Pride
By Yusuf Islam
It is We who created you and gave you shape. Then We bade the angels, "Bow down to Adam," and they bowed down. Not so Iblis. He refused to be of those who bowed down.

And God said, "What prevented thee from bowing down when I commanded thee?' He said, "I am better than he. Thou didst create me of fire and him from clay."

And God said, "Get thee down from here. It is not for thee to be arrogant here. Get out, for thou art the meanest of creatures."' (7:11-13)

The word or the name for pride in Arabic is 'kibr'. This is the inner quality of pride. The name of the outward quality is 'takabbur' which means arrogance. It is the worst attribute of a human being, and owing to this sin, Shaytan, Iblis as he was known, was expelled from Paradise.

There is a hadith or saying of the Prophet, salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallim, with regard to pride. Ibn Mas'ud reported that the Messenger of Allah, salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallim, said, 'No one who has got faith in his heart to the weight of a mustard-seed shall enter the Fire and nobody who has got pride in his heart to the weight of a mustard-seed shall enter Paradise.'

There are essentially two kinds of pride.

The first is pride before Allah. The second is pride with other people. Pride with other people also could be divided into two - that is, pride against the superiority of the Prophets of God and pride in relation to other people.

The ugliest form of pride is pride before Allah, before God, as we see in the example of Shaytan. This is why prayer, and particularly sujud, which means prostration, putting one's head on the ground or bowing, separates the obedient from the disobedient. To be too proud to bow before Allah or to bow to His will is the greatest height of arrogance and ingratitude. People who do not bow when God commands them are in a way denying the very existence of Allah and the inevitable Day of Judgement. They deny the clear and obvious signs of God's majesty and power and they refuse to follow the straight path of the righteous.

We will read two verses from Surat Al-A'raf (7:146-147)

Those who behave arrogantly on the earth in defiance of right, them will I turn 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.

Those who reject Our signs and the meeting in the Hereafter, vain are their deeds. Can they expect to be rewarded except as they have worked?

Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallim, said that the Almighty, Allah, had revealed, 'Pride is My cloth and Greatness is My robe. So whoso vies with Me regarding either of these two, I shall admit him into the Fire.'

The second kind of pride is to refuse to follow and obey God's Messengers or to deny their superiority and the superiority of any of the Prophets of God, peace be upon them. This is the second worse kind as the Prophets were the chosen ones of Allah Almighty, sent for the guidance of mankind. Are they not better than those who are not chosen? No one should think that the Prophets were short of intelligence or wisdom and they cannot be compared with modern scientists or politicians. They were chosen and sent with the truth and the criterion of right and wrong. Whoever rejects the truth of the revelation which they brought becomes a rebel in the sight of Allah and becomes full of pride.

Another verse from the same chapter, verses 35-40, O ye Children of Adam! Whenever there came to you apostles from amongst you rehearsing My signs unto you, those who are righteous and mend their lives, on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve.

But those who reject Our signs and treat them with arrogance, they are the Companions of the Fire, to dwell therein forever.

Who is more unjust than the one who invents a lie against God or rejects His signs? For such, their portion appointed must reach them from the Book of Decrees until when Our messengers of death arrive to take their souls, they said, "Where are the things that ye used to invoke besides Allah?" They will reply, "They have left us in the lurch," and they will bear witness against themselves that they had rejected God.

He will say, "Enter ye among the peoples who passed away before you, men and jinns, into the Fire." Every time a new people enters, it curses its sister people that went before until they follow each other, all into the Fire. Sayeth the last about the first, "Our Lord, it is these that misled us, so give them double penalty in the Fire." He will say, "Doubled for all, but this you do not understand."

Then the first will say to the last, 'See then! No advantage hast thou over us, so taste ye of the penalty for all that ye did."

'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 the camel can pass through the eye of a needle. Such is Our reward for those in sin.

Ibn Mas'ud reported that the Messenger of Allah, salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallim, said, 'Whoso has got pride in his heart to the weight of an atom shall not enter Paradise.' Then a man asked the Prophet, salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallim, about dressing well. He said that he liked to be well-dressed and his dress should be fine and his shoes shall be fine, and he said, 'Allah is beautiful and likes beauty. Pride is denying truth and despising people.'

So the Prophet, salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallim, indicated that there is nothing wrong with looking nice, neat, clean and tidy, but he said that pride is in fact denouncing or denying the truth and despising or looking down at people.

The other aspect of pride with people is to believe oneself to be better than others whereas the only basis upon which some are more honoured than others is in piety or righteousness.

So essentially there are two cures for pride.

I'm going to read something from the Kitab Usulu'd-Din by 'Uthman dan Fodio which gives some cures for pride.

"The two cures are: first, knowledge. The second, action.

"First, the knowledge cure is to know and recognise your Lord and to know and recognise your own self as you should be recognised and that it is not worthy of greatness and that true greatness and pride are only for Allah; and, as for self-recognition, we read in the Qur'an:

"Allah ta'ala said, 'Perish man! How thankless he is! Of what did He create him? Of a sperm-drop. He created him, and determined him, and then made the way easy for him. Then He makes him die, buries him, and then, when He wills, raises him.'

"This ayat points to the beginning of man's creation, his end, and his middle. Let us understand its meaning.

"As for the beginning of man, he was 'a thing unremembered.' He was concealed in non-existence. Non-existence has no beginning. What is lower and meaner than obliteration and non-existence? He was in non-existence. Then Allah created him from the basest of things, and then from the most unclean thing. He created him from earth and then from a sperm-drop, then a blood-clot. Then He made the bones, and then clothed the bones in flesh. This was the beginning of his existence.

"When you begin in this manner, how can you have arrogance, pride, glory and conceit? In fact, man is the weakest of the weak. During your existence, Allah Almighty has given illnesses power over you, whether you like or not, and whether you are content or enraged. You become hungry and thirsty without being able to to do anything about it. You do not possess any power to bring yourself either harm or benefit.

"You want to know something but you remain ignorant of it. You want to remember something and yet you forget it. You want to forget something and yet you cannot forget it. You want to direct your heart to what concerns it and yet and you are caught up in the valleys of whisperings and thoughts. You own neither your heart nor your self. You desire something while your destruction may be in it, and you detest something while your life may be in it. You find some foods delicious when they destroy and kill you, and you find remedies repugnant when they help you and save you.

"If you truly know yourself, how can you think yourself worthy of pride?...Your end is death. It is indicated by His word, "Then He makes him die and buries him. Then, when He wills, He raises Him." The meaning here is that your ruh, hearing, sight, knowledge, power, senses, perception, and movement are all stripped away. You revert to the inanimate as you were in the first place. Only the shape of your limbs remains. Your form has neither senses nor movement. Then you are placed in the earth and your limbs decay. You become absent after you existed. You become as if you were not. As you were at first for a long period of time.

"How then can he be arrogant? How can he see himself as anything to which excellence is attached? This is the knowledge-cure."

Then as far as the action-cure is concerned, it says, "it is to humble yourself to people in a constrained unnnatural manner until it becomes natural for you."

Al-hamdu lillah. May Allah guide us to this knowledge and to this action.

This talk was first given by Yusuf Islam on January 1988 as part of the Islamic Circle Talks presented every Saturday at London's Regent's Park Mosque. Visit Mountain of Light.

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