Dealing with the arrogant ignorant

Written by Naim al-Gharib on 05.04.2015

(In the Name of Allah The Merciful The Compassionate) بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Indeed, all praise is due to Allah. We praise Him and seek His Help and forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil of our souls and from our wrong doings. He whom Allah guides, no one can misguide, and he whom He misguides, no one can guide. I bear witness that there is no god except Allah alone without any partners, and I bear witness that Muhammad (saaws) is His servant and Messenger.

Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran: "And the servants of the Lord of Mercy are those who walk humbly on the earth and when addressed by الْجَاهِلُونَ (al-jahiluna) the ignorant ones, they says: 'Peace!'" (25:63).

When addressed by an ignorant person it is very easy to loose ones temper, or I would actually rather say that it can be quite difficult to keep ones head cool. Especially if the ignorant person abuses you verbally in a defamatory manner.

When addressed by a stranger it can by hurtful enough, but when addressed by someone you love from your family it is especially difficult to deal with the situation.

So, what constitutes an ignorant person and how should we really deal with such a person?

In Islam جاهلية (jahaliyyah) is a concept that covers either a general "ignorance of the guidance of Allah (swt)" or the "Days of Ignorance" referring to the condition of the Arabs before the advent of Islam. In this subject we're dealing with the general concept.

Sayyid Qutb (rha), in his book Milestones, describes the concept of jahaliyyah very well:

When a person embraced Islam during the time of the Prophet, he would immediately cut himself off from Jahiliyyah. When he stepped into the circle of Islam, he would start a new life, separating himself completely from his past life under ignorance of the Divine Law. He would look upon the deeds during his life of ignorance with mistrust and fear, with a feeling that these were impure and could not be tolerated in Islam! With this feeling, he would turn toward Islam for new guidance, and if at any time temptations overpowered him, or the old habits attracted him, or if he became lax in carrying out the injunctions of Islam, he would become restless with a sense of guilt and would feel the need to purify himself of what had happened, and would turn to the Quran to mold himself according to its guidance.

Ibn Taymiyyah (rha) said:

In specific terms, Jahiliyyah may appear in some Muslim lands, and in many Muslim individuals, as the Prophet (saaws) said: "Four things among my ummah are of the Jahiliyyah” and he (saaws) said to Abu Dharr (raa): "You are a man in whom there is some Jahiliyyah” and so on. (Iqtida’ al-Siraat al-Mustaqeem).

Today we find many people, though being Muslims, still being extremely ignorant of Islam and as a result they do not conduct their ways according to the instructions set by Islam. And I am not talking about mistakes here. We all make mistakes both small and big ones. No, I am talking about a constant condition of extreme ignorance.

However, the worst kind of ignorance is when a person thinks of himself as guided, yet he is not, rather he is devoid of guidance and all his actions, or specific actions, prove contrary to Islam. This is a very dangerous situation because such a person is conducting his affairs contrary to Islam, but he thinks that his actions are accepted or even praise worthy.

What is even worse is if such a person combines ignorance with كبر (kibr) {arrogance}.

Kibr is the source of many evils and is known to be the main cause of hatred and disunity in society. Kibr is the name of a psychological state in which a person feels a sense of superiority and behaves arrogantly with others. A person with kibr is "closed" towards accepting advice and guidance from others because of the feelings he is carrying.

Arrogance is an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter, or more important than other people.

Its signs are discernible in his actions and its symptoms are clearly noticed by others by which they know that he is arrogant.

It is narrated that The Messenger of Allah (saaws) said: "No one who has an atoms weight of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise." A man said, "O Messenger of Allah, what if a man likes his clothes and his shoes to look good?" He (saaws) said, "Allah is Beautiful and loves beauty, arrogance means Battrul-Haqq (rejecting the truth) and looking down on people." (Muslim).

The one who neglects his obligations, due to his rejection of them, and is oppressive to others from amongst the creation is not to be amongst the people of Al-Jannah (Paradise), or deserving of it. On the contrary, such an individual is to be counted amongst the people who are threatened with punishment.

