On the Dangers of Pride, Conceit, and Boasting


by Abu Hamid al-Ghazali | Abridged and Translated by Suhaib Webb

Part I

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“Pride, conceit and boasting are deep seated illnesses. They are defined as a person viewing himself as greater and more important than others, while viewing others as inferior and mediocre.”

The Signs of Arrogance

It manifests itself in the speech of a person when he habitually says, “I did this and I am that,” just as Satan did when he said, “I am better than him; You created me from fire, and You created him from clay.” (Qur’an 7:12). Its impact on gatherings (of knowledge and places of importance) is that one will try to push himself to go first, raise his voice over others, or seek to open the gathering. In discussions, it manifests when a person refuses to listen to those who question his opinion and respond to their inquiries. An arrogant person, when he is reminded, responds harshly, and when he rebukes others, does so with extreme rigidity. Any person who sees himself better than others is an arrogant person.

An Important Remedy for Arrogance

It is incumbent upon you to know that the best person is he who is favored by God in the Hereafter. This affair is unknown (save to God alone) and rests solely on one’s ending.  The assumption that you are better than others is pure ignorance on your part. Nay! It is recommended that you do not look towards another except you see him as better than yourself and more blessed – if you look at a younger person, say to yourself, ‘He is younger than me and not disobeyed God to as long as I have.’ If you look upon an older person say, ‘He has worshipped longer than me – he is better than me.” If you see a scholar say, ‘He has been given what I have not, attained a portion of knowledge which I have not, and he knows that which I do not; how could I be better than him? And if you come across an ignorant person say, ‘He disobeys God and he is ignorant. I disobey Him and I know what is right and wrong. God’s proof against me is greater than this ignorant person – God knows his ending and He knows mine.’ If you come across a disbeliever say, ‘I have no idea what will happen – perhaps he will accept Islam, end his life doing good, and be pulled from the Hell fire because of his Islam as a hair is plucked from flour. As for myself, God knows best – perhaps I will go astray and die as a disbeliever, becoming of those who are farthest from God while he (if he dies as a Muslim) will be from those close to Him?’

Evicting Arrogance from the Heart

Arrogance will not exit your heart until you recognize that the one who is great is the one recognized by God as being great. This (knowledge) rests in a person until death- is an affair which is known solely by God. Thus, it is a matter of doubt; the fear of not knowing your true state with God and the fact that you are not guaranteed His pleasure in the Hereafter should prevent you from feeling that you are better than others. Your faith and certainty at this time are not a guarantee that you will not change and go astray in the future. Allah is the changer of the hearts, He guides whom He wills and allows to go astray whom He wills.”

Sheikh al-Jawi, in his commentary on al-Ghazzali’s text wrote,

“Understand that a person will not be arrogant unless he believes that he has certain religious or worldly qualities which (he views) as being perfect and complete (in comparison to others).

The causes of arrogance are seven:

The first is knowledge
The second is being active, and worship
The third is lineage
The fourth is beauty
The fifth is wealth
The sixth is strength and power
The seventh is having a large following, students and close friends.”

Muraqi al-’Ubudiyah Pg(s). 273-276

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7 Comments

  1. Thanks for this post. Arrogance, in many different forms, is wrecking the Muslim community. I have seen too many “students of knowledge” who are out there viciously attacking literally every Muslim scholar except their own teachers. No one is safe from them until you are exactly like them, and they cut off other Muslims on issues that are legitimately differed upon. I think this kind of bigoted partisanship is a sign of extreme arrogance, because they don’t know when to say “Allah knows best.” The Muslims will never be united so long as arrogant argumentation in religion prevails. Shaykh Suhaib has been a great example of a humble and unifying scholar, may Allah preserve him.

    Allah knows best.

  2. I love to hear the words of the wise.

  3. Ahmad says:

    Assalamualaikum syeikh!

    I have a question about professing or displaying one act of worship/sunnah/good deeds with intention to motivate others to do the same. Is it permissible? I know from the seerah that the sahabah during war campaign fund raising, they announce it like Umar r.a. announcing he is giving half of his wealth while Abu Bakar r.a. gave all of his wealth.

    If it is okay to do so, -to motivate others to do more worship for example ‘I did this and that, you should do it too’ then, how do we deal with people that judging our action saying we are being arrogant, boastful, and prideful?

    jazakallah for your time

  4. Waris says:

    Brother Suhaib,

    What are your views regarding the teachings of Imam Abu Hamid Ghazali (ra) in Mishkat Al Anwar, Book 20 and 21 of his Ihya?
    Jazak Allah Khair

  5. Ramat ziyada al badawi says:

    Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa baraka tuhu.Am almost speechless but by Allah’s leave,i trived to say jazakullah khyran for all your links,comments and posters.This site isnt only for muslims but other blieves.A lot of my chiristian friends find it interesting and directive as we the muslim did.May Allah grand all your requires.Amin

  6. aj says:

    JazakAllahu khair for translating

  7. Moderation says:

    Personally, I always have to watch myself to make sure studying and engaging in acts of worship don’t affect my heart negatively, not only in regard to my interactions with others, but also to not become complacent about it.

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