Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Is being arrogant good for me?

Sitting prostrate astride a camel in humble gratitude and chanting Allah’s praise rode into Makkah Muhammad (SAW) at the conquest of this holy city in the 8th year after Hijra. Instead of settling scores with those who had hurt and wronged him grossly, the conqueror (SAW) proclaimed amnesty for all, even to his deadliest enemies. Arch enemy of Islam, Abu Sufyan’s house was declared a refuge for those who sought protection of their lives. Display of this kind of modesty is unique in the annals of human history. 

The first commandment that the Almighty gave at the time of man’s creation was to caution him against vain pride. When in sheer defiance of Allah’s command Satan (Iblees) arrogantly refused to bow before Adam, he was instantly sacked from his exalted station, and became accursed forever. All glory, indeed, belongs to Allah, the Supreme and Infallible Creator and Sustainer of this magnificent universe and the life hereafter.

Human power, wealth, status, grace and prestige are short-lived and destined to decay, decline and perish sooner or later. None can remain youthful, happy, healthy and powerful forever. Several glorious civilizations raised over the millennia have become extinct, with little or no vestige of their existence. It is therefore imprudent to indulge in morbid pride, arrogance and vainglory over things and qualities that are doomed to perish over this mortal planet of ours
Arrogance vs confidence
Arrogance vs confidence
A certain measure of healthy pride and self-assuredness is a desirable trait of human personality. There is nothing wrong, socially or morally, in conducting oneself with courage, pluck and confidence. It is, in fact, the extreme form of pride and haughtiness known as ‘arrogance’, which must be guarded against. In every society there are people filled with vain faith in their abilities to reach the highest peaks in their careers or professions. Impervious and insensate to the feelings and emotions of their subordinates, they tend to behave as if they have been specially built to shape their destiny according to their own whims and wishes. Such individuals may attain some visible worldly success, but true respect and honour is beyond their destiny. A person intoxicated by overweening pride tends to develop a sickening sense of self- importance. He / she would be found lacking in poise and serenity, and may potentially react negatively to situations demanding cool composure and sound maturity

An offspring of ignorance and immaturity, arrogance shows itself starkly in lack of humility and wisdom. Modesty, one of the cardinal attributes of the sagacious and gentle, requires a person to sacrifice a bit of his / her false ego, but its dividends are immense. Still waters run deep, and beauty often shows itself best in tatters. It is cheap to blow one’s trumpets and sing self-encomium when silence itself could be the best advertiser. Someone has rightly said: “It is a great ability to hide one’s ability.” A mature and modest person acknowledges his / her limitations, acts in humility, and has the capacity to forbear differences with others

Arrogance is a grave malady of mind. Unless cured, it eats away gradually man’s essence of nobility and the spirit goodness. Its victim remains consumed with a false sense of superiority. He / she loses touch with the realities of life, and leads a life of self-conceit and delusion. Being a captive of his / her own vanity, he/she has little courage to rid him / her of a perpetual state of self-misery and persecution. Arrogance —An Invisible Foe Aslam Bazmi All prophets of humanity, sages and people of great learning are celebrated and revered for their pristine humility and modest manners. Instead of holding others in contempt and ridicule, their tolerant and affectionate attitude towards the entire mankind as the clan of Allah won them true respect of the society at large. The Holy Quran singles out ‘arrogance’ as one of the chief vices of human character, expressing Allah’s dislike of the arrogant in the following words:

And swell not thy cheek (for pride) at men nor walk in insolence through the earth; for Allah loves not any arrogant boaster”.
(XXXI: 18)

 Lo ! Allah loves not such as are proud and boastful. (IV: 36) 
 Allah loves not all-prideful boasters. (LVII: 23)

 One of the sayings of the Holy Prophet (SAW) approves of paying back an arrogant in the same coin. The underlying message is to discourage arrogance rather than, through approval and emulation, let it seep into the fabric of the society as an acceptable norm of behaviour.

Several victories of small and ill-equipped armies against heavy odds, and the fall of great empires throughout human history are a clear testimony that glory ultimately belongs to the modest. The plain and ill-armed Muslims overpowered the hordes of Persians and Romans. Deeply impressed by the strength of their faith and humility, the defeated Romans wrote to Hercules:

At night you will find them prayerful; during the day, you will find them fasting. They keep their promises, order good deeds, suppress evil, and maintain complete equality among themselves.

