‘Self-esteem’ from Islamic perspective

Hassan T Bwambale

Allah (to Whom belong all might and majesty) likes to be praised; as such the most beloved act to Him is to praise Him. That is due to the fact that He deserves all attributes and praises of perfection. For example, among His attributes is Al-Azeez, translated as, ‘The Almighty, the All-Powerful, the Omnipotent – among others. In this context, Allah (SWT) is the Predominant who can’t be challenged or even resisted. He is the empowerer, giver of honor and dignity, etc.

Therefore, when you know that Allah (SWT) is the Omnipotent, you will try your level best to avoid annoying Him because you know there is no way to hide from Him. You will also avoid pandering to the whims and desires of some uninhibited human-beings who would like to capitalize on your need for their help to urge you to engage in some immoral activities that violate the noble teachings of Islam.

Among the challenges Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) faced was hypocrisy in Medina and the multiple intrigues of the hypocrites, who were not strong enough to face him but rather, decided to hid their nails of intrigues. The following incident is an explicit example on how the hypocrites were relentless looking for opportunities to undermine the unity of Muslims in Medina.

Jabir bin Abdullah (RA) narrated thus: We were together with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in an expedition during which a person amongst the emigrants from Makkah jokingly kicked an Ansari (one among the inhabitants of Medina who wholeheartedly received the Makkan immigrants). The Ansari cried to his people for help saying, ‘Help, O Ansar!’ and the Muhajir also cried to his people for help.

Thereupon Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, ‘What is wrong that people are repeating a call for help that was prevalent during the time of ignorance (before Prophet Muhammad’s advent?). They said, ‘O Allah’s Messenger, a person among the emigrants kicked an Ansari (one of the inhabitants of Medina’) The Prophet (PBUH) then said, “Stop this (appeal for help); for it is an evil call that stinks.’

Abdullah bin Ubayy (leader of the hypocrites of Medina) heard it and said, ‘Have they, indeed, done it? By Allah, when we return to Medina, the most honorable people will expel the most abased.’ Thereupon Umar said, ‘O Allah’s Messenger, permit me to strike the neck of this hypocrite.’ The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Leave him alone; lest people claim that Muhammad (PBUH) kills his companions.” (Al-Bukhari # 4, 905 and Muslim # 2, 584)

That incident was maliciously blown out of proportion. Surprisingly, after arriving in Medina, Abdullah’s own son prevented him from entering that city until he apologized to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). In this context, Allah (SWT) revealed the following verses that can be translated as: “It is they (the hypocrites) who say: Don not spend on those who are with the Messenger of God until they break away ‘from him.’

Yet to God belongs the treasures of the heavens and the earth. But the hypocrites do not comprehend ‘this.’ They say ‘with hollow pride’: Should we return to Medina ‘from this campaign’, the most honorable will expel the most abased from it. Yet, indeed, invincible might belongs to God ‘alone’, and thus shall it be’ for His Messenger and for the believers. But the hypocrites do not know ‘it.’ (Munafiqoun 63: 7 – 8)

Due to the fact that when someone sincerely believes in God, He endows him with honor, a believer is advised not to humiliate himself. Hudhaifa bin Al-Yamaan (RA) narrated that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “It is not appropriate for a believer to humiliate himself.” His companions asked, “How can someone humiliate himself?” He replied, “He exposes himself to a trial that he cannot handle.” (Al-Albani rated it as authentic in Saheeh At-Tirmidhi # 2, 254)

Even if you are a sincere believer and know for sure that God (Allah) has conferred upon you honor and dignity – among others – this doesn’t give you a carte blanche to be proud and thus look down upon others. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) although believed by Muslims to be the best human-being, never looked down upon anyone. He was extremely humble.

Uqbah bin Amrou (Prophet Muhammad’s Companion) said: A man approached Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to ask some questions. During their discussion, the man was continuously trembling out of respect for the Prophet (PBUH). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) comforted him, saying, “Take it easy; for I am son of a woman who used to eat dried meat.” (Refer to SaheehIbnMa’jah # 3, 312 and 2, 693)
After that the Prophet (PBUH) recited the following verse, translated as: “Extend not your gaze at what We have bestowed on certain classes of the unbelievers, nor grieve over them. And lower you wing of compassion ‘to the believers.'” (Al-Hijr 15: 88) In another verse, Allah (SWT) also instructs Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to be humble. He says what can be translated as: “So forewarn, ‘O Prophet,’ your nearest relatives. And lower your wing ‘of compassion’ for the believers who follow you.” (Ash-Shuara’a 26: 215)

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By Hassan Twaha Bwambale