"Importance of Humbleness"
Shaikh Salman al-`Awdah
From his book "Moral Character of the Daa`iya"
Humbleness is to know the value of oneself, to avoid pride, or disregarding the truth and underestimating people. As the Prophet sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam said, according to Muslim and others, "Al-Kibr is rejecting the truth and looking down upon people" [Muslim, Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud]. Humbleness is for one who is important and significant and he fears to gain notoriety or to become too great among people. As it was said, "Humble yourself, you will be as a glimmering star to the viewer on the surface of the water even if it is lofty." We don't say to an ordinary person, "Humble yourself." But it is said to him, "Know the value of yourself, and do not place it in the wrong place!"
It was narrated by al-Khattabi in al-Uzlah that Imaam `Abdullah bin al-Mubaarak came to Khuraassaan [in Persia] and went to a person who was known for his zuhd and wara' [asceticism and cautiousness in piety], so when he entered where the man was, he (the man) did not turn around nor give him any consideration at all. When 'Abdullah bin al-Mubaarak left, some of the people who were inside with the man said to him, "Don't you know who that was?!" He said, "No," He was told, "This is the 'Amir of the believers...this is... this is... this is... `Abdullah bin al-Mubaarak." So the man was astonished and came out to Ibn al-Mubaarak in a hurry apologizing and absolving himself from what happened, saying, "O Abu 'Abd al-Rahmaan! Forgive me and advise me!" Ibn al-Mubaarak said, "Yes... whenever you come out of your house and see someone, assume that he is better than you!" He knew that the man was conceited. When Ibn al-Mubaarak inquired as to what the man's profession was, he found out that he was a weaver!! [See comments of adh-Dhahabi in aI-Mizaan concerning Waasil bin Ata'a]. Therefore, this educated Imam noticed that this mutazahid (devoted pious person) possessed a kind of arrogance, conceitedness and feeling of superiority over others.
This disease sometimes envelops pious people; this is why he offered advice that was easy for him. Many times we find this characteristic in some of the pious people, as well as some of the duaat. But when it reaches the small students who misbehave with their shaykhs, scholars and teachers this really hurts inside! There is no objection if you differ in opinion or judgement with a scholar or a daai'ya as long as you are qualified to do so The problem occurs when this difference of opinion becomes a destructive element to the scholar's dignity, diminishes his value, disregards and disrespects him. This may be accepted from the common people, or from the people of innovation and misguidance, but it is not allowed in any circumstance for Ahl-As Sunnah and from the students of `Ilm al-Shariyyah. Surely the scholars of Ahl as Sunnah wal Jamaa'ah in particular, are requested to call for that which is good and to forbid the forbidden, as well as to take into consideration the prominent people... if they are disappointed by the closest people to them, then they are not expected to react in the same manner. Therefore one of them is like a brave knight who is only supported by women! That is, if the Ahl as Sunnah protected their scholars' honor, and knew their value, and encircled them, they could have carried the duty of calling for that which is good and forbidding the forbidden in the correct way. But when a scholar is disappointed from among his own circles, he can't say anything. How sad it is that some people of innovation on the contrary reached the point that they even grant their shaykhs and masters some kind of sanctity, blindly follow behind them.
