Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Reality of Humbleness

The Reality of Humbleness

By Dr. Jasser Auda

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-‘ālameen. There is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu alayhi wasallam is His Messenger.

In his well-known book, “Al-Hikam (Words of Wisdom)”, Sheikh Ahmad Ibn ‘Atā’illah As-Sakandari (rahimahullāh) says:

“A person is not 'humble' if he thinks that he is above his act of humbleness. A humble person considers he is lesser of his act of humbleness.”

“Humbleness” is best defined in general as being unassuming of one’s own greatness, precedence, or importance among others. It is indeed a basic attribute of those journeying to Allāh Subhānahu wata‘ala and a characteristic that every servant should be keen of maintaining it.

As for the virtue of humility and humbleness, Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu‘anhu) narrated the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “…. no one is humble (for the sake of Allāh) unless Allāh raises him [in rank].” [Narrated by Muslim]

“Arrogance” is the opposite of humbleness and it is “a serious flaw” for those who posseses it in the sight of Allah Almighty.  Allah states: “…Indeed, He does not like the arrogant.” [An-Nahl, 16:23] 

The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of arrogance shall not enter Paradise”. The Companions said: "But a man likes to wear a nice robe and nice sandals". The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) replied: “This is not arrogance. Arrogance is denying the truth and injustice to people”. [Muslim]

In Surah Al-Qasas, Allāh states: “And turn not your cheek away from people in false pride, and walk not haughtily on earth: for, behold, Allah does not love anyone who, out of self- conceit, acts in a boastful manner.” [Al-Qasas 28: 83];

Allah states those who humbles will be blissful on the Day of Judgements: “As for that happy life in the hereafter, We grant it only to those who do not seek to exalt themselves on earth, nor yet to spread corruption.” [Luqman, 31:18]

Some people may behave humbly with others, but at the same time, they think and feel that they are superior to them! This is arrogance and it has nothing to do with humbleness. Humbleness should arrive from the heart.

Ibn ‘Atā’illah As-Sakandari (rahimahullāh) explains that a person who is humble with others consider that he is indeed inferior (lesser) to them.

How do you reach the feeling of humbleness?

The answer: In the sight of Allah is by considering the imān as its criteria. Perhaps someone is clearly lesser to you in terms of position or wealth. However, if you consider iman as your criteria for status, you have to tell yourself: Perhaps he is much closer to Allāh Subhānahu wata’ala than you or his iman is much stronger than you. Perhaps he is afflicted with some real trails in this life and he is enduring them patiently and wisely for the sake of Allāh Subhānahu wata‘ala. He could very well be better than you at the sight of Allah.

Sahl al-Sa’idi (radiyallāhu’anhu), narrated that a man passed by the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) and the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) asked his Companions: “What do you say about this man?” They replied: “If he asks for a lady's hand, he ought to be given her in marriage; and if he intercedes for someone, his intercession should be accepted; and if he speaks, he should be listened to”. The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) kept silent, and then a man from among the poor Muslims passed by, and the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) asked them: “What do you say about this man?" They replied: "If he asks for a lady's hand in marriage, he does not deserve to be married, and if he intercedes for someone, his intercession should not be accepted; and if he speaks, he should not be listened to”. The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “This poor man is better than so many of the first as filling the earth”. [Muslim]

It indicates in this Hadith the first evaluation given by the Companions was based on “material standards or ‘stereotypes’”; this is what we say today. But the real evaluation considers the iman criterion only, and this what the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) applied. The second man, in terms of iman, he is better than billions of the likes of the first man.

The “real humbleness” is that you see in you as a “lesser to others” that is ingrained by “taqwa” (piety, fear of Allah, and conscious of Allah) which is the Allah’s criterion for “status and nobility”.

Allah Almighty states: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is All-Knowing and aware." [Al-Hujurat, 49:13].

However, it is known only to Allah, as He Says: “He knows best as to who is pious.” [An-Najm, 53: 32]

Hence, Ibn ‘Ataa’illah As-Sakandari (rahimahullāh) says a humble person is the one who considers himself he is not above his act of humbleness. A humble person is the one who thinks he is a lesser than his act of humbleness and lesser entity to others.

Allah Almighty ordered the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) to: “spread the wings of your tenderness over the believers. [Al-Hijr 15: 88]

The “spreading the wings of tenderness” is the same expression that Allah used for the attitude of a believer with his or her parents:“And serve Allāh. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents…” [An-Nisā’, 4: 36] In another verse: “And spread over them humbly the wings of tenderness.” [Al-Isrā’ 17: 24] This is the highest rank of humbleness.

Furthermore, Allah also commanded the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam): “Pardon them, then, and pray that they be forgiven, and take counsel with them in all matters of public concern.” [Ali-‘Imran 3:159] These are the characteristics of a humble leader: to pardon people, pray that they will be forgiven, and consult them. Anyone who thinks that he does not need people's consultation, or does not need to learn because he knows and understands everything is not a humble person; rather, he is arrogant. We seek refuge in Allah from arrogance.

By nature the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) was gentle and kind hearted, always inclined to be gracious and to overlook the faults of others. Politeness and courtesy, compassion and tenderness, simplicity and humility, sympathy and sincerity were some of the keynotes of his character. [Bukhari, Tarmidzi, Ibn Hisham]

 The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) was the virtual king of Arabia and a Messenger of Allah; but he (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) would never assume an air of superiority but humbleness. It was not that he had to conceal any such vein by practice and artifice, but eternally with: piety, fear of Allah, and conscious of Allah, ingrained in his heart. The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) used to say, “I am a Prophet of Allāh but I do not know what will be my end.”  [Recorded by Al-Bukhari]

Allah  tells the mankind the purpose of sending Prophet Muhammad (Sallāhu ‘alayhi wassalam) as Says in the Qur’an, “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” [Al-Anbiya’ 21: 107]

Allah says about the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam): “By the grace of Allāh, you are gentle towards the people; if you had been stern and ill-tempered, they would have dispersed from round about you” [Surah Ali-‘Imran, 3:159] And Allāh says: “And verily, you (O Muhammad) are on an exalted (standard of) character”  [Al-Qalam, 68:4]

Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “Allāh has sent me as an apostle so that I may demonstrate perfection of character, refinement of manners and loftiness of deportment”. [Mālik; Ahmad]

The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) would change his opinion if it is proved to be wrong after consulting his Companions on community affairs.  This reflects clearly evidence of the Prophet's humbleness.

At the battle of Badar, the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) wanted to camp in a certain place. One of the Companions wanted to propose another place for camping. The Companion, Al-Habbab (radiyallāhu’anhu), asked, “O Messenger of Allah, is your opinion based on a revelation from Allah, or is it war tactics and strategy?” The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) replied: “No, it is war tactics and strategy”. So Al-Habbab (radiyallāhu’anhu), proposed, “Then this is not the most strategic place to camp”. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) accepted his advice. [Al-Bukhari]

Salman Al-Farisi (radiyallāhu’anhu), the Persian Companion of the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), suggested digging a trench to defend Madinah against the attackers and the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) applied his idea. [Al-Bukhari]


Allah the Almighty created us differently in terms of reason, position, health, wealth, and so on. But having one or more of these traits is not a reason for arrogance. In fact, one should be grateful to Allah if he or she is blessed with Allah’s blessings. This is an act of worship by the heart. A humble person is not the one who shows humbleness in front of people or feels in his own heart that his status is above his act of humbleness. A real humble person is the one who is devoid of any traces of arrogance or pride but feels that he is lesser or in humility to people and that he needs them, their advice and their prayers for him. A humble person “spread the wings of tenderness over the others and the believers that are ingrained in his heart by piety, fear of Allah and conscious of Allah.”

Another authentic narration on the authority of Ibn Mas‘ūd, the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:“The one who possesses half of mustard seed of kibr (arrogance) in his heart shall not be granted admission to Jannah; and the one who possesses half of a mustard seed of Iman shall not enter the (Eternal) Fire.” [Muslim, Abu Dawūd, and At-Tirmidzi.]

Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (radiyallāhu’anhu) said: We counted Allah’s Messenger saying a hundred times during one single sitting: ‘Rabb ighfir li wa tubb ‘alayya innaka antat-tawwābul-ghafūrur-raheem’ (O Allāh, forgive me and accept my repentance, for You are the Accepter of Repentance, Oft-Forgiving , Most Merciful). [Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidzi]

 ‘Abdullah bin Mas‘ud (radiyallāhu‘anhu) reported: The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) used to supplicate: “Allāhumma inni as ‘alukal-Huda, Wat-Tuqa, Wal-‘Afafa, Wal-Ghina (O Allāh! I beseech You for Guidance, Piety, Chastity and Contentment).” [Muslim].

This du’a contains four words, the meanings and implications of which constitute its essence. These words are guidance, piety (fear of Allah), chastity and sufficiency. Guidance here means guidance at every turn of life and steadfastness on the path of truth. Fear of Allah is the greatest means of piety and strongest defense against sins. Chastity is the state of being free from what is unlawful. Self-sufficiency is the antonym of poverty and here it means the self-contentment. What it implies is that one should not care for what people possess. In view of all these qualities, the prayer of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) mentioned in this Hadith is very comprehensive and valuable.

Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn Jarir recorded that Umm Salamah (radiyallāhu’anha), said that the Prophet (Sallallāhu ’alayhi wasallam) used to supplicate: ‘Ya muqallibal-qulubi, thabbit qalbi `ala deenik (O Controller of the hearts make my heart steadfast in Your religion).” Rasulullah (Sallallāhu ’alayhi wasallam) then recited: Rabbana la tuzia’qulubana ba’ daiz hadaitana wahab Lana min laduñ karahmah; Iñnaka an tal wahhāb. (Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after Thou have guided us, and grant us mercy from Thou. Truly, Thou are the Bestower.) (Ali-’Imran, 3:8) [This is recorded by Muslim and At-Tirmidzi]

‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Al-’As (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported: The Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) supplicated:“Allahumma musarrifal-qulubi, sarrif qulubana ‘ala ta’atik (O Allah! Controller of the hearts directs our hearts to Your obedience).”  [This is recorded by Muslim].

Commentary: Steadfastness in religion is the conduct of great men, which cannot be acquired without the special Grace of Allah. There occur many turns in a person’s life when he becomes slack or negligent in religious matters or when he deviates from the course prescribed by religion. This prayer has outstanding importance for such people who are faced with such a situation. They should recite this prayer very frequently. In fact they should make its recitation a permanent feature.

Allāh says: “Verily, the Abrar (pious and righteous) will be in Delight (Jannah). And verily, the Fujjar (the wicked, disbelievers, sinners and evildoers) will be in the blazing Fire (Hell).” [Al-Infitar, 82:13, 14]

It was narrated that the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said to a man (one of the Sahabah): “What do you say when you prayer (Du’a after the Tashahhud)?” He said: “I recite the Tashahhud, then I say:  “Allāhumma inni as alukal-Jannah wa a`udzu bika Minan-Nār (O Allāh, I ask You for Paradise and seek refuge in You from the Fire)”; I cannot murmur like you and like Mu‘adz.” Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “It is about them that we were murmuring.” [Abu Dawud, 792: sahih]

Anas Ibn Mālik (radiyallāhu’anhu) who said: “The supplication most often recited by Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam):Rabbana-ātina-fid-dunya hasanah, Wa fil-ākhirati-hasanah, Wa-qina-‘ādzabānnār (O Lord! Bestow upon us in this world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and save us from the punishment of the Fire).’” (Al-Baqārah 2:201) [This is recorded by Al-Bukhāri, Muslim, and Tarmidzi]. Tarmidzi (rahimullāh) said: “Hasanah is very comprehensive and includes in all kinds of good and benefits of this world and of the Hereafter. Good health, wealth and satisfaction of the world and good status in Jannah, forgiveness from sins and Allāh’s bounties and favours in both worlds are included in this duā’” [ Jāmi’ At-Tarmidzi]

Abu Musa (radiyallāhu’anhu) narrated: Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said to me, “Shall I not guide you to a treasure from the treasures of Jannah?” I said: “Yes, O Messenger of Allāh!”' Thereupon he (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “(Recite) Lā-hawla-wa-lā quwwata-illa-billāh [il-‘aly-yul ‘Azeem] (There is no change of any condition nor power except by Allāh [the the Greatest, the Most Magnificent])’.'' [This is recorded by Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary: In this Hadith the invocation “Lā-hawla-wa-lā quwwata-illa-billāh [il-‘aly-yul ‘Azeem]” has been regarded a treasure of Jannah or one of the most precious stores of Jannah. The reason for its high eminence seems to be that through it, one makes a confession of his utter weakness and helplessness and attributes all power and authority to Allāh, and this is very much liked by Allāh. This statement is an outright admission that man has no power and if he can prevent himself from any mischief or do any good deed, it is only by the Will of Allāh and His Permission

And Allāh Almighty Knows best.

[Excerpted with addition from “Ibn ‘Attaa’ Words of Wisdom (27) Reality of Humbleness, a commentary By Dr. Jasser Auda" via OnIslam, 14 February 2012]

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