Friday reflection: Those who walk on the earth ever so lightly
By Muneeb Nasir
The world is full of self-important, self-absorbed, self-promoting, brash, egotistical and arrogant people. These are the people who lead the news.
Look at the recent headlines – it is all about political leaders who are arrogant and brash; who proudly display their character flaws and feel no shame or embarrassment for themselves, their families or the citizens they serve.
The media prefer to make the bold and the brash the lead story - it is good for breaking news.
We have been led to accept that humility and gentleness are signs of weakness.
However, according to Islam and all religions, the strength of a believer in God comes from their humility and gentleness - they are the ones who walk on the earth ever so lightly.
God says in the final revelation, “The servants of the Lord of Mercy are those who walk humbly on the earth, and who, when the foolish address them, reply, ‘Peace’” (Qur’an, 25:63).
According to the 13/14th century Islamic scholar, Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyya, we must know our place in this world, appreciating God’s perfection and majesty, and our own weaknesses, to be characterized with humility:
“There are two realities which we must fully grasp in order to be truly characterized with humility.
First and foremost is to truly know God’s perfection and to know His abundant favors upon us and how we are fully dependent upon Him. Secondly, we have to come to know ourselves, where we came from and our numerous weaknesses and shortcomings.”
Humility is a virtue that defines and describes a believer’s life and it elevates a believer – it is not about weakness but about strength of character as the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him said, “God only increases a person in status if he forgives, and no one ever humbles himself before God but He will raise him in status.” (Hadith, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim).
Things that can be achieved through gentleness and with humility cannot be achieved with severity and force.
Humility is to manage things with ease, subtlety, dignity and deliberation.
Well-known motivational speaker and leadership expert, Robin Sharma recounted that one day after he had delivered a lecture a woman came up to him with tears in her eyes.
She said to him that she had read all of his books but there was one person who actually lived the message he was teaching.
She said this person was her father who died a few months ago.
The woman paused and looked down at the floor and said, “Five thousand people showed up at my father’s funeral. The whole town was there.”
The speaker was surprised and he asked her, “Was your father a well-known person in your town or a celebrity or a popular politician.”
The woman responded, “No, he wasn’t”
The speaker wanting to know what made so many people show up at this man’s funeral in a small town asked, “Then why did 5,000 people come out to attend your father’s funeral.”
The woman said, “They came because my father was a man who always had a smile on his face. He was the kind of person to help someone in need. He treated people incredibly well and politely. He walked the earth ever so lightly. 5,000 people showed up at his funeral because he was good.”
This man lived a life of humility and people responded to the goodness of his character.
The renowned 13th century scholar, Imam An-Nawawi explains that there are two ways that God will raise our status.
“The first is that He will cause the hearts of people to love us because of our humility, as He has made it a Sunnah of mankind that we dislike arrogance and admire humility. The second is that God will raise our place in heaven and reward us for our humility.”
Humility leads one to the pleasure of God. Arrogance leads to the displeasure of God.
Humility is our resistance to today’s lifestyle that focuses on ‘I’ and ‘me’ instead of ‘we’ and ‘us.’
Humility is the attribute of the wise and the compassionate among the servants of the All-Merciful - those believers who embody gentleness in all matters and who walk ever so lightly on the earth.
Gentleness, an aspect of humility, should describe a believer’s conduct.
The Messenger of God, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, God is gentle and He loves gentleness in all matters.” (Hadith, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim).