Fruits for the Week

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Allah is beautiful and loves beauty

The question the companion asked about the reality of arrogance allowed the Prophet (saw) to clarify what qualifies as arrogance. Arrogance is not the desire that human have to possess beautiful and nice things, even if they should desire that no one surpassed them. The following hadith explains this: “A man came to the Prophet (saw), and he was a handsome man, and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, I am a man that loves beauty and I have been given what you see of it so that I don’t like that anyone would have more than I do, even if it were the string or he said the strap of my sandal. Is this arrogance?’ He replied: ‘No. Arrogance is the rejection of the truth and the belittling of people.’” (Abu Dawud)

Loving to have more than others is the desire to be superior, and it is an arrogant and bad intent. The companion, however, did not desire superiority but simply hated others to be superior; he did not hate equality of beauty and affluence. This person loved the best for all, and our hearts will be their happiest if we feel the same.

The Prophet (saw) explained that Allah is beautiful: He is beautiful in Himself, beautiful in His names and attributes, and beautiful in His actions. All the beauty that we see around us in the world is a reminder of the incredible beauty of its Creator. Allah loves beauty and beautification. Our internal beauty with iman and taqwa is the most important type of beauty to desire and work for. Though external beauty and beautification has its place in Islam and human life, it remains secondary and inferior to the internal beauty of hearts and souls.

Our desire to have nice clothes and shoes is not an element of arrogance. Allah does not wish for us, and does not love, that we look ugly on purpose or wear tattered, ragged clothes out of choice. Indeed, Allah loves to see His blessings on us reflected and manifested in our lives. The Prophet (saw) said: “Allah (swt) loves to see the impact of His bounty on His slave.” Tirmidhi). He (saw) also said: “If Allah gives you money, let Him see that on you, for Allah loves to see on His slave the good impact of what He grants, and He hates showing need or exaggerating it.” (Bukhari)

This does not mean, however, that we should launch into the pursuit of extravagance. Modesty in all of our affairs is best: it keeps us grounded and promote s our iman. The Prophet (saw) said: “Avoiding luxury is from iman.” (Abu Dawud)

The best way is the middle way between forced asceticism and reveling in luxury. One can choose their clothes based on two intentions that the last two hadiths teach: to wear humble attire with the intention of modesty or wear nice clothes to reflect Allah’s favors. Both of these are intentions that Allah loves, and one can move between them based on the occasion and the status of their heart. If the heart is leaning towards pride or is very susceptible to it, one should lean towards more modest clothes.

At other times when the heart is not proud and desires to enjoy the beauty that Allah blessed it with, it is praiseworthy to enjoy what Allah gave as long as we don’t overindulge or overspend. The context and surroundings also determine what we wear and why. We can reject expensive clothes in solidarity with the people around us who cannot afford them, or we can wear good clothes to match our surroundings and not stand out. But pursuing beauty to elevate ourselves above others is sinful. Pursuing beauty, on the other hand, to show the favors of Allah and because Allah loves it is a good intention and deed.

Treatment of kibr

The treatment of kibr takes place internally (knowledge-based) and externally (action-based). For the external part, we should seek to engage in activities that chase away pride from our heart. We see the example of this in one hadith narrated by the companion Jubair bin Muth’im. He (ra) said: “They say that I am arrogant but I rode the donkey, wore the wool sarong, and milk the sheep. And the Messenger (saw) said: ‘The one who does this has no arrogance left in him.’” (Tirmidhi).

The three acts the companion described represent three aspects of human life and activity: the ride, the dress, and labor. The donkey is a humble ride, similar today to driving an inexpensive car or an old cheap one. Similarly, wool is modest clothing that stands in contrast to the flashiness of expensive designs and brands. Many in the world today dress to attract attention and admiration, basing their self-image and worth on the reactions they receive. And milking sheep is the type of manual labor that many, especially the arrogant, would consider to be beneath them. Acts of this nature strip away layers of arrogance and shield us from expectations, admiring gazes, and flattery. When we are liberated from people’s praise-which tends to inflate our egos-we are to concentrate more on our true self and enjoy the beauty of the simple life.

Abdullah ibn Salam, the companion, also engage in physical menial tasks to tame his ego. Once Abdullah ibn Salam entered the market with a bundle of wood on his back, so he was asked: “Why do you do this when Allah had enriched you beyond the need to do this?” He replied: “I want to destroy arrogance. I heard the Prophet (saw) say the one who has a mustard’s seed worth of arrogance shall not enter Paradise.” (Tabrani)

We should constantly examine our thoughts and intentions to see if what we are doing and saying is still for Allah or for the sake of self-elevation.

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by Dr. Ali Al-Burghouthi