Fighting the Dangers of False Pride

by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali

Imam Muslim reports in his Sahih that the Messenger of God—God’s blessing and peace on him—said, “God revealed to me [the commandment], ‘Practice humility until no one oppresses or belittles another.’”1 The opposite of humility is pride. And pride, according to the Qur’an, was Satan’s most salient vice. The counsel of Al-Hasan Al-Basri was to “entertain hope for repentance from those whose sins are from passion. And entertain no hope for repentance from those whose sins are from pride.” When Adam sinned, he asked God for forgiveness. When Satan sinned, he asked God for respite.  

In a time when perversion and vice are proudly celebrated, such words are stark reminders of the latent dangers of pride. We learn from our spiritual masters that anger emerges from egoism; we get angry because we see ourselves. Things are even worse when we seek the attention of others. Every person is infected with the innate desire for importance and superiority. Despite it being a vice, in certain ways it seems to be an important part of psychological well-being.   

“The counsel of Al-Hasan Al-Basri was to “entertain hope for repentance from those whose sins are from passion. And entertain no hope for repentance from those whose sins are from pride.””

The Qur’an answers many important questions, while for others—however meaningful—it provides little to no clarity. Among those questions with no clear answers are these: Who was created first? Man or woman? What was Adam’s skin color? Which son of Abraham was chosen for sacrifice? Why God did not answer these questions directly is, perhaps, the most important question of all. Could it be that God wants to deter human beings from false pride? Naturally, if the answers were relevant to the purpose for which we were created, they would be settled.  

That the Qur’an does not explicitly answer whether Eve came from Adam, whether Jews are better than Arabs, or whether the first person was a “black” man (rajul aswad) has much to do with the fact that such answers promote false pride. God desires for men and women to practice humility. And sex, race, and color are all involuntary conditions. Characteristics infused into the human biology are not the result of human will. It is, rather, a product of God’s handiwork. Is it reasonable to scorn God’s handiwork? Blessings are to be met with gratitude. Blessings, however, may conceal great misfortune revealed only by time.  

Misogyny, misandry, racism, and uncritical tribal allegiance are unhealthy and needlessly alienating. They are toxic ideologies that degenerate into putative biological superiority, scientific racism, eugenics, and the underestimation of human worth. We are all called to humility and discouraged from false pride. Pride can be fatal, both materially and spiritually. The aforementioned prophetic tradition makes clear that pride is the primary catalyst for oppression and belittlement. Only God is truly worthy of pride. Proud people practice a satanic religion that eventually manifests itself in destructive ways. May God protect us all—from ourselves.