Superiority of Humility
Source: Ain-al-Hayat, By: Allama Muhammad Baqir Majlisi
Humility is the best of all the human traits. One should always bear in his mind that Greatness is all for Allah only. The more humble a person, the more he shall be endowed with the bounties of Allah. The earth in its humility is a repository of the jewels and other invaluable resources, it helps in the production of innumerable fruits and flowers. Similarly, man, who has been made from the humble soil, had the privilege of the angels prostrating to him and is endowed with an intellect superior to all the creations. Because the fire is rebellious by instinct, Satan has been created from it.
Man should therefore adopt humility and patience in all circumstances. He should refrain from pride and prejudice craving for ascendancy over others. He should never brag about his pedigree. He should always bear in mind that his beginning has been as tiny as a drop of the semen. For many months the menstrual fluids in the womb of his mother sustained him. He should know that he carries impurities in his body like the blood, phlegm and feces. Whenever he throws out any of these impurities, he himself feels revulsion.
After death man gets reduced to such a state that nothing else in the world can be more repulsive. If a cadaver of a dead person is left to rot, it will be infested with such vermin that no other dead animal would attract. One who has to face all these eventualities, has to adopt an attitude of humility in his lifetime. The more a man is wise and learned, the more likelihood of his adopting humility in his attitude to life. Man attains superiority over his fellow human beings by being humble and considerate in his approach to them. This is evident from the lives of the Prophets (as) of yore and their Vicegerents.
Because Greatness is all for Allah, man has to be humility personified. The more a person shows humility in his attitude, the more acceptable he will be to Allah. If a person endeavors to assume false greatness, he will fall the more in the abyss of depravity!
Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (as) says that Allah has appointed two angels whose function is to elevate the persons who adopt humility in their lives and to degrade those who strive to achieve superiority through proud and selfish motives.
Allah sent a Revelation to Prophet Dawood (as), “O Dawood (as)! While I endow those who supplicate to Me in humility, I humiliate those who are proud!”
It is mentioned in the traditions that Prophet Musa (as) received a Revelation from Allah, “O Musa (as)! Are you aware why I have made you superior over others and termed you Kaleem (a friend)?” Prophet Musa (as) said, “I know not, why?” Allah replied, “I have observed all your people, but I found none equal to your humility and modesty of nature. O Musa (as)! While prostrating to Me, you rub your cheeks on the ground! I have liked this attitude of yours!”
It is narrated through a reliable source that Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (as) has said, “It is high humility not to mind sitting at a place not commensurate with one’s status at a meeting of men! It is humility in the disposition of a person that makes him take precedence in greeting others and avoids quarreling with people even if they are wrong in their stand. A person with humility doesn’t feel flattered hearing praises from others.
Imam Ar-Ridha’ (as) defined humility in a person as the habit of discharging the rights of others as he would have his own rights fulfilled!”
Someone asked, “What is the gauge for humility? When can we term a person as humble?” Imam Ar-Ridha’ (as) said, “There are several degrees of humility. One is that a person doesn’t rate himself more than what he is worth. He avoids pride and prejudice. He treats others the same way as he expects them to treat him. Even if he receives ill-treatment from others, he treats them with kindness. He suppresses anger and is generous to a fault. Allah considers such humble persons His friends!”
Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (as) noticed a person in Medina carrying something he had bought. The man was taken aback when he saw the Imam. The Imam said, “You have made some purchases for your family and are carrying home the burden. yourself! If I had not cared for the stares of the people of this town, I should, like you, have carried my purchases home myself!”
One day Imam Zain-ul-’Abidin (as) was riding on his way. He noticed some persons engaged in having their meal. The men asked the Imam (as) to join them in the fare. He said, “If I was not fasting, I would certainly have partaken of your food!” When he arrived at his house the Imam (as) ordered preparation of delicacies for the persons he met at the roadside. He sent for them and shared the repast with the persons.
It is narrated that Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) advised Imam Hasan (as), “Adopt humility. It is best of all supplications!”
The Prophet of Islam (S) said, “One who adopted humility and modesty Allah will endow him with respect and nobility.”
Imam Zain-ul-’Abidin (as) used to say that no Arab and Qureish has any superiority if he is not humble in his demeanor.
The Humility of Najashi
Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (as) narrates that when Ja’far Tayyar (r.a.) bin Abi Talib was at the court of Najashi, he was once called by the monarch to his presence. He found that the king was seated on the bare ground. Ja’far At-Tayyar (r.a.) felt awed finding the monarch sitting the way he did.
