On Pride, Arrogance And The Superiority Complex
Arrogance. The daddy of all sins, the characteristic found in history’s most villainous beings, the reason behind the downfall of Satan and the root of all spiritual sicknesses. It is also the most despicable trait found in man. No one likes an arrogant person. We dislike those individuals who look down at others, those who think they are superior to others in terms of looks, intelligence, status or piety, those who are convinced that they are right whilst everyone else is wrong, those who can not speak without praising themselves, those who belittle or talk down to others and have huge egos. Since we strongly detest this trait, it makes sense that we scrutinise our own characters and check whether or not we possess the very same thing that we can’t stand in others.
We live in a society in which feelings of humility and humbleness are discouraged. The modest are dismissed as being insecure or lacking in self-confidence whilst the long winded individuals who brag about their merits are held in high esteem. As a result a lot of individuals in society think very highly of themselves and the idea of another person being above/better then them is any respect is difficult to accept.
This is worrying, because we are warned that anyone who possesses even an atoms weight of pride in their heart will not enter paradise. Furthermore, if one was to reflect on history they’d notice the humiliating defeat of history’s most arrogant criminals such as Satan, Pharaoh, the opponents of the Holy Prophet (saw) and many ruthless dictators since then. Bearing all of the above in mind, why then do many of us walk around thinking we’re God’s gift?
In reference to this above point Our Holy Prophet (saw) has said “God elevates a person who is humble for the sake of God, but whoever tries to exalt himself, God humiliates him”. In addition, we are told by Allah (swa) Himself that He “does not love the arrogant”.
The people of knowledge and piety are in greater danger of arrogance then anyone else. An increase in knowledge and incorporating a few pious actions into their daily life, result in many people becoming victims of the superiority complex and adopting a “holier then thou” attitude towards others. These people adopt the annoying habit of “preachifiying”, they become religious snobs and look down at those whom they consider are not living up to their high standard. They become unapproachable and fail to deliver the true message of Islam. People feel uncomfortable and insignificant in their company and as a result many are driven away.
Some seem to think that that can acquire the knowledge of our pious predecessors in a fortnight whilst others reject the understanding of our pious predecessors and become convinced that their own research/knowledge is more credible. In addition it is increasingly difficult for many to accept authority, understand ones own limitations and weaknesses, admit ignorance at times and say “Allah knows best”.
It is said that before his fall Satan was an extremely religious being, who through his devotions to Allah (swa) managed to reach the status of an Angel. However, he refused to bow down to Prophet Adam (AS) because he thought he knew better then Allah (swa) and considered himself more superior then Prophet Adam (AS). As a result he was banished from Heaven forever. We too, should be careful of our “self righteous/ holier then thou” attitude, which can subtly take us away from Islam.
What Allah (swa) demands from obedient people is simply acknowledging that their obedience is a gift and blessing from Allah (swa). It is unbecoming for a true believer to look down at others even if they do come across as being unguided. We should be cautious about such matter because Allah (swa) might take away their faults and give them to us.
The deeper one goes into Islam, the more convinced they should become that they are undoubtedly the worst sinners on the face of Earth. Such individuals should then be convinced that all negative characteristics are prominent in them. Our pious predecessors used to spend their entire night in worship and then used to beg Allah (swa) in the morning to forgive them for the “sins” that they had committed all night long. Hadrat Abu Bakr (ra) used to wish that he was a blade of grass so that he wouldn’t have to go through day of accountability. Imam Hanifah known to the Muslim world as the “Greatest Imam” used to become overcome with extreme remorse for the supposed sins that he had committed that he used to lose consciousness. Hadrat Ali (ra) known as being the Lion of Allah (swa) used to refer to himself as being “A Muslim amongst many”.
It is ironic to hear people nowadays, who do not come anywhere near the stature, piety, and knowledge of our pious predecessors, who nonetheless are so easily offended when someone did not send the greetings of Salaam (peace) to them. If an increase in Islamic knowledge and pious actions instils feelings of arrogance and self-righteousness in us, instead of producing feelings of shame, guilt, regret and fear we need to seriously scrutinise our actions, re-evaluate and wonder whether or not we’re on the right track.
In conclusion, when a person initially becomes interested in Islam, they may give up those apparent activities which contradict the Qur’an and Sunnah. However then, Satan poses the inconspicuous attack which gives birth to those extremely dangerous hidden shortcomings such as pride and arrogance. The latter attack is more dangerous then the former, because in most causes the individual is oblivious that he/she possesses such negative characteristics. Which is why, when one learns about Islam, he/she should be aware of the external AND internal sins that man succumbs to.
If we focus on the biographies of our pious predecessors we will receive a strong insight into who and what we are-nothing. However, if we focus on those who appear misguided we will become smug, satisfied and content with our state. We will become spiritually stalled and victims of the superiority complex.
The cure for arrogance is to remember at all times our vile, despicable organic origin. Being humble is one of the secrets of success although it is hard on the soul. According to Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jillani (raa) all the doors to Allah (swt) are crowded except one; the door of humility and humbleness. A wise man once said “If you are aware of your humility then you are arrogant”. One should also know that our greatest role model is our Beloved Prophet (saw), who is the greatest of all human beings, and His greatness lies in being the most humble and modest servant of Allah (swa).
May Allah (swa) bless us with humble dispositions and protect us from the superiority complex, Ameen.
By Alveena Salim