Excess in humility is called lowliness (tazallul), or meanness or holding one’s self down. Lowliness is prohibited (harâm). As is the case with other forbidden things, practising this vice upon a forced necessity (dharurat), also becomes permissible (jâiz). Following are some examples of forced necessities: to protect one’s religion, property, honor, or life, or to save one’s self from a tyrant. Looking for an easy solution is permissible when there is a forcing necessity or difficulty.
Excessive humility is one of the vices. The following is a good example of excessive humility. When a scholar (’âlim) is visited by a shoe maker, the scholar gets up to greet him and tells him to sit in his place and while he is leaving, he walks along with him up to the door and places his shoes in front of him. Alternatively, if the scholar would get up to receive him and then sit back and show him where to sit and converse with him about his business and situation and ask him the purpose of his visit as well as answer his questions with a cheerful and smiling face and accept his invitation and help him to solve his difficulties, he would have shown humility. Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ states in a hadîth-i-sherîf: “A person who saves his Muslim brother from trouble will be rewarded (in the Hereafter) with as much thawâb as if he performed (supererogatory) hajj and ’umra.” Hadrat Hasan ‘radiy-Allâhu ta’âlâ ’anh’ asked Thâbit Benânî ‘rahimahullâhu ta’âlâ’ to do something for him. He said he was busy in the mosque with (retreat called) i’tikâf and that he would do it some other time. Hadrat Hasan ‘radiy-Allâhu ta’âlâ ’anh’ said: ‘Don’t you know that leaving your place for the purpose of attending to one of his Muslim brother’s needs is more meritorious than a nâfila (supererogatory) hajj or ’umra?” This hadîth-i-sherîf incidentally serves as a basis for the conclusion that it is utterly rewarding (thawâb) for holders of position to help needy people and for teachers to support their pupils by using their authority and property. Anyone who begs while having means [nafaqa] to support himself for one day would be committing excessive humility and thus would be committing harâm. If a person having one day’s means (nafaqa) collects donations for others who do not possess one day’s means or for those who owe money to others, he would not be committing excessive humility. Giving a small gift while expecting a larger gift in return is excessive humility. Verses in the Qur’ân prohibit this type of gift giving. It is a very good deed to return a better gift in response to a gift received but it is not permissible to give a gift in expectation of receiving a better gift in return. Going to a reception without being invited would also be excessive humility. Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ states in a hadîth-i-sherîf: “Not attending to an invitation is a sin. Going to a reception without being invited to it is a theft.”
Attending to an invitation of a marriage ceremony is necessary (wâjib) if there are no prohibited (harâm) things or affairs taking place at the ceremony. Attending all other types of invitations is sunnat. It is not permissible to accept invitations which are done for boasting or ostentation or hypocrisy. Establishing friendships with government officials, rich people and judges with the hope of receiving worldly benefits from them is excessive humility. The exception in the case of forced necessity (dharûrat) was already discussed above. Greeting by bowing down or by prostrating upon meeting one of these people is excessive humility and is a grave sin. Bowing down for the purpose of worshiping would cause disbelief. It would mean to imitate a Jewish way of salutation. [A poor person means a needy one. In Islam, a person who has enough money to purchase his basic necessities of life but does not have enough money to purchase a sheep for slaughtering, is poor. The state of poverty Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ asked from Allâhu ta’âlâ and commended possession of, is different from material poverty; it means ‘consciousness of the fact that you always need Allâhu ta’âlâ in everything you do’. Abdullah ad-Dahlawî ‘rahimahullâhu ta’âlâ’ in his book Durr-ul-ma’ârif, says, “In Sufism, poor (faqîr) means one who has no desire, or, in other words, one who has no desire other than to please Allâhu ta’âlâ.” A person who meets this definition will embrace patience and contentment when there is no means (nafaqa) to satisfy the necessities of life. He will be contented with the deeds and decree of Allâhu ta’âlâ and will work to obtain sustenance in order to obey the commandment of Allâhu ta’âlâ. As he works, he will not cease to perform the acts of worship enjoined on him (fard), and will not commit prohibited acts. He will follow the orders of Islam while he is earning and spending. Poverty will be just as useful as being rich for this type of person and will be a means for him to obtain happiness in both this world and the next. A person who follows his nafs and who doesn’t have patience and contentment is not satisfied with the decree and destiny of Allâhu ta’âlâ. When he is poor, he objects to Him by saying that He has given him so little. When he is rich, he will not be content and will ask for more. He will spend his earnings on forbidden things. His poverty or riches will be a means of disaster for him in both this world and the next.]