Arrogance is one of the characteristics of Iblis, so whoever wants to be arrogant should realize that he is acquiring a characteristic of the devils, and that he is not acquiring a characteristic of the noble angels who obeyed their Lord and fell down prostrate. The one who is arrogant towards the people will be trampled beneath the feet of the people on the Day of Resurrection, as a punishment for his arrogance (hadith).

As people we all make mistakes! If we cannot accept someone correcting a mistake, or reminding us about the seriousness of our errors, then we must understand that we are in reality only hurting ourselves. We are hurting ourselves firstly, because we miss out on correcting a mistake, which in itself can be catastrophic enough, and secondly, because if such arrogance results in the abuse of the adviser, then we're earning sin and the Wrath of Allah (swt) and the person we have abused has a right upon us on the Day of Judgement.

It was narrated that The Prophet (saaws) said: "Abusing a Muslim is Fusuq (evil doing) and killing him is Kufr (disbelief)." (Bukhari).

And it was narrated from Abu Hurairah (raa) that the Messenger of Allah (saaws) said: "Do you know who is the one who is bankrupt?" The people said: "The bankrupt is the one who has no money and no possessions." He (saaws) said: "Among my Ummah, the one who is bankrupt is the one who will come on the Day of Resurrection with prayer and fasting and zakah (to his credit), but he will come having insulted this one, slandered that one, consumed the wealth of this one and shed the blood of that one, and beaten that one. So they will all be given some of his good deeds, and when his good deeds run out, before judgment is passed, some of their sins will be taken and cast onto him, then he will be cast into the Fire." (Muslim).

And it was narrated that The Prophet (saaws) said: "Creeping in upon you is the diseases of those people before you, envy and hatred. And hatred is the thing that shaves. I do not say it shaves the hair but it shaves the deen! By the One in whose Hand is my soul, you will not enter paradise until you have Iman, and you will not have Iman until you love one another. Certainly, let me inform you of that which may establish such things: spread the greetings and peace among yourselves." (Ahmad and Tirmidhi).

And it was narrated from Aisha (raa) that a man came and sat in front of the Messenger of Allah (saaws), and said, "O Messenger of Allah, I have two slaves who tell me lies, betray and disobey me, and I insult them and beat them. What is my position with regard to them?" The Messenger of Allah (saaws) said: "On the Day of Resurrection, their betrayal, disobedience and lying will be measured against your punishment of them. If your punishment is commensurate with their wrongs, then there will be no score to settle. If your punishment of them was less than their sins deserved, then this will count in your favor. If your punishment of them was more than their sins deserved, then the score will be settled against you." The man turned away and started to weep. The Messenger of Allah (saaws) said to him, "Have you not read the words of Allah? 'And We shall set up Balances of justice on the Day of Resurrection, then none will be dealt with unjustly in anything. And if there be the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it. And Sufficient are We to take account.' (21:47)." (Ahmad and Tirmidhi).

So how do we deal with people of ignorance and arrogance?

In The Quran we find some very comprehensive verses regarding this exact issue.

Allah (swt) says: "Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and avoid the ignorant ones. And if an evil whisper touches you from Satan then seek refuge with Allah. Verily, He is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. Verily, those who are Al-Muttaqun (the pious), when an evil thought comes to them from Satan, they immediately get alerted and they then see. But as regarded their brothers they plunge them deeper into error and leave nothing undone to seduce them. " (7:199-202).

This verse is dealing with the subject of enjoining what is good, that a Muslim should forgive and avoid the ignorant person, and if Satan whispers in order to create anger, the Muslim must seek refuge with Allah (swt). Being a Muslim of Al-Muttaqun (the pious) the person remembers his love for Allah (swt) and his fear of His Punishment, as a result he immediately gets alerted to the fact that what he is feeling is from Satan trying to make him angry due to what the ignorant person is saying or doing. As regard to the brothers of Satan (amongst people), then they do not get alerted, on the contrary they submit to the evil whispering and as a result become angry and begin to abuse.

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi (rha) writes the following beautiful words in his "Tafhim al-Quran":

In this passage Allah has taught His Messenger some very important things about the methods of inviting people to promulgating the Message of Islam, and of guiding and reforming people. The object is to instruct the Holy Prophet and, through him, his successors to enable them to carry on his mission after him. Some salient points are given below and should be considered in the order they are given:
The most important thing is that the inviter to the Truth should have a large and tender heart, and should be forgiving and forbearing. He should be friendly to his companions, kind to the common people, and should show forbearance to his opponents. He should tolerate the weaknesses of his comrades and endure patiently the persecution of his enemies. He should keep cool even under the greatest provocation and connive at the most unpleasant things. He should bear patiently the bitterest words, the most wicked slanders and the most cruel persecutions. Harsh treatment, hard-heartedness, bitter talk, and vindictive retaliations are as harmful as poison for this work: this spoils the work and does not mend it.
There is a tradition of the Holy Prophet to the same effect: "My Lord has enjoined me to utter what is just whether I am in a state of anger or happiness, to try my best to have cordial relations even with those who are inimical to me, to render their rights even to those who deprive me of my rights, to forgive even those who are cruel to me." He advised those whom he sent on this Mission: "Wherever you go, your visit should be a harbinger of happiness and not of hatred, you should become the source of comfort to the people and not of bringing hardships on them." Allah has also praised this characteristic of the Holy Prophet: "It is a great blessing of Allah that you are very lenient towards and gentle with them. If you had been harsh and hard-hearted, they would have scattered away from you..." (3:159).
The other important instruction that has been given for the promulgation of Islam is to avoid useless discussions with the ignorant people. The inviter to the Truth should always be strictly on the guard against involvement in useless talk and discussion with mischievous and quarrelsome people. He should take the utmost care to approach and converse with those people only who adopt a reasonable and rational attitude towards his Message. As soon as he feels that his addressees are adopting the attitude of ignorance and are resorting to argumentations, wranglings and taunts, he should make an honorable retreat from them. This is because it is not only useless to be involved in such things but it is harmful to the mission, as valuable time and energy, that could have been usefully employed for the promulgation of the Message, go to waste.
In case the inviter to the Truth feels that the provocations from the mischievous people are becoming too much for him to bear and he cannot withstand their tyrannies, mischiefs, foolish objections and accusations, he should at once realize that it is Satan who is tempting him to retaliate. Then the best thing is to seek refuge in Allah, and invoke His help to protect His servant from doing in anger anything that might be harmful to his Mission. This is possible only if one remains cool-headed even under the greatest provocations, for one can never think or act wisely if one is easily excited by anger, insult, injustice or cruelty etc. But Satan who does not like this Mission to succeed and is always devising schemes to defeat it, first incites his own disciples to attack the inviter to the Truth and then incites him to make counter-attacks on them. As Satans appeal is couched in very alluring words and pious terms, it is not an easy thing to withstand it. That is why pious people have been fore-warned, in vv. 201-202, of this serious danger and instructed that if they intend to refrain from evil, they should immediately get alarmed as soon as they feel the evil effects of the temptation of Satan and its incitement in their hearts and stand on their guard. Then they will clearly see the right course that they should adopt on such occasions and under such circumstances for the sake of their Mission.

Allah (swt) says: "Hasten to obtain forgiveness from your Lord, and for Paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for Al-Muttaqun (the pious). Those who spend in prosperity and in adversity, who restrain their anger, and forgive people, verily, Allah loves Al-Muhsinun (the doers of good)." (3:133-134).

Imam Ash-Shafi (rha) said:

"I never debated an ignorant person except that he won, and I never debated a knowledgeable person except that I won. This is because the ignorant one will deny even the presence of the Sun at noon, and will deny the presence of the Moon on a night when it is full! So, watch the ignorant die if you avoid them, and be given life if you debate them. It might be that they come to their senses if you ignore them, and will realize their status if you are shown to be above debating and discussing with them - this is if you are sure that he is an ignorant follower of desires, not seeking to admit the truth, and not seeking to follow that which is certain." (At-Tarbiyah al-Jihadiyyah wal-Bina).

So the best way of dealing with the arrogant ignorant is to ignore and avoid him.

And Allah (swt) knows best!