“Pinch him!” Anika whispered furiously to Umar.
They were standing beside the cradle of Umar’s newborn sister. He had hated her from the moment mummy had told her that she was going to get “a sweet sister for you”. And now that she’s arrived, everybody was making such a fuss over her! No one loves me anymore, thought Umar, and that too for a tiny thing like her! Umar was seriously considering following Anika’s order…
Have you come across situations like this? I have, and despite our efforts to laugh it off as childish jealousy, it gives a deep insight into the human nature. Although it looks cute on children, this same emotion can cause havocs in adult life – life in this world and especially in the Hereafter.
The root of jealousy is a sense of inferiority inside us – we feel inadequate, unworthy, outsmarted. We feel that we’re too insignificant to get love and priority, that there are better people competing with us and snatching away our bread and butter.
This sense of inferiority is a precursor to many of the common psychological problems – anxiety, depression, bulimia, excessive anger, schizophrenia, and surprisingly, narcissism (Adler 1969).
“I’m better than her!” cried Umar. He had been caught red-handed trying to pinch the baby.
“I am much taller!”
Feeling insecure is very painful and suffocating. And therefore one clutches for whatever lifeboat one can find. For some people, that lifeboat is arrogance. It’s a façade that protects the person from his own inadequacy. And this seed of arrogance was planted at the very beginning of human history.
When Allah Ta’ala fashioned Adam (alayhi salam) from clay, He left him like that for a while. Iblis would sneak up to the clay form and go round and round scrutinising it.
“When Allah fashioned Adam in Paradise, He left him as He liked him to leave. Then Iblis roamed round him to see what actually that was and when he found him hollow from within, he recognised that he had been created with a disposition that he would not have control over himself.” (Sahih Muslim 2611)
He was extremely jealous of this new creation who might possibly snatch his high status as a worshipper of Allah Ta’ala. And he tried to find faults in Adam (alayhi salam). With a mind warped with evil feelings, he scoffed at the fact that Adam was “hollow from within.” And soon he convinced himself that he was better.
“I am better than him!”
After completing the creation of Adam (alayhi salam), Allah Ta’ala asked the angels to prostrate to him. Everyone did as told, except Iblis. Allah asked him, “What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?” (7:12)
“I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.” (ibid.)
Look at his warped logic. Who says fire is better than clay?
And for this clear proof of arrogance, Shaytan got really humiliated. He was stripped of his high rank and expelled from Paradise.
Allah Ta’ala mentioned the story of Iblis in several places in the Quran. Why? Because Shaytan tries to make us arrogant, lose our rank with Allah and Paradise – just like him. And because it’s very important for us not to make the same mistake.
This is my hypothesis – The root cause of arrogance is inferiority complex, and so if we get rid of the latter, we’ll be cured of the former automatically.
“I am better than her!” cried Umar.
His mother started to laugh. She hugged her first-born and told him how much she loved him. After a few days, Umar wasn’t allowing anyone come near his sister, crying, “She’s MY sister!”
First published in Ibana: www.ibanaway.com/the-paradox-of-arrogance-and-inferiority/