Holier-than-thou attitude

Q256 :Holier-than-thou attitude

A256 : Islam teaches us to be modest about what we do or achieve. If you read the works of great Islamic scholars, you always find a sense of modesty running through their writings. Great scholars like the founders of the four major schools of thought have advised their students and followers to always examine what they read and to discard the opinions of those very scholars if they find them to be in conflict with an authentic Hadith. One of them is quoted to have said : "If you determine that a particular Hadith is authentic and you find my view in conflict with it, then throw my opinion out of the window." Others have said : "If you determine that a particular Hadith is authentic, then the Hadith is the view I hold." Later scholars who have enriched their respective schools of thought, have laid down the scholarly principle which Islam advocates, saying "Our view is correct, but it is liable to be mistaken. The views which are in conflict with it are wrong, but they may be proved right." You see in all these a profound sense of modesty which recognizes that no matter how well-read a scholar is, he is liable to make mistakes. There is nothing surprising in this attitude since the Prophet himself has been our first teacher of modesty. Although he was the only example of human perfection for all generations, he lived as an ordinary member of his community. He was always prepared to listen to advice, particularly in matters which related to the Islamic state and the conduct of its affairs. When the Muslim army encamped at a particular place in the open space of Badr, in preparation for the first major encounter between the newly established Muslim state and the polytheists of Quraish, one of his companions questioned him about encamping there. He asked whether the encampment ordered by the Prophet was based on inspiration by Allah and the Muslims were not allowed to depart from that place, or it was simply the Prophet's own personal opinion. When the Prophet answered that it was his own personal view, the man suggested that the army should take its position further ahead, at a more strategic position, enabling the Muslim army to deprive the enemy of access to water. The Prophet immediately acted on that advice and ordered the army to move on. Moreover, the Prophet always used to include in his supplication a prayer for his own forgiveness. We know that Allah has forgiven him all his sins, if any. When his wife, Aisha once asked him why he exerted himself so much in prayer and supplication when his forgiveness was assured, he answered : "Should I not, then, be a thankful servant of Allah?" The foregoing demarcates for us the attitude of a good Muslim with regard to how he personally views his position within his community. It is a position of modesty knowing that he is not free of sin, and seeking Allah's forgiveness by trying to do every good action he can. Moreover, a Muslim always tries to enhance goodness in others. He recognizes their good points, praises them and encourages them to be better servants of Allah, without ever suggesting to them that his example is one to be followed. If he speaks to others who do not practice Islam about what they are missing, he certainly can state that he has actually experienced the benefits of following the Islamic way of life, but a good Muslim will always say that this has been a manifestation of Allah's grace bestowed on him. It is nothing that he has earned by his own work, but Allah's compassion and grace have been bestowed because of Allah's generosity. An attitude claiming that anything a person enjoys of Allah's grace has been earned is alien to Islamic behavior. A truly good Muslim does not say to others : Look at me; I have reached a high standard of obedience to Allah and He has given me so and so as a reward. This is not the attitude of a true Muslim since it is highly presumptuous. Instead he says : My efforts fall far short of what I must do in order to thank Allah for His grace. [This should not be simply a statement but a deep rooted belief expressed in words. Both the belief and the pronouncement are necessary.] Everything that he has bestowed upon me I have not earned. It is His generosity and grace that has given me this position of honor which I do not deserve. Moreover, a good Muslim feels that others are better than him and he never tries to highlight his good deeds, pressing that whatever good he does, constitutes nothing to boast about. The attitude of the person who is a fault finder, who is ready to stress to others that he is better than them, is a "holier-than-thou" attitude; which is totally unacceptable in Islam. A Muslim does not try to find fault with others. Nor does he speak to a third person about the fault of someone else. He certainly counsels them to always obey the instructions of Islam and encourages them to do so, but he does not set himself as an example. The example to be followed is that of the Prophet and his companions. Such people may even have read a great deal but such reading may have been of all sorts of books, some of which may give views which are not approved by Islam. This may lead to confusion. Islamic readings should follow a set pattern in the same way as reading in any field of study must have a correct approach. You do not pick up a collection of books on medicine or on law or mechanical engineering and read them through in order to claim that you have become a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer. You have to follow a systematic approach to any type of study. The same applies to Islamic studies. It is also not up to a person to describe other people as believers or non-believers, Muslims or non-Muslims. A person is a Muslim if he declares that he believes that there is no deity save Allah and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is Allah's messenger. No one can deprive any person of the fact of being a Muslim unless that person goes back on his declaration of belief. Judging others as non-believers is not up to anyone of us. It is Allah who judges them.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )