Allah, the Wise, has said:
اعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ وَزِينَةٌ وَتَفَاخُرٌ بَيْنَكُمْ
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) said:
لمثقال ذرة من صاحب تقوى و يقين اءفضل من مل ء الاءرض من المغترين
A conceited person is (in reality) underprivileged in this world and would be left cheated in the hereafter. One ought not to be proud and conceited with respect to one’s wealth, family, soundness of health, leadership, authority and the likes of these, for all of these are transitory and shall not remain forever.
Man, as a result of possessing a good life or attaining some of his personal desires, should never become conceited; at times it so happens that these themselves become causes of adversity and calamity for man.
If one happens to perform numerous acts of worship or develops a fear of God or becomes repentant (over past misdeeds), it is better for him to thank God for having granted him this state of mind than to receive praise from people. This is because praise and extolment of people is a scourge which brings about pride, conceit and heedlessness (towards God).
On the Day of Judgment, the greatest loser and the most remorseful of all would be one, who was proud and conceited (in this world).3
Some of the companions of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) were seen to be constantly praising a particular person in his (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) presence. One day they saw him while they were with the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) and pointing to him said: That is the person whom we used to praise.
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) looked at the person and said: I am witnessing on his face a satanic blackness. As the person came near and greeted him (peace be upon him and his holy progeny), the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) said to him: I place you under the oath of God; tell me, did you not say to yourself: “Amongst the companions of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) there is none, who is superior to and better than me?”
The person confessed: Yes, the thought did pass my mind.
(In this manner the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny), by means of his inner vision, informed him of his inner conceit and pride.)4
Aas Ibn Wail was an irreligious person, who used to ridicule the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny). He was the one who had referred to him (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) by means of that outrageous title of abtar - meaning one without a son and lineage.
He left behind an equally unworthy son by the name of Amr Ibn Aas, who was the mastermind behind the policies of artifice and deception of Mua'wiyah against Imam Ali (peace be upon him).
One of the companions of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) reports:
Aas Ibn Wail owed me some money and so, approaching him I sought my money from him. However, he refused saying: I shall not give you your money. I said to him: In that case I shall collect my dues from you in the hereafter.
In the hereafter, if at all it exists, I would have numerous children and great riches; if I go there and you too happen to come there, I shall return your money to you! He replied with an air of supreme arrogance and conceit.
God revealed the following verses to the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny):
أَفَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي كَفَرَ بِآيَاتِنَا وَقَالَ لَأُوتَيَنَّ مَالًا وَوَلَدًا
أَطَّلَعَ الْغَيْبَ أَمِ اتَّخَذَ عِنْدَ الرَّحْمَٰنِ عَهْدًا
كَلَّا ۚ سَنَكْتُبُ مَا يَقُولُ وَنَمُدُّ لَهُ مِنَ الْعَذَابِ مَدًّا
“Have you, then, seen him who disbelieves in Our communications and says: I shall certainly be given wealth and children? Has he gained knowledge of the unseen, or made a covenant with the Beneficent? By no means! We write down what he says, and We will lengthen to him the length of the chastisement.”5,6
Once, there was a champion wrestler, who by utilising his great skills and defeating all his opponents, had come to acquire great fame for himself.
His overwhelming strength and power filled him with such pride and conceit that one day, looking towards the heavens, he called out: O Lord! Now arrange to send down Jibraeel so that I can test my strength against him, for on this earth there is none that can stand up against my strength.
Before long God afflicted him with weakness and frailty, and in order to crush his vanity, reduced him to such a state of penury that he was forced to live in the ruins of dilapidated houses. So overcome was he with weakness that one day when he placed his head upon a brick to rest, a mouse darted over his face and began nibbling his toes, but he did not possesses the strength to even pull his legs away from the nibbling rodent.
A holy person, who happened to pass by him, observed his state and said: God has made one of his smallest soldiers to become dominant over you in order that you realise your mistake and repent over your conceited behaviour. God, in addition to being The Patient, is also The Concerned and if you seek forgiveness, He shall surely grant you soundness of health.7
Once, there was a person who had studied and acquired such immense mastery over Arabic grammar that people referred to him as the ‘scholar of Arabic grammar’.
One day he boarded a ship and, since he prided himself on his knowledge of Arabic grammar, turning to the captain of the ship, asked: Have you studied Arabic grammar? No, replied the captain of the ship. Hearing this, the scholar criticised: Then you have wasted half of your life!
This criticism greatly hurt and disturbed the captain, but he kept quiet and did not say anything. The ship continued on its way when suddenly a storm struck as a result of which it found itself caught in the midst of a whirlpool and was on the verge of sinking.
Observing this, the captain, who knew how to swim, asked the scholar: Do you know to swim? The scholar replied: No. Hearing this, the captain remarked: Then your entire life is about to be wasted, for the ship is about to sink and you cannot swim!
It was then that the scholar became aware of his conceit and came to realise that the best knowledge is that which man utilises to eliminate the vices that exist within him so that he does not drown in the sea of pride and vanity.8
One night Abu Jahl, the most obstinate enemy of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny), was circumambulating the Ka’bah in the company of Walid Ibn Mughirah, and while engaged in the act, began to speak about him (peace be upon him and his holy progeny).
Abu Jahl said: By God! He speaks the truth.
Walid rebuked: Keep quiet! How do you speak such a thing?
Abu Jahl replied: We knew him, from his childhood, to be a truthful and trustworthy person. How could he, after having grown up and his intellect having matured, become a liar and a traitor?
Walid said: If this is the case, then why don’t you testify to his truthfulness and accept Islam? Abu Jahl said: Do you desire the womenfolk of the Quraish to say that I, Abu Jahl, have submitted myself out of fear of defeat. By the idols Lat and Uzza, I shall never follow him.
Due to this pride and haughtiness, God revealed the following verse9:
أَفَرَأَيْتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ إِلَٰهَهُ هَوَاهُ وَأَضَلَّهُ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ وَخَتَمَ عَلَىٰ سَمْعِهِ وَقَلْبِهِ وَجَعَلَ عَلَىٰ بَصَرِهِ غِشَاوَةً فَمَنْ يَهْدِيهِ مِنْ بَعْدِ اللَّهِ ۚ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ
“Have you then considered him who takes his low desire for his god, and Allah has made him err having knowledge and has set a seal upon his ear and his heart and put a covering upon his eye.”10