Tawadhu’ (Humility)

Tawadhu’ is to be humble and to be aware of one’s nothingness before Allah. A person may have been given knowledge, position and property. However, he must not, as a result, oppress either physically or spiritually others who have been deprived of such things and claim to be superior to them.

The poet has expressed it well:

Do not be proud of your property and wealth, and do not say ‘is there any other like me?

For an adverse wind may come and blow everything away’…

Every instant and every tomorrow belongs to Allah and no one knows what will befall him in the future.

Almighty Allah says in the Qur’an: ‘…and spread the wings of thy tenderness over all of the believers who may follow thee’ (Shu’ara, 26:215).

‘The slaves of the All-Merciful are those who walk lightly on the earth and, who, when the ignorant speak to them, say, ‘Peace’(Furqan, 25:63).

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has said:

“Allah has commanded me as follows:

Show such humility that none of you boasts to others and none of you oppresses another”(Muslim, Jannah, 64).

“Whoever shows humility in the face of other of Allah’s servants purely to gain the pleasure of Allah, Allah will raise him in degree”(Ibn Maja, Zuhd, 16)

The prophet Idris (upon whom be peace) would offer advice to his people with wise words. One of these pieces of wisdom is as follows:

“As the degree of the intelligent person rises, so does their humility”.

Yusuf-i Asbat explains how to perfect the state of tawadhu’, which is a type of ‘nothingness’, as follows:

“Whenever you leave your house in the morning look on whoever you come across as being superior to you. Tawadhu’ is such that you accept a truthful word told to you no matter who it comes from, and that you see those inferior to you as being above you. Let those who disparage you and those who praise you be equal in your eyes…”

Allah Most High will bestow the bliss of the afterlife on those who did not boast of pomp and grandeur in this world, who did not make mischief nor cause sedition, and whose hearts were filled with the love of Allah. Those who distanced themselves from the blessing of tawadhu’ and embraced vile traits have not been able to escape becoming a Pharaoh. In that case we need to embrace tawadhu’ and free ourselves of such contemptible traits.

The Holy Qur’an states:

‘That abode of the afterlife – We grant it to those who do not seek to exalt themselves in the earth or to cause corruption in it. The successful outcome is for those who have taqwa’. (Qassas 28:83)

The poet has also expressed it very beautifully:

A seed that has not been planted in the ground cannot develop

(So too) the mercy of the Most Merciful will nourish the one who is humble.[1]

The Companions of the Prophet never took advantage of the worldly position and status entrusted to them by Allah and never became disillusioned with pride and arrogance as a sort of superiority. They adopted the humble lifestyle of the Prophet (pbuh) and made it a principle in their lives. The city state of Madina was established with approximately four hundred families, but within 10 years its borders had reached Iraq and Palestine. At the time of the death of the Prophet (pbuh), there was a war between the Byzantines and the Persians. Booty was flowing into Madina. However that state of the Companions 10 years ago, that is, their state of disattachment from the world, and their modest lifestyles, the economy of their houses and their enthusiasm for giving out, did not change in the slightest. They were terrified that the pleasure they received from their faith would be harmed and so they were painstakingly careful about not using worldly bounties for their own purposes. This is why they directed their lives towards gaining the pleasure of Allah.

Scenes of Virtue

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who was sent as a mercy to all the worlds and was the reason for the creation of the universe, managed to preserve his state of tawadhu’ and humility despite possessing most elevated virtues and traits. He would repeat constantly: “La fakhr”, or “I do not boast”.

One time the Companions were talking amongst themselves. They were expressing their wonder at how Allah had befriended a human whom he had created, that is the prophet Ibrahîm, how He spoke with the prophet Mûsa, how the prophet Jesus was His Word and Spirit, and His choosing the prophet Adam. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) came and heard them. He confirmed what they said by saying: “Yes, it is just as you say”. Then he mentioned his own particular characteristics:

“I am the master of the prophets, but I am not boasting! I am the last of the prophets, but there is no boasting! I will be the first to intercede for my community and my intercession will be the first to be granted, but in no way am I saying this in order to boast”(Darimi, Mukaddima, 8).

“On the Day of Judgement, when the earth will be split open, I will be the first to be resurrected, however I am not saying this to boast. The banner of praise will be given to me, but I do not boast of this. I will be the master of the People on the Day of Judgement, but there is no boasting. I will be the first to enter Paradise, but I do not make this a reason for me to boast.”(Darimi, Muqaddima, 8. Also see Tirmidhi, Manakib, 1/3616).


The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had a food tray called ‘Garra’, which could only be carried by four people. After they had prayed the Duha prayer, the tray was brought forth, containing ‘tirit’ a type of gravy-soaked bread. The Companions gathered around. When their number had increased, the Prophet kneeled down beside them. A Bedouin who saw him said:

“What sort of a way to sit is this?” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) replied:

“Allah Most High made me a noble servant, not an obstinate tyrant”. Then he continued:

“Start eating from around the edges of the plate. Do not start from the centre, so that our food will be blessed”(Abu Dawud, At’ime, 17/3773).


Abdullah ibn Jubayr (r.a) narrates:

“One day, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was walking with a group of his Companions when someone came forth and wished to shade him from the sun with a type of covering. When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) noticed the resulting shadow he lifted his head and saw that it was caused by the covering. The Prophet told the man to let the sheet go, then he took the covering and placed it on the ground, saying: “I am a human being just like you” (Haysami, IX, 21).


The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

It is enough of a sin for a man to (want to) be distinguished from others”

He was asked:

“Even if he is distinguished by his goodness, o Messenger of Allah?”

The Prophet replied:

“Even if he is good, except for that which Allah has preserved. If he is noticed for his evil, then this state is bad anyway”(Tabarani, Kabir, XIII, 138/14971. See also Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 21/2453).


The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did not like to be treated differently from his friends. One time during an expedition, he asked his Companions to slaughter and cook a sheep. One of his Companions said:

“O Messenger of Allah, let me slaughter it”

Another said:

“O Messenger of Allah and let me skin it”.

Another said:

“O Messenger of Allah, and let be the one to cook it”

The Prophet then said:

In that case, let me fetch the firewood”.

His Companions said:

“O Messenger of Allah. We will do that too. Do not tire yourself”

The Prophet then said:

I know that you can do my tasks. However I do not like to be given privilege over you. Because Allah Most High does not like for his servants to be be shown privilege amongst his friends[2]

The entry of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) into Mecca after he had conquered it, is another example of great humility. The Companions who were present have described it as follows:

“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was at the head of the army that had entered Mecca after its conquest. The victory had taken place with great ease and as he entered Mecca on his camel, his head was hung so low out of humility towards his Lord, that his beard was virtually touching the saddle of the camel. He was practically prostrating out of gratitude. All the while he kept saying:

“O Allah. There is no life but the life of the hereafter”(Wakidi, II, 824, Bukhari, Rikak, I)[3].


One day the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) had gone to farewell Muadh ibn Jabal  whom he had appointed as governor of Yemen. With him were some Companions from the Emigrants and the Helpers. Muadh  was upon his animal, whilst Allah’s Messenger was beside him on foot. Out of embarrassment, Muadh  said to the Prophet:

“O Messenger of Allah! I am astride my animal while you are on foot. Can I get down and walk together with you and your Companions?” The Prophet consoled him and expressed the matter that was occupying his mind:

“O Muadh! It is my wish that these steps I take be steps taken in the path of Allah.” [4]

Thus the Prophet (pbuh) was such a paragon of humility. His concern was never for himself. The only thing he cared about, to the degree that it wore him out, was that people would be guided and gain happiness in this world and the next.


Anas (r.a) had grown up under the nurturing care of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Whenever he passed by some children he would greet them and say:

“The Prophet (pbuh) would similarly greet children like this” (Bukhari, Isti’zan, 15; Muslim, Salam, 15)

In another narration, Anas (r.a) says:

“On one of those days during my childhood when I was playing a game with the other children, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) approached and greeted us. He took me by the hand and sent me off on an errand. He himself waited by the shade of the wall until I returned” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 135-13/5203).

From what we have learned again from Anas  is that the Prophet (pbuh) would go to visit the Ansar from time to time. When he arrived at their houses he would greet the children, pat their heads and pray for them. (Nasai, as “Sunan al-Kubra,” VI, 90).


Anas (r.a) narrates:

“Any of the female slaves of Medina could take hold of the hand of Allah’s Apostle and take him wherever she wished.” (Bukhari, Adab, 61).

One day a woman called Ummu Zufer, who was a little unbalanced, came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). She said to him:

“O Messenger of Allah! I have something I need done by you”.

The Prophet replied:

So be it. Let us meet where you like and let me help you”. He then moved to the side of the road and listened to the woman until her matter had been taken care of (Muslim, Fadail, 76; Abu Dawud, Adab, 12/4818).


Aisha (r.a), the Prophet’s wife, was asked:

“What did the Prophet used to do at home?”

She replied:

“He would help his family and when it came time for the prayer he would pray”. (Bukhari, Athan 44, Nafakat 8, Adab 40).


The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would see to his own needs and he would help his family. From the narrations on this topic, the following can be concluded:

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would clean his own clothes, he would milk the sheep, mend his clothes, repair his shoes, sweep his house, tie his camel and give it its food, eat with servants, knead dough with them, and carry what he bought from the market. One time when Abu Huraira  tried to carry some clothes the Prophet had bought, he said to him:

It is more fitting for a person to carry his own things. Only when he is incapable of this, can his Muslim brother help him”. (Haysami, V, 122). Umar  and Ali  who had modelled their lives on the Prophet’s life, would wander the markets themselves, attending to the needs of their homes, even while they were caliphs.


Aisha (r.a) again narrates the following even which shows how the Prophet would help her with household chores with great humility:

“One night, the family of my father, Abu Bakr, sent us a leg of lamb. Allah’s Messenger held it while I cut it, or I held it and he cut it”.

Someone who was listening asked:

“Did you do this in the dark, with no light?”

Aisha (r.a) replied:

“Had we any oil to place in the lantern, we would certainly have dipped our bread into it and eaten it. One month would pass where the family of Muhammad (pbuh) would find no bread to eat, and no pots would boil on their stove” (Ahmad, VI, 217; Ibn Sa’d, I, 405).


The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has said:

“If I am invited to eat a leg or shoulder-blade of meat, I attend immediately. If a gift of either a shoulder blade or leg of meat is made to me, I immediately accept it”.(Bukhari, Hibe 2, Nikah 73; Muslim, Nikah 104).

Thus the size of the gift is not important. The aim is to please and increase one’s fellow love. To be able to reach this state of heart one must don the robe of humility.


For Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) there was nothing above being a servant of Almighty Allah. A narration that elaborates on this belief of the Prophet is as follows:

One day the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was sitting talking with the angel Gabriel. At that point another angel descended from the heavens. Gabriel told him that this angel had appeared on earth for the first time. The angel said:

“O Muhammad! My Lord sent me to you. He asks whether you would want to be a king prophet or a servant prophet”.

The Prophet looked at Gabriel, who said:

“O Messenger of Allah! Be humble before your Lord”

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“I wish to be a servant prophet”. (Ahmad II, 231; Haysami, IX, 18, 20).

He thus displayed an exceptional model of humility. After this choice of his, servanthood became the most honourable position that mankind could aim for. To those who showed him excess reverence, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) warned:

“Do not exalt me anymore than I deserve. Because before He sent me as a messenger, Allah Most High made me a servant”. (Haysami, IX, 21). Thus the Prophet expressed the value and virtue of being a servant of Allah.

*was a very humble person. He would wear patched clothes, carry water and food to the houses of widows and orphans, sleep on a straw mat, and would groom and clean his camels with his own hands. During the time when he was Caliph, he would roam the streets at night listening to the people’s complaints. Abu Mahzura  reports of his humility as follows:

“One day while I was sitting next to Umar ibn Khattab , Safwan ibn Ummaya brought a bowl of food, and placed it in front of Umar. Umar called the poor and needy and the slaves located near him. They all came and ate with Umar. While they were eating Umar said:

“Allah will not bring success to those who are embarrassed to eat with slaves”. Upon this Safwan ibn Umayya said:

“By Allah! We are not ashamed to eat with them. However we prefer them over ourselves such that when we have delicious and tasty food to eat then we offer it to them (Ali al-Muttaki, IX, 198/25650).


Another time during the caliphate of Umar , he was walking with Jarud ibn Mualla, one of the Companions, when they encountered Khawlah ibnt-i Sa’laba. Khawlah, who was a young lady during the time of the Prophet (pbuh), was now an old woman. It was her complaint about her husband to the Prophet that was the reason for the first verses of the chapter ‘Mujadila’ being revealed. When this lady Companion saw Umar, she wished to give him some advice:

“O Umar!”.

When Umar (r.a) stopped, Khawlah spoke to him:

“We used to call you ‘little Umar’ for a long time. Then when you grew up we called you ‘young Umar’. Now we address you as ‘Umar, the Commander of the Believers’. O Umar, fear Allah and concern yourself with the affairs of the people. For the one who fears the punishment of Allah, whatever is far becomes near. The one who fears death will be anxious about not missing any opportunity.”

Umar was very moved by these words and began to cry. Jarud, who felt for him, turned to Khawlah and said:

“That is enough woman! You have upset the Commander of the Believers”. However Umar turned to him and said:

“Leave her be. Let her say what she wishes. Do you know who this woman is? This is Khawlah, esteemed by Allah Most High, who heard her complaint from His Mighty Throne. By Allah if she wished to keep me here all night, I would go and pray and then come back and listen to her”. [5]

This is an evident example of the humble state of a believer such as Umar , who was exceptional in his character, especially in matters such as fear of Allah, reverence and love for Allah, truth, justice and responsibility.


In his own unique style Jalaluddin al-Rumi tells of the following event that is a good example of the humility of Umar (r.a), and that has a lesson for all:

One time an envoy from Rome came to Madina for a political meeting. He asked where the palace of Umar was. He was given the following reply:

“The title of the Caliph is the ‘Commander of the Believers’, and though his reign may have spread all over the world, he has no palace to his name. Rather his heart is his own shining palace. He has a small hut in which he lives, which is similar to that in which the lonely, poor and wayfarers take refuge. However, due to the defect in your eye you will not be able to see this spiritual and unworldly palace of his heart”.

The Roman envoy was terrified at these words. He left his load, his horse and his gifts, and began to search for Umar al-Faruq. He asked for him everywhere. Unable to find him and in amazement he mumbled to himself:

“So there is a ruler in this land who is able to remain invisible to the watch of people, just like a spirit…” Nevertheless, he continued to search for the Caliph.

Finally an Arab woman said to him:

“The Caliph that you are looking for is right there under that date tree. While everybody lies down in their bed and on their (soft) mattress, he does the opposite and lies down on the sand. Go and see for yourself the ‘shadow of Allah’, lying down in the shade of that date tree…”

The envoy sensed a certain majesty about the sleeping Umar, and his spirit was pleasantly moved. He was amazed at the two feelings of both love and awe which though they are opposites, came together within his own soul. He said to himself:

“I am a person who has met with emperors and been praised by them. Though I have never seen such majesty in them, this man’s awe and love have made me lose consciousness.

This Caliph lies here sleeping defenceless and without a sword. And yet here I am standing before him, my entire body trembling. What is this state? How can this be? This awe must come from Allah. It cannot belong to this person here wearing this coarse cloak…”

While the envoy was in this mixed-up state, Umar  woke up. The envoy greeted him with reverence. The Caliph responded to the greeting. He then began to speak to the envoy, inviting him to the palace of his soul where he then found peace. He mended and healed his heart which had formerly been in ruins. He spoke to him the most subtle, deep and wise of words.

As he listened, the envoy witnessed different states and degrees. The envoy who had come to Umar  as a stranger now became a dear friend. He was ecstatic with the pleasure he received from his words. He forgot that he was an envoy and that he had come to give and receive a message.

Sensing his state, and receiving a certain pleasure of his own, Umar  continued to speak to him. He spoke of the stopovers that the soul must take and the journey of the spirit. He spoke of time beyond time, the elevated states of the precious friends of Allah, and the unlimited potential of the soul which has been brought to this world.

Eventually the light of faith shone in the heart of the envoy and he pronounced the declaration of faith in the presence of the Caliph. Thus he joined that (happy) caravan travelling to eternal happiness.


