The Evils of Narcissism
Narcissism means arrogance, vanity and self-admiration. Allah has bestowed some qualities to every human being. Allah confers some with knowledge, some with beauty while some with perseverance. Narcissism or egotism is when a person loves his own qualities so much that he ignores the qualities of others. That person is so infatuated with his qualities that he sees others as inferior and imagines himself as the best. His habit to flaunt himself intensifies so much that it turns to arrogance.
Narcissism is one of the evil attributes. It is a spiritual disease which ceases the power of thinking. It grows in the inward of man, it is one of the tools that Satan uses to mislead people. To be blessed with Divine closeness it is crucial to liberate our inwards from narcissism.
Shaikh Syed Ali al-Hujwiri (Dātā Ganj Bakhsh) says:
Narcissism or egotism produces from:
The respect and praise received from people.
Admiring one’s own attributes.
In the former, people start appreciating the qualities of the person which in turn produces arrogance in him. While in the latter, that person sees beauty in his evil attributes. That is why he indulges in arrogance and self-admiration. (Kashf-ul-Mahjub)
Actually narcissism includes arrogance which ceases Divine guidance. So, when the Divine guidance ends, that person’s downfall starts which in turn disgraces him in both the worlds. Our Holy Prophet says:
“Narcissism is such an evil that it destroys all the good deeds done over seventy years.” (Daylmi)
Allah says in Risala al-Ghausia:
Risala al-Ghausia is a record of conversation between Allah and Ghaus al-Azam. In this treatise Allah says:
O Ghaus-ul-Azam, I am away from the one who performs devotions and then becomes arrogant upon them.
He further says:
Submissiveness is the fount of Divine light while arrogance and vanity is the origin of heathenism and paganism.
Sultan Bahoo says:
The worships of a devotee are not endangered by anything except narcissism.
The obedience and devotion polluted with arrogance is just a sin, the disobedience with a proper excuse is better than such devotion. (Ain-ul-Faqr)
Arrogance, vanity and pride is the heritage of Satan, Pharaoh and Korah while submission is the heritage of Prophets. (Ain-ul-Faqr)
Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman says:
The person who is submissive to Almighty Allah never goes astray from the path of righteousness while an imperious is the first one to be deluded. Satan can cause no harm to a modest person.
The seeker’s real weapons (against Satan and innerself) are modesty, sincere intentions and truthfulness.
Fair use of power is not possible unless a person is sincere and modest. If a person gets arrogant on getting power, then sooner or later he loses it.
The more submissive and sincere a person is in the court of Allah, the more rapid is his leap to His proximity and the more he is blessed with closeness of Allah, the humbler he becomes, provided he has sincere intentions.
Sultan Bahoo (ra)
Sultan Bahoo relates an admonitory incident in his famous book Mehak-ul-Faqr Kalan:
Once a pious man was going somewhere. Suddenly an infidel passed by, who had wasted his whole life in ignorance, impiousness and dishonour. The pious man looked upon him with vanity and said:
“O my Lord! Do not join me with this sinner.”
Meanwhile the sinner looked towards his ever-forgiving Lord with helplessness and tried to count his good deeds but there were none, he started crying and said:
“O my Lord! Please have mercy upon me as I have no one except You.”
A voice came from heavens that said: “I have accepted both prayers. As the infidel has begged for My mercy with submission and hope, I have blessed him with forgiveness. As for the worshiper, he has looked upon this humble man with contempt and narcissism which is fatal for the inward. Therefore he has added himself amongst the rejected ones who consider themselves better than others.”
Allah says whoever regards himself superior to others, He rejects all his deeds. The good deeds that become infected with narcissism hold no value in the court of Allah Almighty. (Mehak-ul-Faqr Kalan)
Humility on the Path of Faqr
As human beings, we are all equal. For someone to consider another person inferior and lesser in the court of Allah is not allowed. This is an act of pride and arrogance which the Sharia prohibits.
