Walking with humility

وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا

Wa-‘ibādur-rahmānil-ladhīna yamshūna ‘alal-ardhi hawnā

And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth humbly

 (Surat Al-Furqān, no.25, verse 63)

In Sūrat al-Furqān, beginning from verse 63 to 76, Allah ‘azza wajall describes for us the qualities of those whom He considers as His servants. He mentions twelve characteristics in these verses for us to compare and gauge with our own qualities.  We have a responsibility to ensure that we embody qualities that will allow us to remain on the right path and succeed as servants of Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā.

The first of these qualities is that His servants should be free of all pride, arrogance, and delusion of their own self-worth. They should possess a humility that stems from within them and is manifested in their actions, such as walking.  According to Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī, the fact that humility is the first characteristic mentioned tells us that just as arrogance is considered the mother of all evil, humility is the door from which all goodness can be attained.

From the exegesis of this verse, we understand that humility and its application in our lives can be understood in two ways: General humility and specific humility. General humility refers to our overall conduct. It is a quality that should be embedded in our souls which subsequently exemplifies itself in all aspects of our life, especially our relationship with Allah (swt).

To achieve general humility, there are two key factors: intellectual recognition and external awareness. Intellectual recognition refers to recognizing our own neediness and our complete dependency upon the Creator. Allah reminds us of this when He says: O mankind! you are they who stand in need of Allah, and Allah is He Who is the Self-sufficient, the Praised One (Q 35:15). The more we accept and recognize our essential poverty, the less arrogant we become.

External awareness refers to our awareness of influences that may affect this humility negatively. It is reported in a tradition by Imam al-Bāqir (a) about the Holy Prophet (s): Jibra’īl came to him three times with the keys of the treasuries of the earth, giving him the choice [of taking them] without Allah Almighty lessening anything of what He had prepared for him on the Day of Judgment. But he chose humbleness to his Lord, the Exalted and Mighty.” [al-Kāfī, v.8, p.130, h.100] What we understand from this tradition is that it is inevitable that the acquisition and possession of wealth and treasures makes it difficult to remain humble. If we have been blessed with favours from the Almighty, we should maintain a correct attitude to them. We must be fully aware of how all that we have belongs to Allah, and He can give it or take it as He pleases.

Specific humility is a particular act that expresses humility. In the context of this verse, it refers to the way one walks. Allah cautions us in many verses of the Holy Quran not to walk arrogantly. He says: Do not walk exultantly on the earth. Indeed, you will neither pierce the earth, nor reach the mountains in height (Q 17:37). The way to attain humility in a specific context is to ensure that we first work on humility in its general application. Whatever we have in our hearts will eventually manifest itself externally and translate into the way we talk and walk.

Let us use this verse to remind ourselves that the way we walk says a lot about our character, internal thoughts, and state.  This verse should draw our attention to always remain humble with others as well as with Allah.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shīrāzī, Al-Amthal fí Tafsīr Kitāb Allah al- Munzal.