Quranic Reflection No. 528. Ayat 2:206 – Arrogance and Stubbornness


وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُ اتَّقِ اللَّهَ أَخَذَتْهُ الْعِزَّةُ بِالْإِثْمِ
Wa-idhā qīla lahu-ttaqillāha akhadhathul-‘izzatu bil-ithm
And when he is told, ‘Be wary of Allah,’ he is led by arrogance to (more) sins.
(Sūrat al-Baqarah, No 2, Āyat 206)

Verses 204 to 206 of Sūrat al-Baqarah describe the qualities of hypocrites who harbor hatred for Allah ‘azza wajall and His laws and reject any advice or reasoning. They are bent on spreading corruption while claiming to be good doers. In the above verse such people are advised to have taqwā and act accordingly. But they are unreceptive to admonitions. Their hearts are hardened due to their deeds. Instead of taking heed, their arrogance leads them to more sin. According to Tafsīr Majm‘ al-Bayān this verse could mean that the bigotry and arrogance of Jāhiliyya led the person to commit the sins. Or it could be that the sin of disbelief led him to an exaggerated sense of self, resulting in more sins.

Spreading corruption and falsehood disguised as virtue is a wrongful deed that has consequences for the doers themselves. They become oblivious of the truth and do not recognize it even when it is put clearly to them. The Quran says: Nay! rather, what they used to do has become like rust upon their hearts (Q 83:14).

Arrogance and stubbornness are two qualities that are linked together.  An arrogant person insists that they know the truth and refuse to listen to others. They become blind and deaf to the truth, and no amount of persuasion will make them change their opinions. This obstinacy is their loss. On the contrary a believer is humble and receptive. Their virtue and good deeds make them incline to the truth. That is the natural fitrah of the human being. Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā says: But Allah has endeared faith to you and made it appealing in your hearts, and He has made hateful to you faithlessness, transgression and disobedience. It is these who are the followers of the right way (Q 49:7).

While determination and steadfastness are praised virtues, stubbornness is condemned. Stubbornness is different from determination. The following are important points for a believer to keep in mind:
• A believer is determined to follow the truth. Not the truth that the self conjures up, but truth as revealed by Allah (swt) and taught by His chosen ones.
• Stubbornness is resistance to change. There is no negotiation possible, mostly based on a heightened sense of self.
• Humility can be part of determination. There is humility before God and submission to His laws even when it goes against personal desires. There is no place for humility in stubbornness.
• Determination is for a cause greater than the self. Stubbornness is mostly about the self.

Accusations of stubbornness and resistance can be thrown around on all sides. That is very evident in today’s discussions on God’s laws. The criteria would be to discern the principles behind adherence to one’s opinion. Is it based on scholarly and authentic interpretations of God’s laws? Are there false paradigms of Western thought, desires of the self, ego, etc. affecting the opinion? Is there humility, submission, love, and reverence for the Quran, the Holy Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam and his Ahlul Bayt (a) present in the opinions? Is the opinion and talk meant to impress and is impervious to advice and reasoning, as in the verse above?

This verse and the passage that it is a part of is an important reminder to be wary of people whose talks beguile us. They were present during the time of the Prophet (s) and are present today. Believers will have to learn to recognize them through the qualities mentioned and not fall prey to their falsehood. The guidance has been laid out in the Quran, a guidance for all times to come.

Sources: Shaykh Tabarsī, Tafsīr Majma‘ al-Bayān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Āghā Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr Nur

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