Najashi said, “Thank God that He gave victory to your Prophet (S) over his enemies! My greetings to you on this occasion!”
He asked, “Your majesty! How you came to know of this?”
Najashi said, “My agents have brought this news to me. They also informed the names of the persons who have been taken captive. The place where the battle took place is called Badr. At that place lots of Salvadora Persica? trees are growing. I feel as if the place is in my view!”
Ja’far At-Tayyar (r.a.) asked him, “Why are you squatting on the ground?”
Najashi said, “O Ja’far! Of the Commandments that Allah gave to Prophet ‘Isa (as), one is that when people receive a fresh endowment from Him, they should express humility and modesty. Now that Allah has endowed this Blessing, about which I have just informed you, It is imperative on me that I manifest humility in my action!”
When the Prophet (S) was informed about what transpired between Ja’far At-Tayyar (r.a.) and the king of Abyssinia, he said, “Humility enhances respect! Be humble and submissive before Allah! Charity begets prosperity! Do lot of charity, that Allah bestows kindness on you! Forgive the mistakes of others, it will enhance your respect! If you are generous to a fault, Allah will enhance your respect!”
Imam Hasan Al-’Askari (as) says that a person who recognizes the rights of a mu’min and respects him, Allah will enhance his respectability. One who adopts an attitude of humility with a Mu’min, will be counted by Allah among the As-Sadiqeen (the truthful ones). He will be recognized as a Shi’a of the Ahl al-Bayt.
Humility and Lowliness
Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) told to Imam Husayn (as) that in the eyes of Allah the best supplication is humility and no pedigree is of any value but the humility of a person.
Imam Musa al-Kadhim (as) says that when Prophet Nooh (as) boarded the ark and other things were loaded, they set sail. At this moment Allah addressed the mountains that He wished to land the boat on any one of them. Every mighty mountain thought that it would have the privilege of the landing of the Ark. But the Mount Judi, the smallest of the mounts, that was in the vicinity of Najaf Ashraf, thought that it was insignificant when compared to the other mighty mountains and had no chance of being a part of such an important event. Allah liked the humility of Mount Judi and the Ark landed there!
Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) was visited by one of his companions one day. The Imam (as) treated him with much courtesy and attention. He ordered Qanbar, the Imam (as)’s attendant, to arrange a repast for the guest. Qanbar laid the table and brought water for washing the hands and a towel for drying them. Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) took the pitcher of water from Qanbar’s hand and wanted to help the guest wash his hands. The guest said politely, “O Master! How is it possible that the slave makes the master do this service!” Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) said, “What if my Master and Creator gets pleased if I do this service for you!?”
Hearing these words the guest was obliged to get his hands washed by Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as). After helping the guest wash his hands, Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) addressed his son, Muhammad bin Hanafiah, to help the guest’s son wash his hands that the status of the father and the son was not equated. He also added that if the father was not with the son, he would himself have helped him wash his hands.
Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) once went to a shop and asked the vendor to show some cloaks. The man asked, “O Amir’ul-Mu’mineen (as)! What quality of cloaks you desire to buy?” Hearing this, Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) moved away from the shop. The reason was that the man addressed him as Amir’ul-Mu’mineen (as) and that he was aware of the status of the visitor. Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) now went to another shop. At that moment the owner of the shop was away and his young son was attending to the customers.
Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) asked the young man to give two cloaks. He bought one for two and the other for three Dirhams. Now Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) asked Qanbar(r.a.) to take the cloak worth three Dirhams and kept the inferior garment for himself. Qanbar(r.a.) said, “O Master! Please take the better garment for your own use!” Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) said, “It is always the youth who deserve to use better things. You must therefore use the better cloak of the two! The Prophet of Allah (S) has verily said,’ Provide to the slave the type of garments you yourselves wear and give them the food that you eat!”
The sleeves of Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as)’s cloak were slightly longer than his arms. He got them cut to size and said that the cloth would be useful for making caps for some needy persons.
After a while the owner returned to his shop and learned that Amir’ul-Mu’mineen (as) had purchased the cloaks from there. He went to the presence of Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) and said, “O Amir’ul-Mu’mineen (as)! My son didn’t recognize you and has derived a profit of two Dirhams from you in the bargain! I therefore request you to kindly take back these two Dirhams.” Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) said, “We agreed to the price he quoted! The deal was struck! Also, bear it in mind that we are the Ahl al-Bayt (people of the Prophet (S)’s Household)! Whatever we give, we never take back!”
The Humility of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.A.)
