The Incident of Bahlool

Once Haroon al-Rashid, the Abbaside Caliph and Bahlool were going to the Hammam (a public Bath). On the way, Haroon asked Bahlool : "What would my value be if I were a slave?"

Bahlool replied "Fifty diners."

Haroon, in an enraged voice remarked' : "O mad man! How could that be? My own valuable clothes are worth that much or more "

Bahlool reacted to this, saying : "The value I had suggested was for your clothes otherwise you yourself are of no value at all?"

Although Haroon thought that being a caliph, his value would be more if sold as a slave he forgot that in the market of slaves, the purchasers do not see the pre-status of a slave but his present strength and ability to work actively. Haroon's easy and lusty lifestyle would not assist him in being of any use to his master. Therefore, one should never undermine others simply on account of their possessions.

Considering Oneself Pious is Kibr

People who consider themselves to be pious on account of their excessive worship or knowledge are also proud. Allah (s.w.t.) has explicitly condemned in the Holy Qur'an those who consider themselves noble and pure. "Have you not considered those who attribute purity to themselves? Nay, Allah purifies whom He pleases; and they shall not be wronged the husk of a data stone." (An Nisa/49)

"Therefore, do not attribute purity to your soul; He knows him best who guards (against evils)." (An Najm/32)

One may consider himself superior in knowledge and claims : "I have a lot of knowledge or I have studied under guidance of so and so scholar, or I have spent so many years in seeking knowledge ..."

Or considers himself better in worship and claims : "I stay awake for whole nights or fast for so many days, or have been to Hajj and Ziyaraat for so many times."

Such people, without realizing it, are entrenched in walls of pride. It was for this reason that Shaykh Abbas al Qummi, one of the great shiite scholars in Iran, when informed of thousands of people awaiting him to lead the prayers in Mashad al-Muaqaddas, avoided going for the purpose and declared to his associates that it was because of pride that over came him. "How can I lead the prayers when they thought of many people saying their prayers behind me had already occurred ?" This was his humble reply.

7) Signs of Pride in Man

The following are the signs evident in a proud person :

  1. Whilst discussing a matter with associates, it will be difficult for him to accept the facts presented by them. If he acknowledges the other person's view, it would be in a manner likely to create a feeling of an importance on his part and will never smile or express happiness for the same.

  2. He will always avoid being the first to greet, especially those whom he considers below himself.

  3. He will not pay attention to needs of the poor who are badly afflicted with poverty and will avoid sitting near them.

  4. It will be a sign of disgrace for him to carry with his own hands the basic requirements for himself and his family such as rations of food. (This does not apply in circumstances which forces one to avoid such an action).

  5. He will avoid wearing cheap and simple clothes and will always want to wear expensive clothes so as to distinguish himself from the poor. (The too does not apply to those who are compelled due to certain circumstances which threaten their legal status in a society).

  6. He will always choose to sit in a gathering with people of high position and social status.

  7. He will avoid dining with the poor, servants and those whom he considers below himself.

  8. His conversation and other actions will portray his love for domination over others.

8) Treatment for Kibr

It is essential for a person suffering form Kibr to observe the following remedies so as to abstain from this destructive spiritual disease :

i. To remember the origin of his creation and the end of his life in this world.

The creation of man is from a drop of semen which is najis (impure) passed from the urinal passage into the womb where it gradually develops and takes the human form.

The Holy Qur'an describes the above in the following manner : "So let man consider of what he is created; he is created of water pouring forth; coming from between the back and the ribs."

He comes into this world weak and unable to care for himself hence burdening others to feed, clothe and bring him up. Then Allah (s.w.t.) bestowed him with strength. 'Allah is He who created you from a state of weakness; then He gave strength after weakness." (Rum/54)

Despite this strength, man is still weak in nature as he depends on various things for his well being such as food water, clothing, shelter, sleep and a spouse to fulfil his legitimate sexual desire as well as to ensure the continuation of his generation. Without all these, he cannot survive or live a happy life.

Moreover, there are things which man desires to have but cannot have. Many times he wants to remember things or wants to forget tragic events but cannot. All these prove man's weakness. Furthermore, death is inevitable. Whether one is wealthy or poor, famous or unknown a believer or an atheist he will have to die some day. Life after death is a different subject by itself, what concerns us is the reaction of the body upon death.

It is a widely known fact that a body decays hours after death giving unpleasant and foul smell. Islam, for this reason encourages an early burial. People who delay in burying their dead use artificial method for preserving the body. Imam Ali (a.s.) reminding us about origin of our creation and eventual decayed state after death, says : I am surprised by a proud person who by yesterday was a clot of (unclean) semen and will tomorrow be decayed dead body. Simply put, how can one who was created of an unclean drop of semen and who will decay giving off a foul and unpleasant smell ever be proud or boast over anything?

ii. He should know that Kibr is only Allah's (s.w.t.) quality.

This has been discussed at length earlier. However, the following is the incident which confirms Kibr as the quality of Allah (s.w.t.). Once a man accused Imam Hassan bin Ali (a.s.) saying : "Surely in you is pride."

The Imam (a.s.) reacted by saying : "Never! Pride is for Allah alone bur in me is honour. The Almighty Allah has said :For Allah is the Honour and for His Prophet and for those who have brought faith." (Meezanul Hikmah)

iii. To know that consequences of pride a humiliation in this world and painful chastisement in the hereafter.

Pride does not bring honour; instead it adds to disgrace and invites hatred from people. People abhor associating with one who loves self-praise and undermines their dignity. In addition to disgrace in this world the proud will also be subject to everlasting punishment in the hereafter as already mentioned in the beginning. In order to save oneself from the disgrace in this world and the punishment in the hereafter, one should avoid being proud.

iv. To practice 'At-Tawadhu' - humility and humbleness i.e. to consider oneself lower than others.

Arab poet has said : "Be humble ! you will be like that star which is evident for an onlooker on the surface of the water yet it is high above. And do not be like that smoke which exalts itself to the layers of the atmosphere only to disappear."

Humbleness is one of the qualities which Allah (s.w.t.) adores. There are various verses of the Holy Qur'an narrations which discuss the importance of humbleness. Few of them are mentioned below : "And the servants of the beneficent God are they who walk on the in humility; and when the ignorant address them; they say: Peace." (Al-Furqan/63)

"Do not strain your eyes after what we have given certain classes of them to enjoy, and do not grieve for them, and make yourself gentle to the believer." (Al-Hijr/88)

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) has said : "Verily, the most beloved and nearest amongst you to be seated near me on the day of judgement is he whose character is best amongst you and is the most humble amongst you. And verily, the furthest from me on the day of judgement is `Thartharoun'-the proud ones." (Biharul-Anwaar)

Imam Jaffer as-Sadiq (a.s.) says : "Verily, in heaven two angles have been appointed for the creatures. Whoever practices humility, they (both) raise him and whoever is proud, they (both) lay him down." (Al KAFI)

ln the above hadith, Imam (a.s.) explains that Allah (s.w.t.) raises the status of one who is humble and degrades one who is boastful and proud.

9) Types of 'Tawadhu' :

Tawadhu - (humbleness and humility) is of three kinds :

  1. Towards Allah (s.w.t.)

  2. Towards the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and Imams (a.s.)

  3. Towards the people

All these are ways of showing humbleness and humility towards Allah (s.w.t.)