“We can either choose the model of kibr, hatred and disdain, and reject the opportunity of ta’aruf or we can choose the model of tawadu’ and ta’aruf and seek knowledge wherever we find it, so long as it is consistent with our values.” Azizah al-Hibri
This past Ramadan, KARAMAH Founder and board of director’s member, Dr. Azizah al-Hibri, was invited by King Mohammed VI of Morocco to deliver a religious dars/ lesson at the religious and scholarly forum of “Al-Dourous Al- Hassaniyah” held at the Royal Palace of Casablanca, Morocco. Dr. al-Hibri’s lecture was titled “Arrogance and Its Modern Manifestations.”
Al-Dourous Al- Hassaniyah is a Ramadan tradition that started in 1963 by the late King Hassan II of Morocco, hence its name. For over 50 years, this forum has hosted prominent Muslim scholars and jurists from diverse sectarian and ideological backgrounds to discuss issues and concerns of the Muslim ummah. The Dourus are attended by the Moroccan King, the royal family, religious scholars, high-ranking state officials, and members of Muslim countries’ diplomatic missions to Morocco.
Dr. al-Hibri is the first American Muslim woman ever to deliver such a lecture. A few years ago, Dr. Raja Makkaoui, also a KARAMAH jurist, was the first woman to give a dars hassani. Following in the footsteps of Sayyidah Aisha and great women scholars throughout history who have taught both men and women about Islam, Dr. al-Hibri sat high elevated on a chair while King Mohammed VI and the other attendees sat humbly on the floor cross-legged and eager to listen.
Dr. al-Hibri discussed arrogance not only as an individual attribute, but as a collective one that influences political life. She posits that this issue of arrogance and other moral issues can lead to the breakdown of societies and the demise of civilizations. Dr. al-Hibri started out by defining arrogance as “the will to rise above others on this earth which is a forbidden evil because it prevents an individual or a group of people from listening to and following the guidance of Qur’anic verses.”
Arrogance and Satanic Logic
For this very important, indeed historic lesson, Dr. al-Hibri sets the stage for her argument by discussing first the arrogance and satanic logic. In the lesson, Dr. al-Hibri asks us to considers arrogance as a satanic trap that can lead to shirk. Dr. al-Hibri roots her argument in the creation story of Adam. In the story, when God command the angels and Iblis/Satan to bow to Adam, Iblis refused. Iblis’ erroneous logic deemed fire (the element of which he was created) as superior to clay (the element of which Adam was created). With this logic, Iblis created a hierarchy that God did not create. Thus, he put his will above God’s and fell into shirk. Iblis asked God to give him respite till the Day of Judgment so he can lure humankind with his logic and tools. Therefore, says Dr. al-Hibri, we need to continuously resist satanic whispers and remember our position vis a vis God and his creations. She added that “we must understand that we may not act as if we are endowed with divine power and supremacy, especially with respect to giving each person his/her due.” She also stressed the importance of humility before God’s creation and belief that God created all people of the same soul and made difference an opportunity for mutual understanding.
The Political Dimension of Arrogance and the Benefit of Ta’aruf
So why is it so important to understand how arrogance is “satanic” logic? Dr. al-Hibri then tuns the conversation to the political dimension of arrogance, the negative consequences it has on civilizations, and the benefits that can be reaped from communication. She says: “We must identify the arrogance of the strong towards the weak, and the arrogance of the vulnerable towards those more vulnerable than them. This diagnosis will help us correct our understanding of ourselves and of others.” Eradicating arrogance and applying the divine instructions in terms of Ta’aruf/ communication can lead to a civilizational prosperity that can benefit generations to come. God mentions this aspect of civilization in the Qur’anic verse: “We made you into tribes and peoples so you may know one another.”
This model of Ta’aruf and communication should be combined with intellectual modesty vis a vis the civilizational legacies of other nations. Throughout history, nations reaped much benefit from such a model. Muslims learned from the Greek and Roman civilizations, for example, despite religious differences between them and frequent military conflict. Moreover, the Founding Fathers of the United States discussed Islamic constitutional precedents in their constitutional debates, which laid the foundation for the United States constitution, as it exists today. The principle of freedom of religion, federalism, and contract’s laws find precedent in the Islamic tradition. She poignantly noted:
Some extremists in our ummah declare enmity to entire civilizations because of principles these civilizations might have originally borrowed from our religion especially as far as freedom is concerned. We also find these civilizations claiming to be superior to us because of these principles and accuse us of ignoring them and claim that these principles should be forced upon us.
Our Place in The Modern Revolution
Finally, Dr. al-Hibri talked about the position of the Islamic civilization within the new information age and the Modern Revolution. This new age has changed traditional equations and presented our ummah with new challenges and dangers, but also possibilities. She said that “being part of the third wave is a necessity. Our absence as leaders during this wave and our presence only as consumers will leave us behind modern nations in this modern revolution.” Our presence in this third wave, Dr. al-Hibri said, should be accompanied by a good understanding of its nature and capabilities in order to provide our youth with the proper critical consciousness to handle it.
Our successful presence in this third wave should take into consideration Qur’anic warnings against arrogance and its instruction to communicate with the other while preserving the values of this ummah.