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Humility and Humbleness

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;

All the praise is due to Allah, the Lord of al-‘Alamin. And May peace and blessings be upon the Prophet SAW, his household and the companions.

The Character of humility or humbleness is one of the greatest blessings that Allah the Exalted could bestow upon His servant. Islam highly commends humbleness and simplicity and reckons that as one of the traits of a true believer, the people of truth.

 Allah Says:  “He whom Allah guides, he alone has found the right way; whereas for him whom He lets go astray thou canst never find any protector who would point out the right way.” [Al-Kahf, 18:17]

 The Prophet (Sallallaahu alayhi wassallam) said: “Al-Kibr (proud and arrogance) is the rejecting of the truth and looking down upon people.” [Muslim, At-Tirmidzi and Abu Dawud]

 Meaning of  humbleness

The first meaning is to accept the truth from any person conveying it.  Humility is when one who disregard self importance and avoid gaining notoriety or to become too great among people. Many people have a problem accepting the truth when it comes from those who are younger than them and they only accept it from those who are older or better in status.

As it was said, “Humble yourself, you will be as a glimmering star to the viewer on the surface of the water even if it is lofty.” We should accept the truth no matter who conveys it to us, whether he is weak or strong, rich or poor, noble or commoner, a relative or not, a friend or an enemy.

The second meaning is to be modest in the way you treat people.  You should be kind to people, whether servants or masters, rich or poor, noble or common.  You should treat all human beings tenderly and cordially.

The opposite of humility is arrogance.

The Prophet (SAW) says, “Arrogance disdains the truth (out of self-conceit) and contempt for the people.”

 [Part of an authentic Hadith; Sahih Muslim, the book of faith (41), page/number 275; Narrated by Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud]

It means disdaining the truth and not accepting it.  So, humility would be “to accept the truth.” It is showing contempt toward people is to be conceited with the improper thinking that you are much better than them.

Allah the Exalted says:

“And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you”

[Al-‘Imran, 3:159]

“And verily, you (O Muhammad) are on an exalted (standard of) character”

[Al-Qalam, 68:4]

This refers to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) being a true slave of Allah in many ways and his treating all people with the utmost kindness. His character was one of complete humility based on sincerity towards Allah and compassion towards the slave of Allah, which was the complete opposite of the characteristics of the proud and arrogant.

[Al-Majmu’ Al-Kaailah Li Mu’allafat Al-Shaikh Al-Sa’adi, 5/442, 443]

There are many possible ways of attaining humility, which not all Muslim have it but he will aspire to attain the characteristic.

They were explained by Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim as follows:

Humility comes from the knowing about Allah and His names and attributes, and His greatness, venerating Him, loving Him and being in awe of Him; and also from knowing about oneself and one’s faults, and weaknesses. From that may develop the attitude of humility, which means feeling helpless before Allah, and being humble and compassionate towards His slaves, so that the person does not feel superior towards anyone, or think that he has any rights over anyone else; rather he thinks that others are better than him, and that their rights come before his. This is a characteristic that Allah bestows to those whom He loves, honors and draws close to Him.

[Al-Ruh, p. 233.]

The Grace of Humility

The Prophet (SAW) said, “…. no one is humble (for the sake of Allah) unless Allah raises him [in rank].”

[Authentic hadith reported by Muslim in al-Sahih al-Jami’, book 19, page/number1599, narrated by Abu-Hurayrah]

The Prophet (SAWS) said, “He who is humble for the sake of Allah by a degree, Allah will elevate him one degree, until he reaches the highest degrees and he who is arrogant toward Allah, Allah will lower him one degree until he reaches the lowest of low degrees.”

[Hasan Hadith;  Narrated by Abu-Said Al-Khudri on the authority of Ibnu-Hijr Al-Asqalani,  number, 89.]

The Prophet (SAWS) said, “Allah revealed to me that we should be humble amongst ourselves and none should show arrogance toward others.”

[Authentic hadith reported by Muslim in al-Sahih al-Jami’, book 040, number 6856. Narrated by Ayad ibn-Hammar]

The Prophet (SAWS) said, “Allah (SWT) says, He who is humble toward Me like this (and he lowered his palm to the ground until it was leveled with it, I will elevate him like this (and the Prophet (SAW) raised his palm upwards facing the sky until it was high up)”

[Sahih Hadith: Al-Albany, 2894]. 

Look at the Prophet’s depiction!

The Prophet (SAWS), said: “He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of arrogance shall not enter paradise.”

[Sahih Hadith: Al-Albany, 2894]

This Hadith reminds you that if your heart has but the size of a mustard seed of arrogance in it you will be deprived from paradise, even with all your praying, fasting, zakat and attending religious lessons.  Beware of arrogance!

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: Allah (SWT) said: “Pride is my cloak and Might is My robe, and he who competes with Me in [respect of] either of them I shall torment him”

[Hadith Qudsi. It was related by Abu Dawud (also by Ibn Majah and Ahmad) with sound chains of authority. This Hadith also appears in Muslim in another version].

Among the teachings of Luqman to his son in Qur’an, Allah says,

  “And turn not your cheek away from people in [false] pride, and walk not haughtily on earth: for, behold, Allah does not love anyone who, out of self- conceit, acts in a boastful manner.”

[Luqman, 31:18]

The word used in Arabic for ‘turn your cheek away…in [false] pride’ is tusa’ir which is taken from an illness that afflicts camels named sa’ar. When they are afflicted with this illness their necks are twisted and they never return back to the normal position.  It is like Allah is warning you not to turn your cheek lest your neck would stay in this position and it would never return to its normal position.

In another ayah Allah (SWT) says, “And walk not on earth with haughty self-conceit: for, verily, you can never rend the earth asunder, nor can you ever grow as tall as the mountains!” (Al-Isra’, 17:37)

 Son of Adam, be humble; you won’t own anything forever, so why are you conceited?

The reward of humility

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“Wealth does not decrease because of charity, and Allah increases His slave in honour when he forgives others. And no one humbles himself before Allah but Allah will raise him (in status).”

[Muslim, 2588]

Imam Al-Nawawi included it in a chapter entitled: “The Recommendation of Forgiveness and Humility.” Al-Nawawi said:

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “And no one humbles himself before Allah but Allah will raise him (in status).” This is understood in two ways: the first is that He will raise him (in status) in this world, and give him status in people’s hearts because of his humility, and give him a high status in people’s eyes. The second is that what is meant is his reward in the Hereafter, where his status will be raised because of his humility in this world.

It may be that both are meant (and that his status will be raised) that it is in this world and in the Hereafter. And Allah knows best.

[Sharh Muslim, 16/142.]

Kinds of Humility and Humbleness

The level of Humility and humbleness are seen in various situations, such as the following:

1. A person humbling himself to the commands and prohibitions of Allah SWT, doing what He commands and avoiding what He forbids.

Ibn Al-Qayyim said:

It is because a person may hesitate to obey His commands out of laziness, thus behaving reluctantly in an attempt to flee from the servitude towards Allah, and his soul may have the desire to commit haram actions, but once the person humbles himself to the commands and prohibitions of Allah, he will humble himself to the true submission to Allah [‘Ubudiyyah].

[Al-Ruh p. 233]

2. Humbling oneself before the might, majestic and power of Allah

Ibn Al-Qayyim said:

Every time he feels that he is great, he remembers the might of Allah and that might belongs to Him only, and he remembers His intense wrath against those who compete with Him in that, then he humbles himself before Him and submits to the might of Allah. This is the ultimate humility and inevitably includes the first type of humility mentioned above, but the converse can never apply (i.e., this type of humility inevitably leads to the first type, but a person may submit to the commands and prohibitions of Allaah but he does not humble himself before His might).

The one who is truly humble is the one who is blessed with both. And Allah is the One whose help we seek.

[Al-Ruh, p. 233.]

3. Humility in one’s dress and manner of walking [behavior and mannerism].

It was narrated from Ibn ‘Umar that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said:

“Whilst a man was letting his garment drag out of pride, he was swallowed up by the earth and will continue sinking in it until the Day of Resurrection.”

[Narrated by Al-Bukhari, 3297]

It was also narrated by al-Bukhari [5452] and Muslim [2088] from the hadith of Abu Hurairah. According to the version narrated by Al-Bukhari:

“Whilst a man was walking in a garment admiring himself with his hair nicely combed, Allah caused (the earth) to swallow him up and he will continue sinking in it until the Day of Resurrection.”

4. Humility towards one who is of a lesser status and helping him

It was narrated that Al-Bara’ Ibn ‘Azib said: The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was moving soil with us on The Day of Al-Ahzab, and I saw him with dust covering the whiteness of his stomach, and he (the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)) was saying:

“(O Allah)! Without you, we would not have been guided, nor would we have given in charity, nor would we have prayed. So (O Allah!) send the tranquility (Sakinah) upon us as they (the chiefs of the enemy tribes) have rebelled against us. And if they intend afflictions (i.e. want to frighten us and fight against us) then we would not (flee but would withstand them).”

