When the human mind is lost to or conquered by falsehood, it is often misled by self-obsessed tendencies to form an exaggerated opinion of itself. When a presumptuous person forms an erroneous image of his conduct and considers it faultless, he rates his personal qualities so high that he is unable to tolerate the smallest criticism from others. He becomes angry and hostile at any objective attempt by others to point out his shortcomings. All this adds up to a manifestation of the general immodesty, pride and arrogance in man.
An unconscious but inner instinctive authority constantly drives an individual with a high sense of pride into wanting to prove his superiority over others. Most of his associations or activities take place not because he naturally has interest in them but because he wants to be admired and applauded. Metaphorically, pride is a joy that results from a man’s having too high an opinion of himself. A man with this trait would love the presence of flatterers around himself more than he keeps the company of the noble minded.
Among the things, which often and easily makes men proud is wealth. Those who fall prey to the evil of self-importance, most often and out of ignorance, look at the underprivileged with contempt. Money or material wealth which in general terms is not everything could become a source of evil; thus robbing its possessor of the peace and happiness in life.
Political power is another force that induces pride in some people especially those who are in prerogative positions to decide the fate of others. Persons with such prerogative powers include judges, security and law enforcement agents, political leaders, traditional rulers at all levels, teachers, and parents. Each of this group of persons with privileged powers stands the chance of either upholding truth and justice or ruining the fate of others. The “executive” powers assigned to governors sometimes lead some of them into arrogantly misusing such powers by taking weird actions that may include unlawful dismissal of a public officer or worker from his job, unlawful detention, revocation of land titles, and illegal confiscation of property.
Unguarded use of power resides with leaders who feel as if the world were under their feet. We should remember that, apart from the sovereign power of Allah (SWT), all other powers are simply artificial. No matter the political authority that may be at an individual’s disposal, every person is like every other man on earth, in flesh and in blood; waiting to return sooner or later to mother earth, which was the initial source of man. So, why and for what does anyone needs to feel big-headed? Allah (SWT) abhors pride and states in Qur’an 31:18 “And swell not they check (for pride) at men, nor walk in insolence through the earth; for Allah loves not any arrogant boaster”. Similarly, Allah (SWT) explains in Qur’an 17: 37 that no matter the height of man’s arrogance, he can never pierce through the earth nor reach the mountains in height. It is therefore only right that man should always feel, think and act modestly.
Knowledge is another worldly attainment in which pride could manifest. It is only a truly unlearned person that sees his scholarship as an instrument for superiority complex. The pride that sometimes manifests in some ‘knowledgeable’ persons is peculiar to those whose learning is at a low or mediocre level. Allah (SWT) says in Qur’an 12:76 that “… over every possessor of knowledge is (another) most knowing”. Allah (SWT) also states in Qur’an 17:85 “… of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you (O men!)”. A proverb in Yoruba language says “It’s only a child who has not gone to any other farm (in his life) that says there’s no farm as big as his father’s”.
The world of scholarship is, indeed, like an ocean on whose shores one stands watching the turbulent waters and the unceasing waves. Those who go into the water only struggle with the waves without actually getting anywhere far. Were it possible for us to compare what we know with what we do not know, our own assessment of what we believed we knew would most likely change. The entire body of what man may claim to know at any point in human history is no more than a tiny fraction of what remains unknown to humanity. Every day, we come across things that we are compelled to ask questions about. No matter how educated or scholarly a person considers himself, he is supposed to be humbled by knowledge.
It is not possible to enumerate all the dimensions of pride in a one-page newspaper column. An arrogantly self-righteous individual is predisposed to being envious, mean, wicked, revengeful, unheedful, unforgiving, and malicious. A perceptual desire to see others fail usually takes possession of the psyche of a self-righteous person. If he sees someone who is better and more capable at performing some task, his heart overflows with envy even if such were in matters essentially unrelated to his person, authority, wealth, knowledge or profession. He constantly remains at mercy of the demonic wishes that rule his mind and intellect.
Wealth, knowledge and power are three “soft wares” of life that must not be allowed by man to mislead, misguide or delude his reason and conscience. Those bestowed with one or all of the three soft wares that instigate pride should strive to bring them under the effective control and command of reason and conscience. The Prophet (SAW) said: “He will not enter paradise who hath one atom of pride in his heart”. Nothing could be costlier than missing out of those to dwell in the heaven. Creation of communication barriers is one of the high prices paid by those who find pleasure in being arrogant or proud. Let us attempt to assess ourselves to see whether or not we comfortably fit into the descriptions of the arrogant described in the preceding paragraphs.
Islam admonishes us to retreat from treading the unrighteous path of persons who are characteristically supercilious. Let us belong to the group of those who are humbled by whatever Allah (SWT) has, out of mercy, bestowed upon them as a favour. May Allah (SWT) give us the courage and spirit to shun pride and avoid the company of the arrogant so that we may not be excluded from the list of the inhabitants of heaven, amin.