By Iffat Fatima (in collaboration with Team AYEINA)
Bi-smi llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm
Both words; ‘humble’ and ‘humans’ come from the root “from the earth”. Being humble simply means being human. The word “humility” derives from the word “humus” meaning “earth.” Humility literally means being grounded. It involves (a) awareness: an accurate self-awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses, (b) openness: the ability to openly accept feedback and criticism while presenting your own views respectfully, and (c) empathy: an empathic concern for the well-being of other people. [Psychology today]
“…Give good news to the humble-hearted. Who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts are fearful, and the patient over what has afflicted them, and the establishers of prayer and those who spend from what We have provided them.” [Quran 22:34-35].
Humility is about accepting our humanness, and with that comes accepting our skills and abilities alongside our faults and challenges. Low self-esteem is inaccurately viewing ourselves as less valuable and ignoring our worth and contributions. While arrogance (the opposite of humility) is inaccurately viewing ourselves as more valuable and inflating our achievements to think of ourselves as more worthy than other humans. True confidence creates humility because our self-worth has been internalized. When we’re humble, we’re realistic. We’re not trying to overinflate ourselves to seem worthier or more important because we know that we already are worthy, no matter what we create or achieve.
Ten steps to practice humility in Islam
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was a man who possessed the highest moral excellence, and Allah made him a good example for Muslims to follow (Quran 68:4, and 33:21). The Holy Prophet ﷺ is a clear proof that Allah SWT’s definition of humility is different from what the world would’ve us count on. So how can one learn to practice humility in Islam?
1) Always remember Who is in power — and glorify Him!
It’s hard to keep our life in the right direction if we don’t recognize the greatness of Allah SWT. Loving Him, venerating Him, and being in awe of Him; come from self-realization. This increases us in piety, good wealth, and prosperity.
“Indeed, they who have believed and done righteous deeds and humbled themselves to their Lord – those are the companions of Paradise; they will abide eternally therein.” [Quran 11:23].
2) Seek guidance via prayer and knowledge via authentic resources
The state of your heart determines what your actions are when you’re knowledgeable. You can read the Holy Qur’an, Hadīth, inspiring biographies of Sahabas, etc. to improve your life and appreciate the wisdom that others have to offer.
“((Successful are those…) Those who humble themselves in their prayers” [Quran 23:02]
3) Understand where your real value comes from and accept that we’re no better or worse than anyone else
It’s easier to sidestep pride or arrogance when we understand that we are valued simply because we are Allah’s creation. We need to know that achievements, looks, and abilities are not what give us worth. Recognizing your shortcomings doesn’t mean giving up. It simplifies into acknowledging that none of us, as human beings, is perfect, and we can’t do everything by ourselves. This soothes our soul by providing a useful outlook on life and how we should live it — yet humbly! No matter how brilliant we are, there is always someone who can do things better than us.
Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Look at those who are beneath you and do not look at those who are above you, for it is more suitable that you should not consider as less the blessing of Allah” [Hadith; Ibn Majah 4142]
4) Recognize your faults and Apologise where it’s due
It is easier to judge others than ourselves. Unfortunately, this can cause strife within ourselves and prevent new relationships from forming. As a practical effort, try to judge yourself instead when you find yourself passing judgments about others. Consider how to better yourself, instead of what you wish others should be like. After all, you’re responsible only for your actions, and not others. Remember that even if you’re very skilled at something, growth, and self-improvement is a life long process.
“O you who believe! Let not some people among you laugh at others, perhaps they may be better than them,” [Quran 49:11].
If you’ve made a mistake, admit that you’re wrong.
5) Compliment and help others (focus on empathy)
For this, your main motive must be sincerity, honesty, and goodwill. Tell your spouse he/she looks gorgeous today; compliment your kids for being honest with their work, etc. Or you can dive deeper by giving compliments to people on significant aspects of their personalities, instead of looking for their faults. Try to give at least one compliment a day. It makes you think of the good traits of people rather than the bad ones while rejuvenating the power of your “positive outlook on life”.
“Help one another in acts of piety and righteousness. And do not assist each other in acts of sinfulness and transgression…” [Quran 5:2].