And he raised his voice whilst saying it.

[Narrated by Al-Bukhari, 6809; Muslim, 1803]

5. Humility with our parents

 He treats them with kindness and respect, infinite compassion, utter politeness and deep gratitude. He recognizes their status and knows his duties towards them.

 Allah Says:

 “And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents…”

 [An-Nisa’, 4: 36]

“And lowers to them the wing of humility out of mercy.”

 [Al-Isra’, 17:24]

 If your parents were alive, would you kiss their hands?  Can you kiss your mother’s hands in public?  This is one of the signs of humility.  If they are not living anymore, then ask forgiveness for them and do something good with your life, something that can be added to their book of good deeds.

 If you want to be a humble person, please try all the above for just one month and you will see how easily it will come to you.  Just try kissing your mother’s hands and, by Allah, you will learn by just that small act how to be humble before Allah.

 6. Humility in interactions with one’s wife and helping her.

It was narrated that Al-Aswad said: I asked ‘Aishah what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to do in his house and she said:

 “He used to serve his family and when the time for prayer came he would go out and pray”

[Al-Bukhari, 644]

Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar said:

This shows that we are encouraged to be humble and not arrogant, and that a man should serve his family.

[Fath Al-Baari, 2/163]

7. Humility towards the young and gracious with them.

It was narrated that Anas bin Malik said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was the best of people in character. I had a brother whose name was Abu ‘Umair. He said, I think he was rather weaned, and when he (the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)) came he would say, “O Abu Umair, what happened to the nughair (a small bird that he kept as a pet)?”

[Narrated by Al-Bukhari, 5850; Muslim, 2150]

Al-Nawawi said:

The term nughair is for a small bird.

This hadith teaches us many things, such as being kind to small children. This demonstrates the good character of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and how he was of noble character and humble.

[Sharh Muslim, 14/129]

8. Humility towards servants and slaves [or employee].

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

“If the servant of one of you brings his food and he does not want to make him sit and eat with him, then let him offer him a morsel or two, because he has prepared it and served it.”

[Narrated by Al-Bukhari, 2418 and 5144; Muslim, 1663]

Humility includes humble oneself to one who is also below you. If you find someone who is younger than you, or of less importance than you, you should not despise him, because he might have a better heart than you, or be less sinful, or closer to Allah than you. Even if you see a sinful person and you are righteous, do not act with arrogance towards him, and thank Allah that He saved you from the tribulation that He put him through. Remember that there might be some Riya’ (showing off) or vanity in your righteous deeds that may cause them to be of no avail, and that this sinful person may be regretful and fearful concerning his bad deeds, and this may be the cause of forgiveness of his sins.

 According to Jundub, may Allah be pleased with him, the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, mentioned,

  “A man said, “By Allah, Allah will not forgive so-and-so,” and that Allah Says: “Who is swearing by Me that I will not forgive so-and-so? I surely have forgiven so-and-so and nullified your deeds.”


 Therefore, act humbly towards anyone. Even when you see a sinner, do not show superiority towards him, nor treat him with arrogance and domination. If you feel that the sinner may perform some acts of obedience which you do not, and that you may also poses some defects which the sinner may not, then deal kindly with him, and gently offer da`wah which will hopefully be the cause of his acceptance and remembrance.

 All deeds also should not become too great in your eyes. If you do a good deed, or attempt to get closer to Allah through an act of obedience, your deed still may not be accepted. Allah Says:    “…Indeed, Allah only accepts from the righteous [who fear Him].” [Quran 5:27] This had made some of the Salaf (predecessors) said, “If I knew that Allah accepted one Tasbih (saying “Subhanallaah”) from me, I would have wished to die right now!”

 The arrogant person would never give credit to anybody or mentions good about someone, and if he needed to do so, he would also mention defects of that person. But if he hears somebody reminding him about his own defects, he will not be flexible nor comply due to his inferiority complex. A humble man would accept criticism or comment without any sensitivity or discomfort or feelings of shame and weakness.

 The ‘Amir of the Believers, `Umar Al-Khattab (radiallahu`anhu), May Allah be pleased with him, held the adage of, “May Allah have mercy on a person who informed us of our defects.”

We therefore seek for Allah’s blessing and guidance to be among of those who humble themselves before His might.

Allah the Exalted knows best.