He pleases. Allah cares for all, and He knows all things.” (Al-Baqara, 247)
During the period of Prophet Mohammed also, the prominent people of the community vehemently opposed him saying, “Why has this Qur’an not been sent down to some leading man in either of the two (chief) cities?” (Az-Zukhruf, 31). Their antagonism resulted quite simply from their habit of assessing people according to their wealth, properties or reputation. If the messenger had been a “leading man in either of the two (chief) cities” then they would have obeyed him. However, obeying someone only because he had been chosen by Allah seemed difficult for them on account of their arrogance. The same thing happened to Salih who was sent to the people of Thamud:
For they said: “What! a man! a solitary one from among ourselves! Shall we follow such a one? Truly should we then be straying in our minds, and mad! Has the Message been sent to him, of all people amongst us? He is indeed a liar, and an insolent one!” (Al-Qamar, 24-25)
In understanding how arrogance misleads men, Surat’ Al-Muddaththir enlightens us greatly. It gives the example of a man who is given many favours by Allah, who listens to and understands the words of Allah, but who disobeys Allah out of sheer arrogance. For this he deserves to be punished by being consigned to Hell:
Leave to Me the creature whom I created bare and alone!—to whom I granted resources in abundance, and sons to be by his side!-to whom I made (life) smooth and comfortable! Yet is he greedy for Me to add yet more; By no means! For to Our Signs he has been refractory! Soon I will afflict him with a mountain of calamities! For he thought and he plotted. And woe to him! How he plotted! Yes, woe to him, how he plotted! He looked around him, then he frowned and he scowled; then he turned back and was haughty. Then he said “This is nothing but magic, derived from of old; this is nothing but the word of a mortal!” Soon I will cast him into Hell-Fire! And what will explain to you what Hell-Fire is? It permits nothing to endure, and spares no one! It burns the skins of men! (Al-Muddaththir, 11-29)
In another verse, the situation of an arrogant person in Hell is described as follows:
A voice will cry: “Seize him and drag him into the midst of the blazing fire! Then pour over his head the penalty of boiling water, saying, `Taste this! Truly, you were mighty and an honourable man. Surely this is what you used to doubt.’” (Ad-Dukhan, 47-50)
Man is merely a servant of Allah. Keeping in mind his actual state before Allah will make him appreciate deep in his heart the favours bestowed by Him. In this way, he realizes that he does not possess anything, for they are Allah’s endowments. He finds real relief in being grateful to Allah. If he starts to display arrogance on account of what has been granted to him, before long he loses the pleasure he derives from that favour. Soon he witnesses the total loss of the favour in question. The whole system is simply based on understanding one’s position before Allah; Allah guides the one who realizes that he is His servant. Otherwise, he will incur the wrath of his Lord, as the following verse relates:
“...those who disdain His service through arrogance - shall all be brought before Him.” (An-Nisa, 172)
On the contrary, those who are not arrogant, but moderate are true servants of Allah, and will be rewarded with heaven:
True abode of the hereafter We shall give to those who intend neither high-handedness nor mischief on earth: and the end is best for the righteous. (Al-Qasas, 83)