Conceit – I

Conceit – I
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There is no doubt that depravity is detrimental to both individuals and communities. When they deviate from noble morals and the disease of immorality becomes epidemic, they grow vulnerable to division and collapse that, in turn, threatens their very existence.

Conceit is one such moral weakness that gravely afflicts the person as well as society at large. This disease heralds a lack of insight and blindness in the reasoning and perception of people. It causes man to be deceived by what Allah The Almighty has bestowed on him in terms of authority, looks and other ephemeral pleasures of this world. Thus, he becomes disdainful of others and arrogant, and this attitude extends to his relations with the Lord, Creator and Protector, such that he refuses to submit to Him and fulfill the duty of worship. Rather, he follows his vain desires and whims, ignoring the fact that Allah The Almighty is watching him; he also pays no attention to people around him. His own self becomes beautified for him and his mistakes seem to him to have justification.

Allah The Almighty Says (what means): {O mankind, what has deceived you concerning your Lord, the Generous, Who created you, proportioned you and balanced you?} [Quran 82:6-7] This verse asks us what it is that has deluded and enticed us. It questions us: how could you be so daring with your Lord by disregarding His obligations and committing sins that He forbade? Thus, Allah The Almighty censures and reprimands the conceited slave whose soul is pleased with what satisfies its whims, even if they are a cause for provoking His Wrath.

Conceit and ignorance

One of the factors that enable this malady to dictate [the actions of] a person is ignorance. If man is oblivious to the truths of his soul, the reality of life and the Attributes of Allah The Almighty, he will accord his self more than its due, bear contempt toward others and be arrogant with his Lord; thus, he will be counted among the conceited.

Types of conceit

Some scholars mentioned that there are different types of arrogance. Al-Ghazali  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said, "The most apparent and serious types of conceit are that of the disbelievers, the disobedient and those who are corrupt." Let us summarize what he mentioned regarding the three categories:

1. Conceit of the disbelievers

Some of these people are fooled by this worldly life and others are deceived about Allah The Almighty by the deceiver [i.e., Satan]. As for the former, they are those who declare that cash is better than credit, drawing on that as an analogy for the now of this world and the prospect of the Hereafter. Accordingly, they believe that this life is better than the next and give preference to it. These people also claim that since certainty is better than doubt, so too is the evident pleasure of this world, compared to the mere promise of it in the Hereafter.

Now, arrogance can either be treated with belief or evidence. As for the first, one must believe in the verses where Allah The Almighty Says (what means):
{Whatever you have will end, but what Allah has is lasting.} [Quran 16:96]
{And the Hereafter is better for you than the first [life].} [Quran 93:4]

The second method of treatment, which is through establishing evidence, entails that a person is persuaded as to the invalidity of the two analogies insinuated by Satan. The first one argued that cash, like this world, is better than credit, meaning, the Hereafter; however, this is a misleading point and the truth is something else. That is so, because if both cash and credit are the same in value and purpose, only then would the former be better; however, if it is less, then credit is better. For instance, the deceived disbeliever offers only one dirham in trade in order to receive ten dirhams in credit; surely, he would not maintain that cash is better than credit and cease that practice. Furthermore, when a physician cautions a patient against consuming sugary and oily foods, does not he or she immediately stop eating them for fear of pain sometime in the future?

The second parallel that certainty is better than doubt is even more flawed than the first. That is because this is only applicable when there is an even occurrence of certainty and doubt. Otherwise, in trade, for example, a businessman certainly exerts effort, but achieving profits is doubtful. Likewise, a seeker of knowledge definitely works hard to learn, yet becoming knowledgeable is not always achieved. Similarly, a hunter surely works hard when he hunts, but catching the game is not inevitable.

Hence, the believer is confident in the inaccuracy of this analogy, particularly due to two reasons. The first is his or her faith, conviction and imitation of the prophets and scholars. This factor also uproots arrogance, aside from being a source of certainty for the common Muslims and most of the learned people. Thus, they become like an ill man who is unaware of the remedy for his illness; when the physicians agree that his cure is in a certain plant, he believes them without demanding medical proof and instead wholly trusts their decision and acts accordingly.

The other factor that helps ward off the deception of the devil that the Hereafter is improbable, other than what is mentioned above of faith, belief and imitation of the prophets and scholars, is internal reflection and understanding.

However, when the believers do not adhere to the commands of Allah The Almighty, forsake performing righteous deeds, follow their whims and commit acts of disobedience, they actually share in conceit with the disbelievers in favoring this worldly life over the Hereafter. Yet, they will not be treated in the same way as them, such that they will not be condemned to Hell for eternity; rather, they will be taken out of it after a certain period of chastisement. On the other hand, faith alone is not enough to attain success, as Allah The Almighty Says (what means): {But indeed, I am the perpetual Forgiver of whoever repents and believes and does righteousness and then continues in guidance.} [Quran 20:82]

2. Conceit of the disobedient believers

Following on from the point above, these people say that Allah The Almighty is Generous and that they hope for His forgiveness; therefore, they rely on that and abandon working. Moreover, they beautify their wishful thinking and arrogance by labeling it hope, thinking that is praised in our religion. They claim that the Favor of Allah The Almighty is infinite and His Mercy comprehensive, and they expect to attain it by means of their faith in Him.

One may think that there is nothing wrong with their proclamations because Allah The Almighty Says in a Hadeeth: "I am as My slave expects Me to be, so let him have good expectations of Me." This seems to be a sound and acceptable argument; however, we should know that the devil exploits such ideas to delude us. Had it not been apparently good, it would not have deceived the heart. The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) exposed this notion when he said: "The clear-sighted man is one who reproaches himself and works for the Hereafter; and the foolish one is he who pursues his fancies and longs for the forgiveness of Allah." Thus, this wishful thinking that is not accompanied by action is mislabeled by the devil as ‘hope’; in this way, he has managed to deceive the ignorant.

However, Allah The Almighty explains the meaning of true hope, when He Says (what means): {Indeed, those who have believed and those who have emigrated and fought in the cause of Allah - those expect the mercy of Allah. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.} [Quran 2:218] This means that such people are entitled to have hope in the mercy of Allah The Almighty, because their reward in the Hereafter is a compensation for their deeds in this world.

Allaah The Almighty Says (what means): {And you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection.} [Quran 3:185] So, let us suppose that a man was hired to fix something for a certain fee and the one employing him was very generous and he could not only pay that much, but more. However, if the appointed person did not do his job and instead sat around waiting for payment, claiming that the contractor is very kind, will the one who hired him then view this as wishful thinking and arrogance on his part, or good expectations and hope? Indeed, this only happens because of an ignorance of the difference between hope and conceit.

It was once said to Al-Hasan  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him "There are some people who say that they hope for the Forgiveness of Allah The Almighty but overlook working [for it]." He  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him responded, "How fanciful and far-fetched is their wishful thinking that they fluctuate within! A man who [truly] hopes for something [actually] exerts his utmost to attain it; and a person who fears something [actively] flees from it."

The praised hope in Allah The Almighty manifests in two situations:

- The first is when a disobedient person, tired of sins, thinks of repentance, but the devil tries to make him lose hope in the mercy of Allah The Almighty. In this case, despair should be dispelled and this person must remember the verse (that means): {Allah forgives all sins.} [Quran 39:53] When he or she then expects forgiveness along with having repented, he or she has come to truly hope for the Forgiveness and Mercy of Allah The Almighty.

- The second situation is when a person is too supercilious to perform supererogatory acts and offers only the obligatory acts of worship. He or she should hope for the reward of Allah The Almighty and what He has prepared for the righteous, in order to revive his or her zeal and feel encouraged to do voluntary good deeds as well. He or she must remember the verses where Allah The Almighty Says (what means): {Certainly will the believers have succeeded: They who are during their prayer humbly submissive; And they who turn away from ill speech; And they who are observant of Zakah (obligatory charity); And they who guard their private parts, Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed - But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors -; And they who are to their trusts and their promises attentive; And they who carefully maintain their prayers - Those are the inheritors, Who will inherit Al-Firdaws (a level in Paradise). They will abide therein eternally.} [Quran 23:1-11]

3. Conceit of people who perform acts of obedience and disobedience, but the latter exceed the former

These people hold out hope in the Forgiveness of Allah The Almighty, thinking that will tip the scale of good deeds such that they outweigh their evil acts. This, though, is extreme ignorance. Such people may donate a few dirhams, not all of which is lawfully earned, while they dishonestly usurp much more than that of Muslims' properties. They think that spending ten dirhams in charity is expiation for their ill-gotten gains; truly, this is arrogance.

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