Delivered by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider on 21 and 22 June 2016 at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town
In the earlier verses the Surah we saw how Kuffar and Mushrikeen showed their arrogance in relation to Almighty Allah – the One who extends His Mercy towards everyone including those who don’t believe in Him or even fight Him.
In response to a command of prostrating to “Rahman”, these people asked “who/what is Rahman” even though they knew very well who “Rahman” is.
The following 2 verses are further expressions of Rahmaniyya of Almighty Allah which we did not complete in the previous post.
Verse 61 says:
تَبَارَكَ الَّذِي جَعَلَ فِي السَّمَاء بُرُوجًا وَجَعَلَ فِيهَا سِرَاجًا وَقَمَرًا مُّنِيرًا
“Blessed is He Who has set in heaven constellations, and has set therein a lamp (the sun) and the moon illuminating.”
This verse has much information in it that can be elaborated upon from a scientific perspective, but in short is alludes to the precise system in which the heavenly bodies including the sun and moon follow their exact orbit which is something that these mushrikeen recognised, but still condescendingly wanted to know “who is Rahman” – who else is He other than the Creator of these heavenly bodies who ensure their precise orbit.
Verse 62 says:
وَهُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ خِلْفَةً لِّمَنْ أَرَادَ أَن يَذَّكَّرَ أَوْ أَرَادَ شُكُورًا
“And He it is Who has made the night and the day to succeed each other for him who desires to reflect or desires to be thankful”
And the night and day succeeding each other is precisely due to the rotation of the earth in relation to the sun in a fixed manner.
SERVANTS OF “RAHMAN”
Now the Surah moves into its third theme of describing the qualities of the real servants of “Rahman”.
It should be noted that the “Servants of Rahman” are believers – but they are referred to by this spiritual title instead. The reason being that “ubudiyyat” or “servitude” is the highest station that anyone can reach in their spiritual journey.
So the next verses reveal to us 12 of the most special qualities of the ones who have reached the highest station of servitude to Almighty Allah!
THEY WALK ON THE EARTH WITH HUMILITY
Verses 63 says:
وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلاَمًا
“And the servants of the Beneficent (Allah) are those who walk on the earth humbly; and when the ignorant address them, they answer; ‘Peace’.
Their first quality is that they are humble, modest or down to earth.
In Arabic, “tawadu” refers to when you place yourself lower than other people.
Humility is mentioned as the first attribute of the Servants of Rahman as it is the spirit or ruh of servanthood. If someone is a servant, the first consequence is that the servant must be humble before his Master – otherwise he is not a servant.
In Quran the word “tawadu” itself is never used, but the manifestation of “tawadu” is discussed.
So even though the verse literally says that they “walk on the earth humbly/softly”, the understanding is not limited to the way they walk. Rather it refers to their entire lifestyle being one that manifests “tawadu”. This verse is thus showing that their attitude shows what they have internally.
Sometimes people don’t necessarily mean to be arrogant, but their outer manifestation does not express their inner humility.
Urafa say that some some people are humble by nature while others acquire that humility through marifat, but in both cases it is expressed through a humble lifestyle.
This attribute of humility has different levels/phases which we will now explore.
HUMILITY IN PRESENCE ALLAH
This first level is to be humble in the Presence of Almighty Allah. This humility comes from ma’rifatullah (knowledge of Allah) on the one hand as well as marifatun nafs (knowledge of the self) on the other hand.
A famous hadith indicates that “if you know yourself, you will know your Lord”. From this knowledge you should automatically become humble.
That is because if you recognise the fact that you are nothing in reality, and from this realisation of nothingness in yourself, you realise the greatness of Allah.
Similarly, if one is ignorant, then you can expect him to be arrogant at the same time!
Humility is a result of real knowledge, not fake ilm/knowledge – this make you arrogant instead of humble. And thus often we can observe a so-called scholar who appears to be more of a jaahil than an aalim as he has fake knowledge.
There was a student in Qum who was new to the seminary and had learnt a few things and suddenly started to measure the size of his chest and was wondering how his small chest managed to capture so much knowledge! That is ignorance!
But an Aalimun Rabbaani (a Godly Scholar) – his humility increases with knowledge of Allah.
Bayazid Bastami, a famous Persian Mystic also known as “Sultanul Aarifeen” says that “as much as your ma’rifat of Allah increases, so your humility increases proportionately”.
No one is more humble than the Prophet Muhammad (sawa) and other Prophets and Imams in the presence of Almighty Allah.
Allamah Majlisi records a narration wherein it is reported that Almighty Allah offered Prophet (sawa) between being a Prophet with Servitude or being a Prophet with Kingship. And the Prophet (sawa) chose Servitude with Prophethood as he disliked being a seen as a king!
