Feeling Superiority

قال الله عز وجل: { إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ مَنْ كَانَ مُخْتَالًا فَخُورًا} النساء 36.

Allah the Exalted says: { Verily, Allah does not like those who are proud and boastful} (Surah 4, verse 36).

وعن جندب بن عبد الله رضي الله عنه قال: قال رسولُ الله صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم: « قالَ رَجُلٌ: واللَّهِ لا يَغْفِرُ اللَّه لفُلانٍ، فَقَالَ اللَّه عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: مَنْ ذا الَّذِي يَتَأَلَّى عليَّ أنْ لا أغفِرَ لفُلانٍ إنِّي قَد غَفَرْتُ لَهُ، وَأَحْبَطْتُ عمَلَكَ» .  رواه مسلم.

قال الْإِمَامُ مَالِكٌ: إذَا قَالَ ذَلِكَ مُعْجَبًا بِنَفْسِهِ مُزْدَرِيًا بِغَيْرِهِ فَهُوَ أَشَدُّ هَلَاكًا مِنْهُمْ،‏ لِأَنَّهُ لَا يَدْرِي سَرَائِرَ اللَّهِ فِي خَلْقِهِ‏.‏

Narrated Jundub Ibn Abdullah, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “A man swore: ‘By God, Allah will not forgive such and such person.’  Thereupon, Allah the Almighty said: ‘Who is he who swears about Me that I will not forgive so and so; indeed I have forgiven him and abolished your deeds.’ ” Related by Imam Muslim.

Imam Malik said: “If he said so out of self-conceit and contempt of others, then he is the one who is ruined because he has no knowledge of people’s inner side and future intention.”

عن عبدِ اللَّهِ بن مسعُودٍ رضيَ اللَّهُ عنه عن النبيِّ صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم قال: « لا يَدْخُلُ الجَنَّةَ مَنْ كَانَ فِي قَلْبِهِ مِثْقَالُ ذَرَّةٍ مِنْ كِبْرٍ»، فقال رَجُلٌ: إِنَّ الرَّجُلَ يُحِبُّ أَنْ يَكُونَ ثَوْبُه حَسَناً ونَعْلُهُ حَسَناً، قال: « إِنَّ اللَّهَ جَمِيلٌ يُحِبُّ الجَمَالَ، الكِبْرُ بَطَرُ الحَقِّ وغَمْطُ النَّاسِ» . رواه مسلم والترمذي.

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Prophet ﷺ said: “Whosoever has a grain of mustard worth of pride in his heart shall not enter Paradise.’  A man asked: “Indeed, a person loves that his dress should be fine and his shoes should be fine.”  The Prophet ﷺ replied: “Verily, Allah is Graceful and He loves Grace. Pride is disdaining the truth (out of self-conceit) and having contempt for people.”  Related by Muslim and Al-Tirmidhi.

As the above hadith specifies, feeling superior to people is part of kibr (pride), which is a major sin. Indeed, pride is the greatest sin because through it Satan was banished from the Heavens and cursed.  When Allah the Exalted created Adam, He asked the angels to prostrate to him. The angels obeyed while Satan (who used to worship among the angels, and was even known for his great worship to Allah) stood aside and did not prostrate. When asked why he did not prostrate to Adam, Satan replied: ‘I am better than him; I was created from fire while he was created from clay.’  So Allah banished and cursed Satan for his disobedience.

The same concept applies when someone feels superior to other people because of his wealth, social status, intelligence, or any other trait.  We must understand that any blessing is granted by Allah alone, and He bestows it to whomever He wishes. Thus, there is no justification for feeling superior when the distinction is a blessing granted by Allah, and can instantly be taken away if Allah so wishes. Rather the Muslim is instructed to show humbleness and humility, and express his gratitude and thanks to Allah for His special favors. In Surat Al-Kahf, we read the story of a rich man who owned two orchards full with fruits and with a running river. He was once in his green and lush orchard, and looked around with pride and said I don’t think all of this will ever end, and when I die I will get better than this. His companion admonished him not to feel pride and superiority, but to instead thank Allah for His Blessings; but he persisted in his arrogance. That night, lightning struck his orchards and he lost everything because of his pride.

The same is true for religious status. When someone appears more adherent to the rules of Allah and thinks highly of himself or looks down upon others, then he might end up worse than them because he harbors the greatest sin of pride. Indeed, it is only Allah who granted him this gift, but when he attributes his worship to his own effort and looks down on others, then he has fallen in the same trap as Satan. We should abhor and prohibit the sin, but should have goodwill and compassion for the human.  When the Muslim sees a sin being committed, he should advise the wrong doer but should never look down upon the sinner or belittle him, but instead should maintain a positive opinion of him while wishing him guidance and goodness.

Indeed, the Muslim does not reach the full level of Faith (Iman) until he purifies his heart from vices like jealousy, worldly rivalry, hatred, pride, feeling superior to others, belittling others, and the like. In the following hadith, the Prophet  describes the best of people:

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Amr, maybe Allah be pleased with them: “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ was asked: ‘Who among the people is best?’  He replied: ‘Every person with a makhmum heart and  a truthful tongue.’  The companions asked: ‘We know the truthful person, but who is the one with a makhmum heart?’  The Prophet ﷺ  replied:

‘He is the one who is pious and pure, (in whose heart) there is neither sin, nor transgression, nor malice, nor envy.’ ”

(Related by Ibn Majah and Al-Bayhaqi with a good narration).

Pride led to Satan’s downfall, and it is this same pride that leads to problems in this world and destruction in the next. Arrogance and pride are among the most difficult of traits to remove, but our lives must be permanent, persisting efforts to do just that. By realizing our fragile position and by glimpsing at Allah’s majestic grandeur, we can achieve a level of humility that allows us to fix our relationships with the people and with Allah. We ask Allah for tawfiq.

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