لَقَدِ اسْتَكْبَرُوا فِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ وَعَتَوْا عُتُوًّا كَبِيرًا
Laqadi-stakbirū fī anfusihim wa-‘ataw ‘utuwwan kabīrā
Certainly they were full of arrogance in their souls and they were exceedingly defiant.
(Sūratul Furqān, no. 25, Āyat 21)
Those who rejected the Holy Prophet (s) and his mission made many strange demands. They wanted the Prophet to bring down angels they could see, to have a house of gold, to ascend to Heaven and bring down a Book they could read (Q 17:92 – 93), and also to be able to see God Himself. All these demands stemmed from a lack of belief in the Creator and in life of the Hereafter.
In the verse above, after mentioning some of their unreasonable demands Almighty Allah (swt) attributes it to pride, which is a terrible disease of the soul. Pride caused them to reject the belief in God. It made them ask why a human being like them was sent to guide them rather than an angel. They wondered why the Prophet was chosen, why an angel was not sent to them. Eventually, it led them an audacious demand of being able to see God Himself.
Pride is of many different types;
1) Pride regarding God. It causes the human being to reject belief in a Creator that caused his existence and is in control of him. For a haughty person, to be a servant of God is demeaning as it conflicts with pride in his/her self. Sometimes this pride is so great that it can make him claim to be god. An example is Pharaoh (Fir‘awn) who claimed: I am your lord the most high (Q 15:33).
2) Pride with the Divine leaders. There is a feeling of superiority over the Prophets and Divinely Appointed Imams and the question of why was I or so-and-so not chosen for this role? Pride does not allow for acceptance and implementation of the message of the Divine Leaders. It also nullifies past good deeds. Amīrul Mu’minīn Ali b. Abī Tālib (a): Take lesson from what Allah did to Satan. He foiled his many deeds and his hardworking efforts . . . for being arrogant for an instant! So, after Satan who will be saved for Allah’s wrath with something like his sin? (Scale of Wisdom, p. 935, H. 5380).
3) Pride over others. To think highly of oneself and feel that others are inferior. This attitude stops growth and progress. It deprives using one’s intelligence to its maximum. Imam Muhammad al-Bāqir (a) said: If any amount of arrogance enters the heart of a person, it will only bring deficiency to the intellect with the same amount of what entered it, whether it be a little or a lot (Ibid, H. 5381).
Pride leads to defiance as stated in this verse. Defiance is a stubborn rejection of the truth and a refusal to understand and accept it. Pride is the inner disease which is manifested in defiance. This feeling of self-importance and self-reliance creates a veil between the proud person and God.
This verse is a reminder of the disease of pride that leads to rejection of faith. When you see people stubbornly resisting belief in a Creator know that pride is one of the factors that lead to this. Pray that the Almighty may keep it away from your heart.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne; M. Muhammadi Rayshahrī, The Scale of Wisdom.