This is in reality a kind of slavery and dissolution of the follower into the followed. This is the practice of the Batiniyya groups through the ages, in such a manner that it conditions its individuals to give a certain degree of al-`isma (protection from error) to their leaders and Imams. Even the Mu`atazila, the ones who practice "rationalism" and almost have no place for emotions... one of their poets said about their Shaykh Waasil bin Ata'a, "He has, behind the sea of China to it's farthest parts, and in every place behind the barbarians, men (duaat) whose leader is not weakened by the irony of a tyrant... nor by the plot of a deceiver ... They are the people of Allah's religion in every place, and the lords of its fatawa and the science of dispute." And the people of the Sunnah are worthier of evaluation and respect of their scholars. There is no good in a nation where the young do not respect the older, and the older do not have mercy on the younger. It is from the humbleness, from knowing the self value that the young beginner should not look at himself as a rival to this or that scholar, and say, "They are men... and we are men"!! As a matter of fact, manhood differs, that is, the description of manhood in the Noble Qur'an was addressed in a form of glorification in many places, "...in it are men who love that they should be purifiedů" (Surat al-Tawba:108) and, "In houses which Allah has ordered to be raised, and that His name may be remembered therein; they glorify Him in the mornings and the evenings. Men whom neither merchandise nor trade divert from the remembrance of Allah and keeping to prayer and giving zakah. They fear a day in which the hearts and eyes will [fearfully] turn about..." (Surat al-Nur: 36-37). Manhood also refers only to masculinity in other places: "And that men from among people used to seek refuge with men from among jinn..." (Surat al-Jinn:6) Therefore, men are not all the same.
Humbleness is that one should humble himself with his companions. Frequently when the spirit of competition and envy is agitated between companions and rivals, a person may feel superior over his companion, he may be pleased by harming him, degrading his value and importance, accusing him of defects or exaggerating his faults. Faults that may have come to light when seeking advice, or correction. In reality this is what is called jealousy. It is amazing that the daa`iya becomes jealous about the gathering of a thousand or two at a meeting of knowledge or da`wah but he will not have any kind of reaction if he heard that twenty of thirty thousand people attended a concert or a sports event. By Allah, this is sad, for even if you were not pleased with your brother about something, it should be sufficient for you that he is calling to Allah ta`ala and teaching people the Deen and is sincere in general. In fact, he may even be correct in some of the things that you criticized him about.
Humbleness is to humble oneself to one who is below you. If you find someone who is younger than you, or of less importance than you, you should not despise him, because he might have a better heart than you, or be less sinful, or closer to Allah than you. Even if you see a sinful person and you are righteous, do not act in arrogance towards him, and thank Allah that He saved you from the tribulation that He put him through. Remember that there might be some riyaa' or vanity in your righteous deeds that may cause them to be of no avail, and that this sinful person may be regretful and fearful concerning his bad deeds, and this may be the cause of forgiveness of his sins.
According to Jundub, may Allah be pleased with him, the Messenger of Allah a mentioned that a man said, "By Allah, Allah will not forgive so-and-so," and that Allah Ta`ala said, "Who is swearing by Me that I will not forgive so-and-so? I surely have forgiven so-and-so and nullified your deed" [Muslim]. Therefore, do not act in arrogance towards anyone. Even when you see a sinner, do not act superior towards him, nor treat him with arrogance and domination. If you feel that the sinner may perform some acts of obedience which you do not, and that you may also posses some defects which the sinner may not, then deal kindly with him, and gently give da`wah which will hopefully be the cause of his acceptance and remembrance.
Humbleness is that your deed should not become too great in your eyes. If you do a good deed, or attempt to get closer to Allah ta`ala through an act of obedience, your deed still may not be accepted, "Allah only accepts from those who have taqwa." (Surat al-Maida: 27) This is why some of the Salaf said, "If I knew that Allah accepted one tasbeeh from me, I would have wished to die right now!"
Humbleness is that, when you are advised, if Shaytaan calls you to reject the advice, you must negate him. Because the purpose of advice is that your brother points out the defects that you have. As for he who Allah ta`ala has protected, if he finds one who will advise him and show him his defects, he'll overcome his nafs, accept from him, thank and make du`aa for him. This is why He sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam said, "Al-Kibr is rejecting the truth and despising the people" [Muslim, Tirmidhi, and Abu Dawud]. The arrogant never gives credit to anybody or mentions good about someone, and if he needed to do so, he would also mention five defects of that person. But if he hears somebody reminding him about his own defects, he will not be flexible nor comply due to his inferiority complex. This is why it is among man's moral integrity to accept criticism or comment without any sensitivity or discomfort or feelings of shame and weakness. Here he is, The 'Amir of the Believers `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, raising the flag and lifting the motto,"May Allah have mercy on a person who informed us of our defects."
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