لَقَدِ اسْتَكْبَرُوا فِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ
Laqadis-takbarū fī anfusihim
Certainly they are full of arrogance within themselves
(Sūratul Furqān, No.25, Āyat 21
Human beings sometimes have a conceited opinion of themselves. They think they are better than others and are needless of others. This self-pleasing and delusionary veil clouds their judgment and affects their behavior towards others.
The word istikbār in the verse comes from the root word kibr. It refers to:
– A stubborn pride that rejects the truth.
– Turning away from truth with scorn and dismissal.
– Complete lack of humbleness before God and His rules.
istikbār can also lead to oppressing the rights of others due to selfishness and pride.
The word istikbār and other derivatives of the same root have been mentioned 48 times in the Holy Quran. Out of that the pride of Iblīs has been mentioned 4 times (Q 2:34, Q 7:13, Q 38:74 & 75). All the rest of the verses regarding pride are about the human being. Many verses attribute the rejection of the message of past Prophets to pride (e.g. Q 2:87, Q 4:173, Q 45:31, etc.)
Tafsīr-e Namūne says that the words ‘fī anfusihim’ shows that the arrogance is within. Either referring to the fact the self or all that is within the human being is considered superior than what is within others. Or it could also mean that the arrogance is concealed and is not always apparent.
Istikbār can creep into the attitude of an individual towards other individuals, or of a group of people towards others. Such an attitude is formed within the psyche due to various possible reasons;
1) Wealth and financial security – This deludes the human being into thinking he is needless and will always be self-sufficient. It creates heedlessness and pride. The Quran says: Indeed man becomes rebellious, when he considers himself without need. (Q 96:6-7)
2) Social and political power – gives a false sense of superiority and security. It allows man to think of the rest of the world as inferior. Fir‘an was a victim of this disease when he said: O my people! Does not the kingdom of Egypt belong to me and these rivers that flow beneath my feet? (Q 43:51)
3) Lack of resistance from the other side – The people who bear the brunt of the Mustakbirīn (those who practice istikbār) are known as the Mustad‘afīn (those who are deemed weak). When this group does not have independence of thought or action and allows itself to become victims, it adds to the pride of those who lord over them. These people impose their thinking, their policies and their lifestyles over them. Without any force to counter it such an attitude continues and becomes the norm. All else is inferior.
It is interesting to note that such istikbār is very prevalent today. The ideology of the West is promoted as superior and truth and virtue are rejected as outdated. It is promoted as the only sensible way to think of life in this world. Those who disagree with it are considered weaker in intellect and judgement.
People must concentrate efforts to counter the Mustakbirīn of today. Through independence of thought and confidence in our beliefs and values we must strengthen a counter ideology. This should not be promoted with force but with reason. Based on human nature and a worldview that probes the true meaning of life, it can be an alternative ideology that is appealing and sensible. Only then can we stem the flow of culture and worldview of the Mustakbirīn.
Recite this verse to remind yourself of the arrogance behind the rejection of truth in today’s society. Note that the rhetoric behind the anti-God and anti-religion sentiments stems from a deep rooted pride that is unfounded and delusionary. Don’t become a victim of istikbār.
Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne