How to be Humble

The Keys to Humility

the concept of  humility in islam

Humility should be entirely genuine. Initially the quest of the teacher was in the search of knowledge in order that he could eradicate ignorance from himself and as a result he could worship his Lord in the manner in which Allah Almighty has commanded. The teacher must observe humbleness as Allah Almighty facilitated for him to achieve this goal.

The Shay’tan will come and try to destroy the years of hard work and effort the teacher has put in acquiring his knowledge. He will whisper ideas of greatness, intellectual superiority and illustrious achievements in order to create pride in the teacher’s heart such that he looks down on the people. The teacher should remind himself that this is not his knowledge but from Allah Almighty.

It is by the Mercy of Allah Who has given His knowledge as a gift to the teacher; he has been honoured as many have tried but have not succeeded.  It was not his effort alone but rather Allah Almighty that facilitated his learning by providing the means of learning, He provided him with a teacher, He provided his parents with the zeal and understanding to let him study and He gave him the faculty to comprehend His knowledge.

The teacher is not in a position to show off his knowledge as he does not have any knowledge other than what Allah has taught him through various means. This knowledge belongs to Allah Almighty so he should not show off with what is not his. It is more fitting for him to be humble for his gift and preserve this treasure from being lost by acting in a manner that is contrary to this knowledge. He is responsible for preserving this knowledge and conveying it to his students, so that he too may facilitate for their learning.

A person learns everyday, discovering what was previously hidden from him, the more he learns, the more he realises that he is ignorant than ever before. 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.

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.’

You should never assume you are better and look down at someone. You should look down on yourself as you know what you have done and you are not sure what they have between them and Allah. So how can you claim to be better? You should always practice humility and never look down at anyone, you should remind yourself that this knowledge is from Allah, and therefore, you have to preserve it, practice what you have learnt and convey it to others.

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

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Abu Ibrahim 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.

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