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Islamic Character

Humility

Becoming The Servants of the Most Merciful Series

Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VIIPart VIIIPart IXPart XPart XI Part XIIPart XIIIPart XIV | Part XV

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The people in heaven are rewarded differently based upon how much they made this life a means to achieving success in the hereafter. Those who disciplined themselves to live this life for the hereafter are those who embraced the test of life with faith and wisdom. We all have goals that we would like to achieve in life. Attaining the characteristics of the servants of the Merciful is part of reaching our eternal goal of being with our Beloved Creator in heavenly bliss.

The first trait of the servants of the Merciful is humility and its opposite is arrogance. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (exalted is He) says in the Qur’an:

25:63

“The servants of the Merciful are those who walk upon the Earth easily…” (25:63)

The consensus of Qur’an commentaries says that this verse is not to be taken literally for two reasons: the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) used to walk in fast strong strides and the verse “walk upon the earth easily” is a kinaayah (metaphor) for those who are characterized by humility.

Being humble is best defined in general as being unassuming of one’s own greatness, precedence, or importance among others. Humility as an Islamic concept was probably best defined by Ibn Al-Qayyim:

“There are two realities which we must fully grasp in order to be truly characterized with the noblest characteristic of humility. First and foremost is to come to truly know Allah’s perfection, His abundant favors upon us and how we are fully dependent upon Him. Secondly, we have to come to know ourselves, where we come from and our numerous weaknesses and shortcomings.”

In this definition we see that there are two ways to increase our humility with God and His creation. Firstly, we need to come to know God and be thankful for the fact that everything comes by His blessing. The best way to attain this part of humility is in putting heavy use in the remembrance of doing things in the name of God and praising and thanking God for everything. The second part of humility is that we should take account of ourselves and always remind ourselves of our weaknesses and shortcomings and that we are just creatures made from dust who will return to dust. Constant repentance and seeking the forgiveness of the Merciful, is a great way to implement this part of humility.

Sadly, some people think that humility is a weak characteristic, while the Prophet ﷺ said, “God only increases a person in status if he forgives, and no one ever humbles himself before God but He will raise him in status.” (Muslim) Imam Nawawi explains  that there are two ways that God will raise our status. The first is that He will cause the hearts of people to love us because of our humility, as He has made it a Sunnah of mankind that we dislike arrogance and admire humility. The second is that God will raise our place in heaven and reward us for our humility.

So let’s look at the humility shown by our beloved Prophet ﷺ and his close companions. The companions’ love and respect for the Prophet ﷺ was undoubtedly more exemplary than the followers of any other king or emperor in history. They were always ready to serve him. Yet when A’ishah radi Allahu `anha (may God be pleased with her) was asked about how he was at home she replied, “He was in the service of his family…” (Bukhari) The Prophet ﷺ used to milk the sheep, sew and patch his own garments, go to the market and buy his own things, sit and eat with his servants, initiate greetings with others, and act as though he was like any other one of the companions, joining them in whatever they were doing.

Abu Bakr (ra) used to help young orphan girls milk their sheep. When he became the Caliph (the leader of the Islamic state), they assumed that his new position of responsibility meant that he would not help them anymore. However he came weekly and helped milk their sheep throughout his Caliphate.

During the wars with Persia, a messenger from the Persian king came to give a message to `Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra), requesting a visit to the palace of the king. A Muslim responded by saying that they did not have a palace or a king. He told the Persian ambassador that they have a ‘Commander of the Faithful.’ They both went looking for ‘Umar (ra) and they found him sleeping under a tree. Naturally, we can assume the ambassador was amazed as he expected a big palace and a difficult process to see the great Muslim leader.

A man visited `Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz one day during his Caliphate. While they were sitting there, a lamp went out and `Umar got up and fixed it. His guest then asked him, “Commander of the Faithful, why did you not command me or someone else to get up and fix the lamp?” The noble Caliph responded, “I got up and I was `Umar and I did what I did and I was still ‘Umar and I lost no nobility in doing it. The best people in the sight of Allah are the humble.”

Arrogance, on the other hand, is the opposite of being a servant to the Merciful. People are stuck in themselves and get stuck in the “I” rather than the “He,” not realizing that “I” is nothing without Him, the Exalted. They get stuck in the “I” rather than the “we,” meaning no matter what they have done, someone else will do it better. God says in the Qur’an,

“…Indeed, He does not like the arrogant.” (16:23)

Arrogance is the basic root of all evil; it was a main factor in the first divergence from Islam. When Iblees declared that he would not obey God and bow down to Adam (as) because he thought he was better than him. A very serious hadith that should be a heavy deterrent from arrogance and haughtiness is, “Whoever has an atom’s weight of arrogance in their heart will not enter heaven.”

One of the worst manifestations of arrogance among practicing Muslims is “religious arrogance” in which one deems himself as having a monopoly on the truth of Islam and that his or her teachers are more “right” than anyone else’s. This causes them to look down on other Muslims and judge them. You also have Muslims who look down upon other Muslims because of their nationality, race, wealth, status, or gender. Abu Bakr (ra) once said, “Don’t any of you look down upon or despise any Muslim because even the smallest Muslim is big to God.”

We pray God counts us from His blessed servants and that He makes it easy for us to attain humility. Ameen.

About the author

John (Yahya) Ederer

Imam John Yahya Ederer left a life of spiritual decadence and embraced Islam in 1998. In 2002, he accepted a scholarship offer from the Islamic American University in Michigan and spent 6 years travelling the Muslim world studying with prominent scholars. He attained an associates with IAU, a certification of mastery of the Arabic sciences from the ministry of education in Egypt, a diploma in Islamic Studies from the Cordoba Institute in Kuwait and a license with one of the highest chains of transmission in Qur’an memorization and recitation. He served as the Religious Director of the Islamic Foundation of South Florida for two years and now lives with his wife and two children in Charlotte, North Carolina where he serves as Imam of the Muslim American Society. He currently sits on the clergy board of one of the largest interfaith coalitions in Mecklenburg Ministries and is a board member of the Shamrock Drive Development Association.

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