The Personal Arrogance Checklist by Abdul S. Ahmed
“The kettle only fills the cup when its spout is lowered
A teacher can only benefit others when he lowers himself before Allah.”
A person might be arrogant, proud, ostentatious or have elements of those qualities if (PLEASE note I have said MIGHT – make your own decision) if:
0. You saw the above list and was proud to see that you are among it and feel that you are actually responsible for that.
1. Reading the above lines makes you roll your eyes or feel uncomfortable that the topic has been brought up.
2. You feel that the majority of the people you speak to have less Islamic knowledge than yourself.
3. You find yourself giving more advice than asking for it, and don’t feel that you need any right now.
4. You don’t agree that that having the above qualities is a indication of a possibility of arrogance.
5. Think of five people you are almost or absolutely sure have less Islamic knowledge than you. Was that easy for you to do?
5a. Now imagine them correcting you in your Salah, or in something you just said in front of a group of friends. Would your heart feel strange if such a thing happened?
5b. You automatically go into “I know what you do not know” mode whenever you speak to these five people and cannot consider speaking to them as intellectual equals or learning something from them or getting advice from them.
6. You have recently started a sentence in public with: “In my humble opinion…”
7. You openly declare your sinfulness in front of people when praised [not to lower yourself in your own eyes, but to show everyone how humble you are], or have strange forced reactions when complimented because you are not sure how to react and want to seem humble before people.
8. Think of a Muslim brother or sister whom you think has said some uninformed things about Islam, but is overall a good person and sincere. Think of someone praising and complimenting that person’s knowledge in front of you. This makes you slightly uncomfortable because you think it is undeserved and you have a better understanding.
9. Assume that there is someone who is/was in a position above you in some way shape or form (jama’ah, msa, masjid, work, school). You automatically assume that they got there through some means, not because they are worthy/competent/knowledgeable but because of shadiness.
10. You can think of at least a few instances where you have been corrected/advised in public and reacted with anger or sarcasm rather than gratitude. It is hard for you take accept advise from people who are younger than you, in your age group, or people who cannot be classified in one or more of the groups listed at the title of this post.
11. Think about all of the places in which you are important: MSA, work, Jama’ah, community work, masjids, etc. You feel that if you were to remove yourself from your activities there, that those groups would actually be at a loss, not realizing that if you were to leave – Allah can easily replace you with someone much more qualified.
12. Your Salah (prayer) is faster in private than it is in public.
13. When you read Quran in private, you imagine what it would be like if other people heard you recite.
14. You say things to people you know they will not understand in order to assert your intellectual superiority over them.
15. You automatically assume that you do have such knowledge that you actually have something so deep that some people won’t understand.
16. You look at brothers or sisters who are not involved with Islamic work or community activism, and feel that you are better than them because you are “useful” to the community while they are not.
17. You are more concerned about making a mistake in a khutbah because of what people would think, as opposed to making a mistake in calling to Allah (swt).
18. When you make a mistake in regular conversation, you find yourself covering up for it by pretending you “knew that..but…”
19. Whenever the reference to sinners is made in the Quran, you don’t wonder for a second, “what if that is me?”
20. Whenever a reference is made to those people who speak without knowledge – you do not immediately think of yourself.
21. Imagine that a major community volunteer leadership position has opened for a young muslim adult. It will be the most influential position in the entire city/community and the decisions made in this position will be able to impact thousands of youth and how/where they receive knowledge about Islam and do youth activities and the ideologies by which they are led.
You cannot think of five people who are two years or more younger than you who should definitely be in this position more than you.
22. A fifteen-year old comes up to you, and tells you that your khutbah/speech/event you organized – sucked. That it didn’t connect to him, that you made mistakes in it, and that you should work on your speaking/organizing skills. but he does it in a nice way – without using the word “sucked”. What do you feel like? Anger?
23. You think about compliments other people give you and feel happy about them. You find yourself drawing nearer to the people who complement you and farther from the people who do not.
24. You don’t think people deserve the effort you put in sometimes.
25. You hear an old person who doesn’t know tajwid recite Quran, terribly. You laugh/cringe and think to yourself that you know what he does not know, rather than realizing that he simply was never taught properly. If he is young, rather than seeking to help him or offer lessons, you just shake your head and leave.
26. You think that scholars who don’t entirely agree with your teachers/leaders have less of an understanding of Islam than you do; and you’ve criticized them publicly without explicit permission from your teachers/leaders.
27. It makes you irritated when people assume that you do not know something which you do.
28. The idea that the only reason you have been given what you have been given (quran, islamic work, etc) is because without it you would be come the greatest sinner on the earth doesn’t really cross your mind. When the time comes for someone to lead any salah and the jama’ah is selecting an imam, you are so used to being pushed up there that you don’t even think about it anymore nor think about how many sins you are hiding from the people behind you.
29. Saying “my teacher” fills you up with just a little ounce of pride that you have a teacher, while the person you are speaking to does not.
30. There is a brother wearing earrings, gold chains, the ghetto-est clothes imaginable, swearing left and right, listening to obscene music, and always hitting on girls. There is also a sister who dresses in revealing clothes, makes obscene remarks, is always looking for a laugh, always makes sarcastic, biting remarks towards other sisters, and is dating two guys.
In reading the above, a feeling of superiority over them already entered your heart. The idea that perhaps they want to change and might be spending more time asking for forgiveness in secret than we spend sinning didn’t enter mind until you read this sentence.
“Modesty, to appear lesser than we are, is commendable. Yet, the exaggeration of humbleness to the extent of appearing abject, is a sin. Mu’adh ibn Jabal reports that the Messenger of Allah (Pbuh) said, “Showing excess attachment and appearing abject, reducing oneself to the state of a beggar, does not suit the character of a believer.” The only exception is the humbleness of a student towards his teacher, seeking to receive knowledge. Only knowledge is worth begging for, and worth humbling ourselves to receive. Another example of unlawful humility in Islam is to beg if we have shelter and food, even for only one day. To give someone a small gift with the hope of receiving a greater good is like begging.”
During his Caliphate, Umar (RA) was marching upon Damascus with his army. Abu Ubayda ibn Jerrah was with him. They came upon a little lake. Umar descended from his camel, took off his shoes, tied them together, and hung them on his shoulder. He took the halter of his camel and together they entered the water. Seeing this in front of the army, Abu Abayda said, “Oh the Commander of the believers, how can you be so humble in front of all your men?” Umar answered, “Woe to you, Abu Ubayda! If only anyone else other than you thought this way! Thoughts like this will cause the downfall of the Muslims. Don’t you see, we were indeed a very lowly people. Allah raised us to honor and greatness through Islam. If we forget who we are and wish other than Islam, which elevated us, the One who raised us, surely will debase us.”
“One will not enter Paradise, if one has an atom’s weight of arrogance in his/her heart.” a man then asked, “One may love his clothes to look good and his shoes to look good?!” The prophet replied, “Allah is beautiful and loves beauty, arrogance is: rejecting the truth and looking down on people.”