Pride and Its Types
By: Shaheed Ayatullah Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi
Arrogance is the practical expression of pride which develops in a person who thinks himself to be better than others. Arrogance can be categorized as:
(1) Arrogance against Allah (S.w.T.)
(2) Arrogance against the Holy Prophet (S) and the Imams (a.s.)
(3) Arrogance towards people.
Arrogance towards the Almighty is expressed in different ways. There are arrogant people seized by the feeling of being all powerful. They attribute all their achievements and acquisitions to their own capabilities and are oblivious of the supremacy and might of the Almighty. The feeling of self importance is expressed by them in their actions and speech with words like “I have done this,” and “I will do that”.
On the basis of his strength and property he refuses to recognise the supremacy and might of Allah (S.w.T.), with the result that the darkness of disbelief shrouds his heart. The Holy Qur’an says:
“...there is naught in their breasts but (a desire) to become great which they shall never attain to...”
(Surah Ghafīr 40:56)
These are people who will not achieve greatness either in this world nor the Hereafter. The Almighty Allah says at another place,
“...so (as for) those who do not believe in the hereafter, their hearts are ignorant and they are proud.”
(Surah an-Nahl 16:22)
As mentioned earlier, sometimes, the haughtiness assumes such high proportions that the man apart from crediting his own self for everything also dares to declare his Godhood and supremacy over other people. He claims that he has absolute control over a section of people and that they are subservient to him. Like the foolish Fir’on who alleged:
“Then he said: I am your lord, the most high.”
(Surah An-Nāzi’āt 79:24)
He tries to prove his claim by saying:
“...is not the Kingdom of Egypt mine? And these rivers flow beneath me;..”
(Surah Az-Zukhruf 43:51)
“...I do not know of any god for you besides myself.”
(Surah al-Qaŝaŝ 28:38)
In the same way Namrūd also considered himself the controller of life and death:
“he said: I give life and cause death...”
(Surah al-Baqarah 2:258)
Namrūd ordered that two of his prisoners may be presented before him. And in order to prove that he had control over life and death, ordered one prisoner to be killed and released the other one!
Then there are individuals who do not deny the existence of Allah (S.w.T.) but they show their arrogance against Allah (S.w.T.) by not worshipping Allah (S.w.T.) and by disobeying Allah (S.w.T.)’s orders regarding obligatory and prohibited acts. Allah (S.w.T.) the Almighty says:
“The Messiah does by no means disdains that he should be a servant of Allah, nor do the angels who are near to Him, and whoever disdains His service and is proud, He will gather them all together to Himself.
Then as for those who believe and do good, He will pay them fully their rewards and give them more out of His grace, and as for those who disdain and are proud, He will chastise them with a painful chastisement.”
(Surah an-Nisā’ 4:172-173)
Wilful disobedience to Allah (S.w.T.)’s command is insolence and defiance against Allah (S.w.T.) and sins so committed are unforgivable. Such a person considers himself so superior that he feels there is no need to obey Allah (S.w.T.). This attitude amounts to disbelief in Allah (S.w.T.). The sins committed by a person who believes in the supremacy of the Almighty are not of the above category. These sins are committed due to evil desires and foolishness and not due to Kufr. Imam Zainul Ābedīn (a.s.) says in Du’a of Abu Hamza Thumali:
“O my Allah! When I committed a sin I was not a disbeliever in You (at that time) and neither did I consider Your commands unimportant. And I did not take lightly Your threats of chastisement. Neither I had any objection against Your punishment. Actually the sin that I had committed was due to the instigation of my own self which defrauded me and my carnal desire overcame me.”
(Du’a of Abu Hamza Thumali)
The disbelief of Iblīs was proved in the same way when he refused to prostrate before Hazrat Adam (a.s.).
“He said: I am not such that I should make obeisance to a mortal who Thou has created of the essence of black mud fashioned in shape.”
(Surah al-Hijr 15:33)
The Almighty Allah replied,
“...then get forth from this (state), for it does not befit you to behave proudly therein. Go forth, therefore, surely you are of the abject ones.”
