GREATNESS belongs to Allah alone. He is in control of all the affairs of every single thing created. He commands and prohibits, creates and provides, gives and takes. He raises and lowers people’s status, alternates night and day, causes nations to rise and fall, so that one nation vanishes and another emerges.
His command and decree are carried out throughout the heavens and on earth, in the oceans and in the air. Human beings are just a creation of Allah, a creation which is pretty insignificant in comparison to the unimaginably vast universe. In a Hadith Qudsi, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Allah the Almighty said: ‘Pride is My cloak and greatness is My garment, so whoever competes with Me regarding these two will be thrown into the Hellfire’.” (Abu Dawud, 4090)
Anyone who understands this will realize that our real status in the life of this world is only that of servants of Allah and this understanding gives root to the beautiful quality of humility which is one of the greatest blessings that Allah could bestow upon His servant because when a person becomes humble, he acknowledges his weaknesses and defects and submits wholeheartedly to the rulings of Allah and Allah in turn raises his status in both worlds. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “…No one humbles himself before Allah but Allah will raise him (in status).” (Muslim)
Humility makes a believer accept and believe in the greatness of Allah and makes him turn to Him sincerely by submitting to His commands, by taking care of His rights and also His servants’ rights. When Allah raises him in worldly status, the characteristic of humility protects a believer from self-praise, pride and feelings of superiority over others. It makes him an individual whose only concern is the pleasure of Allah and not the approval and recognition of those around him.
Even though being humble and confident are characteristics that we should acquire, we must be careful not to cross the line and trip into the sins of arrogance and self-praise which are from the evil traits of the people who preceded us. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “No one who has an atom’s-weight of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise.”
A man said, “O Messenger of Allah, what if a man likes his clothes and his shoes to look good?” He said, “Allah is Beautiful and loves beauty. Arrogance means rejecting the truth and looking down on people.” (Muslim)
The story of Qarun is worth mentioning here. Qarun was a man of great wealth and the owner of great possessions. It is said that when he rode anywhere, the keys to his treasures would be carried on 60 mules. But his great fortune and status had made him haughty toward his own people and toward the truth. He refused to accept the message of Allah and instead, boasted about his possessions, while looking down at the common folk around him.
Allah tells us in the Qur’an that when the knowledgeable ones around him advised him: “Do not exult. Indeed, Allah does not like the exultant. But seek, through that which Allah has given you, the home of the Hereafter; and (yet), do not forget your share of the world. And do good as Allah has done good to you. And desire not corruption in the land. Indeed, Allah does not like corrupters.” (Qur’an, 28:76-77)
Qarun said: “This has been given to me only because of the knowledge I possess.” (Qur’an, 28:78) Instead of submitting to the One who gave him all that he possessed with humble gratefulness, Qarun totally ignored the favor of Allah on him and was defiantly arrogant. His arrogance brought him nothing but severe torment from the Almighty.
Allah says: “And We caused the earth to swallow him and his home. And there was for him no company to aid him other than Allah, nor was he of those who (could) defend themselves.” (Qur’an, 28:81)
Allah Almighty also tells us the story of Iblees in the Qur’an to warn us about this disease of arrogance and notion of superiority. Iblis was ordered by Allah to prostrate to Adam and he rejected because of his arrogance and envy toward Adam. Allah says in the Qur’an: “(Iblees said) “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.” (Qur’an, 7:12)
The stories of Iblis and Qarun are somewhat similar and both teach us that we need to adopt the qualities of humility and submissiveness and avoid the destructive sins of arrogance and self-praise as both would lead us to destruction in both worlds. The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said, “Shall I tell you about the people of Hellfire? They are every haughty, mean, and arrogant person.” (Bukhari, 4634)
This Hadith is enough to make a believer know his limits and guides him to never lose sight of his status as a humble servant of Allah. He knows that whatever Allah has given him by favoring him over others, is purely from His grace and mercy. Feeling proud and praising oneself is totally disliked by Allah. In fact it is a characteristic of those who rejected their scriptures and made changes in them.
Allah says: “So do not claim yourselves to be pure; He is most knowing of who fears Him.” (Qur’an, 53:32)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) even prohibited praising a person, especially while he can hear his praise. This is because such praise may encourage the praised person to overestimate himself and may lead him to be arrogant and overconfident regarding his status and deeds.
A believer possessing humility knows that his knowledge, talents and abilities are all from Allah and this keeps his feet on the ground, grateful to Allah and always kind to his servants. Humility increases a believer’s self-confidence, which motivates him to do race to all that is good without putting others down. Let’s take account of ourselves, strive to fix our attitudes and be of those who humble themselves for the sake of Allah, for if we do that then Allah will raise us in status in this world and in the Hereafter, InshaAllah.