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Arrogance; A negative human characteristic

Salman Rizwan

Arroganceis“A sense of false superiority which shows itself in an unpleasant and offensive manner”

However, “arrogance” has different meanings in reference to God and His creatures. In the case of God, the creator of the whole universe and the supreme authority on heaven and earth, His expression ofsuperiority is devoid of any negative aspects. “The Great” is mentioned six times in the Qurān as one of God’s attributes; five times in association with “the Supreme” (q 4:34; 22:62; 31:30; 34:23; 40:12) and once with “the Exalted” (q 13:9). The Qurān specifies, “God possesses greatness in the heavens and on earth” (q 45:37). As a divine attribute, “exalting in His greatness” means that God exalts Himself over His creation and transcends the characteristics of His creation.

Humans, on the other hand who claim to be “great”have nothing a baseless assumption of dignity, authority and knowledge. In fact,“unbelief “as man’s denial of the Creator, exposes itself most glaringly in various acts of insolence, haughtiness, and presumptuousness

The basic difference between God and His creatures is that God is infinite and absolute and every creature is finite. All things have potentialities, but no amount of potentiality willmake possible what is finite to go beyond its finitude and pass into infinity. This is what the Qurān means when it says that everything except God is “measured out” and is hence dependent upon God, and that whenever a creature claims complete self-sufficiency or independence, it thus claims infinitude and a share in divinity. Human arrogance is a form of injusticeagainst God and the self (q 6:93), as well as against other people.

“Those regarded as weak are a category of people mentioned in the Qurān as subjugated by the arrogant (q 7:75; 34:31-3). The Qurān urges Muslims to fight for the cause of the weak (q 4:75).

The common word for “arrogance” occurs only once with this sense in the Qurān: “Those who dispute about the signs of God without any authority, there is nothing in their hearts but an [unfounded] sense of greatness that they will never [actually] attain” (q 40:56).

“To Him be greatness throughout the heavens and the earth: and He is exalted in power full of wisdom” (q 45:37).

The second occurrence is associated with the allegation made by Pharaoh and his people against Moses  and Aaron that they wanted to turn the people of Pharaoh away from their traditions in order for Moses and his people to gain greatness, in the land of Egypt (q 10:78).

Musa’s (a.s) prayer, on the other hand, asks God to provide protection for him and his people against every arrogant one (q 40:27). Conceiving of oneself as great and superior is considered by the Qurān to be claiming one of God’s attributes, because only He is great. Thus, arrogance in man is a grievous sin. Acting insolently or behaving arrogantly is to claim God’s position (q 59:23).

It is reported in one hadith qudsi

Pride is my cloak and greatness My robe, and he who competes with Me in respect of either of them I shall cast into Hellfire.

 

A well-known hadīth reads, “Whoever has in his heart the smallest portion of arrogance will never enter paradise.”

For humans, acting arrogantly is a form of behavior directed towards other people on the grounds that they are inferior. It is undue assumption of dignity, authority, or knowledge,aggressive conceit, presumption or haughtiness. In the case of God, who is the creator of the whole universe and the supreme authority on heavens and earth, arrogance is devoid of such a meaning. As a divine attribute it means that He exalts himself over doing injustice to his creation, or that He transcends the characteristics of his creation. Besides being great, high and self-exalted, He is also exalted in might.

The first act of arrogance was committed by Satan when he refused the command of God to prostrate before Adam. For this he was condemned. Although Satan represents the most wicked example of arrogance (q 7:13;38:74, 75), Pharaoh became the human persona of Satan when he rejected the message God revealed to Moses (q 28:39) and misled his people into acting arrogantly (q 7:133; 10:75; 23:46; 29:39). Thus, Satan and Pharaoh became the two representative symbols of arrogance and insolence.

There are many references in the Qurān to communities, groups and individuals who insolently and arrogantly rejected the word of God. In addition to the subjects of Pharaoh, the Qurān mentions the neighbors of Noah (q 71:7), the people of Ād (q 41:15), the people of Thamūd (q 7:75-6), the people of Midian (q 7:88) and the pagan Makkans.

Apart from these specific groups, a number of general classes of people are portrayed as arrogant, including those in defiance of right (q 7:146); those who dispute about the signs of God (q 40:35); those who refuse to serve God (q 4:172); those who tell lies about God, scornfully rejecting His revelation (q 6:93); those who turn away from listening to the Qurān and prefer frivolous tales (q 31:6); those who ignore the revelations of God completely (q 45:8); those who do not believe in the afterlife (q 16:22); and the hypocrites of Madinah (q 63:1,7-9).

Those who are not arrogant, but rather are humble, unconditionally obey God and willingly accept his revelation are the opposite. The Qurān several times refers to such humans who do not disdain to be God’s servants (q 7:206), e.g. the followers of Jesus (q.v.; q 5:83), the angels (q.v.) and all of creation (q 16:48-9; 21:19) and those who believe in the Qurān (q 32:15).

The believers are those who accept the Qurān. When the verses are recited to them, they fall down in adoration, praising their Lord. They are never puffed up with pride (q 32:15). The ideal behavior expected from Muslims that makes them worthy of the title “servants of God most gracious” is, among other things, that they walk on the earth in humility (q 25:63). The advice of the sage Luqmān to his son was “Do not put on a contemptuous mien toward people and do not walk on the earth exuberantly, for God does not like any self-important boaster” (q 31:18). All those who disdain His worship and are arrogant (q 4:172) will be gathered together to be questioned and punished grievously, while those who believe and perform righteous deeds will be given their just rewards and more from God’s bounty (q 4:173).

The ill-treated or the disinherited, is a category of people mentioned in the Qurān as oppressed by thearrogant (q 7:75; 34:31-3). The Qurān urges Muslims to fight for the liberation of the ill-treated (q 4:75) and encourages them in the meantime to resist such oppression even by emigrating to another land (q 4:97). Arrogance thus leads to oppression, which is a grievous form of injustice against others.

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