In Part 1 and 2, we began our journey into Surat Al A’raf to look for productivity lessons. In Part 3 and 4, we began the story of Adam and Iblis. Now, in Part 5, we go further into the incident to pick up more productivity lessons .
Lesson: Take note of his pride…and ‘our’ pride!
Iblis wanted to rise high, higher than another creation of Allah . However, he actually fell low, lower than all the creations of Allah . He exhibited pride, which made him low and disgraceful. Let us take a pause from talking about Iblis and his failings and look within ourselves for a minute. Have you ever sat in a gathering of any kind and felt, “well, I am better than some/most people here?”
Be truthful. It is very important to be honest, otherwise, these gems will not benefit you. They only work for those who are honest and are willing to change. It pains me terribly to say that many of us are guilty of the “I am better than him/her” attitude to various degrees; ranging from our looks to our worship. Some say it verbally with confidence and assertion, others follow it with a joke to take the edge off the words, and there are those who say it behind the closed doors of their hearts.
This is narcissism!
13. Remember: I am better than…no one!
It is time we looked at Allah and realized how small and helpless we are in front of Him and His creations. We should take a lesson from the consequences of Iblis’s narcissism. He refused to follow the command of Allah . He disobeyed Allah because he was not looking at Allah , rather at the creation of Allah . He was looking at Adam and felt, “I am better than him”.
We make this same mistake too. We look at the creations of Allah and think about what’s lacking in them. If someone has a crooked nose, a bad sense of dressing, or lacks organizational skills, we instantly think we are better than them. By doing this, we are actually inviting disgrace upon ourselves. Iblis got expelled in disgrace from Jannah because of his arrogance.
There are many serious diseases of the heart that arise from this one single problem of not focusing on Allah . If this is not addressed and taken care of, then these serious diseases can become “terminal” and consume our good deeds like the fire that spreads and destroys everything that it touches.
14. how humbleness keeps us on track
Now that we have decided to weed out narcissistic thoughts from our heart, it’s time to water the plant of humbleness. Once this happens, in sha Allah, it will fill our heart with light and show us the correct way to rise high in Allah’s sight. Just as narcissism makes us falsely believe what we are not and leads us astray, humbleness gives us a clear vision of ourselves and keeps us on the right track. It is a reflection of what we ask Allah for each day at least 17 times in our salah: “Guide us to the straight path.”[Quran: Chapter 1: Verse 6]
Prophet Muhammad said, “Allah has revealed to me that you must be humble, so that no one oppresses another and boasts over another [Abi Dawud].
The best place to start practicing humility is in our salah. It’s the best place to accept the fact that we are nothing in front of Allah . He is our Master to whom we must all submit. It’s also important to teach our children to be humble, as Allah recorded Luqman ’s advice to his son,
“And do not turn your cheek [in contempt] toward people and do not walk through the earth exultantly. Indeed, Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful.” [Qur’an: Chapter 31: Verse 18]
But what should we do about that inherent competitive streak we might have?
15. Be a productive forerunner
This inherent competitive streak that gives rise to narcissism, pride and jealousy if used intelligently, can actually make us a forerunner. Allah says,
“And the forerunners, the forerunners,those are the ones brought near [to Allah]” [Qur’an: Chapter 56: Verses 10-11].
These forerunners are people who rush to do good deeds in general, but when they see someone doing good, they race to increase their good deeds to stay ahead of them. However, while racing, they do not harbor any ill feelings for their “competitors”, and when they see their “competitor” slowing down, they don’t run away with glee. Instead they slow down to pull their competitor along with them towards the finish line.
There is this sister in Islam whom I am very pleased and blessed to know. In many ways, she is far ahead of me in her degree of religious knowledge and Arabic studies. However, her humility never ceases to amaze me as she listens to me give a halaqa with utmost attention. When she is asked about her knowledge in Arabic grammar- which sadly I’m still learning- I feel this twinge in me and I tell myself to go back home and pick up my mushaf and study the grammar with more concentration so that one day I can be like her.
I have examined this “twinge” on many occasions, and I know it arises from that competitive streak in me, but I only feel it in occasions when her superior knowledge is evident. Other than that, whenever she exhibits better manners than me, my love for her increases. I want to develop those habits in me without that twinge!
Does this remind you of the friendship and competition between Abu Bakr and Umar ? They were the best of friends who greatly loved and respected one another. And yet, Umar always competed with Abu Bakr in doing good deeds.Though generally Abu Bakr seemed to be ahead many times, this did not make Umar jealous of Abu Bakr . In fact, it made him love and compete with him more towards goodness.
Today, let us make a pledge to ourselves to be forerunners. A forerunner in this world will be a forerunner in the next too. Identify such forerunner friends in your life. Allah has placed them in our lives to help us push and pull each other towards Him. I ask Allah to facilitate for all of us righteous friends. Ameen.
This article calls for a lot of introspection. In my experience, introspection has been very beneficial, though at times embarrassing too. It has made dealing with some issues easier as I understood myself better. In the end, I am happy and my heart is full of light and hope for a better tomorrow for me.
Grab a cup of coffee, curl up in your favorite place and think. Look within yourself. Think of this as “spring cleaning” of your heart. Get rid of the clutter of arrogance and pride; make room for humbleness. Once done, you will find yourself full of new energy to run this race, as you need to be a forerunner.
So, let us race together until the end!
You coming? Let us know in the comments section.