Humility and its virtues
By Abu Usama Ath-Thahabi
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 color.
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 ‘Izza over the Kaafir. This has been established in the Quran in many places:
Allah says, “…and to Allah belongs all honor (I’zzah), and to His Messenger, and to the believers….” Sura 63 Ayat 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 towards the believers, and powerful (I’zzah) against the disbelievers…” Sura Maidah Ayat 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”. Sura 35 Ayat 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 صلي الله عليه و سلم ) to adorn himself with this noble characteristic in many verses of the Quran.
The Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم ) was ordered, “And lower your wing (i.e., be humble and show kindness ) to those who follow you from the believers”. Sura Shu’araa Ayat 215
And He Allah said, “And don’t turn you cheek (in contempt) towards people and don’t walk through the earth exultantly. Indeed, Allah doesn’t like every self-deluded and boastful person”. Sura Luqman Ayat 18
Some examples of the Prophet’s humility:
One of the clearest examples of his humility, is that the Messenger of Allah (صلي الله عليه و سلم ) 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 a warm and gracious greeting (salaams). When he was asked, “Why do you do this”? He replied, ‘The Prophet ( صلي الله عليه و سلم ) use to do it’. Bukhari/Muslim
Abdullah ibn Amr ( رضي الله تعا لي عنه )said: ‘The Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم ) entered upon me so I gave him a pillow (to sit on) made out of skin and filled with date palm fibers. The Prophet ( صلي الله عليه و سلم ) (refused to sit on it) and he choose to sit on the (bare) ground, and he left the cushion between him and myself’. Bukhari/Muslim
Abu Saeed Al-Khudri ( رضي الله تعا لي عنه ) said; ‘I entered upon the Messenger of Allah (صلي الله عليه و سلم ) and I found him praying on a (normal) mat, and he was making Sajdah on it’. Muslim
Aisha ( رضي الله تعا لي عنه ) was asked, ‘What did the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) use to do when he was in the privacy of his home’? She replied, ‘He use 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 ( رضي الله تعا لي عنه ) said the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم ) 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 ( رضي الله تعا لي عنه ): ‘I never saw a man seeking the ear of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم ) 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 ( رضي الله تعا لي عنه ) said: ‘A man came to the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم ) and he began to speak to him, and he was seized by fear (of the Prophet). Upon witnessing his demeanor the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم ) 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 women who use to eat dried salted meat strips”. Ibn Majah
From the clearest and most manifest examples of his humility is when he entered Mecca as a conqueror. It is a well known historical fact the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم ) escaped from Mecca fearful for his life, as the disbeliever’s of Quraish were hot on his trail in pursuit of him to do away with him once and for all.
Ten years later when he returned to Mecca as a conqueror and triumphant, he had every right to enter the sacred precincts of Mecca with his head held high as he had been given victory over his enemies, and they were totally defeated and subdued. Had he entered into Mecca in this way, he would not have been blamed! But instead, he entered into Mecca with his head held down, 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 ( رضي الله تعا لي عنه ) narrated that the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم ) 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 ( رضي الله تعا لي عنه ) said: I heard Umar Ibn Khattab ( رضي الله تعا لي عنه ) say on the minbar, the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم ) said: “Don’t over exaggerate with me as the Christians over exaggerated with Ibn Maryam (صلي الله عليه و سلم ). Verily I am His slave, therefore say, ‘Abdullah’ and the Messenger of Allah”. Bukhari
A lesson from Umar Ibn Khattab ( رضي الله تعا لي عنه ):
‘Urwah ibn Zubair ( رضي الله تعا لي عنه ) said: ‘I saw Umar carrying a large leather water canteen on his shoulder. I said to him, ‘Oh Amir-ul-Mu’mineen, you shouldn’t be carrying that’. Umar replied by saying, ‘A delegation came to Medina 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 ( رضي الله تعا لي عنه ) 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 (صلي الله عليه و سلم ) 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 the Dunyah (in stature or esteem), except that Allah will bring it down”. Bukhari
If we’re trying to seek the benefits of the Dunyah 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 towards that goal.
Abdullah ibn Mu’tazz ( رضي الله تعا لي عنه ) 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”. Al-Qassas Ayat 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.
Abu Usamah At-Thahabi