(Surah al-Ar’āf 7:13)
The High and Almighty Allah has also said,
“...and he was proud, and he was one of the unbelievers.”
(Surah al-Baqarah 2:34)
“Arrogance overcame Izazīl (Satan), made him liable to be cursed.”
(A Persian Couplet)
To Give up Du’a due to Arrogance is Kufr
“And your Lord says, Call upon Me, I will answer you, surely those who are too proud for My service shall soon enter hell abased.”
(Surah Ghafīr 40:60)
In the above ayat Allah (S.w.T.) has assured that whoever seeks His help will receive immediate response. According to Tafsīr Kashaf Du’a means to ask, that is to seek something. Thus the actual purpose of Du’a is to beg the Almighty with utmost humility and sincerity. This is true obedience and worship of one God. So whoever does not supplicate is arrogant. He considers himself self sufficient and independent of Allah (S.w.T.) and does not consider Allah (S.w.T.) deserving of obeisance; such a person has committed Kufr and will remain forever in Hell.
Imam Zainul Ābedīn (a.s.) says:
“(O Allah (S.w.T.)) you have named Du’a towards You to be Your worship and its omission to be arrogance which earns Hell.”
“The best of Your servants are those who are not arrogant, and who do not repeat sins insolently, and make repentance their habit and I avoid to be the one who becomes arrogant and does not call You.”
Arrogance by Sacrilege
One of the types of arrogance with regard to the Almighty is to behave arrogantly towards whatever is associated with Allah (S.w.T.)’s name. For example the orders and prohibitions of Allah (S.w.T.), specially the sacred month of Ramadhan, the Holy Ka’ba, the Holy tombs; and even an ordinary mosque because Allah (S.w.T.) has said,
“And (all) the mosques are for Allah.”
(Surah al-Jinn 72:18)
So if one acts arrogantly with relation to any of the above it means that he is arrogant towards Allah (S.w.T.). For He (S.w.T.) says,
“O You who believe! Do not violate the signs appointed by Allah...”
(Surah al-Mā’ida 5:2)
It means that one should not insult or disregard anything that is related to the Almighty.
Arrogance causes degradation in this world as well as the Hereafter
Arrogance with relation to the Almighty or otherwise brings degradation and insults in this life as also in the life after death. On the other hand humility and the expression of lowliness before Allah (S.w.T.) earns the respect of this world as well as success in the hereafter. The stations of such a person are raised. The Holy Prophet (S) says,
“One who humbles before Allah is raised by Him in status; and the one who is arrogant will be degraded by Allah.”
Umar ibn Shaiba says in the Sharh of Sahīfa that, “I was at the sacred Mecca, between Safa and Marwah when I saw a stranger on a camel. His slaves were preventing the people from coming near him. After sometime I happened to be in Baghdad. There I saw a man in a dishevelled condition with his hair awry. I stared at him in surprise. He asked as to why I was staring at him. I said that I find a great resemblance between him and an arrogant person whom I had seen at Mecca between Safa and Marwah. At that time he behaved very arrogantly. The man said, “I am the same person! I had behaved arrogantly at a place where people exhibit humility, that’s why the Almighty has made me lowly in Baghdad where people achieve great honours. And thus these people behave arrogantly towards me.”
Arrogance toward the Holy Prophet (S) and Imams (a.s.)
To consider oneself as equal to or better than divine personalities is an act of arrogance. Also to refuse to obey their commands amounts to being arrogant towards them. This is like the behaviour of the supporters of Fir’on who considered themselves superior to Hazrat Mūsa (a.s.) and Harūn (a.s.). They used to say:
“What! shall we believe in two mortals like ourselves...?
(Surah Al-Mum’inūn 23:47)
Similarly some of the disbelievers used to tell the Holy Prophet (S): “Why have not angels been sent down upon us, or (why) do we not see our Lord?” These people considered their status to be on par with that of the Holy Prophet (S) and wondered why the revelation had not descended on them.