One day Ahnaf ibn Qays (r.a)  went to visit Umar (r.a) along with some of the leading men of the Arabs. When they arrived they found him running around with his cloak folded up over his belly. When Umar (r.a) saw Ahnaf, he said to him:

“Come and help. A camel belonging to the state has escaped. Do you know how many people have a share in this camel?”

Somebody then said to him:

“What are you so worried about? Can you not appoint a slave to catch the camel for you?” Umar  replied:

“Can there be a better slave than me?”.

What an elevated character! What subtle understanding and what great humility…


Whilst Salman was the governor of Madain, somebody belonging to the tribe of the sons of Taym arrived from Damascus. He had brought with him a load of figs. Salman  had on him a dress and a coarse cloak. The Damascan did not know Salman. When he saw him in this state he said to him:

“Come and carry this”.

Salman  took the load upon his shoulders. When the people saw him they recognised him and said to the man:

“This man carrying your load is our governor”.

The Damascan immediately apologised:

“I am sorry, I did not recognise you”. However Salman  replied:

“No harm done. But I will not let down your load until I have carried it to your house” (Ibn Sa’d, IV, 88).


One day when the grandson of the Prophet, Hussain , was walking the streets, he encountered some poor people eating breadcrumbs. The poor people called out to him:

“O servant of Allah. Come and join us…”

Being a very humble person, Hussain accepted their invitation. He immediately got down from his horse and began to eat from what they were eating. When they had finished, this beautiful grandson of the Prophet said:

“I have accepted your invitation. Come now, I am inviting you to my house…” And then they all went together to eat at that most blissful of houses.


The great scholars of this noble and pure community of believers have their own examples of humility. One day, the Caliph, Harun al-Rashid asked Imam Abu Yusuf about some matter.

Abu Yusuf replied:

“I do not know” The Caliph’s assistant said to Abu Yusuf:

“You are paid a good salary and an allowance and yet you say “I do not know”.

Abu Yusuf replied:

“My salary is according to my knowledge. If I were given a salary for all the things I did not know there would not be enough money in the treasury to pay me…”

In a confession of his weakness, Al-Ghazzali also displayed similar humility:

“If I could put all of the things that I did not know compared to all the things I do know under my foot, my head would touch the sky”.


Whilst still a student and without having received his license to teach, Khalid al-Baghdadi, was yet distinguished in his knowledge and had attracted the attention of all. At that time, the governor of Sulaymaniye, Abdurrahman Pasha, came to visit him and was amazed at his knowledge and wisdom:

“Choose whichever of the schools of Sulaymaniye and I will appoint you as its teacher”. However, out of respect for the tradition of knowledge and not having yet received his license to teach, he did not accept this offer and said instead: “I am not qualified for this position”.[6]


Yildirim Bayazid Han invited all of the great shaykhs and scholars, most notably Amir Bukhari to the opening of Ulu Cami (the great mosque in Bursa).

It was a Friday morning and everyone gathered together for the ceremony. A little while later, Yildirim Bayazid Han appeared and said to Amir Bukhari, his son-in-law:

“O Amir! Come and open the doors of the Mosque and lead the prayer. As one of the great men of this community, this honour belongs to you”.

It was with great modesty that Amir Bukhari objected and said:

“No my Sultan! You should give this honour to Shaykh Abu Hamiduddin”

However, Bayezid Han had never heard of this person and asked:

“Who is this?”

Amir Bukhari replied:

“My Sultan. You may have heard of a person known as Somuncu Baba who is a baker. He gave out much bread during the construction of Ulu Cami. This person is none other than Abu Hamiduddin, a great friend of Allah”.

Upon this, the Sultan accepted this offer. Amir Bukhari then rose and introduced Somuncu Baba to the congregation and then invited him to the pulpit. Greatly embarrassed, Somuncu Baba said:

“O my commander! What have you done? You have disclosed me…” as he slowly walked to the pulpit in the greatest of humility.

That day on the pulpit, Somuncu Baba gave seven different commentaries on the opening chapter of the Qur’an, Al-Fatiha. After that, however, he left Bursa and took his student Haji Bayram-i Wali with him to hajj, a necessary step, his secret having been disclosed to the public.


