Explaining how to scientifically and Practically cure the Heart of the Disease of Pretension
Some scholars of the hereafter have made statements in this regard which I would like to cite here briefly with some explanations:
You have come to know that pretension voids the good deeds and causes Allāh to hold one in contempt, that it is one of the major lethal sins; so, you have to get ready, be serious and struggle while bearing the hardship of uprooting this tree from the heart. Reaching the ladders of sublime humanity is not easy without bearing hardships. Likewise, getting rid of terminal diseases cannot be achieved except by taking bitter medicines. This struggle, though tough in the beginning, falls within the practical field; its hardship gradually dissipates completely.
Let it be known that the origin of pretension is love for prominence. If love for prominence is analyzed, it will be rendered to three roots:
1. Love for praise; man loves to be praised and lauded; he finds pleasure in hearing compliments,
2. Flight from ill reputation; man hates to be the source of ill reputation; he is harmed and feels the pain when hearing that his reputation is being chewed,
3. Greed for what people possess.
These three often cause pretension.
It may be observed how one does not desire praise, nor does he covet lauding, nor does he look at what others enjoy, but he cannot tolerate to be reprimanded and spoken ill of, so he undertakes a pretentious act. He is like a miser individual who participates in a deed of righteousness when he sees others doing likewise, spending money for that cause. He finds himself among generous people who offer plenty of money by way of charity.
He offers little of it by way of charity so he may not be described as a stingy person. Or he may be like a young man among youths who are worshipping, keeping themselves busy with prayer and supplication, so he, too, prays and supplicates so that he may not be spoken ill of and accused of being lazy and idle. And there are among the scholars those who do not covet to be praised by people, but he cannot tolerate to be identified as knowing very little.
If he is asked about an issue with which he is not familiar, he is swift to issue a verdict without knowledge rather than convincing himself of asking someone else who is familiar with it for fear he may be held as ignorant. Generally speaking, one can be patient with regard to the pleasure of praise but cannot tolerate the pain of being spoken ill of.
One who treats these three causes has to know that one seeks and desires something due to thinking that it is good, useful and sweet to him, whether it is so now or it will be in the future. If he gets to know that it is pleasurable in the present time but is harmful in its outcome, it will be easy for him not to desire it. It is like one who knows that honey is delicious, so he craves eating it, but if it becomes obvious to him that it contains poison, it will be easy for him to shy away from it. Thus is the case with our subject.
No matter how much a servant of Allāh knows that pretension is harmful, that it causes him not to reform his harm, that it deprives him of imminent success and the loss of a station in the hereafter, in the final outcome, bringing him punishment, contempt and infamy, when someone cries out as witnesses testify: "O debauchee, treacherous, pretender, polytheist! Did you ever feel the shame when you traded the obedience to Allāh for what the short life offered? Did you not watch people's hearts but did not watch out when you meet the Truth, Praise to Him? Did you not seek popularity among the servants of Allāh by doing what brings about wrath from Allāh?
Did you not decorate yourself with what makes you look bad in the eyes of Allāh? Did you not seek nearness to the servants of Allāh by being distant from Him? Did you not seek their praise by being ill spoken of by Allāh? Did you not seek their pleasure by exposing yourself to Allāh's anger? Did anyone else stand in your eyes as being thus less important than Allāh?!" We seek refuge with Allāh from such humiliation and exposure.
"If only you could see when the guilty ones bend their heads down before their Lord…" (Qur'ān, 32:12).
So, no matter how much a servant of Allāh thinks about this humiliation, comparing it with what he earns from His servants, from making himself look good in their eyes, a status among them attained through the venue of pretension, one which he may not even get, comparing it with what he will face of shame and infamy in the Hereafter…, he will then come to know that pretension is fire that has burnt his good deeds, rendering them into the record of the sinners. He may have lost a high status with Allāh by earning this good deed which he spoiled with pretension, a status that places him in the company of the prophets and the righteous.
Surely pretension has taken him out of the latter's company and send him to the row of the accursed, add to this what he will be exposed to in the life of this world of worries because of trying to please others. To please others is an unattainable objective; whenever you please a group, another is displeased with you. What goal does he achieve when he earns their praise? What does he get when he drops in the eyes of Allāh while raising himself in the eyes of His servants while such praise does not increase his sustenance, nor does it prolong his lifespan, nor does it benefit him on the day when he realizes his poverty and want?
So, O pretender who lets pretension covet his good deeds, be informed that Allāh, Praise to Him, is the One Who manipulates the hearts to either withhold or to give, and the beings have no choice in this regard, nor is there anyone to sustain them besides Allāh. One who sets his hopes on people will never be free of humiliation and disappointment. Even if he arrives at his goal, he will not be without indebtedness to others, without receiving humiliation; so, how could you abandon what Allāh has in store with Him in exchange for a false hope, for a bad whim that may hit the mark or miss it: If it hits the mark, its pleasure does not compensate for the pain of its bad outcome and humiliation?!
O pretender! Beware of fearing being spoken ill of! When people speak ill of you, it does not speed up your demise, nor does it postpone it, nor does it render you among the residents of hell if you are a resident of Paradise, nor does it make you contemptible in the eyes of Allāh if you are praised by Him, for all the servants are incapacitated: They cannot cause any harm to their own souls, nor benefit, nor life, nor death, nor resurrection; so, perfection is not achieved through their praise, nor is it diminished because of their criticism.
A poet from Banu Tamim once said, "Praise for me is good, while criticizing me is bad," whereupon the Messenger of Allāh (ص) said to him, "You have lied! This applies to Allāh: There is nothing good except in praising, nor is there anything bad more than saying something bad about Him. What good would you get when people praise you while you are held in contempt by Allāh? And what evil could touch you if people speak ill of you while Allāh praises you?"
Generally speaking, it is through thinking about these matters that it is hoped that one's heart is directed towards Allāh, so he gets rid of the humiliation of pretension and the cruelty of people's hearts. Lights from his sincerity reflect themselves on his heart whereby his chest is pleased. Through them will beautiful revelations be opened up that increase his feeling of happiness for being in the company of Allāh, of being unhappy when he is in the company of people. He will then hold life in contempt while holding the Hereafter with high regards. The status of the creation drops from his heart. The reason for pretension collapses, and the paths of sincerity will be facilitated for him…