The Holy Qur’an remarks:
“Now certainly they are too proud of themselves and have revolted in great revolt.”
(Surah al-Furqān 25:21)
The following words of Hazrat Nuh (a.s.) are recorded in the Holy Qur’an:
“But my call has only made them flee the more:
“And whenever I have called them that Thou mayest forgive them, they put their fingers in their ears, cover themselves with their garments, and persist and are puffed up with pride.”
(Surah Nuh 71:6-7)
The Meccans were similarly puffed with pride whenever they were told to believe in Islam:
“And they say: why was not this Qur’an revealed to a man of importance in the two towns?” (Mecca and Taif)
(Surah Az-Zukhruf 43:31)
It was unacceptable to the infidels that a mere orphan who had not much wealth either had been selected for the exalted position of Prophethood. They would have preferred the Qur’an to have been revealed upon some influential people like Walid bin Mughaira and Masud Thaqafi etc.
Arrogance towards the Prophet (S) and Imams (a.s.) is actually arrogance towards the Almighty Allah (S.w.T.). Disobeying the commands of the Prophet (S) and the Imams (a.s.), the representatives of Allah (S.w.T.) is an act of arrogance towards the Almighty Himself. Similarly the pious Mujtahids and the jurists are representatives of Imam az-Zaman (a.s.). One who considers oneself superior to them, or insults them and is insolent towards them by disobeying their rulings is guilty of arrogance towards the Imam (a.s.) himself, and the Prophet (S). Also, according to Imam Sadiq (a.s.) such arrogance is a kind of polytheism.
Arrogance with an Ālim is arrogance towards the Holy Prophet (S)
The Messenger of Allah said:
“Beware! Do not falsify the words of an Ālim. Do not reject his statements and do not bear enmity towards him. Be cordial with them, because friendship with the learned is a sign of good morals. And enmity with them is hypocrisy. Beware! Whoever insults an Ālim insults me and whoever insults me insults Allah; and whoever insults Allah; his abode is Hell. And (remember), whoever honours an Ālim, honours me and whoever honours me honours Allah and whoever honours Allah; his abode shall be Paradise.”
The Arrogants are the inmates of Hell
We must remember that all the Qur’anic verses that mention eternal punishment for the proud people are concerned with two types of pride. The first is with respect to Allah (S.w.T.) and also the Prophet (S) and the Imams (a.s.). As we stated before, arrogance of these types is a result of disbelief in the creator of the Universe; and the one who dies without belief in Allah (S.w.T.) will abide forever in Hell.
Al-Shahīd Al-Awwal Faqih Al-Sarbidaran mentions in Qawaid the fact that pride and arrogance are Greater sins and numerous traditions testify to this. The Holy Prophet (S) says:
“One who has even an iota of pride will not enter Paradise.”
Then he says that the pride referred to in the tradition is one that reaches the level of disbelief, it is the arrogance towards Allah (S.w.T.), and the Prophet (S) and Imams (a.s.). However if it applies to arrogance towards people the tradition is construed to mean that those who have even a bit of pride will not enter Paradise with the humble believers. They will have to undergo punishment in Hell and only then allowed to enter Paradise.
The interpretation is in accordance with the narration of Muhammad Ibn Muslim who quotes Imam Sadiq (a.s.) to have said:
“Even one who has pride equal to a mustard seed in his heart will not be able to enter Paradise.”
Muhammad Ibn Muslim says, “I said. Certainly we belong to Allah (S.w.T.) and to Him we shall return.” Imam (a.s.) asked him the reason for reciting the verse of return. He replied that it was in response to the Imam’s statement. “It is not what you have understood,”
Imam (a.s.) told him, “Know that I meant disbelief and refusal by it.”
(The arrogance which prevents one to enter Paradise is arrogance based on the rejection of truth and on the rejection of Allah (S.w.T.), the Prophet (S) and the Holy Imams (a.s.). But if a person is a believer and is arrogant; he will not have eternal punishment in Hell).