Empathy is the key to humility, and it’s comprised of two parts: the ability to take someone else’s perspective and a genuine concern for the well-being of another person. Empathy can help break our pattern of self-focus and connect us with others. Helping others and being humble go hand in hand. Treating people as equals is a part of respecting them. From sharing knowledge to volunteering your time, being teachable and a good listener, covering up their faults, giving unbiased feedback, etc., to those who cannot possibly return the favor to you. There’s when you’ve learned real humility. It will make you appreciate the blessings you’ve and how to channel them out in a healthy way.
6) Write down your strengths and accomplishments along with the resources (or people) that helped you get them
Humility is about accepting all of ourselves, while arrogance/narcissism is refusing to accept the parts we don’t like. It’s about refusing to see ourselves as sometimes wrong or imperfect. Ironically, arrogance is often associated with high levels of shame and self-doubt because we don’t feel worthy or good enough. Therefore, we feel the need to overemphasize our accomplishments or even lie sometimes to make ourselves bigger than who we are in real life. The self-worth that comes with arrogance is always conditional. If anything goes wrong – like losing a job or relationship – the external source of worth is gone. Humility, on the other hand, is about internalized and unconditional self-worth because the self-worth is consistent regardless of the fluctuating external conditions in that person’s life. Nothing a person creates, achieves, or loses can increase or decrease their self-worth, and, therefore, they don’t need to boast about it.
‘Iyad ibn Himar reported that Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: “Allah revealed to me that we should be humble amongst ourselves and none should show pride upon the others, And it does not behove one to do so…” [Hadith; Muslim 2865].
7) Seek feedback and Be patient
During his Caliphate, Syedna Umar ibn Al Khattab was marching upon Damascus with his army. Abu Ubayda was with him. They came upon a little lake. Syedna Omar descended from his camel, took off his shoes, tied them together, and hung them on his shoulder. He then took the halter off his camel, and they entered the water together. Seeing this in front of the army, Abu Ubayda said, “O Commander of the Believers! How can you be so humble in front of all your men?” Syedna Umar answered, “Woe to you, Abu Ubayda! If only anyone else other than you thought this way! Thoughts like this will cause the downfall of the Muslims. Don’t you see we were indeed a very lowly people? God raised us to a position of honor and greatness through Islam. If we forget who we are and wish other than the Islam which elevated us, the One who raised us surely will debase us.”
“And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them , they say peace.” [Quran; 25:63]
8) Be grateful for what you have
Practicing gratitude is a form of worship. Instead of a constant want of more and more, learn to embrace who you are and what you’ve got. Even though you’ve undoubtedly worked hard for what you’re today, you could not have achieved that without Allah SWT’s support.
“…If you are grateful, I will surely increase you …” [Quran 14:7]
9) Rejuvenate your sense of wonder
Rediscovering our sense of wonder makes us feel more awestruck than we often tend to be. Nobody has seen it all, and nobody knows it all, except Allah SWT. Therefore, being curious like a child makes us humble from within, and all set to learn with more positivity!
“Travel through the land and observe how He began creation. Then Allah will produce the final creation. Indeed Allah, over all things, is competent.” [Quran 29:20].
10) Remember death and make a lot of Istighfar
To err is human and to forgive is divine. Seeking forgiveness from Allah SWT is the ultimate way to humble ourselves.
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: “If you were not to commit sins, Allah would have swept you out of existence and would have replaced you by another people who have committed sin, and then asked forgiveness from Allah, and He would have granted them pardon.” [Hadith; Muslim 2748b]
The Prophet used to seek refuge (with Allah) from four things: From knowledge that is of no benefit, from a heart that does not feel humble, from a supplication that is not heard, and a soul that is never satisfied. [Hadith; Nasa’i 5536]
“Allahumma inni a’udhu bika min ‘ilmin la yanfa’u, wa min qalbin la yakhsha’u, wa min nafsin la tashba’u, wa min du’a’in la yusma”
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ عِلْمٍ لاَ يَنْفَعُ وَمِنْ قَلْبٍ لاَ يَخْشَعُ وَمِنْ نَفْسٍ لاَ تَشْبَعُ وَمِنْ دُعَاءٍ لاَ يُسْمَعُ
Co-author’s bio: Iffat Fatima is an ultra-polymath specialized in medical writing, SEO writing, and authoring articles based on a wide variety of niches. You can reach out to her on LinkedIn