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 de􀁦􀁩ning role in theQurʾān and󱸥adīths, and no less because it stands as the opposite of pride (kibr )—thecardinal sin of both Iblīs and Pharaoh in Scripture. By drawing on the literature ofSu􀁦􀁩sm ortaṣawwuf   from its formative period to the 20th century—spanning the writ-ings of such 􀁦􀁩gures 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 de􀁦􀁩ning 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 outrightself-hatred, on the other. Although humility is, in theory, to be exercised towards bothGod and other human beings, the precise nature of its embodiment, as we mightexpect, varies in relation to both. The article ends with an epilogue on what it meansto transcend humility altogether”