Quranic Reflection No 564. Āyat 25:21 – The outcome of arrogance 

Abū Sa‘īd al-Khudhrī reports that he heard the Messenger of Allah (s) saying: Behold, 

Rajab – the ‘silent,’ is the month of Allah, and it is a great month. It has been named as al-Asamm only because no other month can be compared with it in sanctity and merits with Allah. The people of the Age of Ignorance (jāhilliyya) (also) used to revere it during their ignorance. When Islam came, it increased it in greatness and excellence.  (al-Sadūq, Thawāb 54; Hurr al-‘Āmilī, Wasā’il H. 13887)

لَقَدِ اسْتَكْبَرُوا فِي أَنفُسِهِمْ وَعَتَوْا عُتُوًّا كَبِيرًا

Laqadi-stakbarū fī anfusihim wa ‘ataw ‘utuwwan kabīrā

Certainly, they are full of arrogance within their souls and have become terribly defiant.

(Sūrat al-Furqān, No. 25, Āyat 21)

This verse talks about the demands of those who rejected the mission of the Holy Prophet Muhammad sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam. They wanted that the angels should be sent down or that they should be able to see God physically. They refused to believe unless they witnessed that with their own eyes. These demands stemmed from the arrogance within them which led them to defy the truth.

Arrogance and the resulting defiance that follow, prevents a person from accepting the truth. A certain humility and understanding of the true position of the human as a created being is required to accept faith. When a person sees himself as needless and independent, an amplified sense of self is bred within. This then leads to feelings of superiority and a resistance to anything that might curb that sense of self. Faith in God cannot reside in the same place as arrogance.

Arrogance, pride, and vanity are major sins which displease Allah ‘azza wajall. Imam Ali ‘alayhis-salām says in Nahjul Balāgha about Qābil: Do not be like him who feigned superiority over the son of his mother without any distinction given to him by Allah. It was only the feeling of enmity which created a feeling of greatness in him and the fire of anger that vanity kindled in his heart. (Sermon 192). Āyatullāh Sayyid Dastghayb Shīrāzī says about an arrogant person: [He] loses all awareness of the reality that he is an insignificant creature whose very existence and all that he possesses is only because of Allah (swt)’s favour on him. He regards himself as someone very special, in full control of his life, which no other power can influence. (Greater Sins, pp. 562 & 563)

Those who reject God, then and now, often do it with the attitude that they are the superior ones who can think intelligently. They shrug off beliefs and the people who accept it as foolish and delusional. They refuse, or are unable to, see beyond the material senses and the logic of their minds. Little consideration is given to the heart and soul of the human being, to the meaningful transformation that religion can bring, and to the transcendent world that could exist beyond the boundaries of this transient world. Condescending rejections of God are the product of arrogant minds that are not willing to learn about deeper truths than what meets the eye. Their horizons stop at the physical realities of life.

The verse above links the demands of the unbelievers to their arrogance. It describes the arrogance as being within their souls. This could be a reference to the fact that they had an inflated sense of themselves which was not in line with reality. It could also mean that the arrogance was concealed but manifested itself in their demands. As the saying goes in Farsi, ‘only that pours out from the jug that is within it’.  The word ‘Utuwwa’ shows that their rejection was based on defiant transgression and stubbornness. The level of this transgression was such that the Quran terms it as ‘kabīra’.

Let this verse remind us that defiance of faith is often a fruit of arrogance. It was the behaviour of the people during the time of the Prophet (s) and can be seen in modern day rejections of the lifestyle of believers. We should see behind the barrage of attacks on faith rather than be intimidated by them.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr Nūr