The Value of Humility

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

The Value of Humility

The Value of Humility

And the servants of (Allah) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, "Peace!". (AL-FURQAN: 63)

Nor walk on the earth with insolence: for thou canst not rend the earth asunder, nor reach the mountains in height. (AL-ISRA: 37)

And swell not thy cheek (for pride) at men, nor walk in insolence through the earth; for Allah loveth not any arrogant boaster. And be moderate in thy pace, and lower thy voice; for the harshest of sounds without doubt is the braying of the ass. (LUQMAN: 18-19)

That Home of the Hereafter We shall give to those who intend not high-handedness or mischief on earth: and the end is (best) for the righteous. (AL-QASAS: 83)

Lo! He loveth not the proud. (AL-NAHL: 23)
And lower thy wing (in kindness) unto those believers who follow thee. (AL-SHU’ARA: 215)

The Concept of Humility:
The Arabic word here translated as “humility” indicates the setting down of a thing in a certain manner and its reduction. It is morphologically analogous to a word which means “to act as though one is unaware” and might be used of a person who, though actually aware of a thing, behaves as though he has no knowledge of it. Humility is the opposite of aggrandizement, and the humble man is one who gives the appearance of simplicity and conducts self-appraisals in an unbiased manner. Humility is expressed by neither over nor under-stating one’s achievements and characteristics. The humble human being evaluates himself fairly, exaggerating neither his purity nor his debasement.

The Noble Quran gives us an example of humility in the text which treats of Luqman’s gentle admonition to his son. God u says, ” O my son! establish regular prayer, enjoin what is just, and forbid what is wrong: and bear with patient constancy whatever betide thee; for this is firmness (of purpose) in (the conduct of) affairs. And swell not thy cheek (for pride) at men, nor walk in insolence through the earth; for Allah loveth not any arrogant boaster. And be moderate in thy pace, and lower thy voice; for the harshest of sounds without doubt is the braying of the ass.”

As far as humility goes, the Messenger of God was the example par excellence. He was exceedingly polite, giving his undivided attention to the person with whom he was conversing, whether young or old. When he shook hands he would be the last to withdraw his hand. When giving charity he would personally place it into the hand of the recipient. When joining a gathering he would take a seat at the outskirts of the group. He did not disdain to take care of his business personally, going to the market and carrying his own merchandise, saying, “Carrying it is my job.”

Heresponded to the invitations of freemen, slaves, and those living in poverty. He accepted the apologies of those who offered them and performed services for the weak and despondent. Hecooperated with the members of his household in completing their tasks as well as his own. He himselfpatched his clothing and cleaned his shoes. Hevery much disliked flattery and titles and would often say, “God does nothing but increase the honor of such as overlook flaws and nobody humbles himself before God except that He elevates him.”

Humility and Respect for Work:
By way of Abu Huraira, who said, “The Prophet said, ‘God has never raised up a Prophet except that he was a shepherd.’ The companions responded, ‘What about you?’ to which he said, ‘I used to earn money shepherding for the people of Makka.’”

In making mention of this to his companions the Prophet planted the spirit of respect for the nobility of work within their souls as, indeed, he encouraged them to not disdain to perform simple jobs, emphasizing that working is preferable to stubborn idleness.

The Prophet used his self as an example of how to be profitably employed and seek to be ever more productive. He reminded them of his employment as a shepherd and a merchant, proceeding to acknowledge the honorable nature of vocations, according them respect and dignity as means of earning a living, preferring them to unemployment and laziness.

Yacoub Ibn Zayd tells us that the Messenger of God would clean the dust out of the mosque.
By way of Abu Huraira we hear that the Messenger of God said, “Zakarriya was a carpenter.”

By way of Anis Ibn Malik we hear that the Messenger of God said, “A man from among the Ansar came to the Prophet begging, and he said, ‘Have you nothing in your home?’ The man respondedهُ ‘Of course; I have some blankets, some of which we use as clothing and some of which we spread out on the ground, and a wooden vessel which we use to drink water.’ Hesaid, ‘Bring them to me.’ He did so, and the Messenger of God took the items in his own hand and asked, ‘Who will purchase these?’ A man responded, ‘I will buy them for a dirham.’ He said, ‘Who will give more than a dirham?’ twice or thrice. Then a man said, ‘I will pay two dirhams for them.’ So Hehanded them over to him in exchange for two dirhams, which he then gave to the Ansari man, saying, ‘Purchase food with one of these and deliver it to your household. Then, with the other, purchase a qadoom and bring it to me.’ So, he came to him with it, and He spread perfume on it. Then he said to him, ‘Go and gather firewood and sell it, and don’t let me see your face for fifteen days.’ So the man went and gathered firewood, selling it, and, when he came back, he had earned fifteen dirhams. He used part of it to purchase clothing and part to purchase food, and the Messenger of God said, ‘This is better for you than to be accompanied by begging, which will rip the skin right off of your face, on that Day of Resurrection. Truly, begging befits none but three; the person in abject poverty, the person burdened with an exorbitant expense, or the person whose health has failed him.’”

