It has been narrated from Ibn `Umar that he said, The Messenger of Allah (blessings of Allah be upon him and his family) once gave us such a speech that made our eyes flow with tears and made our and some of that which we wrote down (of his speech was that): ‘O Mankind! Surely the greatest servant (of Allah) is the one who shows humility even though he may be of high rank or status and who renounces the world even though he has a desire for it (its pleasures) and who is equitable and just even though he has the strength (to oppress others) and who shows forbearance even though has the ability to get his rights by force (Bihar al-Anwar). ‘ ”
The important issue (which we wish to elucidate upon) that has been mentioned in this section of the Hadith is that sometimes a person refrains from committing a sin due to not having the ability to commit that sin. Sometimes it is due to not having an attraction to commit that sin – for example, the person who does not like the taste of alcohol (and thus does not drink) or he likes the taste of it however he does not have the ability (to drink alcohol) or the introductory steps in order to do this sin are not present (for example he does not have money to purchase the alcohol) or he does not drink alcohol due to the negative effects that it has on him.
Such a form of refraining from committing a sin for a person who does not have the ability to commit the sin is not important rather, what is important is when a person has the ability but he still refrains from committing a sin. Thus, according to the words of the Prophet (blessings of Allah be upon him and his family) the greatest person is the one who even though has status, rank and position in the community, however he is still humble and modest with others.
In relation to refraining from sins, we see that people are of various types. There is one group of people who do not commit certain sins since deep down in their heart, those are detested acts. Thus, every person must look deep within himself and see what prohibited things he has a desire to perform so that he can refrain from those things. However this point should also be kept in mind that it is difficult for a person to recognize these things by himself as sometimes there are characteristics within a person that he would not realize he has and maybe after sixty years of his life pass by, then he would then realize he has these defects. Why is this so? Because a person never looks at his own self trying to pick out his own faults and defects.
If a person would like to advance in the spiritual areas of his life and to reach to the higher levels of spirituality, then he must look at his own self with a very critical eye so that he is able to pick out his weak points. It is for this reason that it has been said that when one wants to recognize ones own weak points and defects then he should rely on his enemies or his own friends who would sincerely criticize him (not those who would hide his defects). However, better than all of this is when a person learns to criticize himself. If a person knows what haram acts he loves to perform and he knows where his defects and slips are and through what channels Shaitan tries to get to him and make use of him, then he will never be held captive by his lower desires and the Shaitan.
It is for this reason that the Prophet (blessings of Allah be upon him and his family) has said, The best of people is that one who even though has the liking (to commit a sin) and even though he has the power and ability (to oppress others) is just, and even though he has greatness, he is still humble.
This advice is addressed to all people, especially the Scholars (`Ulama) – why? Because the Scholars are the leaders of the people and before going to teach others, the leaders must first train themselves.
The more a persons status (within the society) increases, the more his (small) errors and slips become greater (in the eyes of the people). Similarly, when his duties increase and become more sensitive and critical (to perform in the proper way), there is a greater danger that they may not be fulfilled how they should be.
The sincere people (Al-Mukhlsoin) are in the greatest danger.
While a person is young, he may commit sins and then say, When I get older I will repent for this sin. This act of delaying and postponing ones asking for forgiveness is an act of trickery and deceit on the part of Shatian and an act of ones own soul.
There is also the person who makes a promise to himself that when the Month of Ramadhan comes along, then he will ask for forgiveness. However, if a person wishes to be a guest and take part in a banquet, he must first purify himself and put on clean clothing and then go forth to be the guest of another person not that he takes part in the banquet while wearing dirty, filthy clothes and all praise belongs to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, only the mistakes are mine.