Imam Saadiq (a.s) is reported to have “No one knows what is the reality of tawadu (humility) except those close to Him (Allah) from His servants – those who are connected to His Unity.”
Then you get people like Imam Khomeini who expresses himself to have wasted his life when he looks back at the past – this is a reflection of his marifat of Allah – this is not showing off – he genuinely realises he has nothing when he views his knowledge against the ocean of knowledge of Allah. This made him so humble.
And then what about us, you may ask?
Someone asked Imam Saadiq (a.s) “we see when you prayer, you enjoy your prayer. Why don’t we enjoy the sweetness of our prayers?” Imam Saadiq (a.s) replied that “sweetness of ibaadat comes from humility”. Thus if we do not have humility, then we won’t enjoy our ibaadah/worship!
HUMILITY IN PRESENCE OF PEOPLE
The reason for humility in this realm is again Ma’rifat of Allah. People are on different levels in society and our knowledge of Allah demands for us to express our humility before all of them.
HUMILITY TOWARDS PROPHET (sawa) AND THE IMAMS (a.s)
The first level of humility that needs to be expressed in the presence of people is to express our humility to the Prophet (sawa) and Holy Imams (a.s).
This is due to our understanding their status with Almighty Allah as the Representatives of Allah on earth and their spiritually unsurpassed stations that they have reached. This reality has often been described in detail in various of our previous lectures.
HUMILITY TOWARDS OUR PARENTS
The second level of humility is the humility that needs to be expressed to our parents. In Quranic terms, kindness to our parents is mentioned immediately after the worship of Almighty Allah. Surah Israa, Verse 23 says:
وَقَضَي رَبُّكَ اَلاَّ تَعْبُدُوا إِلآَّ إِيَّاهُ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَاناً
“And your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him and (to show) kindness to parents”
Immediately after this verse we are then specifically commanded to be humble towards our parents by never raising our voices to them or uttering words of contempt to them and praying for them as an expression of our humility to them.
Thus Surah Israa Verse 24 says:
وَاخْفِضْ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحْمَةِ وَقُل رَّبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِي صَغِيراً
“And out of compassion, lower unto them the wing of humility, and say: ‘My Lord! Have mercy on them both as they cherished me when I was little.”
The narrations from the Imams even teach us that we should not walk ahead of them!
And other parts of the Quran say that even if they are not Muslim, we still cannot be arrogant to them, and should obey them as long as they do not command us to do something which is Islamically unlawful.
HUMILITY TOWARDS OUR TEACHERS
The third level of humility is to be humble towards our teachers.
There’s a difference between how knowledge is viewed in secular universities compared to an Islamic environment.
In the secular arena, ilm (knowledge) is equivalent to information that you get from teacher. You do not have a relationship with the teacher and consequently, your attitude or behaviour towards your teacher has no relevance.
But in Islam “Ilm is light that is enlightened in the heart of those whom Allah wants to enlighten”! If you want this knowledge, it’s not just information but necessitates that you have to be humble towards your teacher.
Imam Ali (a.s) beautifully says: “whoever taught me one word made me his slave!”
In our seminaries we are taught that you will never be able to succeed if you are not humble to your teachers. That does not mean that you cannot be critical about their views, but that critique MUST be combined with still having the utmost respect for your teacher.
A great example to demonstrate this is the views of the great Ayatullah Muhammad Baqir Sadr. He was student of the foremost Marja, Ayatullah Khoei and was much younger than him but had views which were sometimes the direct opposite of Ayatullah Khoei.
But when he presents his views in his writings, he first brings his teacher’s opinion and introduces it by saying “my Master says the following.” Do you see the etiquette? He does not even mention his name and calls his teacher his “Master”. And then he presents his very differing views.
Then there is the example in Qum of Grand Marja Ayatullah Ahmad Khonsari who was senior to Imam Khomeini (and an early teacher of Imam Khomeini) but never believed in the Institution of Wilayatul Faqih like Imam Khomeni believed. Ayatullah Khonsari did not believe that a jurist needs to have the extremely wide span of authority like Imam Khomeini believed. This would paint the picture that these two scholars did not see eye to eye on this very important issue.
But the opposite was true when it came to the humility of Imam Khomeini towards Ayatullah Khonsari.
In the early years when Imam Khomeini was marja and Ayatullah Burujerdi passed away, people enquired from Imam Khomeini regarding who they should follow as their Marja Taqleed, and believe it or not Imam Khomeini still said that Ayatullah Khonsari was the best person to follow!!
HUMILITY TOWARDS BELIEVERS
It is interesting to note that Almighty Allah commands the Prophet (sawa) to be humble towards the general population of believers.
