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In the seventh article of the work ethics series, Sumaira Dada discusses arrogance
We may never really know, how a peacock feels, and perhaps calling him proud may be doing him an injustice; however, we humans can definitely understand what it is like to be arrogant and worse still – to be treated with arrogance. For instance, there is the case of Saima, who felt looked down upon at work, since she did not speak English very well and did not come from an elite business school. There are other people at work, too, whom we merely take for granted – the sweeper, for instance, who comes early in the morning, much before most people arrive for work, or the intern, who is slogging it out in a cramped corner of the office. Before we move on to discussing, whether arrogance is an acceptable trait, we must first define it.
What is arrogance?
In a Hadeeth narrated by Abdullah Ibn Masud (rta), the Prophet (sa) said: “He, who has in his heart (even) a weight of an atom of arrogance, will not enter Paradise.” Someone asked: “How about a person, who likes to wear beautiful clothes and shoes?” Allah’s Messenger (sa) replied: “Indeed Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty. Arrogance means rejecting the Truth and having contempt for people.”
Is arrogance acceptable?
The Quran is filled with stories of people and nations, who were overbearing and puffed up with self-importance; they rejected Allah’s (swt) Word and mocked the messengers. Their end speaks volumes about how much Allah (swt) dislikes arrogance. The Pharaoh, for instance, was drowned along with his followers, Qarun was swallowed up by the earth, and the nations of Ad, Thamud and Lut were destroyed by natural calamities.
We also find words of admonition in the Holy Quran regarding arrogance. For example, there is the advice of Luqman to his son: “‘And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allah likes not any arrogant boaster.’” (Luqman 31:18)
Even the arrogant Qarun was admonished by his own people for his overbearing attitude:
“Verily, Qarun (Korah) was of Musa’s (Moses) people, but he behaved arrogantly towards them. And We gave him of the treasures, that of which the keys would have been a burden to a body of strong men. Remember when his people said to him: ‘Do not exult (with riches, being ungrateful to Allah). Verily, Allah likes not those who exult (with riches, being ungrateful to Allah).’” (Al-Qasas 28:76)
In the books of Ahadeeth, we find the end of a man, who was puffed up with pride.
Ibn Umar (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “A man was walking dragging his dress with pride, he was sunk in the earth because of it and will keep sinking in the earth till the day of standing.” (Bukhari)
Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated: Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Allah (swt) said: ‘Pride is my cloak and honour is my loincloth, and whoever contends with me regarding one of them both, I will throw him in the fire.’” (Abu Dawood)
The above Quranic verses and Ahadeeth clearly show how much Allah (swt) dislikes arrogance.
Are you arrogant?
One is quick to jump to conclusions about people’s vain attitude. However, it is much more important to recognize arrogance within yourself. You could ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you love listening to how well you work and how well-dressed you are?
- Do you believe that you have got this job only, because you worked hard and well? After all – you deserve it!
- Do you listen to others at work, or do you always want your way? After all – your opinion is what really matters!
- Working as part of a team, do you feel that the less important work makes you literally that – LESS important?
- When someone criticizes your opinion, do you feel like saying: “How dare you question my judgment?”
If your answer to most of the above questions is a ‘yes,’ it is likely that the plant of arrogance has taken root inside your heart.
The ways of rooting out arrogance
Begin with seeking Allah’s (swt) help: “O Allah! Keep me alive (in a state of) humbleness and grant me death in (a state of) humbleness, and gather (resurrect) me in the company of the humble ones.” (Ibn Abi Shaibah)
Praise Allah (swt)
When someone praises you, instead of saying thank you, say: “Alhamdulillah!” (Praise be to Allah!)
Remember the warning in the Quran
Remind yourself of the miserable end of the nations and people, who were arrogant.
Look up to the Prophet’s (sa) example
As a part of a team, the Prophet (sa) did not despise any task, no matter how menial and ordinary it appeared to be. Once, he was traveling with his companions and it was time to prepare food, he asked them to slaughter a sheep. A man said: “I will slaughter it.” Another said: “I will skin it out.” A third one said: “I will cook it.” So, Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “I will collect the wood for fire.” They said: “No. We will do that work.” The Prophet (sa) said: “I know that you can do it for me, but I hate to be privileged. Allah hates to see a servant of His privileged to others.” So, he went and collected firewood. (Khulasatus-Siyar, p.22)
Remind yourself of your creation
Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “It is He, Who has created you (Adam) from dust, then from a Nutfah (mixed semen drops of male and female sexual discharge [i.e. Adam’s offspring]) then from a clot (a piece of coagulated blood), then brings you forth as an infant…” (Ghafir 40:67)
Dealing with arrogant people
Difficulties in the workplace arise from the attitude of colleagues and supervisors. Dealing with an arrogant boss or a colleague is difficult; however, you can use the following tips to deal with them more effectively.
Be gentle with them
Allah (swt) told Musa (as), how to deal with the arrogant Pharaoh: “And speak to him mildly, perhaps he may accept admonition or fear (Allah).” (Ta-Ha 20:44)
Arrogance is rooted in insecurity. Being gentle with such a person may tame his desire to overpower others.
Advise them in private
From a Hadeeth, we learn that the Prophet (sa) said: “Islam is a word of sincerity and well wishing.” Upon this, the companions asked: “For whom?” The Prophet (sa) replied: “For Allah, His Book, His Messenger and for the leaders and the common Muslims.” (Muslim, Abu Dawood, and At-Tirmidhi)
Advising such people in private would perhaps give them a chance to reflect on their behavior, which is detrimental to their own self as well as to others around them.
Supplicate for them
Lastly, make a prayer for that arrogant colleague or boss to help him/her get over the overbearing attitude, which invites Allah’s (swt) wrath.