The vanquished Christians were amazed to see the Caliph of Islam, Hazrat Omar, when he arrived to take control of Jerusalem in 637 AD. Throughout the journey, the caliph and his servant shared a single camel, turn by turn. When they approached the destination, it was the servant’s turn to be on the camel’s back, and Omar, the great, was leading the camel on foot.

What is Wrong with Arrogance? 

Arrogance is rooted in conscious or unconscious belief in one’s being superior to others in some respect— wealth, power, status, physical or mental capacity, personal charm, intellect or scholarship and even piety. Such misplaced faith in one’s supremacy misses to take into account the fact that all our acquisitions and achievements are subject to the pleasure and mercy of our Creator. It is not within our mortal power to retain them forever. Moreover, possessing something in greater proportion does not necessarily establish one’s ascendancy over others. In certain physical qualities like strength, vision, sensory faculties, speed, physique, endurance and virility man stands poorly matched with many a beast, bird and insect. Besides being vulnerable to all kinds of perils and hazards, we all must ultimately die and perish. Arrogant people are apt to treat with indifference other human beings, with lesser abilities and resources. Arrogance also blindfolds mind’s eye, thus distancing a boaster even from his Creator and Nourisher, and making him / her ingrate soul. Imperiousness has often produced tyrants and despotic rulers at war with the peace and prosperity of not only their own nations but also the world at large. Arrogance robs man of the sterling qualities of moral courage, broad thinking, modesty and compassion. Extreme arrogance has often incurred the wrath of the Omnipotent. History is a repository of myriads of examples showing the ruination of hoity- toity kings, chieftains and overlords.

Misplaced confidence in one’s abilities and tall claims about one’s ‘perceived’ talents and superiority speak low of a person’s level of maturity.It sounds shallow to parade one’s supremacy and behave in a self-conceited and boastful manner. Self-conceit denies us the opportunity to own up our failings, make up our deficiencies and carry out self-analysis for personal improvement. In the words of David Hume, “When people are most sure and arrogant, they are commonly most mistaken.” There is no harm in learning from any being on earth. To quote Chinese sage, Lao Tse, “The Sea receives the homage of a hundred rivers and turbulent mountain-streams because it keeps below them”. People of modest nature have no pretensions about their scholarship, and they feel happy to learn from their juniors. To them, as William James puts it, “to give up pretensions is as blessed a relief as to get them gratified.”

Love for power and authority, although legitimate, should not colour a person’s behaviour. It does not sit well on the shoulders of a leader or manager to say to his subordinates, “I have decades of experience in this field. Are you trying to teach me?” Learning is a life-long process. A modest person, while in a position of authority, is not unduly concerned about his own importance and status. He cares to set a good example of mutual respect and regard, free from obnoxious authority. The people he leads feel honoured and exhilarated by the power exercised over them. Such an organization becomes a happy and highly productive body and everyone enjoys being a part of it. 

Modesty springs from the nobility of one’s character. It is a treasure lying in the depths of a mighty ocean. It is nurtured through education, sagacity and the true fear of God. And intellectually shallow person often tends to be egocentric. He/she is overly conscious of and assertive about his/ her status. Exceedingly power-conscious, he/she disregards the principles of corporate life. ‘Arrogance clamp’, to use Edward de Bono’s phrase, blocks communication, thus inhibiting the inflow and improvement of ideas. Such an individual sticks to his opinions and disdains minor jobs while being unequal to major ones.

How to Overcome Arrogance?

