How to remain humble when you gain knowledge

the concept of humility in islam

Humility is knowing that knowledge is not yours

the concept of humility in islam

There is no room for arrogance in Islam. No one can assume they are better than others or look down on them.

One cannot assume that their deeds or character put them on a higher level than others because what we all have is only between us and Allah Almighty.

Often arrogance comes with the acquisition of knowledge. Ironically it should be the opposite.

How can we develop real humility in ourselves?

The more you know the more you realise you don’t know

A person learns everyday, discovering what was previously hidden from him, the more he learns, the more he realises that he is ignorant. If he is discovering something new everyday, it shows that he is ignorant of what he will learn the following day.

Knowledge is a vast ocean, and he is at the best of times at its shores, the more he learns, the more he realises the vastness of the ocean whose limit is beyond his reach. The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) was reported to have said:

‘Indeed, in knowledge there is ignorance’ [Abu Dawood]

It means knowledge reveals a scholar’s ignorance and at the same time, it brings to his knowledge what he did not know.

Paradox: Look down on yourself. In order to raise your rank.

Humility should be entirely genuine. Knowledge should not increase arrogance but conversely increase humility. The quest of sacred knowledge should eradicate ignorance so that you can worship the Lord in the manner in which Allah Almighty has commanded. Observing humility helps us achieve this goal.


The Shay’tan will come and try to destroy the years of hard work and effort you put into acquiring knowledge. He will whisper ideas of greatness, intellectual superiority and illustrious achievements in order to create pride in your heart so that you looks down on other people. You should remind yourself that this is not your knowledge but from Allah Almighty.

It is by the mercy of Allah who has given His knowledge as a gift to you. You may have been honoured as many have tried but not succeeded. However it was not your effort alone but rather Allah Almighty who facilitated this learning by providing the means of learning – He provided the teachers, or parents with the zeal and understanding for it that enabled you to study and gave you the faculty to comprehend His knowledge.

No one is in a position to show off knowledge as we only have the limited knowledge that Allah Almighty taught us through various means. This knowledge belongs to Allah Almighty so you cannot show off what is not yours.

It is more fitting for one to be humble for their gift and preserve this treasure from being lost. Be responsible for preserving this knowledge and conveying it to students, so that they may be facilitated in their learning.

Feeling gratitude when you acquire knowledge

Abdur Rahman al-Mehdi, was a thabi’ee from the second generation after the Messenger of Allah. He was a well respected scholar, he gave a beautiful advice for the people seeking knowledge to embody in their character, if they follow accordingly to his advice, one doubts if they can ever be anything other than be humble. He said:

‘If I met someone more knowledgeable than me, I did not become envious of him, rather I felt like this was my lucky day; it was like my day of Eid. I would go and learn from his knowledge.

If I met someone who was less in knowledge, I practised humility and humbleness as Allah has showered me with his favours, I would then convey my knowledge to him.

If I met someone of who was equal to me in knowledge. I would go and study with him and review my knowledge with him.’

In all the situations he was benefiting from his knowledge, either by increasing it, or conveying it or reviewing it. The Companion scholar, Abdullah Ibn Ummar said:

‘I believe that every single Muslim is better than me no matter where I am; the younger is better than me because he has been in this world less than me and has fewer sins than me, and the elder is better than me as he has been in Islam longer than me. So everyone is better than me.’


This is a series compiled following lectures on ‘The Manners and Etiquette of the Teacher and the Students’. The course was based on a book written by Shaykh al-Islam, Badr al-Din Ibn Jama’ah and conveyed to us by our Shaykh Haytham Tamim.

Qadi al-Qudat, Shaykh al-Islam, Badr al-Din Ibn Jama’ah was born in 639 AH (1241 AD). Originally from Syria and later moved to Egypt. He was educated at Hama, achieved excellence in religious studies and jurisprudence, and became a leading promoter of the Shafi’i Fiqh. Eventually, he attained the high status of Shaykh al-Islam and held the high position of Chief Justice. Imam al-Dhahabi has observed that Qadi Ibn Jama’ah was well versed both in prose and poetry, and had left abundant notes on Fiqh, Hadith, Usul al-Fiqh, and Tarikh(History). He commanded respect and influence, and had a large number of students and followers. He died at Cairo in the year 733 A.H. (1332 A.D.), aged 94, and was buried by the side of the great Imam Shafi’i.

 His book on the subject of Adab al-Alim wal-Mutaalim

It was in the year 672 AH (1273 AD) that Ibn Jama’ah completed this book as a guide for both students and teachers to help improve quality of their academic life and work.

Suggested Books:

Ibn Jama’ah – Etitquettes of Seeking Knowledge

Abd Al Barr – Jami’ Bayan Al Ilm

Al Khateeb Al Baghdadi – Al Jami’ li Akhlaq Al Rawi


Abu Shama has a background in engineering, IT and management consultancy, and reinvented himself as a life coach, writer and secondary school teacher. In addition to his special interest in spirituality, he shares his son’s love of dinosaurs and Lamborghinis. He has published two uniquely beautiful books, The Blue Moon and Yunus and the Whale and has many others in the pipline mashallah.