The Pervasive Effects of Humility


http://www.flickr.com/photos/carowallis1/4388310394/“A spoonful of humility a day, keeps the ego away.”  Well, it’s not the original saying, but it sends a clear message.  Truly realizing the benefits of being humble can assist us in achieving success not only in this life, but also in the hereafter.

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, to be humble is to not be proud, arrogant, or assertive.  In Arabic, tawaada (humility) literally means to lower one’s self or to submit.  Taking these definitions together and adding the characteristic of humility as relayed in Qur’anic verses and Prophetic examples, we begin to have a richer understanding of its importance and practical applications.

Three Degrees of Humility

Humility can be understood in relation to three important entities:

1) Humility before Allah – Exalted is He.

2) Humility in relation to the deen (religion).

3) Humility with Allah’s creation.

When analyzed in terms of these relations, we can begin to implement the characteristic of humility in all aspects of our lives: in our worship, in our understanding and attitude towards our deen, and in our interactions with Allah’s creation (such as people, animals and the earth).

Humility with Allah – Exalted is He

When we are humble in front of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), we understand that He is our Creator, the One who supplies all of our sustenance with no might or effort from His creation.  It is only when we submit ourselves to the Might and Glory of Allah that we are able to understand how to be humble.  This cyclical process helps us to perpetuate the feeling of humility.

Ponder for a moment the blessings in your life: family, guidance from Allah, wealth, talents, health, etc.  If one is disillusioned by his own personal efforts made towards attaining any of his blessings, how can he attain humility before Allah? Take for example one who is wealthy.  He may attribute his hard work in school, his long hours at the start of his business, and his proficient networking skills to his success.  Yet, he forgot that Allah (swt) gave him the opportunity to attend a good school, facilitated for him the ability to study, gave his family patience while he was busy with his business, and finally bestowed him with the gift of persuasive communication.

And what if that same businessman refused to give zakat (alms tax) because he felt that others should work as hard as he did so that they wouldn’t need zakat? Regardless of our level of wealth, we must remember the saying of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as narrated by Abu Hurairah: “Wealth does not decrease due to charity, and Allah increases His slave in honor when he forgives others.  And no one humbles himself before Allah but Allah will raise him in status.”

This act of humility in front of our Creator necessitates our complete submission to Him.  To follow His commandments and avoid His prohibitions requires us to understand our lower position of weakness and helplessness in relation to our Lord.

Humility in Relation to the Deen

Fully appreciating and understanding our deen (way of life), obliges us to be humble.  When we come across a commandment of Allah, Qur’anic verse, or valid saying of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ that we do not understand, we should be conscientious of our reactions.  Let us replace thoughts of, “Well, that doesn’t make sense,” with “I wonder what this means.”  We are encouraged  to question so as to understand our religion, not to negate every aspect of our deen that does not align with our whims.  We should also be wary of those who come up with their own interpretation of the Qur’an with no reference to its context or without any scholarly research to say, “This is what this ayah (verse) means to me.”  To do so would be to follow the zaygh (perversion in our heart), as mentioned in the following ayat:

 

He is the One Who has revealed to you the Book. Some of its verses are decisive – they are the foundation of the Book – while others are allegorical. Those whose hearts are infected with perversion follow the allegorical part to mislead others and to give it their own interpretation, seeking for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah. Those who are well grounded in knowledge say: “We believe in it; it is all from our Lord.” None will take heed except the people of understanding.(Qur’an 3:7)

Remember what Moses said to his people: “O my people! Why do you vex me while you know that I am the apostle of Allah sent to you?” Then when they adopted perverseness, Allah let their hearts be perverted. Allah does not guide those who are transgressors.” (Qur’an 61:5)

Humility in understanding the deen compels us to see a gap in our understanding when we approach a matter we are not “comfortable” with, as opposed to a fault in the way of life as Allah (swt) has prescribed for us.

Humility with Allah’s Creation

Applying the principle of humility with Allah’s creation would have profound effects on the way the world operated if we all adopted this characteristic.  Imagine if we did not judge others, we felt compassion towards humanity, and we helped all of those around us (our parents, spouses, children, community, etc).  We could achieve these admirable feats if we were to contemplate and exhibit humility.  Not only would we treat others with respect, but we would also treat animals kindly and give them their due rights whether they are a work animal, a stray, or a pet.  Furthermore, if we humbled ourself and understood that this world does not belong to us, then we would be more conscientious about water conservation, recycling, and pollution reduction efforts.

