Archive for January 9th, 2011

Humility

by Sohaib Baig | Source: SuhaibWebb

A quality mastered by few, though claimed by many.

It is in that period of life when a person begins to develop their first perspective of the world, and how they fit into its giant, complex systems, that they encounter a sort of identity crisis. I do not mean the typical identity crises where the individual is lost as to who they really are and what their true essence represents. I suggest another shade of uncertainty: a crisis regarding how they confront the contradictions and discrepancies regarding their self-worth. As individuals we look at how we viewed our self-worth in the past in comparison to how society values our worth now as well as how much importance we should ideally place on ourselves as per Divine guidance. This confusing conundrum befuddles us all and therefore we tend to neglect finding answers, opting instead to let others dictate how we perceive our self-worth. Very often, we swing from one extreme to another, in constant reaction to internal and external turmoil. Few realize that at the core of this identity crisis lies humility, a concept which the Divine has instructed and provided guidance for – a guidance that can help calm our tumultuous lives and bring an understanding of who and how important we really are.

If we accept the meaning of humility in its most technical sense, which is to behave and believe that we are not superior to others, we will be presented with a few immediate complications. We can question whether this sense of humility is a reflection of sincere emotions and values: one may have genuine motives such as admiration or shame, but there may exist ulterior motives such as self-gratification, political or social maneuvering, as well as hypocrisy. Also one can be humble in front of some yet arrogant in front of others; will this broken humbleness really count as humility? The most important question is if humility is relative to circumstances and social standards, or is it a fixed measure of character? If a multi-billionaire has pride in his wealth but humbles himself before more powerful individuals such as Bill Gates, will society accept him as a humble person? Questions like these complicate the essence of humility and thus many altogether discard the importance of being humble. Instead passive standpoints are encouraged such as “don’t let your arrogance bubble out, unless someone personally attacks you.” With this compromise we see another problem: can humility really be conditional? (i.e “if you show me humility, then I will show you humility”) This leads to the next question: in a secular society which believes each person to be their own god, how far does one have to go to be truly humble, without losing dignity? Are dignity and humility diametrically opposed, or can they exist simultaneously at the highest levels?

Guidance from Islam on the other hand, completely revolutionizes the concept of humility. Firstly, Allah commands man to be humble, thus establishing its importance as opposed to simply being an optional quality. Secondly, Allah inextricably ties a human’s worth to Divine Creation as in the Qur’an it reads man was created “in the best of stature” (95:4). If people are living a life in accordance to Divine principles, Allah raises their status: “Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.”(Qur’an, 49:13). And we are reminded that if we stray away from Guidance, we become “the lowest of the low” (Qur’an, 95:5). This radically transforms the accepted standards upon which we are judged and judge one another.

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