Pride or Arrogance is a Greater Sin
By: Shaheed Ayatullah Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi
As mentioned in the tradition of Imam Riďa (a.s.) narrated by Fazl ibn Shazān. Shaykh Ansari has also verified the authenticity of this tradition in Makasib. A similar tradition from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) is quoted by Amash to have said, “Arrogance and tyranny is a greater sin.”
According to the Holy Qur’an, pride is a sin that will most certainly be severely punished.
The Almighty Allah says in Surah az-Zumar (Verse 60)
“Is there not in Hell an abode for the proud?” (Surah az-Zumar 39:60)
He also says: “It shall be said: Enter the gates of hell to abide therein; so evil is the abode of the proud.” (Surah az-Zumar 39:72)
In Surah Ghafīr (Verse 35) Almighty remarks, “Thus does Allah set a seal over the heart of every proud, haughty one.” (Surah Ghafīr 40: 35)
The one who considers himself to be the best wants others to know that he is the best. There are numerous Qur’anic verses against pride and haughtiness but we shall mention only the one that talks of the haughtiness of Shaitan; as the result of which he became the accursed one:
“He refused and he was proud, and he was one of the Unbelievers.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:34)
Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.) says in one of his sermons: “You should take a lesson from what Allah did with Shaitan; namely He nullified his great acts and extensive efforts on account of the vanity of one moment, although Shaitan had worshipped Allah for six thousand years - whether by the reckoning of this world or of the next world is not known. Who now can remain safe from Allah after Shaitan by committing a similar disobedience? None at all. Allah, the Glorified, cannot let a human being enter Paradise if he does the same thing for which Allah turned out from it an angel. His command for the inhabitants in the sky and of the earth is the same. There is no friendship between Allah and any individual out of His creation so as to give him licence for an undesirable thing which He has held unlawful for all the worlds.” (That is pride and arrogance). (Sermon No.192 Nahjul Balagha)
After a few sentences ‘Ali (a.s.) says about Qabīl: “Do not be like him who feigned superiority over the son of his mother without any distinction given to him by Allah. It was only the feeling of enmity which created a feeling of greatness in him and the fire of anger that vanity kindled in his heart. Satan blew into him his own vanity, after which Allah made him responsible for the sins of all killers upto the Day of Judgement since he had initiated the crime of killing.” (Nahjul Balagha)
Thus Qabīl was doomed to eternal perdition due to pride that caused him to murder his righteous brother.
‘Ali (a.s.) continues: “Take instruction from how the (Shaitan) brought Allah’s wrath, calamities, chastisement and punishment on those who were vain among the past people. Take admonition from their lying on their cheeks and falling on their sides, and seek Allah’s protection from the dangers of vanity, as you seek His protection from calamities.” (Nahjul Balagha)
The Holy Prophet (S) says: “Allah will not speak to Three kinds of people on the Day of Qiyāma; and they will not be looked upon kindly by Him; and there is a severe punishment for them: An aged adulterer, a tyrant ruler and a proud beggar.”(al-Kāfi)
From the above hadith we can conclude that the punishment for a youthful adulterer, a ruler who does not oppress and a proud person who is not a beggar will be less severe. An old man committing adultery is far more despicable because unlike a young man he is not fired by an intense sexual urge, and in spite of this he disobeys the Divine command and brings upon himself added punishment.
The same applies to a ruler whom Almighty has bestowed a kingdom, wealth and power; and the ruler instead of being thankful and grateful to Allah (S.w.T.) for His bounties misuses them to oppress Allah (S.w.T.)’s creatures. Not only is such a ruler accountable for his oppressive deeds but he incurs the intense wrath of Allah (S.w.T.) because of his ingratitude and denial of Allah (S.w.T.)’s blessings. A proud beggar is miserable creature; he incurs the intense displeasure of Allah (S.w.T.) because he is vain in spite of the fact that he has nothing that can be the cause of his vanity.
A man enquired from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.): “What is the lower level of disbelief?”
Imam (a.s.) said, “It is pride.”
Imam Baqir (a.s.) says: “Stateliness and superiority, and the expression of a pride are like two exclusive garments of Allah (S.w.T.). (No one can share it with Him). Hence if anyone dares to acquire these qualities he will be thrown headlong into hell by Allah.” (al-Kāfi)
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) is also recorded to have remarked: “Pride and superiority are like two exclusive garments of Allah. So one who acts proud has made war on Allah.”(al-Kāfi)
A proud person is mentioned as having made war on Allah (S.w.T.) because such a person loses all awareness of the reality that he is an insignificant creature whose very existence and all that he possesses is only because of Allah (S.w.T.)’s favour on him. He regards himself as someone very special, in full control of his life, which no other power can influence. His arrogance can reach a stage where he can even claim divinity in open defiance of the Almighty, as it happened with Fir’on. While a man can develop qualities like mercy, kindness etc. which are also divine qualities, and developing these qualities will in fact help a person to gain nearness to Allah (S.w.T.), but man, a creature of Allah (S.w.T.) has no right whatsoever to associate pride and superiority with himself. These are exclusive for Allah (S.w.T.). The Almighty says in the Qur’an:
“And to Him belongs greatness in the heavens and the earth, and He is the Mighty, the Wise.” (Surah Jathiyah 45:37)
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says: “There is a special section for the arrogant people in the hell. It is called Saqr. Saqr complained to Allah (S.w.T.) for the intensity of its heat and sought permission to breathe. It breathed and scorched hell.” (al-Kāfi)
Imam (a.s.) also remarked, “Certainly the haughty people will be raised as peanuts (on the Day of Qiyāma) and till the accounting of the people is complete they would be trampled upon.” (by others). (al-Kāfi)
Allamah Majlisi explains the above tradition: “This hadith proves that it is possible that some people may be raised in diminutive form, possessing some or all of the physical characteristics. (It is also possible) that other additional characteristics may be added to their bodies and hence be the cause of additional pain. It can also be said that the arrogant sinner will be raised in such a disgraceful condition that it would be as if he is utterly small in size. Whatever may be the form, it is certain that they will be trampled under the feet of other people.
Signs of Pride
1) When we speak to a person having same social status as us, regarding a fact, which is difficult for him to accept and he does not express any pleasure it denotes that he is proud.
2) If in gatherings and social events he finds it difficult to sit in place which is below his dignity or he dislikes to walk behind, then this person is proud.
3) If he finds it difficult to salute a person lower than him in social status, he is proud.
4) If it is difficult for him to accept the invitation of poor people or to sit with beggars it is a sign of pride.
5) If he feels it is below his dignity to purchase household items and to carry them home, he is proud. But considering his social status and the prevailing circumstances if such an action would be the cause of criticism and backbiting among the people there is no blame on him.
6) If a person is averse to wearing clothes of inferior quality and desires to wear good clothes considering them to be a sign of greatness, he is proud. Except, as already mentioned, when inferior dress may be a cause of disrespect to him.
7) If one does not like to sit together with a servant or the student, it is a sign of pride.