Doing any kind of business or trade, working on a permissible job for a wage, e.g., working as a shepherd, gardener, stonemason or working as a porter or working at construction jobs, is not excessive humility. Prophets ‘alaihim-us-salawât-u-wa-t-taslîmât’ and Awliyâ did all these kinds of work. Working to support one’s self, wife and children is an obligatory duty (fard). It is permissible (mubâh) to work at all kinds of jobs in order to earn more money (beyond the fard amount) with the intention of helping others with the extra money one acquires. Prophet Idris ‘alaihis-salâm’ worked as a tailor. Prophet David (Dâwûd) ‘alaihis-salâm’ worked as an ironworker. Prophet Abraham (Ibrâhîm) ‘alaihis-salâm’ worked as a farmer and as a tradesman on textiles. Prophet Adam ‘alaihis-salâm’ weaved fabrics for the first time. [Enemies of religion write that the first human beings lived in caves and covered themselves with leaves. They have no documentation or evidence to back up their allegations.] Prophets Jesus (Îsâ), Noah (Nûh) and Sâlih ‘alaihim-as-salâm’ practised the professions of shoe making, carpentry and bag or case making, respectively. Most of the prophets ‘alaihim-us-salawât-u-wa-t-taslîmât’ were shepherds. Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ states in a hadîth-i-sherîf: “Purchasing one’s household needs and carrying them to one’s home is an indication of one’s not being a conceited person.” Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ bought and sold various things. He bought more (than he sold). He worked for others and employed others to work for him. He participated in business activities like joining corporations or its equivalent activities at his time and established business partnerships. He represented others by proxy as well as appointed others to represent himself in several activities by giving proxy (wakâlat). He gave and received presents. He borrowed money or other things. He established trusts (waqf). But, he never said any harsh words to anyone or became angry with anyone while conducting all these worldly activities. He took oaths and administered oaths to others. Although he principally carried out his oaths, there were occasional instances of his not doing so and paying (the compensation called) kaffârat for breaking an oath. He made jokes but his jokes were always based on truth and therefore were always useful and yielded fruitful results. It would be kibr (conceit) to avoid or to be ashamed of the aforesaid behaviour. Many people are mistaken in this respect because they confuse humility with its extreme. The nafs dupes many a person on the tenuous distinctions between tawâdu’ and tazallul.
Self love entails a myriad of perils and harms. First of all it causes conceit and also it causes us to forget about our sins. Sinning darkens our hearts. Anyone who ponders about his sins would not be able to see his worships as worthy and would also think that being able to do the worships is a blessing and favor of Allâhu ta’âlâ. Those who have self love also forget about the punishment of Allâhu ta’âlâ and, to the bargain, they do not ask anyone for advice and thus they lose the chance to get useful help from others.
Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ states in a hadîth-i-sherîf: “Three things drag a person into disasters: Buhl, hawâ, and ’ujb.” A person who has “buhl”, i.e., a stingy person gets deprived of performing necessary actions that must be performed for the sake of Allâhu ta’âlâ or duties to be performed toward others. A person who follows the desires (hawâ) of his nafs and who has self love, i.e. who admires his “nafs” will certainly fall into some abyss and disaster. Imâm-i Muhammad al-Ghazâlî ‘rahimahullâhu ta’âlâ’ said, “All sorts of evils originate from three sources: jealousy, hypocrisy and self love. Try to clear your heart of these!” A person who has self love always says me, me! He always wants to be in the leading position in any gathering. He always wants his words to be accepted by others.
Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ states in a hadîth-i-sherîf: “I am afraid, being sinless may beguile you into an even graver sin: ’ujb (self-love)!” A sinner will show humility and feel guilty and therefore ask for repentance. A person besotted with self love will be proud of his knowledge or doings and will be conceited and egoistical and therefore it will be very difficult for him to repent. Allâhu ta’âlâ will favor the stressful moaning of sinners to the boastful voices of worshippers. The worst kind of self love is to like or admire one’s own mistakes and desires (hawâ) of one’s nafs. A person who has spoiled himself with this complacency always follows the desires of his nafs; in other words he becomes a slave to his nafs and never accepts any advice because he thinks that all others are a bunch of ignoramuses. But in reality he himself is very ignorant. Deviated people (ahl al-bid’at) and those who do not follow any Madhhab, i.e., “lâ-madhhabîyya people,” are in this category. They are attached to their deviated beliefs and to their corrupt worships by supposing themselves in the correct path. It is very difficult to obtain cure for this type of self love. Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ was requested to explain the meaning of the hundred and fifth âyat of Sûra Mâida, which reads, in English: “O ye who believe! Guard your own selves: if you follow (true) guidance, no hurt can come to you from those who stray. …” (5-105) Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ answered, “Inform others of the commandments of Islam and explain to them Islam’s prohibitions! If a person shows self love and does not listen to you, you correct your own deficiencies.” The scholars who prepare curative medicine for the malady “Self love” are the Ahl as-sunnat scholars. Since these diseased people do not know about their own maladies and assume themselves as healthy, they will not accept advice and knowledge of these doctors, i.e., Islamic scholars, and hence continue with these disastrous maladies. In reality, these scholars offer the curative medicine they have gathered from our Prophet Muhammad ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ without altering anything. Ignorant and stupid people suppose that these scholars prepare this medicine on their own. They admire themselves by thinking that they are the ones who are in the right path.