ANOTHER TREATMENT FOR TAKABBUR
Remind yourself of Allah’s greatness
Hadhrat Thanvi (may Allah have mercy on him) said;
“Another treatment of Takabbur is to keep reminding oneself of Allah Ta’ala’s greatness, especially at those times when there is a risk of Takabbur. What is even better is to set a time aside every day to reflect on Allah Ta’ala’s greatness.”
What is also worth reminding oneself of is the reply a wise elder gave to a Mutakabbir person. He said to the wise elder, “Do you not know who I am?” The wise elder replied, “I know very well who you are. Your beginning was a drop of dirty water. Your end will be a foul-smelling carcass. You will reach a situation when even your loved ones will not be willing to keep you at home. Rather they will throw you in a ditch because if they keep you at home, your foul odour will pervade through the whole house. And in between this beginning and end, you are carrying kilos of sewage within your body at any given time.”
Skin covers our filth
Allah Ta’ala has hidden our reality underneath our skin. If this skin is peeled off from any part, all sorts of secretions and excretions will come out. Our body carries so many things that we would never like to touch if they were outside, like blood, urine, faeces, pus etc. But we carry them all the time and never think about them. This is because Allah Ta’ala has hidden all of this underneath our skin and nobody is able to see them. Hadhrat Thanvi RE says that whenever you feel proud of yourself, just remind yourself how your life began, how it will end, and what sort of dirty things you are carrying inside your body under the cover of your body all the time.
Hadhrat Umar’s (may Allah be pleased with him) way of preventing Takabbur
Hadhrat Thanvi RE said;
“One component of treating Takabbur is to engage in those activities which people generally look down upon. Without this, other treatments are insufficient.”
This is what the holy Companions used to do.
Once Hadhrat Umar RAA put on an elegant robe at the time of giving a sermon. He really liked the robe and felt good about himself. After a short while, he took that robe off, picked up a waterskin, and started delivering water to people’s homes. Someone asked him, “What are you doing?” He replied, “Because I had developed some thoughts of ‘ujub’ (believing oneself to be better than others) therefore I am treating that thought by doing this.”
Hadhrat Abu Hurairah’s (RAA) way of preventing Takabbur
Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) always remained busy with learning and teaching. He had no interest in politics or leadership. Once when the governor of Bahrain was going on leave, Hadhrat Abu Hurairah RAA was appointed acting governor in his absence. He remained busy with the chores of governorship during the day. In the evening he put a stack of woods upon his head and passed through the Bazar calling out, “Get out of the way. The leader of Muslims is coming.” In this way he made sure that everyone would notice that this is the leader of Muslims who is carrying a stack of woods on his head. This was because he wanted to make sure that he would not develop Takabbur because of being a governor, so treated his inner-self like this.
Hadhrat Thanvi’s (RE) advice to Syed Sulaiman Nadvi RE
Once Hadhrat Syed Sulaiman Nadvi (may Allah have mercy on him) visited Hadhrat Thanvi (may Allah have mercy on him) in his Khanqah (seminary). At that time Syed Sulaiman Nadvi RE was famous in the whole of India for his scholarly knowledge. When he was leaving, he asked Hadhrat Thanvi RE, “Hadhrat, please give me some advice.” Hadhrat Thanvi RE said later on that he prayed to Allah Ta’ala, “O Allah. He is such a great scholar and he is asking me to give him advice. O’ Allah, please put some advice in my heart which will be useful for him. Then it suddenly came to my heart to say that in our Tareeq (way), there is only one thing to do in the beginning and at the end. It is to crush one’s ego.” Hadhrat Syed Sahib says that when Hadhrat Thanvi RE was saying this it affected my heart so much that I started crying.
Our Hadhrat (Dr Abdul Hai RE) used to say that after day Syed sahib crushed his ego in a way that there are very few examples when such a great scholar crushed his ego like that. One day I (Dr Abdul Hai RE) saw him sitting outside Hadhrat Thanvi’s spiritual gathering and putting the attendees’ shoes in order.
Do not follow your own opinion
When it is said in this Tareeq that sometimes a person has to do demeaning tasks, he should not do even these demeaning tasks following his own opinion. If a person keeps thinking of his own opinion as always correct and always follows it, that habit can lead to Takabbur (arrogance, grandiosity). He should do these tasks only if and when advised by his mentor. If his mentor tells him to do it, then he should do it, if not, then he shouldn’t.
A person had read in some book that one way of getting rid of Takabbur is to put other people’s shoes in order. He came to one of my father’s (Hadhrat Mufti Muhammad Shafi, may Allah have mercy on him) session and started putting everyone’s shoes in a line. My revered father told him not to do it. Afterwards he explained that this person’s thinking was such that if he started putting people’s shoes in order, his Takabbur would have increased further believing that he had developed so much Tawazu’ (humility) he put everyone’s shoes in order. That is why Hadhrat says that a person should traverse this path only under the guidance of a mentor.
The difference between Kibr and Shukr
Hadhrat Thanvi (may Allah have mercy on him) said;
“Feeling proud of what one has been blessed with is Kibr (grandiosity), while believing it to be a blessing from Allah Ta’ala and remembering that one wasn’t truly deserving of that blessing (and it was only Allah Ta’ala’s mercy that He blessed us with it) is Shukr.”
As had been mentioned before, the best treatment for Takabbur is abundance of Shukr (expressing one’s gratitude to Allah Ta’ala for His numerous blessings upon us), and to develop a habit of doing it frequently. In the quote above, Hadhrat Thanvi RE is saying the same thing that feeling proud of Allah Ta’ala’s blessings upon us to the extent that one starts believing oneself to be superior to others, and others inferior to oneself, is Takabbur. On the other hand, believing that I was not truly deserving of this blessing and had no inherent right to it, it is only Allah Ta’ala’s mercy that He has granted me with it, is Shukr, and this Shukr is the primary treatment for Takabbur. This is what is called Tehdees-e-Naimah (تحدیثِ نعمت) meaning acknowledging that Allah Ta’ala has granted me these blessings. This is not Takabbur, it is an act of worship, while boasting about one’s virtues (as if we have attained them through our own efforts alone) is a Takabbur and is a great sin.
The boundaries between these spiritual phenomena are quite blurred. On the one side, there is Tehdees-e-Naimah, meaning that if a person is talking about one of his qualities or one of the blessings of Allah Ta’ala with an intention of acknowledging Allah Ta’ala’s mercy upon him, it is an act of worship. But if he is boasting about the same things to let other people know how superior to everyone else he is, then it constitutes Takabbur which is a major sin. However, differentiating between the two is not an easy task, and only an expert who has been trained in the treatment of illnesses of the spirit can do so.
The importance of Tehdees-e-Naimah
Tehdees-e-Naimah (acknowledging Allah Ta’ala’s blessings upon oneself) is such an important act of worship that Allah Ta’ala has commanded the Holy Prophet ﷺ in the Holy Qur’an to perform it;
“And about the bounty of your Lord, do talk.” (93:11)
In obedience of this divine command the Holy Prophet ﷺ recounted Allah Ta’ala’s blessings upon himself on many occasions. On one occasion he said;
“I am the leader of the sons of Adam. But I do not take pride in it.”
In obedience to Allah Ta’ala’s command he acknowledged that Allah Ta’ala had made him the leader, the master, of all the progeny of Hadhrat Adam (peace be upon him). However, he was also mindful that this Tehdees-e-Naimah should not enter into the realm of Takabbur, so he immediately added that I am not proud of it, I do not boast about it. This is worth learning that even the Holy Prophet ﷺ was so careful that any of his words may not cross the line of Takabbur even in appearance.
Tehdees-e-Naimah’s effect on a person’s behaviour
True Tehdees-e-Naimah is also reflected in a person’s behaviour. It leads to a person becoming more humble, and prostrating and submitting himself with modesty in front of Allah Ta’ala. This is because this person acknowledges in front of Allah Ta’ala that ‘O Allah, I was not deserving of this blessing, I was helpless to obtain this blessing on my own. It is only through Your mercy that You granted it to me.’ This acknowledgement leads to even more humility.
The Holy Prophet’s ﷺ humility at the time of conquest of Makkah
On the day of conquest of Makkah, the Holy Prophet ﷺ was entering that city as a conqueror the residents of which had forced him to leave his city of birth, had plotted to kill him, had thrown filth over him, had thrown stones at him. Had it been anyone else entering that city as a conqueror in those circumstances, he would have been holding his head high with arrogance, his neck would have been stiff, and he would have been shouting “there is no one like me”. But the Holy Prophet ﷺ entered Makkah in a fashion that his head was bowed to the extent that his chin was touching his chest, tears were running from his eyes, and he was reciting the following verses of the Holy Qur’an;
“Surely, We have granted you an open victory, so that Allah may forgive you of your previous and subsequent faults, and may complete His favour upon you, and may guide you to a straight path,” (48:1-2)
This is true Tehdees-e-Naimah because by reciting the verses “انّا فتحنا لک فتحا مبینا” the Holy Prophet ﷺ is reminding himself that this conquest has been granted by Allah Ta’ala and that it is Allah’s blessing upon the Muslims. And this reminding oneself of blessings of Allah Ta’ala upon oneself leads a person to developing humility and gratefulness, and to orientating oneself even more towards Allah Ta’ala. These are signs that this is Tehdees-e-Naimah.
