By Imam Shamsi Ali
We learn from history and also as mentioned in the Holy Quran that when Allah commanded the angels to portray themselves in respect of Adam, they all obediently did except Iblis (literally means “the cursed one”). Although Iblis was not naturally created from the light as the angels were, he was placed religiously in the position of the angels. Hence, he was considered a part of that commandment to give respect to Adam.
When asked why he rejected to give respect to Adam, he answered: “I am better than him”. In that same verse of the Qur’an he explained his reasoning for why he feels he is better than Adam. When he was asked what prevents you to prostrate (in respect) to Adam? He said: You created me from the fire (naar). And you created Adam from the clay (turab). This reasoning or mindset of oneself is called “racism” today.
But the scholar of Al-Quran gave further explanation on why Iblis rejected Allah’s command to pay respect to Adam. And one of the most important reasons presented by the Scholars of Islam is that Iblis viewed himself as the most religious, closest to Allah, and even felt a sense of holiness at the side of Allah.
That’s exactly what I mean when I talk about “religiously motivated arrogance”. We can call this a feeling of superiority (to be better or best) in Islam (religion) than others by virtue of either ritual worships or even the feeling of being more knowledgeable than others.
Religiously motivated arrogance can also be motivated by simply an ignorance about what really Islam (religion) is. People often mistakenly define their religiosity based on their particular outfits or dress codes, or even by the shape of their physical appearance (race and/or skin color).
Regardless of whatever may be the reason behind the claim or the feeling of superiority in religion, it’s wrong and inherently rejected by Islam (and all religions). In addition, it’s an ideology or a mindset that’s essentially iblis (evil) in nature and contradicts all values that Islam (the religion) upholds highly.
The issue of religious arrogance or religiously motivated arrogance is in itself a self paradox. A person can’t claim or feel to be religious but possesses arrogance at the same time. You can only choose one of these two paradoxical behaviors. Be religious and humble. Or otherwise be arrogant and not religious.
Religiously motivated arrogance doesn’t only bring damage to individuals within the community. It may and can damage the entire community. A religiously motivated arrogant person is a mentally sick and hateful person. His tendency is to find or dig into other’s shortcomings and mistakes. And if they fail to find any mistake, such a person will create assumptions or interpretations that he may use to attack others.
Furthermore, a religiously motivated arrogant person most probably has an extreme view of Islam (the religion). And that mostly has nothing to do with the religion in the first place. It is the mental sickness of the person that makes him narrow minded and short-sighted in seeing the teachings of Islam (religion).
This ideology can further be worsened by hateful behaviors and tendencies, that can lead even into possible terrorist and/or other destructive activities in the community. And for this I sincerely remind all members of our Community to be aware and vigilant.
Such an individual (or individuals) must be watched closely. He is evil, dangerous and can bring damage to our loving and beloved community. May Allah protect us!
NYC Subway, 4 November 2022
- Director of Jamaica Muslim Center, President of Nusantara Foundation & Muslim Chaplain at NYChh/Bellevue Hospital NYC.