Surah Shu’ara Verse 215 says:
وَاخْفِضْ جَنَاحَكَ لِمَنِ اتَّبَعَكَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
“And lower your wing (be humble) to the believer who follows you.”
If the Prophet (sawa) is supposed to be humble towards the believers, then how are we not supposed to act towards them!
When looking at Believers and Muslims or regular people in general, we categorise them into 3 levels. We can either consider them to be:
– worse than us;
– the same as us; or
– better than us
Since you don’t know the other, but know all your own shortcomings, you realise that the other is most likely better than you and this causes you to be humble before that person.
One day Prophet (sawa) saw people gathered around someone and making a fuss of him and having fun observing his actions. People thought the man was “insane” and made fun of him.
Prophet (sawa) said to them “should I introduce to you someone who is really insane? That is the one who walks on the earth as if he owns it and looks around and moves his shoulders in a manner that he is great. Nobody is protected from his evil – that person is insane. Whereas this person you are making fun of is mentally ill – he is not insane (majnoon).”
The Quran mentions that the great sage Luqman also advised his son on the issue of humility. Surah Luqman, Verse 18 says:
وَلاَ تُصَعّـِرْ خَدَّكَ لِلنَّاسِ وَلاَ تَمْشِ في الأَرْضِ مَرَحاً إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍ فَخُورٍ
“And do not turn your face away from people (in contempt), nor walk in the earth exultantly; verily Allah does not love any self-conceited boaster.”
Furthermore, Surah Israa Verse 37 advises us:
وَلاَ تَمْشِ فِي الاَرْضِ مَرَحاً إِنَّكَ لَن تَخْرِقَ الاَرْضَ وَلَن تَبْلُغَ الْجِبَالَ طُولاً
“And do not walk around exultantly on the earth; certainly you will never cut through the earth; nor attain the mountains in height.”
Thus it is repeatedly reported that when strangers came to Madina they could not identify the Prophet (sawa) from the crowd as he looked liked the regular people and they would be shocked at this humility.
Once he was sitting on sand with slaves and a respectful woman passed by. She was Muslim and commented “why are you sitting on the ground and sitting with these slaves – its not suitable that you sit with slaves on the ground as a Prophet.” He replied, “who can be a greater servant than me – that’s why I am sitting with them!”
We understand from incidents like these why he is referred to in our kalima as “abduhu wa rasoolu”, or “His Servant and His Messenger” – we attest to the Servanthood of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) first before we attest to his Messengership!
HUMILITY TOWARDS YOUR ENVIRONMENT
In addition to displaying humility towards all the different beings mentioned above, humility must also be displayed towards the environment.
Today we are sensitive about having a green environment. But slaves of Allah look at nature as Allah’s blessings and consequently treat it with respect.
IMPORTANT NOTE: HUMILITY IS NOT TANTAMOUNT TO HUMILIATION
Moral qualities can be displayed in two extremes – sometimes we end up displaying too much of it and sometimes we end up displaying too little thereof. And both extremes are problematic and we need to always follow the middle path.
Extremes in everything is not good, and it similarly applies to humility.
While arrogance is the worst enemy of faith, but at the same time humility must not become humiliation. Allah wants us to be humble but never to be humiliated!
The servants of Rahman are humble due to Marifat of Allah. But when you are humble due to weakness – that’s not humility. It’s like someone who drives an old broken car for many years because he is poor and drives with humility.
But the moment he has some money and gets to drive a new 4 wheel drive, he will drive you off the road in arrogance. That is not humility that was displayed when he had an old car but was a weakness.
Imam Ali says: “good luck are those who humble but not due some shortcoming!”
Thus sometimes we need to be assertive and confident too!
We should not be beggars in front of others to the point of humiliation – keep your self respect at all times!
This confidence is also very necessary in front of enemies.
In one of the battle in Islamic history, a sahabi walked with confidence and broad shoulders at the front lines of the battlefield and Prophet praised this expression of confidence.
Furthermore we are advised to not be humble in front of wealthy people purely due to their wealth. Contrary to this, if a wealthy person is humble before poor people, then Allah raises him in status.
Prophet (sawa) advises us that if you show humility out of hope to get something from wealthy people, then you lose 2 thirds of your deen!
Imam Saadiq (a.s) says “how ugly is that believer who has a desire and to fulfill it he is prepared to be humiliated”.
One day someone requested Imam Saadiq (a.s) to kiss your hand – so he allowed the person to do this. He then requested to kiss his forehead – and the Imam allowed him to do so. He then requested kiss his feet and the Imam refused and said the respect shown was sufficient.
Prophet (sawa) thus says “someone who is humble, Allah raises him up while he thinks he is weak yet in the eyes of people he is great.”
To be continued…….