Being Arrogant in Practising Religion
By Dr Shariffa Carlo
One of the biggest thing that hurts us, that allows us to fall into the trap of the ignorant age’s mentality when it comes to being a woman is that we have forgotten about a major element of Islam that allows us and strengthens us in being good practising Muslimahs. I want to talk about pride and arrogance. But, don’t get me wrong. I am not going to say what most people say when they talk about pride and arrogance. Ususally, when this topic is discussed, you will get verses and Ahadith, which condemn pride and arrogance. I am here to tell you to have pride and arrogance. I am going to tell you that pride and arrogance is good.
I am going to tell you, that you need to let your chests expand with pride and arrogance till they are ready to burst. Confused? Don’t be. I don’t mean pride and arrogance as in looking down upon people. Because this pride and arrogance was forbidden. Narrated Abdullah bin Masood: The Apostle of Allah (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) observed: He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride and arrogance shall not enter Paradise. A person (amongst his hearers) said: Verily a person loves that his dress should be fine, and his shoes should be fine. He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: Verily, Allah is Graceful and He loves grace. Pride is disdaining the truth (out of self-conceit) and contempt for the people. (Sahih Muslim:)
I don’t mean pride and arrogance in the conceited, hurtful sense. I mean pride and arrogance as in recognising and acting like what you are — the best nation ever raised by Allah, for Allah says: You are the best of the nations raised up for (the benefit of) men; you enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong, and believe in Allah; and if the followers of the Book had believed it would have been better for them; of them (some) are believers and most of them are transgressors. (3:110)
(And) lo! those who believe and do good works are the best of created beings. (98:7)
We are the highest of creations. We were created in the best stature and will remain so, so long as we do what we must to obey Allah. Allah says: Surely We created man of the best stature; Then we reduced him to the lowest of the low; except such as believe and do righteous deeds: for they shall have a reward unfailing. (95:4-6)
We, the Muslims, are the best nation created. We are the leaders of this world. The companions of the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) recognised this. They embraced it, and it is for this reason that they were able to defeat the non-believers and conquer so much of the world. They did not cower in the corners, afraid to declare their faith. They did not sit back and allow themselves to be humiliated except when it was a command from Allah and/or His Messenger that they do so. They were strong. They were confident, and they wore their pride and arrogance in their religion like a badge of honour.
An excellent example of this was Hadhrat Abu Zarr Ghifari (Radhi Allaho anho). He accepted Islam at a time when the Muslims were weak and persecuted. Yet, instead of hiding his religion, he announced it for all to know.
In his own words: “…After that I stayed with the Holy Prophet in Makkah and he taught me Islam and taught me to read the Holy Qur’aan. Then he said to me, ‘Don’t tell anyone in Makkah about your acceptance of Islam. I fear that they will kill you.” “By Him in whose hands is my soul, I shall not leave Makkah until I go to the Sacred Mosque and proclaim the call of Truth in the midst of the Quraish,” vowed Abu Zarr.
He said the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) remained silent. He went to the mosque. The Quraish were sitting and talking. He went in their midst and called out at the top of his voice, “O people of Quraysh, I testify that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”
He said his words had an immediate effect on them. They jumped up and said, ‘Get this one who has left his religion.’ They bounced on him and began to beat him mercilessly. They clearly meant to kill him. But Abbas ibn Abdul Muttalib, the uncle of the Prophet, recognised him.
He bent over and protected him from them. He told them: “Woe to you! Would you kill a man from the Ghifar tribe and your caravans must pass through their territory?” They then released him. This companion had so much pride and arrogance in his religion that he could do nothing better than to announce it for all to hear, even at the risk of his own life. Even though it was an unwise thing to do, and the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) remained silent on hearing his intention to pronounce the testimony of faith in the midst of the Makkans (although he did not forbid it), this man felt a compulsion to let the people know that he had accepted Islam.
This is a sign of the pride and arrogance, which is permitted. And it was the foolish act, not the pride and arrogance that the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) had disapproved. We are supposed to be proud of our religion. We are not supposed to hide it unless we feel fear for our lives, as the Muslims did while they were being persecuted in Makkah.
But once they had the strength to defend themselves, they announced it far and wide, for all to hear. They did not back down in the face of hardship. They spread the religion. They took the Prophet’s announcements to Kings and peasants alike. They were proud of their religion because they knew — without any doubt what so ever — that Islam was and is the truth.
They knew that only by accepting Islam could people be saved. They knew that it was through them that this religion would survive and thrive, and they knew if they neglected their duty that Allah would bring a better people for this duty. So, they embraced their duty. That is why they are the best nation from among the Muslims. So, what has happened to us? Where is our pride and arrogance in Allah and His religion? Where is our desire to do anything it takes to make this religion supreme?
So many of us are so ashamed of our religion that we change ourselves, to blend in. We all know a Samer who has become Sam or a Mohammad who calls himself Mo. We all know the woman who wears a Western Hijab: jeans, a long shirt and the obligatory headpiece. What is wrong with us? We need to look and sound and act like those around us. Why? The kafirs have a saying, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” What does this mean? It means that by imitating someone, you are essentially saying that they are better — even in that small aspect.