The condition of this companion when he came to beg of the Prophet was such that all he had in his home were the under-blankets traditionally placed between a camel and his saddle and a simple vessel used in drinking water. Despite that, the Prophet did not sanction his engaging in begging when he had strength enough to work, nor did the Prophet give him anything with which to relieve his need. Rather, he trained him to think about what sort of practical, marketable work he might do in order to earn a living, encouraging him to explore all options available to him prior to approaching other people and begging. Rather than feeding him for one day by giving him a fish he fed him for a lifetime by teaching him how to fish.

Notice how the Prophet encouraged the creation of employment opportunities among the able-bodied. There are many instances wherein Hegave needy individuals capital with which to establish and nurture business enterprises, or wherein he purchased for them machines with which they could practice a trade they knew and excelled at. Among the goals of Islamic character discipline is the disciplining of individuals to work.

By way of Abu Huraira, who said, “I heard the Messenger of God state, ‘For any one of you to set out to gather firewood -carrying it upon his back and giving in charity out of its proceeds, thereby remaining financially autonomous of other people- is better for him than to beg of any may, without regard for whether his petition is granted or denied. Indeed, the hand which is elevated by bestowing charity is superior to the hand which is brought low by receiving it, and one ought to begin with those whom it is his responsibility to provide for.’”

HisHumility in Serving the Members of his Household:
1- A man inquired of Aisha, “Did the Messenger of God do any housework?” She responded, :
“Yes. The Messenger of God cleaned his shoes, stitched his clothing, and performed chores around the house just like any one of you does in his own home.”

By way of Aisha we hear, “I was asked regarding how the Messenger of God behaved while at home, and I said, ‘He was a man among men, mending his clothing, milking his goat, and waiting upon his self.”
Hishumility among his Companions in Answering their Invitations and Treating them with Kindness:

By way of Anis Ibn Malik, who said that his grandmother, Mulaika, invited the Prophet to partake of food. After he ate, the Messenger of God said, “Rise so that I may lead you in prayer.” I went and brought a mat which had become black with age and usage and washed it down with water. The Messenger of God stood upon it, an orphan and I lined up behind him, and the elderly woman stood behind us. Hethen offered two units of prayer, afterwards departing.”

This is evidence of hishumility in accepting invitations from the simplest of persons, sitting with them and sharing meals such that they felt loved by with them, enjoying their company and imparting happiness to them.

By way of Anis we hear that a man from the outback named Zahir used to give him presents from his region and the Prophet s, when he wished to depart, would provide him with supplies.

The Prophet would say, “Zahir is our country-folk and we are his city-folk.” The Prophet loved him, ‘though he was an ugly man. One day the Prophet came to him while he was selling his wares and embraced him from behind such that he could not see him. The man exclaimed, “Let me go! Who is this?” Then, he looked up and recognized the Prophet s, whereupon he ceased to care what happened so long as his back remained attached to the chest of the Messenger of God. The Messenger of God then began to say, “Who will buy this slave?” and he responded, “Oh Messenger of God, if that is how it is, you will find me to be very cheap.” Hethen said, “But, in the estimation of God, you are certainly not cheap.” Or, he said, “But you are valuable in the estimation of God. ”

By way of Shihab Ibn Abbad, who heard some members of a delegation from Abdul Qays saying, “We approached the Messenger of God and found that the people were exceedingly happy to greet us. When we got there the people made room for us and seated us. The Prophet welcomed us and supplicated for us, then he looked upon us and said, ‘Who is your master and leader?’ All of us indicated Al Mundhir Ibn Aaith, and the Prophet said, ‘Is he Al Ashajj?’ This name had initially been bestowed upon him one day when his face was stricken by the hoof of a donkey, and we said, ‘Yes, Oh Messenger of God. ’ He had hung back behind the main group, securing the animals and arranging the bags. Then, he had taken his clothing bag out, setting aside the clothing which he had been wearing during the journey and putting on one of his best outfits.

