Our Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) has a saying that if a person has an atom weights of arrogance they will not enter heaven.
That a really scary statement for who might have an ounce of arrogance… I know I do regardless of how hard I try to purge this arrogance. To me this leads to a question, why is having arrogance so bad that even one atom worth of arrogance can lead a person to hell?
We all know the story of Satan and Adam and how Satan believed that he was better than Adam and this started the cascade that led to the banishment of Satan from heaven forever. We were all taught that it was the arrogance of Satan that lead to his downfall and it makes sense but how does it relate to us here on earth?
Last Friday, we were given a sermon on the danger of even getting close to fornication and how it can lead to our downfall. The Khateeb gave the following story as an example. (note there are multiple variations of this story)
Once there was a hermit that focused all his life on worshiping God. People all around him knew him for his religiousness, wisdom, etc and used to go to him for advice. In that same village there lived four brothers and a sister who were all shepherds. The sister was extremely beautiful, but overtime she was starting to experience mental issues (ie she was getting crazy). The brothers extremely worried for her well being took her to the hermit hoping that he can find a cure for her.
The hermit found her extremely beautiful and during the process of trying to heal her he was falling madly in love with her. One night both of them where all alone and he could not control himself anymore and fulfilled his desires. Nine month later, she gave birth to his son and the hermit was mortified. He thought to himself that if the village finds out about the sin he committed it will completely tarnish and ruin his reputation. Feeling forced to protect his reputation he kills the mother and baby and buries them.
The four brothers find out and immediately go to the king of the land demanding justice. The king issues verdict to jail and kill the hermit. The hermit shocked, lost and with nowhere to go turns to Satan who tells him that if the hermit bows to him for one day Satan will save him. Seeing a way out the hermit bows down to Satan and ends up committing the worst sin possible, associating partners to God. To no avail the king’s men jail the hermit and get ready to execute him. Satan then appears to the hermit and tells him that he has no control over his life and that everything the hermit did was his own fault and he deserves what he will get. The hermit then gets executed.
Okay so it was a very gory story and according to the khateeb it was a true story (but I need to get the references and names updated). The khateeb points out to us that the fate of the hermit and the slippery slope that he sled down through all started by one sin and that is fornication. While his point was well taken and fornication is a major sin and dangerous path to go through, I do not think that was the major downfall of the hermit.
To me the dangerous fall happened when the hermit wanted to protect his honor, his pride or in other words arrogance. That what led to his downfall, if he had accepted that he fell from grace when he committed fornication and sought true repentance without concern for his reputation I think this would have been a very different story. Instead, from the beginning of the story, he was focused on protecting his reputation, his life and so one regardless of the consequences. He ended up losing everything.
There is another story that I heard recently that resolves around the same principle of protecting ones reputation either to the public or to the one he loved. This caused a series of lies and half-truth that turned a minor personal issue into a huge problem for the community around him. While it easy to criticize this person for what happened; and we will never know the true story, it important to note that this can easily happen to each and every one of us. All it needs is one little half true/lie to set the stage and they are so easy to do.
In a sense, I understand one aspect of why pride is so bad (note there are many others, that I won’t mention here). It starts as the most innocent thing or error and one has to keep generating larger and larger blankets of lies to cover the inconsistencies of the previous one. Until the person does not even realize who he is or what harm and damage he committed to all those around him and the consequences of his lies. This series of lies all start with the perception that they are personal and of no impact to the people around him with a focus of protecting himself and his reputation.
Luckily for us all, it never too late to repent and it reminds me of another saying of the prophet that if we were a nation of no sins, God would remove us from earth and replace us with a nations that committed sins and then asked forgiveness.