You would never give up the best for the worst. You trade upwards. So, why are we constantly trading downwards and accepting the ways of the kafirs? Unless, we believe that their way is better (May Allah forbid us from this horrible belief!) Immitation is a sign of defeat. Immitation is a sign of inferiority. Immitation is a sign of no faith in what you have. We are the best nation ever raised. These people should be copying us, not us them. And they know it.
One day, a covered Muslim sister was on the shuttle at the university where she was studying. She saw a young non- Muslim woman who boarded the bus, wearing a skirt so short, it left nothing to the imagination. She sat across from the covered Muslim sister. The sister looked up and noticed that the young non- Muslim woman was staring at her, and shaking her head. She apparently disapproved of her dress. No matter. If she had not believed that her’s was the superior way, she might have felt embarrased or humiliated.
But it seemed that she knew, believed and accepted that Islam is the right way, because instead of pulling back, she looked right at the young non- Muslim woman with a look of severe disapproval. She then looked to the woman’s exposed legs and tisked while shaking her head. The non-Muslim woman responded by tugging at the bottom of her skirt, like she was trying to cover her legs more. She felt the shame and humiliation of her exposure.
This woman recognised her inferior status and reacted accordingly, because the Muslim woman did not back down or allow the non-Muslim woman to make her feel inferior. This is the way we should all act. How many times do the Muslim women take off the hijab because of the pressures of society. How many times have you heard: “I can’t get a job; I can’t handle the stares: I can’t cope with the pressures of life if I cover.” Or worse yet, “We need to blend in to this society.” We so not need to blend, and we do not need to compromise. When we do so, we admit defeat.
We need to become trail-blazers, leaders, the example for others. Subhana Allah! We are the best nation. Our way is the only way to salvation. Never forget that. The Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) forbid us from imitating the kafirs. Not only that, in many Ahadith, he commanded us to purposely be different. He commanded us to be the opposites — the one who does what is opposite to the non-Muslim’s acts. Narrated Abu Hurairah: The Messenger of Allah (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said: Trim closely the moustache, and grow the beard, be mukhalifa (be not like) the fire-worshippers. (Sahih Muslim)
Also, the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) warned us that in imitating the bad one, we are like them. (I will take only the pertinent part of the Hadith): Narrated Hadhrat Umm Salamah about the evil Amir: The Messenger of Allah (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said: … But one who approves of their bad deeds and imitates them is spiritually ruined… (Sahih Muslim)
This last Hadith talks of the bad Muslim. So what does this say about the kafiroon? We are not to imitate the kafir. We are to purposely be different. How can we do this? I know one sister who took the idea of being mukhalifa to the extent that on thanksgiving — a day of feasting and overindulging — she fasted. I know of others who simply refuse to compromise their faith and practices, which is the least we must do.
At the very least, we should not dress like them, talk like them, celebrate like them or take on their practices. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked why I do not wear a wedding ring. I have to answer, because it is not a Muslim custom, it is the custom of the Christians. I have to teach them that:
“Since the earliest times, the giving or exchanging of rings cemented any contract. Amongst early christians, the thumb and the first two fingers typified the trinity, and the husband placed the ring on his wife’s finger in the treefold holy name. Some authorities believe that the third finger of the left hand was connected by nerve or artery with the heart, hence, it was chosen for this purpose.” (The State Newspaper– Columbia, South Carolina)
Brothers and sisters, ignorance is not an excuse when we make no effort to learn the truth. When we are in a non-Muslim country, it is our duty and obligation to seek this type of knowledge, so that we can avoid misguidance.
So, simply not knowing is not acceptable. The one who does not know how to pray will not be forgiven if he made no effort to learn how to pray. We are not held accountable for that, which has not reached us yet, but we always have to be making an effort for seeking that. Furthermore, for those who say — “That is not my intention, and deeds are by intentions.” I say, your deeds are by intention, but an evil deed cannot be cleaned up with a good intention. I cannot steal money to give it to the mosque. Stealing is unlawful, as imitation is unlawful, and once we recognise that something is unlawful, we must cease immediately.
Once again, it all goes down to pride and arrogance. I am proud to be a Muslim. I will not cease saying insha-Allah, because I am talking to a non-Muslim — let him learn the word — it might be of some good for him. I am not going to stop reading my Qur’aan, because someone will see me and think me a fanatic. I am not going to change or “mute” my hijab, because I want to blend in. I have to be mukhalifa, insha-Allah.
Let me warn you, if you do not already know. We are Muslims, and even if we forget it, they will not. Prime example is Bosnia. The Bosnians forgot Islam — their faith. They blended in. They would marry each other, entertain together; take each others names, and were “one” with the non-muslims in their society.
One Muslim Bosnian brother once told me, “They did not destroy the mosques. The mosques were already dead.” The Muslims of Bosnia had forgotten their religion, but the minute the Kafirs had a chance — they began to exterminate them. They killed not just the good practising Muslims, but also the one who did not even know how to pray. They remembered. Why do we forget? But let’s take this a step further. Recognise that what you do is not only affecting you. When we do things in this society, we set precidents.
Not a single Muslim woman who wears hijab has not heard, “…but so and so is a Muslim, and she does not wear like that.” Nor has a brother who has a beard not heard, “but so and so is a Muslim, and he shaves.” We hurt each other when we abandon a part of our practice. We have to help each other, not be among those who help to oppress us.