By Bint Zahid
Arrogance is a very dangerous disease, especially for a student of knowledge, who risks losing all the benefits of his/her hard work and having them go to vain.
So how can we cure this disease, and control it from spreading?
1. “I am a vessel”: Imagine that you are a vessel, with an inlet and an outlet. Water flows in and out of it. Nothing is contained in it, and the continuingly flowing water keeps cleaning it. Since the vessel cannot hold any water in it, it cannot claim any ownership. And, well, one cannot feel proud about something that one does not own, right? When we learn something new, we rush to share it, especially with our loved ones. We want everyone to benefit from it. So like the vessel, we are empty too at all times, with knowledge coming in and going out and cleansing us. So, logically speaking, when I do not own (any knowledge) then how can I have any pride about it? Allah (subhana hu wa ta’ala) says in the Qur’an: “And Allah has extracted you from the wombs of your mothers not knowing a thing, and He made for you hearing and vision and intellect, that perhaps you would be grateful” (16:78).
2. Internalize it first: When we learn something new, our first reaction should be to analyze ourselves, and apply the knowledge on ourselves first. For example, let say we attend a lecture on gheebah (backbiting) and we are very moved and encouraged to fight the urge to talk about others. When we go back home, we get a call from a friend who starts talking about someone. This is an “aha” moment for us. Either we think: “Oh, she loves to talk about others. I do not, I am so good!” OR…we feel scared for ourselves weakening so we gently steer the conversation to other topics, without giving her a lecture on gheebah right then and there. We should make du’a for ourselves and her and ask Allah (subhana hu wa ta’ala) to guide us and her to be able to get rid of this habit.
3. Increase private good deeds: We should make a conscious and determined effort to increase our private good deeds; deeds which are visible ONLY to Allah (subhana hu wa ta’aala). Increase in dhikr (remembrance) of Allah (subhana hu wa ta’aala), give more in sadaqa, offer tahajjud, pray nafl salah more during the day, read more Quran, share knowledge anonymously, create pages on Facebook with generic names so that people do not know that it is really you who is posting, etc.
4. Deal with compliments: When compliments come our way we should learn to deal with them in a way that they become a means of increasing our humbleness and not the other way around. When you receive a compliment do not say “Oh no, I didn’t really do anything. I am not really worth it,” etc. This will only increase the other person’s compliments. Look at your shoes and have an internal parallel conversation with yourself. Think of all the areas in you that “need improvement” and make du’a to Allah (subhana hu wa ta’aala).
5. Remind yourself: “Why are you doing this?” Put this question on a post-it or a label, and put it on the wall in front of you where you work, or on the table, the background of your laptop, or on the top of your file/folder. Answer this question truthfully before you begin your study or work.
6. Seek guidance from Allah (subhana hu wa ta’ala) before starting a project: Imam Bukhari, performed ghusl (bath) and salatul istikhara before recording each hadith in Sahih Al Bukhari. Once we begin our endeavors with the blessings of Allah (subhana hu wa ta’ala), it becomes difficult for riya (arrogance) to creep inside our heart, as we know we are only able to do it because of the will of Allah (subhana hu wa ta’la).
7. Make the right choice: We all need and look for some kind of recognition for the efforts that we put in. What is needed is the knowledge of the right place to seek it- either we seek it in the sight of Allah (subhana hu wa ta’ala) or the sight of the people around us. The right choice is “the sight of Allah (subhana hu wa ta’ala),” so make the right choice. Don’t count the number of “likes” on the post that you share on Facebook or the comments under your blog posts or the applause after a good speech at a halaqa. Ask Allah (subhana hu wa ta’ala) to accept it from you and make you grow in ilm and imaan.
May Allah (subhana hu wa ta’aala) protect us from this disease and help us in spreading His word and grant us all forgiveness and His pleasure. Ameen.