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Humbleness Before God Only is Not True Humility

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22-October-2017

True humility is more than just being humble before God, it is being humble before His creatures. By Rayhan al-Safawi It is quite easy to be humble before God. Saddam Hussein would occasionally pray and express his weakness before God. Other dictatorial world leaders have done the same. From U.S presidents to third world despots, […]

True humility is more than just being humble before God, it is being humble before His creatures.

By Rayhan al-Safawi

It is quite easy to be humble before God. Saddam Hussein would occasionally pray and express his weakness before God. Other dictatorial world leaders have done the same. From U.S presidents to third world despots, acknowledgement of God’s power and superiority and our lowliness before Him has been unquestioned.

Even in the story of the Devil (Iblīs) in the Qur’an we find the same pattern. Iblīs acknowledges his powerlessness before God. He recognizes His power and majesty and is anything but humble before Him. His problem, however, lied somewhere else.

And (remember) when We said to the angels: “Prostrate unto Adam.” They prostrated except Iblis (Satan). He said: “Shall I prostrate to one whom You created from clay?” (Qur’an, 17:61)

The 19th century Russian Eastern Orthodox Monk St Seraphim of Saarov (d. 1833 AD) taught us that it is easy for people to be humble before God, but the real and most difficult humility was to have humility before other creatures of God. True humility (khushūʿ) is formed in the hearts and not just an outward and artificial practice and it begins with being humble before people whom we can easily assert superiority over. 

The story of the Devil in the Qur’an is not an isolated incident. We pay much attention to the Prophet Adam (as) and think that he is the central character of this story for us because he was human and Iblīs was not. Yet it seems to me that Iblīs is the main character of that story because he is the primordial but perpetual archetypal story of mankind’s fall from God’s grace. Mankind’s inability to be humble before other men and women is the reason behind almost all of our spiritual diseases and the prime cause of much of the violence in this world.

When the angels asked God if He were to create another race of creatures that were to “shed blood” on this earth, they voiced this question because of their past experience with the jinn and their lack of humility. For the angels, Iblīs’s rebellion was just another chapter in the story of free will’s conceit before other creatures.

Let us then not see our regular prayers and humbleness before God as a sign of true humility. Let the measure of our humility and the state of our spiritual heart be how we act towards other creatures of God, both human and animal.

As Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as) once said:

“if you want to know the religion of a man, do not look at how much he prays and fasts, rather, look at how he treats people.”

Rayhan al-Safawi is a blogger at the World Shia Forum. He lives with his family in the West Coast, United States.

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