Humility in Islamic Contemplative Ethics – Atif Khalil


“From the origins of Islamic history, humility (khushūʿ /tawāḍuʿ ) has occupied a cen-tral place in Muslim piety. This has been in large part due to its defining role in the Qurʾān and Hadīths, and no less because it stands as the opposite of pride (kibr )—the cardinal sin of both Iblīs and Pharaoh in Scripture. By drawing on the literature of Sufism or taṣawwuf   from its formative period to the 20th century—spanning the writings of such figures as al-Makkī (d. 386/996), al-Qushayrī (d. 465/1072), Ibn al-ʿArabī(d. 638/1240), Rūmī (d. 672/1273), al-Shaʿrānī (d. 973/1565), al-Darqāwī (d. 1239/1823),and al-Sharnūbī (d. 1348/1929)—the article examines the defining characteristics ofthis virtue, its marks or signs, and the dangers that lie in its embodiment. In the pro-cess, we shall see how humility occupies a place somewhere in between pride, conceit, and self-admiration, on the one hand, and self-loathing, self-denigration, and outright self-hatred, on the other. Although humility is, in theory, to be exercised towards both God and other human beings, the precise nature of its embodiment, as we might expect, varies in relation to both. The article ends with an epilogue on what it means to transcend humility altogether”