THE EVILNESS ARROGANCE (KIBR) IN THE MATHNAWI

The Mathnawi: “The earth has surrendered to the skies and it says: I am your slave, bring down what you will!”(vol.3: 452)

“If fire pours onto it from the sun, it turns its face to the fire. Rather than running away from it, it surrenders quietly, spreading its face on the ground against it.” (vol. 3: 450)

O mankind, you are from this earth. You live on it; you should not go against His command, His will or His destiny!”

“You have heard and listened to the verse, “We created you from earth”. This means Allah wants you to be like the earth; do not defy the Divine order!”

“Allah says, ‘O man! Look carefully and see that I have sown a seed from My soul into your body, which is created from earth. I have exalted you. When you were but dust on this earth I made you a distinguished creature. I gave you intelligence I gave you desire”

“Take another step and make the qualities of earth and humbleness an attribute of yourself so that I will render you commander over all My creation.”(vol. 3, 453-456)

In the above couplets, Mawlânâ states that humility is an intrinsic trait for a human being and that it is our natural disposition. Since the human body is formed through nourishment that comes from the earth, the origin of the human body is the earth. The soul (rûh) stems from the Divine work of Allah Almighty; Mankind is superior to all of creation since it has been elevated to the position of caliph of Allah Almighty by virtue of the rûh which enters by Divine breath. Mankind is tasked with becoming as humble as the earth, the source and essence of our bodies. Because of our innate nature, it is natural that we are endowed with the attributes of the earth. When the two abilities of intelligence and volition are used incorrectly, these innate dispositions weaken and become ruined, and as a consequence the human being strays from humility and takes on arrogance, the attribute of the devil. As a result, human beings deviate from their original nature and act against the Divine honour which they carry.

Whatever falls from the heavens, the earth accepts without any objection. Indeed, there is no volition for the earth. In order to reach the zenith of Allah’s plan to create this world, mankind should live in submission that is similar to that of the earth before Divine judgement; we should submit to destiny (qadar) just as the earth submits without question to the heavens and consents to all that comes from Allah. In this way, man can reach perfection (kâmâl) and be considered worthy of the title Khalifat Allâh, or caliph of Allah , a position which has been ordained for us on this earth.

The Mathnawi: “At first the seeds of every fruit lay on the earth. They enter it and then reappear, bursting forth.”

“The origins of all blessings are showered on the earth from the heavens and enter beneath the soil. Then they became life for the pure soul” (vol. 3, 459-460)

The essence or origin of all forms of creation, both the living and the inanimate, is the earth. The transformation of the earth bring about the many varieties in life’s forms. The Lord Almighty has covered two-thirds of the earth with water and left only one-third as land. Perhaps only one-third of this land has a surface that is suitable for plant growth. This means, considering the surface area of the world, that only one- sixteenth of the earth is an inexhaustible treasure for the birth of plants, animals and humans, those that have come and those that will come in the future. Allah Almighty has made the earth subject to laws of endless metamorphosis and turned it into the sole provision for these countless bodies. If only one kind of plant or one genus of animal had come to earth since the beginning of time, there would not have been enough space and food for life to continue. As an example, you can think of a pine tree or an elephant. Humans are the same. If all the people were to come into this world at once, they would not be able to find food or a place to step. For this reason, Allah Almighty sends all of His creation to this world in a divine order, through a system of “rotation”, using the earth as the essence of His provisions. In that way there is enough space and food for every living being, in its appointed time and place. After living their lifespan they go back to the earth, from where they had come. Life starts from the earth and ends in it.

Since human beings are created from the earth, they carry the earth’s characteristics. From time to time the earth dries up, parched from the heat, longing for water. It bears the tribulation of winter for a whole season. Then the time comes for its revival by abundant rainfalls in the spring. The flow of Divine might is displayed with a myriad of beauty, colour, fragrance and harmony. The human is the same. He wavers like desert storms among the passions of life. He destroys himself under the rule of his nafs. A human can only reach perfection by overcoming the obstacle of the nafs. Just as the earth finds life through the rainfall in the spring, man can reach the point of preferring others over himself through manifestations of fayz (knowledge, wisdom, abundance) and rahmah. Thus, for the sake of Allah, the human being distributes the blessings that come to him in a state that resembles the beauty and abundance of spring, just like the exuberant earth.

