In English, the word "humility" comes from the Latin root word which means "ground." Humility, or being humble, means that one is modest, submissive and respectful, not proud and arrogant. You lower yourself to the ground, not elevate yourself above others. In prayer, Muslims prostrate themselves to the ground, acknowledging human beings' lowliness and humility before the Lord of the Worlds.
In the Quran, Allah uses several Arabic words which convey the meaning of "humility." Among these are tada'a and khasha'a. A few selected examples:
Tad'aBefore thee We sent messengers to many nations, and We afflicted the nations with suffering and adversity, that they call Allah in humility. When the suffering reached them from Us, why then did they not call Allah in humility? On the contrary, their hearts became hardened, and Satan made their sinful acts seem alluring to them. (Al-Anaam 6:42-43)
Call on your Lord with humility and in private, for Allah loves not those who transgress beyond bounds. Do not mischief on the earth, after it has been set in order, but call on Him with fear and longing in your hearts, for the Mercy of Allah is always near to those who do good. (Al-Araf 7:55-56)
Khasha'aSuccessful indeed are the believers, those who humble themselves in their prayers... (Al-Muminoon 23:1-2)
Has not the time arrived for the believers that their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of Allah and of the Truth which has been revealed to them... (Al-Hadid 57:16)
DiscussionHumility is equivalent to submission to Allah. We should abandon all selfishness and pride in our human power, and stand humbled, meek, and submissive as servants of Allah above all else.
Among the Jahliyya Arabs (before Islam), this was unheard of. They followed the rules of no one except themselves, and preserved their personal honor above all else. They would humble themselves to no one, neither a man nor a God. They were proud of their absolute independence, their human power; they had limitless self-confidence and refused to bow down to any authority. A man was lord of himself. Indeed, these qualities are what made someone a "real man." Humility and submissiveness were considered weak - not a quality of a noble man. The Jahliyya Arabs had a fierce, passionate nature and would scorn anything which might make them humbled or humiliated in any way, or feel like their personal dignity and status were being degraded.
Islam came and demanded of them, before anything else, to submit themselves wholly to the one and only Creator, and abandon all pride, arrogance, and feelings of self-sufficiency. Many among the pagan Arabs felt that this was an outrageous demand - to stand as equals with each other, in submission to Allah alone. For many, these feelings did not pass - indeed we still see them today in much of the world's people, and unfortunately, sometimes in ourselves. Human presumptuousness, insolence, arrogance, elevated self-worth, are around us everywhere. We have to fight it in our own hearts.
Indeed, the sin of Iblis (Satan) was his arrogant refusal to humble himself to the will of Allah. He believed himself of elevated status - better than any other creation - and he continues to whisper to us, encouraging our pride, arrogance, love of wealth and status. We must always remember that we are nothing - we have nothing - except what Allah blesses us with. We can do nothing of our own power.
If we are arrogant and proud in this life, Allah will put us in our place and teach us humility in the next life, by giving us a humiliating punishment. Better that we practice humility now, before Allah alone and among our fellow human beings.