  • Get to Know the Price of Arrogance:                                                                                         An arrogant person is least likable. His presence becomes a source of discomfort for his colleagues, companions and subordinates who tend to avoid discussing with him matters of organisational interest. An arrogant leader or manager has myopic vision and suffers from many a complex. Through his snobbish and arrogant attitude, he deprives himself of very vital inputs bearing on the success of his mission. Fake humility— when one does not have means to pamper one’s vanity— is even more conspicuous and ridiculous. Once unseated from a place of authority, an arrogant person is quickly reduced to his / her size, and there would be many to gloat over his misfortune. The pain of such degradation is extremely excruciating. We should think of our humble origins. The Quran repeatedly reminds man of his procreation through a stinky drop, and urges him to ponder on the grandeur and vastness of the universe. This will shed his mental cobweb and impart his thinking a positive direction. In fact, it takes considerable knowledge and meditation just to realize the extent of one’s ignorance and wean oneself of arrogance thriving on it. In retrospect, to a person with the flickering flame of life, all human endeavours in self-gratification will seem futile— what Pascal called, “licking the earth”.
  • Learn from Others’ Examples :             It is the drooping branches that bear the bulk of fruit. Allah is always on the side of the modest and humble. One can unmistakably judge from the tales of doom of many a fallen hero in human history that human brilliance whenever contaminated with overweening pride has met with doom. This is equally true of all fields of life. It has been Allah’s way to forewarn nations through His prophets and scriptures against the acts of defiance. It was not until the nations of Nuh, ‘Ad, Hud, Thamud and Lut rose in open rebellion and arrogance against His messengers that Allah wiped them out. It was again sheer arrogance that caused the annihilation of Pharaoh Ramses II of Egypt and Abraha of Yemen along with their mighty forces. In the recent history, the humiliation and defeat of the USA in Vietnam and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan furnish resounding testimony to the fact that arrogant use of brute force cannot alter the way of Allah Who is always on the side of the humble and persevering.
  • Cultivate the Spirit of Empathy :It always helps to put oneself in the place of those whom one treats with disdain and arrogance. Human beings universally aspire to be treated with respect and kindness. Arrogant people, when they themselves have to face rude and insolent behaviour, feel extremely cut up and their wounds invariably take very long to heal. It is wise, therefore, to think before bossing others around in a haughty manner.
  • Show Tolerance :Humans differ vastly from one another in terms of talents, endowments, abilities and capacities for achievements. If someone is gifted with an exceptional quality vis-a- vis his colleagues or subordinates, then it should be a matter of being grateful to Allah Almighty rather than being vainly proud. It is He Who bestows on us different gifts and abilities. To be worthy of our special charms and accomplishments, we should show tolerance and understanding to those who lack in those gifts. This will engender a congenial environment of collective benefit and harmony where weeds of arrogance have little chance to grow.

  • Be Courteous, in GeneralKeeping people standing in submission, treating them rudely and withholding small courtesies to those who are low in social or economic status is attended with the risk of pampering arrogance. True courtesy consists in humility and showing concern and consideration to others, regardless of their standing in the society. It is a sign of nobility to be kind and courteous to people in general including janitors, peons, gardeners, sweepers etc. Inner peace, joy and serenity are the gifts accompanying a genuine spirit of courtesy and kindness. Courtesy though costs nothing, but its dividends are always enormous. Researchers have identified ‘courteous behaviour’ as one of the powerful transformational force, which produces no backlash, has no downside, and no element of sorrow and despair. High thresholds of rude and arrogant attitude cause surges both in adrenaline and cortisol. Decent and courteous demeanour, on the other hand, along with feelings of love and tenderness stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby increasing calmness and reducing the levels of cortisol in human body. It greatly helps to curb arrogance by showing empathy; feeling regretful for an act of rudeness; making amends for arrogant behaviour; and constantly seeking Allah’s refuge against the Satanic impulses of vain pride and haughtiness.
  • Tame your False Ego and be Forgiving :Much grief in life is the handiwork of ‘ego’. From false ego spawn the tadpoles of envy and arrogance. It is humility and gratefulness that keep our talents and abilities in a constant state of expansion. Those who attribute their inspirations and achievements to their ego are woefully mistaken. Looking inside ourselves and letting Allah help us will rid us of many cobwebs knit by false ego. 


Arrogance is a form of revolt against divine order. An attitude of modesty goes well in all situations. It is dignified to be humble and patient. Lack of maturity shows itself in the acts of foolish pride and boastfulness. An arrogant person is easily vulnerable to public humiliation. If the goods are fine, they sell well; one doesn’t have to undertake a promotional campaign in order to increase their sale. It does not become a civilized person to behave in a shallow and boastful manner. Allah confers true honour and His grace only on the humble and patient. Man tends to become arrogant with increase in power and status. We should seek to save ourselves from the demon of arrogance, which is quick to steal on us without our being conscious of it. 

- By Aslam Bazmi

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