Arrogance is a state of feeling important, feeling that one has a special place. Reality is taken from him and he only uses his imagination. Everyone, in reality, is nothing. Everybody is from dirt and will return to dirt. One’s self is also in real need, his life; health and property are not in his hands.
The Commander of the faithful Imam Ali says in one of his speeches found in Nahj al-Balaghah: “O’ creatures of Allah! Allah created you without you having a choice and takes care of you for as long as you are alive.”
Man is naturally needy, low and in reality nothing. Imam Ali said in another tradition: “I’m surprised about the person who is arrogant. At the beginning he was unclean semen and at the end he will be a decomposed body and between these two he is good for nothing.” Right now, under our skin, is najis (impure) blood and it is known what is in our stomachs and intestines. Arrogance is the reason behind many of the sins that man commits. One will not accept reality if arrogance is left to grow. One will stand against the truth; one will even think that he himself is the truth. The first thing that creates arrogance is property. The natural result of an increase in wealth is an ignorant form of arrogance. I said that arrogance stems from ignorance, because a rational person would understand that wealth does not add anything to his existence. There is no difference between him and a poor person, even if he has millions of dollars. But, when his wealth is increases he sees himself better than poor people.
Knowledge that one obtains from learning in a university, for example, is worse than property when one thinks that he is important because of his knowledge. He looks down on others. It is even worse if he thinks this way about religious knowledge and considers himself to be as the tradition says: “The scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets.” It is dangerous when he thinks that others must obey him due to his knowledge.
Imam Zayn al-‛Abidin said in Sahifah al-Sajjadiyah, “I am the least of the least and the lowest of the lowest. I am even smaller than an atom.” The infallible Imam said that he was smaller than the smallest thing in the eyes of Allah. Now, should a person who considers himself to be a scholar arrogantly say that he is better than so and so? Allah’s scale is piety. A religious student must not forget that he is needy and incapable. He must not consider himself better than others. He should not consider himself to be part of a special segment of society and the rest of the people to be of the laity. One would realize the scale is something other than knowledge if he has become a scholar. For this reason he should think that maybe that person who religiously follows me (Taqlid) will go to heaven and maybe I will go to Hell. His humility grows and he sees himself lower than others.
The third reason for someone to become arrogant is because of popularity or social status. Sometimes this even comes from family relations, for example one who is from a certain tribe or a certain country looks down at others and even refrains from marrying people from other segments of society.
The cure of arrogance is being humble. For example, Prophet Dawud became a political leader. He was both a Prophet and a political leader. The following has been taken from the book Man La yahdaruhu al-faqih: a voice came from the sky: “Dawud (David), you are a good servant, but you make a living from the public treasury.” Dawud cried to Allah for forty nights until Allah taught him how to make armor. Then, Dawud would make and sell armor for a living. It has been related that he sold every piece of armor for 300 Dirhams. He would give 100 Dirhams in charity, 100 Dirhams to the public treasury and would spend the rest of it on himself. It is understood from traditions like these that a person who has obtained power can fight against arrogance if he makes his living like other people; if he is humble. I will not say; “I’m the president!” or “I’m the one behind the desk!” or “Others must stand when I walk in the room!”
In a tradition, Imam Sadiq ordered one of his highest companions, Muhammad bin Muslim to take some dates next to the Kufa Mosque and sell them. Even though Muhammad was part of the upper class in society he, with all of his heart, accepted the order. One must fight against arrogance even if it is by selling dates.
Another thing one can do is not give orders because when one gives an order it means that he thinks he is bigger than others.
Some trustworthy people relate that the late Mirza Muhammad Taqi Shirazi would even refrain from giving orders in his house. He would not order his wife to bring dinner or clear dishes. He would go without dinner if his family forgot to give it to him. Of course, I am not saying that it is forbidden. It is not forbidden to give orders, but one must practice fighting against his Nafs (conscience) if he wants to be a man.