As with the illustration given by Mawlânâ Rûmî of the seed, the plant which grows from it returns to the earth either directly or eventually after passes through several stages. No creation is exempt from this rule. This state is one of the numerous manifestations of Divine magnificence. It is such a great fortune for those who engage in deep meditation. In a verse of the Qur’ân we read:

 “Let man consider his food: How We pour water in showers. Then split the earth in clefts. And cause the grain to grow therein and grapes and green fodder and olive-trees and palm-trees and garden-closes of thick foliage and fruits and grasses: Provision for you and your cattle.”(‘Abasa, 80: 24-32)

The Mathnawi: “Those with good fortune and who are human know that being clever and trying to be wise are the way of Satan, while ‘ashq and servanthood are from the ways of Adam.”

“Those who claim to be clever are like the Satan, they try to survive in the ocean by swimming. It is rare for a person swimming in a vast ocean to survive. In the end, he will sink and drown. In the end, those who trust their intellect and do board the vessel of Sharî’ah will perish.”

“Stop swimming and forgo being conceited, let go of hatred! This water you swim in is not a stream or a river, it is the ocean! This ocean is, in fact, the ocean of qaza and qadar.” (v.4: 1402-1404)

Even though Mawlânâ describes the intellect as an attribute that belongs to Shaytân, this is before it receives tarbiya (discipline, nurturing and education) through Revelation. Otherwise, the intellectis the principal asset for reaching Allah and good. But this asset alone will not be enough to carry its owner to Allah or good. For this reason, in Islam the intellectis described as ;aql -nâqis, the deficient intellect. The perfection of the intellect is achieved through accepting one’s own inadequacy and adhering to the Revelation, which is a means of compensation. It is only possible through taslîmiyyah, total reliance on Allah. The intellectis a great blessing from Allah Almighty. But this blessing only gains significance through the Qur’ân and Sunnah. Otherwise, the intellectwill not prevent its owner from becoming a slave to his nafs and drifting towards destruction.

Mawlânâ compares the universe of events (‘âlam al-wuqû‘) to an ocean, and describes mankind as a weak swimmer who is bound to drown. Defying qadar by relying on human intellect and volition (irâda) is nothing but folly, because unless the intellect and volition submit to qadar, that is, fully submit to the will of Allah, no good will come of them.

The precise meaning of qadar is unknown. Accordingly, the only way to salvation is to submit to qadar after using irâda, with recourse to every cause in proportion to one’s own capability.

Not only is it useless to wait for the growth of plants before sowing the seed, thinking that merely scattering the seeds is enough for growth is also a vain hope. Scattering seeds is a human task while giving life to the plant is bound to the discretion and might of Allah. For this reason a human “takes recourse to the causes” by sowing the seed and after this “shows reliance and total submission to the Lord of the Universe, the Controller of qadar and all things that occur, and in matters that are beyond us, such as the wind, rain, time and so forth.

The Mathnawi: “Divine love is like a ship for the distinguished believers. Those who board the ship do not face great calamities or catastrophes, and most often they reach salvation.”

“O You who is travelling to al-Haqq (the Real)! Trade intellect for adoration! Because having intellect is about having an idea and being carried away by speculation!, Whereas adoration is about seeing the beauty, the power and art of Allah, and in being at the end of one’s wits.”

“Sacrifice intellect in the presence of the honoured Mustafa (pbuh) and say ‘Allah is enough for me!’” (v.4: 1406-1408)

“Intellect and intelligence will bring conceit and arrogance to you.” (v.4: 1421)

“Sacrifice the intellect for the love of the true friend! Because all intellect is with the true friend and because all souls and intellect began from Allah. For this reason sacrifice the intellect for the love of Allah.”

“Those with intellect have sent it to the place of the true beloved, to the beyond. The intellect that has stayed in this world is the one ignorant of love, one that does not love and is not loved in return, the foolish one.”(v. 4: 1424-1425)

As we have mentioned in the explanation of the verses above, using the intellect correctly is only possible if one can understand its compatibility with Divine wisdom and benefit (maslaha); that is, the intellect should work in the boundaries of Quran and Sunnah. Thinking that intellect has boundless power in understanding everything is as foolish as comparing the power of an ant to a horse.

By saying “Sacrifice ‘aql in the presence of the honoured Mustafa (pbuh) Mawlânâ states the importance of submission to the Divine orders that came through the Prophet (pbuh). Unless the ‘aql is curbed – like a fierce horse- with the reins of the revelation, it will drag its owner to unlimited and boundless pretences, and as a result of this, to destruction.

