Halt Your Ego Trips!

By Raihana Shams Islam . . Islam professes that every person is responsible for his or her own deeds, good or bad, and will be held solely accountable for those on the Day of Judgement. Every child is

ego

By Raihana Shams Islam
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Islam professes that every person is responsible for his or her own deeds, good or bad, and will be held solely accountable for those on the Day of Judgement. Every child is born in fitrah and there is no inheritance of sins. Therefore, unlike Christianity, no concept of ‘the original sin’ exists in Islam. If we look back through the history of creation, it was Iblis who committed the very first sin by his disobedience when ordered to prostrate before Adam (pbuh). “And they prostrated except Iblis, he demurred through pride and was one of the disbelievers” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 34]. Satan’s refusal to obey stemmed from arrogance about his false sense of superiority to Adam (pbuh). He declared, “I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay” [Surah Al-Aaraf: 12]. Ultimately, it was Satan’s ego that prevented him from obeying Allah’s command and granted him eternal perdition.
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Our Prophet (pbuh) said,

Whoever has even a seed’s weight of arrogance in his heart, shall not enter Paradise” – [Sahih Muslim: 91]

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When one ponders why arrogance is considered such a grave sin in Islam, the reason is evident. By being arrogant, we place credit to our own selves; whereas the credit, for everything we are and anything we possess, belongs to Allah, and Allah alone. When we look at arrogance in this light, it can truly be comprehended as a sin of monumental proportion. Claiming credit to ourselves for something that is bestowed upon us by our Lord is like associating our trivial selves with Him! Whatever it is that we have the audacity to be proud of, be it looks, lineage, knowledge, offspring, wealth or power, each one is a gift from Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala and He has the power to take it away if He wishes to. Satan’s distorted sense of superiority for being made of fire is blasphemous from a believer’s point of view, as it is his Creator who made him from that fire. Arrogance is, thus, a state of ungratefulness. Our pride keeps us from remembrance of the Almighty, and we fall prey to our self-conceited ego.
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Ego has the power to become a deity, and the danger lies therein. We lose the real focus of our lives by drowning ourselves in pompous self-flattery. The centre of a true believer’s existence should be his Lord. It is incumbent upon him to keep his egotism on guard. Ego is nafs at its base level and, if undeterred, can lead to the demise of a person’s spirituality.  The Quran describes it beautifully:

Have you seen the one whose god is his ego? Consequently, Allah sends him astray, despite his knowledge, seals his hearing and his heart, and places a veil on his eyes; then who will guide him after Allah (has condemned him)? Would you not take heed?” – [Surah Al-Jathiyah: 23].

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We should take heed. Ego has been man’s eternal enemy. Vanity is Satan’s favourite means for enticing human beings away from the straight path. Satan’s strategy to exploit man’s vanity is customized for individuals for maximum success. Different people are vulnerable in different ways. For an arrogant scholar, knowledge itself could be his Achilles’ heel. For a self-satisfied pious person, piety could instill in him a sense of superiority, which might be vain enough to ruin his spiritual ascent. In case of a respected leader, his stature in the society could prove to be his doom. Abu Talib, the Prophet’s (pbuh) beloved uncle, was the most favourable, amongst his non-muslim relatives, towards the Prophet (pbuh) and Islam. Yet when Abu Talib’s death was imminent and the Prophet (pbuh) asked him to accept Islam by reciting Kalimah Tayyibah, he replied, “If I did not fear that Quraysh would think I had but said the words in dread of death, then I would say them.” Even in his deathbed, he refused to convert as he could not bear to be seen as a ‘coward’ in the eyes of his fellow men!
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Many social evil emanate from human ego. The conflict of ego between the spouses can be the foremost contributing factor in unhappy marriages for otherwise decent couples. Arrogance can take the place of mutual respect and understanding, and lead to unnecessary failures in marriages. Our self-flattered ego makes us think we are better than our spouses, relatives, friends or colleagues. Out of this concocted notion, we often put other people down and hurt them through our haughtiness. Vain glory of a high-achiever is not only detrimental to his imaan, which is grave enough, but this very attitude will also alienate him in the social arena. Vanity in one’s own social status is dangerous. People often go to any length to protect this coveted bubble. Lying, cheating, back-biting and jealousy are common consequences. The extreme manifestation might even be murder or bodily harm, such as we see in the so-called “honour killings” in some places of the world.
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Ego has remained man’s close companion since the ancient times. But in today’s world, it has truly become a gigantic idol. This idol is worshipped without reservation throughout the globe. Selfdom must be celebrated to promote consumerism, and that is what we witness everywhere. The advertisements are focused on ‘YOU’, putting you at the centre of the bonanza, making you feel that it is all about you. Consumerism survives by the perpetual nourishment of the consumer’s ego. The social media, too, exploit the user’s inherent vanity very effectively in the cyberspace. We can take Facebook as an example. It might as well be called the “ego-book”! Relentless ego boosting in the guise of self-promotion, self-admiration and narcissism is the lifeline social media usually thrive on.
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Islam is the antithesis of ego. Instead of vanity, humility is a believer’s companion. The Quran states,

Treat not the people with arrogance, nor roam the earth proudly; Allah does not like the braggarts. Walk humbly and lower your voice – the ugliest voice is the voice of the donkey” – [Surah Luqman: 18-19]

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These verses are the divine prescription as to how a person should conduct himself on this earth. The very core belief in Islam, that human beings are the slaves of Allah, is the perfect antidote for any rising ego-fever. We should also bear in mind that the bigger the ego, the lesser is the soul. To protect ourselves from the sins of vanity, we should deepen our faith in the Almighty through steadfast prayers and daily recital and contemplation of the Quran. We ought to increase His remembrance by reciting dhikr and asking for salvation. The focus of all our activities should be to elevate our status in front of Him, and not in the eyes of other people. This is a lifelong journey in which we are prone to deviate. Whenever we falter, we must remind ourselves that we are nothing but slaves of our Creator. The continual reminder of our undeniable state of servitude is the perfect way to crush our ego, in order to embolden our devotion to Allah.

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Dr. Raihana Shams Islam

Associate Professor, Dept. of Physics,

University of Rajshahi

ibanamedia@gmail.com

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