In its most pure and pristine form, humility is the awareness and declaration on the part of a believing person that all good qualities held by him/her are granted by God, the Glorious and Merciful, and that all praise and thanks is to Him. In order to be blessed and honored with such virtuous characteristics, we must comprehend the true meaning of humility. Humility and humbleness are among the noblest virtues a believer can be blessed with, because their presence in our hearts and actions instills in us a capacity for the closest possible intimacy with God, the most Glorious and Merciful. These exalted traits were personified by the Holy Prophet and His Household (peace be upon them), and their modesty, graciousness, and humility were a cogent validation of their divine righteousness. For example, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (peace be upon him) would spread his cloak out such that the poverty-stricken and indigent who came to visit him could sit on it.
Islam is a comprehensive religion and has established humility as the foundation of all sublime moral excellence. Its absence in any soul removes any other virtue from the believer except for the superficial qualities.
“The servants of the Merciful are those who walk on the earth in humility.” (25:63)
Humbleness is an attribute praised by the Holy Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad. In order to be blessed and honored with such virtuous characteristics, we must comprehend the true meaning of humility. In its more pure and pristine form, humility is the awareness and declaration on the part of a believing person that all good qualities held by him/her are granted by God, the Glorious and Merciful, and that all praise and thanks is to Him.
Any task we set forth upon that is void of humility is tainted, and humbleness must exist if our intention in any action is pure. As human beings, we are blessed with wealth, intellect, and success; however, we must acknowledge that these blessings are provided to us by God, and we must thank Him. Indeed, God’s blessings towards us are trials and opportunities for us to earn His approval and acceptance as believers. If we continue to live without true humility, our actions will continue to be destroyed by arrogance, conceit, and selfish ambition. By continuously thanking the Most Beneficent and Merciful for the blessings He has provided us, we avoid becoming arrogant and are able to join the ranks of the true Muslims.
Arrogance: The Disease of the Soul
The Holy Prophet advised his followers to humble themselves before God and other Muslims, “And no one humbles himself before Allah but Allah will raise him (in status).” Just as humility can lead us to heaven and join us in the ranks of the Prophets and Imams, arrogance, the antagonistic force of humility, will lead us to the deepest and most dreaded pits of hell-fire. Arrogance, also known as Ujb, is among the most destructive vices a person can be stricken with. Ujb is a dangerous characteristic, and we pray to the Most-Merciful to remove it from our hearts, because arrogance leads to hypocrisy, and hypocrisy leads to Riyaa (showing off) and a complete elimination of any faith in a human being.
Arrogance is a disease that has destroyed the faith and honor of countless individuals, and both the pious and common people are susceptible to it unless we continuously praise and thank God in humility for the blessings He has provided us. Imam Musa al-Kadhim (peace be upon him) warns us of the several levels of arrogance “There are several levels of Ujb. One of them is when one’s bad actions appear to him as good; he reckons them as good and loves himself, imagining that he is performing virtuous deeds. Another level of Ujb is represented by a person who believes that by having faith in God, he has done God a favor, whereas (in reality) it is God Almighty who has conferred a favor on him (by endowing him with faith).” (Al-Kafi)
Such evil caprices can be defeated through humility and by remembering that all good done on our part, talents we possess, and every good deed and worship we have completed are due to the divine blessings and generosity of God, the most Honorable and Sovereign.
“Give good news to the humble-hearted.” (22:34)
Humility and humbleness towards God manifest themselves as modesty, patience, and respect towards other Muslims. Submission to God leads a person towards a more tranquil and meek life of purpose and substance, while self-pride and arrogance leads one to a life of darkness and hatred. It is not possible to be in actual submission while behaving arrogantly and in contempt towards others. Indeed, humble submission before the Most Glorious and Eternal Lord is the most sublime and greatest source of honor and dignity a believing person can be afforded.
Humility comes from recognizing the Might of God and that all might belongs to Him, His Greatness, and being in awe of His Majesty. The lives of Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) exemplified humility and an awareness and consciousness of God. They associated with the poor and destitute and worshiped God devotedly and steadfastly through times of peril and blessings. Imam Ali ar-Ridha (peace be upon him) worshiped God so intensely that those around him were naturally curious as to the cause. A companion asked the Imam, “O son of the Messenger of Allah! I fear that you may perish due to excess worship.” Imam ar-Ridha replied, “Such a death is everlasting success.” The Caliph Ma’mun said, “What sins have you committed that you pray day and night for their forgiveness?” Imam replied, “Not for the forgiveness of sins, it is for the thankfulness of His bounties. It is the demand of my servitude.” (Akhlaq al-Aimma)
True humbleness asks that we remember God constantly, thank Him for His countless blessings that He has conferred upon us, use our talents and abilities in the path of God, and consider ourselves superior to no one. Indeed, “Successful indeed are the believers who humble themselves in their prayers.” (Qur’an 23:02)