If a human uses his intellect seeing the wonders of God’s creation with the feelings of “adoration”, which are the reasons for being aware of Allah Almighty’s divine art and power in the universe, they will have perfect faith, “iman al-kamil”. Likewise, such a person will be very aware of the inadequacy of their intellect.

However, those who become unequivocally entranced by this adoration become majzoob (one who loses the ability to use their reason because of the love they feel for Allah) due to the fact that they loose their control. Despite wonder and adoration are blessed states, this state is rejected because it constitutes a weakness for the common necessities of human life. For this reason, it is much worthier and desirable to become a jazib who has completed their path rather than becoming a majzoob. Similarly, one who is a jazib is also one of those who have been absorbed in wonder and adoration, who have reached the ruling that says “Allah is sufficient for His servant”. In addition to this, a jazib is one who has been able to protect their deliberation. The kind of love and istigraq[1] is seen worthy by Mawlânâ without doubt is the love without loosing the control of the mind.

The Mathnawi: “What happiness there is for those who see their nafs as wretched! Woe to those who see themselves as superior as the mountains.”

“Know this! Arrogance, sublimeness and seeing oneself superior to others are lethal poison. Fools become intoxicated by drinking this poisonous wine.”(v.4: 2746-2747)

A believer needs to don the crown of modesty, and regard his nafs as inadequate, even if he possesses many virtues. Those who see themselves as perfect do not try to correct their shortcomings and do not accept their faults. Sufism is the pursuit only of those who have realized their faults and who protect themselves from boasting. The following hadîth is pertinent:

Whoever shows a degree of humility for the sake of Allah, Allah will raise him a degree. Whoever shows arrogance against Allah, Allah will lower him a degree for this, and in the end throw him together with the lowest of the low” (Ibn Mâjah, Zuhd, 16)

In the following verse, humble people are praised by Allah and described as follows:

And the servants of (Allah) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say «Peace!»” (Furqân, 25: 63)

In other verses, mankind is ordered to forsake arrogance and boasting:

“Nor walk on the earth with insolence: for thou canst not rend the earth asunder, nor reach the mountains in height.”(Isrâ’, 17: 37)

“And swell not thy cheek (for pride) at men nor walk in insolence through the earth; for Allah loveth not any arrogant boaster.”(Luqmân, 31: 18)

One should be mindful that, although humility is a virtue, it should not be a reason for disregarding the blessings of Allah. The point here is the discernment of attributing everything to Allah along with the perception of the blessing itself. In religion, this is known as tahadduth al-ni‘mah, that is to perceive the existence of the blessings by attributing them to Allah and being thankful for them. This is not arrogance. Arrogance is presuming that a given blessing is from one’s nafs, to regard it as being from oneself. It is this ego that caused Qârûn to be driven to destruction by his whims and buried into the ground. So, everything that is mentioned by Mawlânâ about the intellect, volition, humility and arrogance should be viewed on the grounds of these rational bases.

The Mathnawi: “Khidr made a hole in the ship and disabled it in order to protect it against some wicked people.”

“Considering that those who are broken, ruined and poor are saved, you too should be among the broken and ruined. Deliverance and security comes with non-existence. Come on, rescue yourself from the nafs and existence, go towards non-existence.”

“A mountain that has some gold or silver in it will be smashed to bits with the wounds made by a pickaxe.”

“The sword will cut the neck of the person with a neck. Whereas the shadow is spread out on the ground. There is no wounding it or cutting it because it has neither a neck nor a body.” (v.4: 2756-2759)

In the above verses Mawlânâ explains the same reality from different perspectives. Those who are arrogant stir the appetite of others and incite their enmity because they boast about their own merits constantly, ascribe things to themselves with exaggeration. In a famous proverb it is said: “Whatever a nightingale suffers is because of its voice”. This means that if the nightingale did not have such a beautiful song no one would put it in a cage. A crow is never kept in a cage.

Thus, we should state that it is merely a rule of this world that a person with merit has enemies, even if that person is like the Prophets, who only have attributes of perfection.

The Mathnawi: “O heedless ones that struggle for the possessions of this world and who worship it. You also fully possess the wicked immorality of the Pharaoh. You are arrogant, you are full of yourself and you run after possessions and lust! However, your dragon, which is your nafs, has fallen into the pit of feebleness and poverty. It is weak so it cannot attack like the Pharaoh, it cannot do anything.”

“Shame on you! All that has been said are your attributes, your wicked temperament. And you dare to ascribe them to the Pharaoh!”

“Whereas when your bad habits and wicked nature are the subject matter you are annoyed, you do not like it. When the subject is another, it sounds like a tale to you” (vol. 3: 971-973)

Every person has inclinations to both egoistic (nafsâniyyah) and spiritual (ruhâniyyah) directions. Allah Almighty says in the Qur’ân:

“And a soul and Him Who perfected it. And inspired it (with conscience of) what is wrong for it and (what is) right for it.”(Shams, 91: 7-8)

Transgression and piety are always in a state that whispers to man and inspires him. For this reason man is like a battlefield and there is a constant conflict between egoistic inclinations, which impels one towards evil, and spiritual inclinations, which impels one towards good.

It is accepted that when a human being conquers his nafs unconditionally he will be considered superior to the angels. However, if he succumbs to his nafs he will be considered lesser than an animal (bal hum adal)[2]. This condition of, being superior to the angels, is due to the fact that angels are not confronted by any obstacle such as the nafs when turn towards Allah in worship, as opposed to human beings who do have to overcome such ghastly obstacles. As such, every person inclines towards becoming a “pharaoh”. Everyone’s circumstances and means differ, so in some these inclinations are as small as buds, whereas in others, with the opportunities that arise, this inclination becomes overbearing and develops into enormous proportions.

Pointing to this fine trait, Mawlânâ Rûmî does not want people who make the Pharaoh a target for the arrows of their criticism and condemnation to forget that they have a lesser pharaoh within themselves. Because this lesser pharaoh has remained in its shell, it has not been able to reach the perfection of the circumstances of the famous historical Pharaoh. If this lesser Pharaoh were to find the circumstances to flourish, it would not lag behind the real Pharaoh who was determined in his oppression and ego.

In this regard, Rûmî points out that those who criticise others too often fool themselves into thinking that their nafs is above such criticism and he says that this situation arises from arrogance.

In another couplet, reiterating the same point, Rûmî says:

Arrogance, seeing oneself above others, constantly pursues a position, a rank, riches and possessions; because the rich are those who carry dung to heat the furnace of the bath withal.

These two nannies, rank and riches, fatten and thicken the hide and fill it with fat, meat, arrogance and pride.”

The Mathnawi: “Satan is the guide, the leader on the path of arrogance, because he is the first one to fall into and get caught in the trap of worldly  position?”

“This curse is the curse of Satan, Satan was overtaken by his own ego and said, “I have more good than him.” In truth, this illness is within every creation, in the nafs of every human being.” (v.1: 3216)

“O the person who is hiding the ills of the ego under the curtains of humility and modesty! If someone were to make you angry, stir you and agitate you, just like the water that has filth in it, the colour of filth will come out in the open.”(v. 1: 3218)

Among creation, only humans and the jinn are equipped with a nafs. According to a well-known opinion, Shaytân, before he rebelled against Allah, was the teacher of angels, but because he was from the lineage of the jinn, he possessed a nafs. For this reason, while the angels abided by Allah’s command without hesitation when they were ordered to prostrate before Adam, Shaytân claimed that being created from fire meant he was superior to Adam, who had been created from earth. So, he abstained from prostrating and rebelled against Allah. Yet Allah did not ask Shaytân who was superior.

Allah Almighty wanted Shaytân to obey His command to prostrate, but, disregarding this order, Shaytân went on to make a comparison. If we look for a way to avoid the clear decrees of Allah Almighty, if we call upon the feeble resorts of our intellect to set aside these decrees and prohibitions, we will fall into the same calamity and catastrophe that Shaytân did. Those who earn money through interest (ribâ) saying, “I want to become rich with this and do many good things with the money” are an example of this.

As mentioned above, because Shaytân is the first example of one caught up by the nafs, the first to oppose Allah due to arrogance, when this is the source of action then it is attributed to Shaytân and referred to as an Action of Shaytân. Rûmî considers those who turn away from Allah because of their arrogance to be the subjects of Shaytân. Those who are overtaken by the sin which caused the downfall of Shaytân cannot be saved from being rejected and cursed by Allah.

[1].    One who is submerged in Allah Almighty’s ashq to the extent that they forget everything else

[2].    This is a reference to the verse, “[The disbelievers] are like cattle, nay, they are more misguided than cattle”.