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The Concept of an Ego in Islam

Ego means that a man considers himself as a separate being and has personal inclinations. Ego is the main obstacle in acquiring good in our lives because it forces us to be selfish and allow us to think for ourselves merely. Islam teaches to be kind to all and sacrifice one’s ego in order to remain humble as with gross ego, one cannot achieve what Allah and Quran have commanded. A man that has a big ego is like a man that is in servitude of himself and a worshiper of himself. Allah says

وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ

“And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive to Allah.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:45)

The Ego clings to definitions formed by perceptions of your past and fears of the future. The Ego seeks to alienate you from the world. It pretends that it wants to protect you and show you your weakness or your good points. But beware of the Ego because it makes you dependent on the external world for its approval. The Ego works through dependency and you end up seeking people’s approval for your happiness. Allah says

وَاذْكُر رَّبَّكَ فِي نَفْسِكَ تَضَرُّعًا وَخِيفَةً وَدُونَ الْجَهْرِ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآصَالِ وَلَا تَكُن مِّنَ الْغَافِلِينَ

“Remember your Lord in yourselves with humility and in private without announcing it in the mornings and evenings, and do not be among the heedless.” (Surah Al-A’raf 7:205)

Ego is a double-edged sword, it can help you attract a few fans but on the other hand, it will fill the hearts of other people who surround you with hatred. After all, no one likes someone to treat him arrogantly. An arrogant person is the one who acts as if he is superior, more worthy and more important than the others.

Islam encourages Self Respect but orders you to not confuse it with your “Ego”:

  1. Ego is like a man that cares about his public reputation
  2. The ego never connect with nature and the universe
  3. Ego is like a man that in servitude of himself
  4. Ego is like a man that worshiper of himself
  5. The ego never reminds us to stay humble
  6. Ego behaviour is as old as human nature
  7. Ego may claim dishonour from the world
  8. Ego leads to feelings of powerlessness
  9. Ego is an executive of the personality
  10. Ego is about vanity and pride while 
  11. Ego is opposite the level of faith
  12. Ego feel everything they do is fine
  13. Ego leads to feelings of victimisation
  14. Ego like someone walking behind him
  15. Ego usually speak loudly, are stubborn
  16. Ego has problems creating relationships
  17. The ego is the same weaknesses as others
  18. Ego does not construct of human behaviour
  19. Ego does not grant enormous power to its owner
  20. Ego is nothing more than a part of his structural model

Allah is closer to you than your own limbs and your own thoughts that run in your mind right now as you read those words. He is Nearer to you than anyone. A righteous deed is like a pearl necklace – when it breaks, all the pearls follow one. Allah says

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا اذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ ذِكْرًا كَثِيرًا

“O you who have believed, remember Allah with much remembrance.” (Surah Al-Ahzab33:41)

Arrogant people never have true, honest friends who feel a genuine affection for them. They also find it difficult to demonstrate affection for others. You cannot call yourself patient until you are willing and able to bear things that you have no wish to bear. Allah says

كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِتَالُ وَهُوَ كُرْهٌ لَّكُمْ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

Is prescribed upon you [the] fighting while it (is) hateful to you. But perhaps [that] you dislike a thing and it (is) good for you; and perhaps [that] you love a thing and it (is) bad for you. And Allah knows while you (do) not know.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:216)

The ego is the executive of the personality and is governed by the reality principle. As long as it is governed by the reality principle, it will remain in the state where it accepts reality/realities, which is fine. When it gets deviated or turned into egotism or narcissism, it becomes worst.

The Quran tells us in many Ayaat that those who have Ego:

  • “… truly He likes not the proud.” (Quran, 16:23)
  • Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.” (Al-Maida: 42)
  • “… are signs for a people who give thought.” (Quran 13:3)
  • and whatever you have of favour – it is from Allah.” (An-Nahl: 53)
  • Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him] on.” (Al-Imran: 159)
  • “and do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good.” (Al-Baqara: 195)
  • “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Quran 13:28)
  • ”And do not turn your cheek [in contempt] toward people and do not walk through the earth exultantly. Indeed, Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful.” (Quran, 31:18)
  • “Call on Me; I will answer your (Prayer): but those who are too arrogant to serve Me will surely find themselves in Hell – in humiliation!” (Quran 40:60)

People have rights and obligations in all aspects of their lives. Disunion, rifts, and disputes often happen because everyone asks for their rights while forgetting to give people their rights. Be humble and hold the ego by prioritizing other people’s rights then asking for our own. Once we give people their rights, we would also have our rights fulfilled as well. Allah says:

رَبَّنَا لَا تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْوَهَّابُ

“[Who say], “Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us and grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower.” (Surah Al-Imran 3:8)

Nothing is perfect in this world except for Allah. But human often forgets this and seek perfection in anything. This could be the highest form of the ego because looking for anything perfect is like looking for another form of Allah. If this continues, we can do Syirik and it’s not good. Instead of looking for something perfect, try your best to make things work. Allah says:

الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

“Those who believed and find satisfaction their hearts in the remembrance (of) Allah. No doubt, in the remembrance of Allah find satisfaction the hearts.” (Surah Ar-Ra`d 13:28)

The essence of being a Muslim is being humble. Humility is when a person does not see himself as being better or above other people because of frivolous reasons like social standing, education, citizenship, or even colour. Humble people don’t lack pride in their accomplishments. Allah says

وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا

“The servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say words of peace.” (Surah Al-Furqan 25:63)

As Muslims, we understand that humility is a great virtue. Allah has opened doors to success despite our own weakness or ignorance, not because we are more intelligent or skilled than others. We also understand that if we fail, it is only because our actions are to blame, or because we have something more to learn. May Allah fill our hearts with love for Him and may Allah accept and answer this love with what is good for us.