By Abu Usama Ath-Thahabi
7 February 2014
Humility is when a person does not see himself as being better or above other people because of frivolous reasons like social standing, education, citizenship, or even colour.
As for believing one is better than another person due to religious reasons; then in some cases this is permissible, and in other cases, it’s an obligation. For instance, the Muslim should believe Allah has given him dignity over infidels. This has been established in the Qur’an in many places: “...and to Allah belongs all honour (I’zzah), and to His Messenger, and to the believers….” (Qur’an, 63:8)
And in another Ayat, He says: “Oh you who believe, whoever of you should revert (apostate) from his religion, Allah will bring forth a people He will love, and who will love Him, (who are) humble toward the believers and powerful (I’zzah) against the disbelievers…” (Qur’an, 5:54)
He also says, “Not equal are the blind and the seeing. Nor are the darknesses and the light. Nor are the shade and the heat.” (Qur’an, 35: 19-21)
Being humble and having humility is opposite of being arrogant and having arrogance (Kibr). Humility leads one to the pleasure of Allah and it causes one to enter into the paradise, whereas arrogance leads to the displeasure of Allah and it leads one to the Hellfire.
Allah has ordered the Prophet (peace be upon him) to adorn himself with this noble characteristic in many verses of the Qur’an.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was ordered, “And lower your wing (i.e., be humble and show kindness) to those who follow you from the believers.” (Qur’an, 26:215)
Allah said, “And don’t turn you cheek (in contempt) toward people and don’t walk through the earth exultantly. Indeed, Allah doesn’t like every self-deluded and boastful person.” (Qur’an, 31:18)
One of the clearest examples of his humility is that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) would sit in the Masjid with his companions and if a stranger or visitor came to the Masjid he wouldn’t know who the Prophet was until he asked, “Which one of you is Muhammad?”
This is because he would not sit, dress, or be treated in a way that distinguished him from the people. Unlike the way leaders and famous people are treated when they’re with the people. Whenever a stranger enters into their Majlis, it becomes quite clear to the stranger this person is noteworthy amongst the people.
Anas Ibn Maalik would pass by a group of young boys playing and he would extend to them warm and gracious greetings (salaams). When he was asked, “Why do you do this?” He replied, “The Prophet (peace be upon him) use to do it.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
Abdullah ibn Amr said: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) entered upon me so I gave him a pillow (to sit on) made out of skin and filled with date palm fibers. The Prophet (peace be upon him) refused to sit on it and he chose to sit on the (bare) ground, and he left the cushion between him and myself.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
Abu Saeed Al-Khudri said, “I entered upon the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and I found him praying on a (normal) mat, and he was making Sajdah on it.” (Muslim)
Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) was asked, “What did the Prophet (peace be upon him) use to do when he was in the privacy of his home?” She replied, “He used to be in the service of his family.” He used to repair his sandals and sew/patch his own Thobe and he would milk the sheep. (Bukhari)
Anas ibn Maalik said the Prophet (peace be upon him) performed the Hajj upon an old camel that had a saddle that cost about four Dirhams or less, and then he said, “Oh Allah, this is a Hajj (that I’m performing) wherein there is no showing off nor notoriety sought.” (Tirmizi & Ibn Majah)
Anas ibn Maalik said, “I never saw a man seeking the ear of the Prophet (peace be upon him) except that the Messenger of Allah would never turn his head from him, until the man turned his head first. Nor did I ever see a man take the hand of the Prophet, except that the Messenger of Allah would never let his hand go, until the man was the first to let the Prophet’s hand go.” (Bukhari)
Abu Masood said, “A man came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and he began to speak to him, and he was seized by fear (of the Prophet). Upon witnessing his demeanor the Prophet (peace be upon him) said to him: “Take it easy and calm down, for verily I am not a king, but instead I am only the son of a Quraishy woman who used to eat dried salted meat strips.” (Ibn Majah)
From the clearest and most manifest examples of his humility is when he entered Makkah as a conqueror. It is a well-known historical fact that the Prophet (peace be upon him) escaped from Makkah fearful for his life, as the disbelievers of Quraish were after him with the intention to kill him.
Ten years later when he returned to Makkah as a conqueror and triumphant with his enemies lay totally defeated and subdued. Yet instead of entering the sacred precincts of Makkah with his head high with any pride of victory but with his head bowed in humility, barely touching the neck of his camel and glorifying Allah by saying Allah Akbar, for the victory that he was given.
Prophetic Hadith about Humility
Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “…and no one will exercise humility for Allah’s sake, except that Allah will raise him up.” (Muslim)
He also said, “Verily Allah loves the servant who has Taqwah, and he’s rich (content), and he’s hidden (i.e. not known by the people because of his humility).” (Muslim)
Abdullah Ibn Abbas said, “I heard Umar Ibn Khattab say on the Membar, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Don’t over exaggerate with me as the Christians over exaggerated with Ibn Maryam (peace be upon her). Verily I am His slave, therefore say, ‘Abdullah’ and the Messenger of Allah.” (Bukhari)
A lesson from Umar Ibn Khattab: Urwah ibn Zubair said, “I saw Umar carrying a large leather water canteen on his shoulder. I said to him, ‘Oh Amir-ul-Mu’minin, you shouldn’t be carrying that.’ Umar replied by saying, ‘A delegation came to Madinah and I saw their obedience to me, and some ‘Nakwah’ entered into my heart and I wanted to destroy it’.”
Everyone knows the strong personality of Umar and how he instilled fear in the hearts of men. And yet, when a small and minute amount of pride (Nakwah) entered into his heart, he hurried in an attempt to destroy it before it destroyed him.
This is the way of the righteous people. Those who know the virtues and importance of humility and at the same time they know the danger of falling into ‘Kibr.’
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever possesses an atom’s weight of ‘kibr’ will not enter into the paradise.” (Muslim)
He also said, “It is a right on Allah, that nothing is raised in Duniya (in stature or esteem), except that Allah will bring it down.” (Bukhari)
If we’re trying to seek the benefits of the Duniya or the Hereafter, then part of our success lies within our ability to humble ourselves in our quest. For instance, if a person is searching for knowledge, he must humble himself in his struggle and efforts toward that goal.
Abdullah ibn Mu’tazz said, “The humble student is the one who gets the most knowledge, just as the lowest places on earth collect the most water.”
As for the Hereafter, Allah says, “That is the home of the Hereafter, We assign (it) to those who do not desire exaltedness upon the earth or corruption. And the (best) outcome is for the righteous.” (Qur’an, 28:83)
May Allah grant us the Tawfeeq to humble ourselves and may He protect us from the Fitnah of ‘Kibr’ and it’s evil results.