On the 15th of February in 1517, Yavuz Sultan Selim Han entered the palace of the Mamluks under great ceremony. The historian of that time explains how the public received Yavuz in Egypt as follows:

“The public poured onto the streets and ran to their windows to see the magnificence of Yavuz. They thought Yavuz would be different, his clothes and turban unique from those around him. However, Yavuz was not at the head of the ceremony, but rather in the middle amongst the warriors. Neither his dress, nor his turban was any different to those around him. He walked very humbly looking straight ahead”.


After the expedition to Egypt, Yavuz Sultan Selim Han returned to Istanbul in the daytime via Uskudar. Having been informed that the people of Istanbul were going to receive him with much ceremony and praise, he said to his personal tutor Hasan Can:

“Let the night fall, let everyone return to their homes, let the streets be empty and then I will enter Istanbul. Let not the applause of mortal beings, and the compliments and decorations of victory defeat our souls and bring us down…”

Thus we see Yavuz – a frightening lion in the Desert of Sinai; a teary-eyed humble and grateful believer at the gates of Egypt; and a darwish taking his soul to account and ever seeking divine and deep pleasure. He read to Hasan Can the following lines:

To be the sultan of the world is a dry claim

To be a saint is better than all of it…


When news arrived at the palace of the epic victory at Kanije, Sultan III. Mehmed Han, was more than pleased and offered the position of vizier to Tiryaki Hasan Pasha who was the greatest agent of the victory. In addition he sent the Pasha many precious gifts and a letter written in the Pasha’s own handwriting.

Reading this letter in front of the war veterans, Tiryaki Hasan Pasha nonetheless displayed great humility, in spite of his peerless victory. He was very modest as he said to those around him:
“The Sultan of our state has appointed us as vizier and has even sent me a letter written with his own handwriting in reward for our mere defence at Kanije. However, all we did was our duty. Is this aged old man worthy of the viziership of such a great state? May Allah protect our state and our nation!”


The great Sinan, the genius of Ottoman architecture considered himself a tiny ant in the face of Allah, despite having such great success. This was because he was a peerless leader of humility.

Mimar Sinan put all his efforts into ensuring that the Sulaymaniye Mosque would remain erect until the Day of Judgement. He made many prayers in this vein and as a result, with the grace of Allah, he produced a masterpiece that has no equal. However when it came time to making his own tomb, he lodged it in a corner of the mosque as a modest signature. Despite having built such famous and magnificent mosques and so that he did not become proud and arrogant, in addition to signing his name as ‘Ser-Mimaran-i Hassa (the Head of the Master Architects) he would also use the titles ‘Mur’i Natuvan’ (weak ant), and ‘Al-Fakiru’l Hakir’ (the poor lowly one). Likewise at the completion of his greatest masterpiece, Selimiye Mosque, he was asked to write his name in the plaque to be placed at the door of the mosque. In response he said:

“Who am I to place my name in the house of Allah!…” Thus he displayed a deep spirituality that was equal to the splendour of his works…


One day, Sultan Ahmad Han sent a very precious gift to his beloved teacher Mahmud Hudayi. However, Mahmud Hudayi did not accept the gift. Since Sultan Ahmad Han had already promised to give the gift away, he then sent it to the shaykh of those times, Abdulmajid Siwasi. He accepted, and later, when Sultan Ahmad Han went to visit Abdulmajid Siwasi he said to him:

“My master! I previously sent this gift to my master Mahmud Hudayi, however he refused it. But you have accepted.”

Understanding what was implied, Sivasi gave the following significant reply:

“My Sultan! Master Hudayi is such an elevated bird that he does not condescend to eating dead carcasses”.

The Sultan was pleased at this response and a few days later he went to visit Master Hudayi. He said to him:

“My master. Master Abdulmajid accepted my gift that you refused”

With a smile on his face, master Hudayi replied:

“My Sultan! Master Abdulmajid is a deep ocean. A tiny drop of dirt falling into a great ocean cannot harm its purity”.

What a beautiful example of Islamic courtesy and what an unparalleled example of humility…


A. Brayer, the French doctor who resided in Istanbul for many years, and who meticulously observed the social life of the Ottomans has the following to say:

“As a result of their modesty and manners the qualities of pride and arrogance have virtually disappeared from the Muslim Turks. This is because pride and arrogance are two negative traits that Islam has strongly banned. The Muslims are always warning each other of the following:

“Do not walk proudly on the earth and do not turn away from the people out of arrogance”.