The signs of Takabbur
On the other hand, the signs of boasting and Takabbur are that a person becomes even more stiff-necked, he starts thinking that he is superior to others and others are inferior to him, and he starts treating other people in a belittling and condescending manner. At the very least, in his heart he starts thinking of himself as being better than others. Now delineating between the two, deciding whether if a person is saying something good about himself is due to Takabbur or Tehdees-e-Naimah, is not an easy task. This is where a person needs a mentor. That mentor is able to tell him that when you are describing your own virtues, this is not Tehdees-e-Naimah, this is Takabbur.
Signs of Tehdees-e-Naimah
If a person wants to know if he is saying good things about himself out of Takabbur or Tehdees-e-Naimah he should monitor his inner-self whether he is developing humility or not, whether Khushu’ (humbleness of heart) is growing in his heart or not, whether he is remembering Allah Ta’ala more than before or not? If the person is developing all these traits, it means that he has got Tehdees-e-Naimah in his heart. That is the sign of a true Momin (believer) that the more he is blessed with Allah Ta’ala’s benediction, the more he prostrates before Allah Ta’ala in humility. He becomes more aware of how insignificant he is. He submits his ego more and more in front of Allah Ta’ala because he realizes that he is Allah’s subject, and he acknowledges that in his heart. Therefore, whenever Allah Ta’ala showers one of His blessings upon him, his heart acknowledges that ‘Allah Ta’ala, I did not deserve this blessing, it is Your mercy that you have granted this to me’. The more the blessings increase, the more he remembers Allah Ta’ala in his heart.
Hadhrat Sulaiman’s (peace be upon him) Shukr
Allah Ta’ala had granted Hadhrat Dawood and his son Hadhrat Sulaiman (peace be upon them) with many blessings. For example, He blessed Hadhrat Sulaiman AS with the power to rule not just human beings, but also Jinn, animals, birds, and wind, a rule that was not given to anyone before or after him. After giving him all these blessings Allah Ta’ala said;
“…Do good, O family of Dawud, in thankfulness. Very few from My slaves are thankful.” (34:13)
It has been reported that Hadhrat Dawood AS had made sure that no moment in whole day and night should pass without some member of his family doing Allah’s Dhikr (remembrance) or Shukr. He had divided the 24 hours upon his family members that from this time to this time, this family will be performing Dhikr, and from this time to this time such and such family member will be doing Dhikr.
The more he was gifted with Allah Ta’ala’s blessings, the more Hadhrat Sulaiman (peace be upon him) turned towards Allah. He made this prayer which has been quoted in the Holy Qur’an;
“…My Lord, enable me to become grateful to Your favour that you have bestowed on me and on my parents, and to do good deeds that You like, and admit me, with Your mercy, among Your righteous servants.”
These are the characteristics of a true Momin that the more he is gifted with Allah Ta’ala’s blessings, the more Tawazu’ he develops, the humbler he becomes, and the more he turns towards Allah Ta’ala.
The character of a malevolent person
On the other hand, it is the character of a malevolent person that the more blessings he receives from Allah Ta’ala, the more arrogant he gets. The Arabic poet Mutabanni has said that if you respect a person of good moral character and treat him well, he will become your slave. It is because a decent person never forgets if someone does good to him. On the other hand, if you respect a morally deficient person, he will become even more arrogant, and you will need to fear him.
Similarly, if a person receives Allah’s blessings and as a result he submits himself more and more in front of Allah Ta’ala, it indicates that this person is grateful to Allah Ta’ala. If he mentions that blessing in front of other people acknowledging it is a blessing from Allah Ta’ala, and even then he is apprehensive that he does not commit Takabbur or bragging, then this is Tehdees-e-Naimah. However, if he boasts about the blessings Allah Ta’ala has granted him that I am so and so, I can do such and such things, and believes himself to be better than others, then in that situation regardless of the words he uses, this is Takabbur, it is not Tehdees-e-Naimah.
The need for a mentor
While this is the theory of Tehdees-e-Naimah, usually a person cannot apply this theory objectively to his own behaviour. That is why a person needs a mentor who is an expert in these matters. When the mentee tells others about Allah’s blessings upon him to other people, he should then tell the mentor the details of that disclosure, and ask whether he had crossed the boundaries of Tehdees-e-Naimah while doing it. The mentor will tell him whether he had or hadn’t, and where the boundary between the two lies. Once the mentee goes through this process fifteen or twenty times, he will start developing an internal sense of that boundary. Then he will start realising himself where his disclosure of Allah’s blessings upon him was within the bounds of Tehdees-e-Naimah, and where it had crossed into Takabbur. May Allah Ta’ala give us all the motivation to act on these teachings. Aameen
وآخر دعوا ان الحمد ﷲ رب العالمين