He then approached the Prophet s, the Prophet having stretched out his legs and reclined, but, when Al Ashajj came near to him, the people made way for him and said, ‘Right here, Oh Al Ashajj.’ Then, the Prophet s, still seated, grabbed hold of his leg, saying, ‘Right here, Oh Al Ashajj’ and he took a place to the right of the Prophet s, where he remained seated. The Prophet welcomed him and treated him kindly, then, he asked him about his lands, naming its villages one by one; Safa, Al mushaqar, as well as others from among the villages of Hajar. He then said, ‘By my own mother and father, Oh Messenger of God, you are better acquainted with the names of our villages than are our own people.’ Hesaid, ‘The truth is, I have been a visitor in your lands and was warmly welcomed within them.’” He continued, “Then he approached the Ansar and said, ‘Oh Crowds of the Ansar! Welcome your brothers! Truly, the way they entered Islam bears a most striking resemblance to how you entered it.ا They are the closest thing to you in temperament and disposition; they entered Islam obediently, neither unwillingly nor under threat of warfare, at a time when peoples refused to enter Islam without putting up a fight.” He continued, “When morning came, Hesaid, ‘How did you find the hospitality of your brethren and their care-taking of you as guests?’ They replied, ‘The best of brethren; they made sure our beds were comfortable, our food delicious, and they put us to sleep as well as awakened us teaching us what they knew of the Book of our Lord and the Sunnah of His Messenger s.’ The Prophet was impressed and overjoyed at that. Then, he came up to us, man by man, asking each one of us what we had learned and mastered. Among us were those who had been taught the greetings of peace, the Mother of the Book, a surah or two, or a sunnah or two. Then, he turned to us and said, ‘Do you have anything left of your travelling provisions?’ At that they rejoiced, quickly making for their conveyances…”

The foregoing text makes it clear that the Prophet was of consummate humility and simplicity in the manner in which he received the delegation of Abd Qays. He asked them about their leader and, upon his arrival, the Prophet changed positions, sitting upright, welcoming him heartily, and inquiring about his lands. Then, the Prophet ordered his companions to show hospitality to the delegation and treat them as honored guests. Afterwards, he went to the delegation to ask how they had found the hospitality of their brethren. In so doing he not only enjoined the use of moral values, he followed up on whether or not they had been implemented, keeping an eye on whether or not they were adhered to.

3a . - By way of Anis, who said, “I never witnessed an instance of a man whispering into the ear of the Messenger of God wherein he pulled his head away before the other man pulled his head away, nor did I ever witness an instance in which, during a handshake, the Messenger of God withdrew his hand prior to the other man’s withdrawal of his hand.”

By way of Abu Masood, who said, “The Messenger of God approached a man and spoke to him, whereupon the man began to tremble where he stood. So, Hesaid to him, ‘Calm down, for I am no king. I am just the son of a woman who ate meat rendered into jerkey.’”

The Messenger of God, despite the elevation of his station and the loftiness of his position, was humble in the midst of his companions, close to them, teaching them that high status and loving regard can only be achieved in the hearts of mankind by means of humbling oneself before them, never by lording oneself over them.

By way of Aisha, who said, “I said, ‘Oh Messenger of God, eat –may God make me your ransom- lying down, for that is less burdensome upon you.’ She said, ‘He then inclined his head until his forehead very nearly made contact with the ground, whereupon he said, ‘No. Rather, I shall eat in the same manner as a slave eats, assuming the same posture in sitting as a slave does.’”

By way of Ayyoub Ibn Abu Tameema, who told us that, “The Prophet s, when eating, would sit up straight, his weight distributed between his two hips, saying, ‘I eat as the slave eats and I sit down as the slave sits down, for, truly, I am naught but a slave.’”

Humility as the Opposite of Arrogance:
The Prophet prohibited against arrogance, loudly denouncing such as were arrogant, announcing that evil shall be their portion in this world and the hereafter. God Almighty says, ” Lo! He loveth not the proud.”

The Concept of Arrogance:
By way of Abdullah Ibn Masood, from the Prophet of God, who said, “He shall never enter heaven, such as has, within his heart, the weight of a grain of arrogance.” A man said, “But, a man loves that his clothing should be fine and his shoes of good quality.” He responded, “Truly, God is beautiful and loves beauty. Arrogance comprises the rejection of truth and looking down upon mankind.”

The Prohibition Against Expressing Arrogance by means of Food or Clothing:
By means of Abu Huraira, from the Prophet s, who said, “God, on the Day of Resurrection, shall not gaze upon such as walk around with trains of fabric attached to their clothes, out of arrogance and mischief.

In the opening sections of the Book of Vestments, in Saheeh Al Buhkari, is an excerpt from the Quran, entitled” Say: Who hath forbidden the adornment of Allah which He hath brought forth for His bondmen”. The Prophet s, said, “Eat, drink, dress up, and give in charity; do all of this, taking care neither to be extravagant nor wasteful.” Ibn Abbas said, “You may eat anything you wish to, as may you also wear anything that pleases you, so long as you are neither extravagant nor give the impression that you are.”

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