Unfortunately, the tendency to develop the very opposite characteristic, arrogance, occurs for many reasons.  Perhaps we are more beautiful, intelligent, or have some position of power or authority, for example.  If we were to reflect on the first type of humility with Allah (swt), we would remember that these gifts are only possible by the Mercy of The Creator.  Imagine one who has studied Islam and has received many certifications and degrees in the field.  When she sees others, does she look down on them since they do not possess the same level of knowledge in that area? Or does she instead, look to her own faults and sees others for the qualities they possess that are greater than hers?  Allah tells us to take the second course of action:

And do not turn your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allah does not like any arrogant boaster. (Qur’an 31:18)

We are also reminded in the Qur’an that what Allah cares for most, above social status, power, beauty, or wealth, is taqwa (God-consciousness):

Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. (Qur’an 49:13)

We should reflect on our inner thoughts and align them with teachings of humility in Islam so that we may be successful in the eyes of Allah (swt). May Allah make us humble and may He be pleased with us.  Ameen.

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8 Comments

  1. Yasmin says:

    Jazakallah khair for this wonderful post!

  2. Dew says:

    Jazak Allah kheir for another amazing article :)

  3. There is such a wide range of issues prsented here by Lobna Mulla, but I feel qualified at best to reply to one of them which the writer briefly deals with and that one being the environmental aspect of God’s (swt) creation.I’ve worked in this field and at times become downcast.Here in England working as a trackman on the railway we were never allowed to leave any single rubbish item cast there convenently by someone be the item large or tiny. This was not solely for reasons of track safety, it was also for the practise of care.We workers helped each other to the tune of digging heavy stone ballast that supports the railroad ties(or sleepers) as we call them in UK. Now these sleepers remind me meaphorically of Surah Al-Kahf,the cave, with the young men who tarried there for however long with their dog at the cave’s entrance. You see when working on the track one always had to have a guard,a look-out.And I believe the thing that we most in effect were guarding was the concientiousness of our work.Modesty is a great aid in this. It precludes one from doing a lousy job if one holds others both in regard& responsibility.By doing so are we not at least trying to follow precepts of humility. Then in another job working on fishing boats in the North Sea the truth of Allah’s (swt)blessings we found both in the seine net itself when hauled in and in the very weather and sea we were surrounded by.What a mighty creation is His…worthy of so much more respect than many give it both on land at at sea.I’ve seen all the dumps and the floating islands of plastic bags and detritus it make one think man has no technology that can keep at bay some people’s total lack of respect.They consume,they throw away as if there were neither sign nor guidance.When one comes ashore from stormy weather one says a thank you to one’s Lord for deliverance,why is not the same practised on land? Is it because man thinks his cities are bigger somehow than the ocean?.To me that is like hamstringing the she-camel when presented to the people as a ship-of-the-desert so to speak.
    Now again working outdoors on car parks,churchyards,lanes,ponds I lose sight of how the environment will survive the onslaught of consumerism & modernity…..everything from a-z and none too clean either dumped illegally and often done so clandestinely ,sneakily , like a thief in the night. Oh mercy I cry, do you not hear the birdsong that would be in your ears if only you would listen and not expect the poor & the believers to pick it up after you.One beautiful thing about England & Britain they say is its tolerance.Brothers and sisters in the Ummah will vouch for the fact that without such tolerance & humility it is hard to live here.Another of its beautiful aspects is its greenery.By the grace of Alla’h(swt) long may that be given our respect before His creation.Thank you to the writer of the essay which brings mention of this quality to our homes and our screens.

    • Kirana says:

      there is a real and practical connection to your words, that comes from doing and touching and seeing and experiencing through work and labour, that i wish were more present among our religion’s speakers and polemicists and scholars. well, at least where i live anyway. for once it would be great to hear an insight of the Qur’an from a religious lecturer/speaker, that he/she gained from having done real life work whether paid or voluntary, or at least personally experienced through travel or something that makes the religion palpably relevant and personally transformative.

  4. Dawud says:

    I wanted to provide a hadith for those who are forgiving the arrogant- Narrated Ibn Mas’ud
    I recall to my mind the scene when Allah Messenger (sllh) was mentioning one of the Prophets of Allah who having been beaten and injured by his people , he started wiping the blood from his face and supplicating:”Allah, forgive my people because they know not.”{Al-Bukhari&Muslim}

  5. Shamshad says:

    Jazaki Allahu Khair for a wonderful article. It touched my heart and deepened my understanding.

  6. Rubaba says:

    Ameen thumma ameen

  7. Ahmed says:

    Jazak’Allahu Khairan, beautifully written article.

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