It is narrated from an authentic source that Muhammad bin Muslim went one day to the presence of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (as). He was partaking of his meal at the time. The Imam (as) asked the visitor to join him over the fare. After finishing the lunch the Imam (as) said, “O Muhammad! My Grand Father, the Prophet of Islam (S), from the day he was ordained the Prophet (S) till his last breath, never reclined on a bolster during his meals. By Allah! He never took support of anything while eating food.
Never did the Prophet (S) eat bread made out of wheat for three consecutive days! From the day he was ordained the Prophet (S) he never ate his fill of wheat bread! I don’t mean to say that it was not within his means to afford good food! He used to give away hundreds of good camels in charity! If he wished, he could have ordered the best of victuals for himself! In fact Jibrael came thrice to offer to the Prophet (S) the keys to the treasures of the world and said that if he accepted the wealth his status on the Day of Reckoning would not change a wee-bit!
But the Prophet (S), in absolute humility, refused to accept the offer every time it was made to him! The Prophet (S) always tried his best to take care of the needs of persons coming to him for help. If at any time he did not have the means, he would tell the person in absolute humility that he would attend to his needs as soon as he could! Whenever he was endowed with any bounties, he never hoarded them. Many a time he used to vouch Heaven to his visitors and Allah acceded to his wish!”
The Humility of Amir’ul-Mu’mineen Ali (A.S.)
Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) used to feed meat and wheat bread to the poor. But at home he used to eat dry barley bread with olive oil. He always preferred hardships for himself. During his 25 years of Vicegerency, he never lived in a house made of properly tempered bricks. He never held a small piece of land for his own use. He did not leave behind any property as legacy for his children. He had no savings other that the 700 Dirhams that he kept for buying a slave girl to serve the womenfolk at home! None other could offer supplications as he did. Imam Zain-ul-’Abidin (as) used to keep aside the book of Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as)’s Supplications expressing his inability to act on them!
It is narrated that Fiddah (r.a.), Lady Fatima (as)’s slave-girl, brought a sealed bag to Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as). He opened the seal and brought out dry bread and crusts from it. Umro bin Harith was with Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) at that time. He told in a sad tone to Fiddah (r.a.), “It would have been better if you had sieved the crusts!” Fidda replied, “The reason for putting on the seal is that no such thing was done by anyone to the contents of the bag!”
It is narrated authentically that Suwaid bin Ghafla came to Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) on the day of Eid. He noticed that there was some flour and dry bread in a bowl soaked in milk. He asked, “O Master! You eat the same food even on festive occasions?” He replied, “Eid is for one who is sure of pardon for his past sins!”
Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (as) narrated that Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) used to carry the firewood and containers of water for his home on his own shoulders. He used to sweep the house every day. Lady Fatima (as) used to grind the flour and knead it herself for baking the bread.
It is narrated that one day Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) bought fresh dates in Kufa. He tied the fruit in the lapel of his shawl and was proceeding towards his home. Some companions met him on the way and offered to carry his burden. The Imam (as) said, “The right of carrying the family’s burden rests with the head of the family!” Then he added, “If a person of distinction carries the weight of his family’s requirements, his distinction doesn’t diminish in any manner whatsoever!”
It is recorded that Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) used to walk bare-footed on five occasions. On these occasions he used to carry his footwear in his left hand. He would go to the Mosque barefooted on Eid-al-Fitr, Eid-al-Adha and the Friday Congregations. The Imam (as) would also go barefooted when he visited a sick person. He also went with bare feet while attending the funeral procession of a dead person. He used to say that one has to be barefooted while attending to Allah’s tasks!
It is narrated that Amir’ul-Mu’mineen ‘Ali (as) used to visit the market place all alone. During these walks if he found a stranger who had lost his way, the Imam (as) would guide him. When he noticed old and feeble persons on the way, he would offer his help and support to them. If he noticed any person reciting the Qur’an incorrectly, he would guide the person to recite it correctly. Then he would himself recite a verse which says, “We have apportioned the abode in the Hereafter for those who do not want dissension and aggrandizement in the land; for the virtuous good awaits in the Hereafter.”
Ibrahim bin Abbas narrates that he did not meet a humbler person than Imam ‘Ali ar Ar-Ridha’ (as). He was never harsh to anyone. He would never interrupt a person till he completed his talk. He would never turn down the request of a needy person. The Imam (as) never sat with his feet stretched towards any person and also never reclined on a bolster while meeting people. He never reprimanded his slaves and servants. The Imam (as) was never seen laughing loudly. He used always to share his food with his servants and slaves. He slept little and used to be busy praying in the nights. The Imam (as) used to fast on most days. He was very charitable and generally he would do this in the silence and darkness of the nights that people did not know who their benefactor was!