A Humble Proposal
Madelyn was over.. We were working on a project for our 5th grade class. As we put together our poster, the athan (call for prayer) for Asr (afternoon prayer) was called. I got up, made wudhu (ablution) and prayed with my mother and siblings. Madelyn watched us with keen interest. When we finished, she asked very simply: Why did we bowed down like that? As I turned to answer her, I paused, a sudden thought flashing through my heart.
Stop! Lower Yourself!
Boasting comes second nature to us. It is an inclination we must pull back from. Whatever the object of our pride is - our talents, our striving, our material wealth, and even (especially) our religious practices - we must remind ourselves that one of Satan's prime objectives is to lead us astray by way of ingratitude, by way of forgetting the ultimate source of our success - Allah.
Indeed, the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam (please be upon him), has said, "He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of arrogance shall not enter paradise," (Bukhari). The implications of this statement are frightening, especially as we live in an outside-in world. That is, a world where were are largely judged and treated according to our outward qualities - what sort of brand names we wear, what cars we drive, what education we have (and from where), and even how much Qur'an we've memorized - and the list goes on.
The scary thing here is that in being prideful we deprive ourselves of our otherwise rightful reward. Through boasting and conceit we take the blessing out of our successes and strivings. And ultimately those who are arrogant, may Allah protect us, will be barred from the Garden. One of the main problems of arrogance is that we raise ourselves up by putting others down, the outcome of which is harshness in society and the disappearance of selflessness. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, has said, "Allah has revealed to me that you must be humble, so that no one oppresses another and boasts over another," (Abu Dawud).
Every religion has its particular characteristic. Islam's is moderation, modesty, the middle way in everything. Our beloved Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, our role model in everything, was indeed, the most humble of people. He humbled himself in front of the old and the young alike, the rich and the poor, the friend and the enemy.
One story particularly touches my heart for it illustrates beautifully the Prophet's total lack of pretension and deep love for those around him, no matter how insignificant the person was in sight of the society at large.
It happened on the day of Khaybar. About twenty women accompanied the army, among them was a young girl. As the Prophet surveyed the group he spotted this girl. As she was too young to ride by herself, the Prophet himself took her on back of his camel (most commanders of armies would never dream of being so considerate as they traveled to battle). When they stopped at a resting place, the Prophet dismounted, lowered the camel and then helped the child off.
After the battle took place, as the Prophet divided the booty he looked around for his little riding companion. Finding her, he gave her a necklace from the booty and insisted on putting it around her neck himself.
The little girl naturally never forgot such kindness coming from not only an adult, but from the Prophet of God himself. As a grown lady she was reported saying: "By Allah, the necklace has never left my neck from that day and I asked that it be buried with me so that if I meet the Prophet on the Day of Judgment I will come to him with the necklace around my neck and I will tell him, 'Here is the necklace, O Prophet of Allah, remember the necklace!'" Such was the humility and tenderness of the Prophet.
Less is More
Likewise, we must emulate the Prophet in this, making humility ever present in our lives. We can start on the superficial level (which digs deep into our psyches) and become humble in our dress (this does not mean we need to look like hobos, we just need to avoid pomp and extravagance in our clothing). The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said: "He who sets aside his garment in humility to Allah while he is able to buy the most expensive of garments will be called by Allah on the Day of Judgment and in front of all other human beings. Allah will then ask him to choose whatever garment of faith he wishes to wear," (Bukhari).
Moreover, we should be humble in our interactions with people, especially in our treatment of those in subordinate positions (whether it be economic, educational status, or age). The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, has said: "(Your slaves are) your brothers whom Allah has put under your command. Feed them with what you eat and dress them with what you wear. Do not ask them to do things beyond their capacity but if you do so, then help them," (Muslim).
As a teacher I've come to realize the importance of humbling myself in front of students and acknowledging lessons I've learned from them (to their faces), on the one hand. On the other, I've learned that it is vital that I admit to not knowing something when they ask me and humble myself yet further in finding the answers for them.
Sometimes a little goes a long way. And usually it's the smallest things that count the most. Like kissing your mother's hand, for example. It may seem like a formality, but it will have a deep impact on the way you deal with her. Humility in front of parents is especially important for Allah says, "And lower to them (your parents) the wing of humility out of mercy" [17:24].
Just by doing that simple act you will learn how to humble yourself in front of Allah. And that is the most important state of humility when we humble ourselves before our Creator. We do this by patiently following all His commands and refraining from all that is prohibited. In doing so we must be careful not to let arrogance in through another window by judging those who may not be fulfilling Allah's commandments as you may be doing. Those who wear hijab, for example, must never deem themselves better then those who don't, for we do not know what deeds Allah will accept from us and from them. Likewise men with beards should never look down upon those without.
What's in Store
The humble reap mighty rewards. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, has said: "He who is humble for the sake of Allah by a degree, Allah will elevate him one degree, until he reaches the highest degrees and he who is arrogant toward Allah, Allah will lower him one degree until he reaches the lowest of low degrees" (Bukhari).
He also said, "Allah says, He who is humble toward Me like this (and he lowered his palm to the ground until it was leveled with it), I will elevate him like this (and the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, raised his palm upwards facing the sky until it was high up)" (Bukhari). How merciful is our Lord, the Almighty, to reward us for a simple act of humility?
Meanwhile, Madelyn still waited for my answer. I looked at her questioning face, smiled a little, and said simply, "We do it out of humility."
Article provided by Al Jumuah Magazine, a monthly Muslim lifestyle publication, which addresses the religious concerns of Muslim families across the world.
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The article is really commendable. I believe I am myself humble by nature but arrogance may sometimes creep in without even fully realizing it. I have printed the article and will try to read it again and again so that may be able to apply it in my every day life.
Thanks and jazak Allah khair.
Excellent article, All teachings in Islam defenitely lead to peace.
May Allah help us to become best human beings who follow the guidelines of The Quran and The Sayings of the Prophet, sallallahu alaihiwa sallam.Aameen.