Behaving arrogantly with the people
The third type of arrogance is with respect to the fellow-beings. To consider oneself superior and better than others and to consider others lowly. To behave in a proud manner with them, and walk ahead of them. To try to find the best seat in a gathering. To expect others to salute and show humility. To hate one who offers good advice and to refuse the advice offered. To feel angry if someone points out one’s mistake. Not to behave with kindness and benevolence towards those whom one teaches. To act as if one has done a great favour and expect servitude in return. In brief, arrogance is the act of considering and believing oneself to be the most superior person. Just like we consider ourselves superior to the animals.
The proud people who are rich prefer not to stand besides the ordinary people during congregational prayers or mix with them in religious gatherings. In reality an arrogant person has made himself a partner with the Almighty Allah (S.w.T.) by trying to acquire the Divine attribute of Pride that belongs exclusively to Him. It is as if the slave takes away the king’s crown and puts it on his own head and seats himself on the throne. Such a slave is liable for the worst punishment. It is wise to avoid such behaviour.
Allah (S.w.T.) is the Creator of all human beings, therefore it is not proper for one man to behave arrogantly with another and to consider himself superior and exclusive. The one who behaves proudly has actually become Allah (S.w.T.)’s rival, because Pride is a quality reserved for Allah (S.w.T.) alone.
Some of the traditions related to Pride and the proud people have already been mentioned above in the beginning of the discussion. Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says: “Pride is considering other people lowly and considering the truth as foolishness.”
Allamah Majlisi explains that it denotes making fun of truth, rejecting it, considering it lowly, and not understanding its importance.
The Holy Prophet (S) says:
“The worst kind of Pride is considering the creatures lowly and considering the truth foolishness.”
Umar bin Yazid says, I asked Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.): “I eat well and wear a good perfume and ride the best horse. I am also accompanied by my slaves. Is it arrogance on my part? I want to know it so that I may abstain from such a behaviour.”
Imam (a.s.) bowed his head and then said,
“Remember! The accursed and arrogant is the one who considers other people lowly and ignores the truth.”
Umar said, “I understand what truth is but what is the meaning of ‘ignoring the Truth’?
Imam (a.s.) said: “One who considers other people inferior and shows his superiority over them is arrogant.”
We shall refer to some types of pride and arrogance with people because the Holy Qur’an has mentioned them in different ayats.
The Qur’anic view of arrogance with people
In Surah al-Baqarah we come across the following ayat:
“And when it is said to him, guard against (the punishment of) Allah; pride carries him off to sin; therefore hell is sufficient for him; and certainly it is an evil resting place.”
(Surah al-Baqarah 2:206)
According to Abdullah Ibn Masūd the greatest sin is when one is told to ‘Fear Allah’ and he replies, “Mind your own business.”
When someone warns a person of Divine retribution and advises him to forgo some sins and instead of accepting his advice with humility he says, ‘It is none of your business. First reform yourself!’, or instead of giving up a sin the person repeats it with insolence; these are the types of people who are condemned to Hell according to the above ayat.
The arrogance and pride of such people are obstacles in their moral development and instead of accepting the truth they try to justify their actions.
In the same way during a debate a person is confronted with a fact which his pride hinders him from accepting. He sticks to his stand in obstinacy. This behaviour is a speciality of the hypocrites.
The Almighty Allah says:
“And those who disbelieve say do not listen to this Qur’an and make noise therein, perhaps you may overcome.”
(Surah Fuŝŝilat 41:26)
And in Surah Luqmān the Qur’an says:
“And do not turn your face away from people in contempt, nor go about in the land exulting overmuch; surely Allah does not love any self-conceited boaster.”
(Surah Luqmān 31:18)
Similarly another verse says:
“O you who believe! Let not (one) people laugh at (another) people perchance they may be better than they, nor let women laugh at (other) women, perchance they may be better than they; and do not find fault with your own people nor call one another by nick names; evil is a bad name after faith, and whoever does not turn, these it is that are the unjust.”
