Humility in action
by Umm Muhemmed

When we see humility, real humility, in action, it is like seeing a sign of God. We often hear of humility, the need for it, the lack of it, but seldom do we actually see it. For those who know of what I write, you may be able to conjure up images of: grandparents acting selflessly, over and again, and friends and neighbors simply seeking to serve a higher purpose where resumes and social media were of neither consideration nor consequence. These acts are always outside of the limelight, and sometimes there is no recognition of them at all, but the deed is done, and it sits heavily on the scales of justice, awaiting the aakhira, and true recompense. When I see real humility, there is an emotional response as well. It is as though the heart actually smiles for it recognizes the Divine. Yes, there is something innately Divine about humility. Perhaps that is why so many who have learned about Prophet Muhemmed (SAW) have an emotional response to him as well, because he was the true embodiment of humility, in the world.

 
Recently, I glimpsed humility. It was fleeting, but knowing that seeing humility inspires us all to do and be better, let me describe the following. 

 
I frequent a mosque near my children’s school on a daily basis to learn Qur’aan before starting my own work day. Generally it is empty, but sometimes there is a parent on her way in/out. Yesterday, one mother who I had spoken to several times was bent over a Qur’aan when I entered the mosque. We exchange salaams and followed up briefly on some school matters. Then, we retreated to our respective corners to recite and pray. Fifteen minutes later, as she was getting up to leave, I said ‘ma’salaama’, and then asked, ‘are you memorizing as well?’ having learned earlier that her son was in a hifdh program. She responded by saying, ‘alhumdulilah.’ Since English is not her first language, I asked the question again, assuming she had not understood, or that she might elaborate. ‘Are you memorizing as well?’ Again, the response was, ‘alhumdulilah.’ I paused and looked into her eyes. ‘Are you a hafidha?’ I then asked. ‘Alhumdulilah’ was her response, now the third time.

 
In the half dozen discussions that we had had in the past, hifdh al Qur’aan had come up in nearly every conversation, and yet, never had she mentioned that she was a recent hafidha (having completed the memorization of the Qur’aan just two years ago). For a moment, in the mosque, it felt as though my heart stopped and smiled. This woman who work tirelessly, over I learned a five year period, and then did not broadcast such an extraordinary accomplishment, was truly awe-inspiring, and represented such a rare act of humility. But the story goes on. 

 
I continued to look at her and utter ‘mashaAllah.’ And her response was as follows, ‘Memorization is easy, but the real work is the work of the heart, purifying the heart, making sure there is no disconnect between our outsides and our insides, and keeping our insides always pure.’ This is the language that we hear preached from the pulpit; we read the great scholars of Islam writing the same, but these words came from her mouth, without a minute’s hesitation. Her voice was quiet, calm and as she described this process she placed her hands over her heart. 

 
In my limited observations, this woman who talked of purification of the heart lived a very simple life; her character appeared good, and I knew her to be kind and generous with her time. Her children who I knew attending the school appeared to have exemplary character as well.  She spoke of purification of the heart and all I could think was ‘isn’t her work done? Does she really have any further purification to do?’
Slowly, though, as I pondered her example for the remainder of the day, it dawned on me that the constant attention to purification, be it through selfless memorization, teaching or other deeds, was what made her shine. There was no recognition that she was done with her character work. And this is where her story links so clearly to the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhemmed SAW. He was always working on his character, amidst all of life’s trials and tribulations. That was, after all, his main work. And as Muslims, and followers of his example, seeking Divine pleasure, that really is our main work too. We may not all become huffadh; and we may not all be able to restrain our egos in whatever learning process we embark on, but hopefully, we will keep working, day after day, and increase our humility–that Divine characteristic in the world, that ultimately leads us back to Him SWT inshaAllah, Ameen.
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Umm Muhemmed is an aspiring hafidha and a student of Fee Qalbee. She is also a development economist, based in Houston.
 
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