“Allah loathes the one who is self-conceited and arrogant”

“Be humble in your actions, and speak with a soft voice”

“Pride comes from ignorance, the scholar is never proud”.

“Humility gives a person dignity”

It is because of this that there is a dignity and majesty in the walk of the Ottoman, but at the same time, there is no pride, nor pomp. They always speak softly. You can never sense a dictatorial air in their gestures. And there is a sweetness and ease in their service”.

And so this state of mind in the social life of the Ottomans could be found right throughout the entire community from the most ordinary individual to the Sultan. Thus from its beginnings to its destruction, the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire would, as they attended each Friday sermon, order their paid soldiers to call out to them:

“Do not be arrogant my sultan; Allah is greater than you…” They had made this official warning a tradition.

In short, there are many bounties in being humble. The humble person is generous. The generous person is compassionate. The compassionate person is full of joy and enthusiasm in serving other creatures. And this is a means of attaining our Lord’s pleasure. A person who is distant from humility is deprived of all of these beautiful traits.

Because discernment and insight develop in the humble person, he can then distinguish between friend and foe.

Humility is a very important trait as it beautifies a person, matures them in their servanthood, and brings form to their character. Rumi has said:

“Even in the season of spring you will not find life coming out of hard rock. Be humble like the earth so that flowers and roses of all colours can blossom from within you?”

In reality, the living beings that walk upon the earth trample it and leave dust in their wake. However, the earth, with its great humility, soaks and cleans up of all of this dust. And then from within it, bloom all variety of beautiful plants which nourish the creatures that walk upon it. So too the heart of a righteous believer should be just like the fruitful earth. It should reflect all of the beauty present within it and present it to the people and to all of creation in the form of a beautiful poem.

[1].     Unless the seed is planted in the earth it cannot germinate and grow. In this respect Allah’s mercy does not nourish and fall on those who are proud and arrogant but rather on those who are humble and modest.

[2].     Kastallani, “al Mawahibu al-Ladunniyye,” Egypt, 1281, I, 385)

[3].     The Messenger of Allah e would frequently repeat this as an expression of the importance of the hereafter compared to this world. According to the narrations, he is said to have repeated it during the construction of the Masjid-i Nabawi (The Prophet’s Mosque), while the trenches were being dug at the Battle of Hendek, whilst entering Mecca after its conquest, and when he saw the multitude of believers on the Day of ARafa during the farewell pilgrimage. (Bukhari, Jihad 33, 110, Manakibu’l Ansar 9, Magazi 29; Muslim, Jihad 126, 129; Tirmidhi, Manakib 55; Ibn Majah, Masajid 3)

[4].     Diyarbakri, “Tarihu’l Hamis,” Beirut ts. II 142)

[5].     See Mehmed Zihni Efendi, “Meshur Kadinlar,” Istanbul ts., I, 250; M. Yasar Kandemir, I. Lutfi Cakan, Rasit Kucuk, “Riyadhus Saliheen – Translation and Exegesis,” III, 508

[6].     Heyet, “Islam Alimleri Ansiklopedisi,” Istanbul, ts. Turkiye Gazetesi Publications, XVIII, 78

o have repeated it during the construction of the Masjid-i Nabawi (The Prophet’s Mosque), while the trenches were being dug at the Battle of Hendek, whilst entering Mecca after its conquest, and when he saw the multitude of believers on the Day of ARafa during the farewell pilgrimage. (Bukhari, Jihad 33, 110, Manakibu’l Ansar 9, Magazi 29; Muslim, Jihad 126, 129; Tirmidhi, Manakib 55; Ibn Majah, Masajid 3)

[4].     Diyarbakri, “Tarihu’l Hamis,” Beirut ts. II 142)

[5].     See Mehmed Zihni Efendi, “Meshur Kadinlar,” Istanbul ts., I, 250; M. Yasar Kandemir, I. Lutfi Cakan, Rasit Kucuk, “Riyadhus Saliheen – Translation and Exegesis,” III, 508

[6].     Heyet, “Islam Alimleri Ansiklopedisi,” Istanbul, ts. Turkiye Gazetesi Publications, XVIII, 78