(Surah al-Hujurāt 49:11)
The unjust are those who have made themselves liable for Divine anger and chastisement.
Anyone who looks down upon the Muslims and considers himself superior to them is like Iblīs who refused to prostrate before Hazrat Adam (a.s.) because he considered himself superior. He said:
“I am better than he; Thou hast created me of fine, and him Thou didst create of dust.”
(Surah Sād 38:76)
The Almighty replied:
“That I will most certainly fill hell with you and with those among them who follows you, all”
(Surah Sād 38:85)
Show of wealth is also an act of pride
Flaunting ones riches and wealth before the less privileged people is an act of arrogance and pride. The Almighty says regarding this:
“Surely Qarūn was of the people of Mūsa, but he rebelled against them, and We had given him of the treasures, so much so that his hoards of wealth would certainly weigh down a company of men possessed of great strength. When his people said to him: Do not exult, surely Allah does not love the exultant...He said: I have been given this only on account of the knowledge I have...So he went forth to his people in his finery... Thus We made the earth to swallow up him and his abode; so he had no body of helpers to assist him against Allah, nor was he of those who can defend themselves.”
(Surah al-Qaŝaŝ 28:76-81)
It is recorded in Bihār al-Anwār that the Holy Prophet (S) prohibited the people to walk and dress in a proud manner. He said,
“One who wears a nice dress and feels proud of it, will be taken to a lowest level of Hell and made a companion of Qarūn. Because Qarūn was the first proud. Due to this the Almighty had caused his house to be swallowed by the earth. So one who competes in the greatness of the Almighty has waged war against Him.”
The Prophet (S) also said,
“One who frowns upon a needy person, oppresses him or looks down upon him, will be raised (in Qiyāma) in the form of an ant. And he will be assigned to Hell.”
(Bihār al-Anwār vol. 16)
The Proud people are insane
It is also narrated in Bihār al-Anwār that one day the messenger of Allah (S) was passing by a group of people intent on watching something. When he (S) enquired about this they said that they were watching a mad man perform funny antics. The Prophet (S) said that the man is not mad, rather he was suffering from a nervous disorder.
Then the Holy Prophet (S) asked the people if they would like to know who is a mad man. His companions expressed their willingness. The Prophet (S) said:
“The insane is the one who walks in a proud manner and looks right and left in exultation; moving his shoulders and sides in a vain fashion; and at the same time he expects the Almighty to grant him Paradise. Whereas he is busy in disobeying Allah and people are not safe from his mischief and neither do they expect any goodness from him. This is the (real) mad man.”
(Bihār al-Anwār vol. 73)
To show oneself to be absolutely purified is an act of pride too
To consider oneself the purest and deserving of honour and respect and to make a show of one’s sanctity is also a kind of haughtiness. The verse of Surah an-Najm prohibits such behaviour.
“...Therefore do not attribute purity to your souls; He knows him best who guards (against evil).”
(Surah an-Najm 53:32)
And in the same way the Almighty Allah has remarked in the following words:
“Have you not considered those who attribute purity to themselves? Nay, Allah purifies whom He pleases; and they shall not be wronged the husk of a date stone. See how they forge the lie against Allah, (like the Jew who claim to be the chosen people) and this is sufficient as a manifest sin.”
(Surah an-Nisā’ 4:49-50)
A show of one’s knowledge and the claim of having met such and such a scholar is also an act of pride. Or to say, “I have toiled a lot to master a particular subject.” Or to flaunt one’s piety. For example to say that “for years I prayed during the nights and fasted during the day.” To say, “That person is wealthier than me but I have performed hajj and Ziarat many times.” All these claims are a show of vainglory.
Even to hint at ones greatness is not allowed. Like to allege that, “So and so person had oppressed me and thus died an untimely death, or he is afflicted with a dreadful disease, or has became a destitute.” Because such statements are an effort to show off ones extraordinary powers. Similarly to claim that one’s prayers were instantly answered by the Almighty.