On the path of Faqr, it is very important for the seeker to stay away from arrogance and pride. Arrogance is the opposite of humility which is the basis of all progression on the path of Faqr. Holding one’s innerself accountable is an attribute of true believers. A believer is always conscious of his innerself and keeps striving to rid the innerself of its diseases. This is because, it is only Allah Almighty who knows about an individual’s inner weaknesses and flaws or the individual himself. Other people do not know about these hidden ills. Going after unnecessary wishes and desires is not only harmful for an individual but this habit also leads to damaging the society.
Perfect Sarwari Qadri Spiritual Guide is on the footsteps of Holy Prophet
Only the perfect spiritual guide has the power to cure the ills of the inward. The perfect spiritual guide who is on the footsteps of the Holy Prophet nurtures his disciples’ spiritually in his company just like the Holy Prophet (pbuh) nurtured the inwards of the Companions and cleansed them of the ills of the inciting innerself. Whenever the spiritual guide sees any of such evil habits sprout up in the inwards of his disciples, he eradicates them immediately through his spiritual powers. The perfect spiritual guide pleads in the court of the Holy Prophet and gains forgiveness for his disciple and therefore the disciple’s journey towards Allah continues.
As per Sharia, atonement and retribution for a wrongdoing is a must. Therefore, according to the gravity of the wrongdoing, the spiritual guide takes the seeker through certain trials and struggles. At times the seeker himself remains unaware of them. These are the times when perseverance is paramount. The spiritual guide judges a seeker for his/her forbearance and sincerity of claim through such circumstances. Only those seekers remain steadfast who have firm belief upon their spiritual guide. In short, rise and fall, good and bad are all from Allah Almighty. Sincere seekers of Allah show humility in good times and when the times are not so good, they ask for forgiveness and Allah’s mercy.
Sultan Bahoo (ra) relates
Satan said: “I worshipped you.”
Voice from hidden (from Allah) said: “I rejected you.”
Adam said: “O Allah, I have committed a sin.”
Allah replied: “I have forgiven.” (Ain-ul-Faqr)
Shaikh Syed Ali al-Hujwiri (Dātā Ganj Bakhsh) says:
“Allah Almighty, through His favour and benevolence (perfect spiritual guide), makes the good deeds of the seekers of Allah look unattractive to them, thus saving them from narcissism and arrogance. Therefore the commonalty dislikes people, beloved in the court of Allah Almighty. Allah does not inflict hardships upon those who keep themselves busy in mystic struggles. (Kashf-ul-Mahjoob)
For today’s fast paced and busy age, Sultan Bahoo has prescribed a remedy for narcissism. However, the condition is that a perfect spiritual guide grants it. He says:
“Whosoever wants that his innerself remains obedient despite enjoying all the worldly comforts and amenities, he remains indifferent to the desires of the world and the innerself, his inward is cleansed of all sorts of esoteric ills, then he should engrave Ism-e-Allah Zaat on his inward through contemplation. This will make his heart indifferent to everything and he will indeed be bestowed with the presence in the Mohammadan Assembly.” (Kaleed-ul-Tauheed Kalan)
As with everything, there are limits that one needs to abide by. Similarly, a seeker should keep humility to a limit. The humility should not go to a level where, heaven forbid the seeker may knowingly or unknowingly lose hope in Allah or go astray. When Allah blesses someone with something, for example knowledge, wealth, beauty, devotion etc. and that person remains anxious about that benediction being taken away. That person will not be called narcissist. On the other hand if someone feels happy over a particular benediction for it being a blessing of Allah, that person will also not be classed as narcissist. However if someone boasts on a particular attribute as being due to his own effort then that would be clearly narcissism and therefore not permitted.
May Allah grant us perseverance on the right path and save us from every undesirable attribute. Ameen.
This is an English translation of the Urdu article عجب ۔ خود پسندی that appeared in the February 2020 issue of the monthly Sultan-ul-Faqr Magazine. Faiza Gulzar Sarwari Qadri has penned the original Urdu article. Zainab Moghees Sarwari Qadri has translated this into English.