We gather from Quran that EGO is the one disastrous idol that believers must fight back and defeat (2:54.) It seems that in most of the time ego is the foundation for idolizing entities beside God (2:87, 45:23-27). Our ego tends to justify most of the arguments offered by Satan to idolize our opinions, get more attached to our culture, cherish our parents' religion, hesitate to choose rightfully, reject the guidance, refuse to increase our knowledge because we already know it all, and so on. In other words, Satan, his descendants, and his allies from among the humans and the jinns mainly rely on our egos to carry out their plan of diverting us from God's path.
This reminder is only an attempt to understand what ego is, and why sometimes we confuse ego with other constructive personality values such as high self esteem, certainty, or being blessed with a leadership qualities. Does humility contradict or interfere with any of these three values? We often mix up an arrogant individual with another of a high self esteem. We consider those who are assertive in their views as arrogant ones. We also perceive those who God allows them to be in positions of authority as people with inflated egos. All three perceptions when not backed up with knowledge, guidance, and fair analysis, lead us to unjustly draw wrong conclusio and cheat our souls by passing crippled judgments on others. High self esteem, certainty and having leadership qualities are three positive traits when humility guards them. They are totally distinct from ego.
Shedding some light on ego, it is one sign of weakness and hesitance and a negative attribute that we all, humans, have by default. Depending on how much ego is able to grow within us, we, wrongly and arrogantly, give ourselves a very distinct status or rank that is totally DIFFERENT from and HIGHER than the others around us. In other words, it is a negative, exaggerated feeling of false superiority, undeserved pride, and baseless self recognition. A person with an ego would seek the attention, need the fame, be thirsty to brag, talk much and do little, and demand the respect instead of earning it.. This attitude serves as a SHIELD from listening or paying attention to anything but ourselves. Consequently, we fail to learn or become certain ; our ego reflects insecurity, fear, uncertainty, and weakness.
The Ego as a god
[25:43] Have you seen the one whose god is his own ego? Will you be his advocate?
[25:44] Do you think that most of them hear, or understand? They are just like animals; no, they are far worse.
Common Form of Idolatry: The Ego As A god [45:23] Have you noted the one whose god is his ego? Consequently, GOD sends him astray, despite his knowledge, seals his hearing and his mind, and places a veil on his eyes. Who then can guide him, after such a decision by GOD? Would you not take heed?
An example of an entity that has a huge ego would be Satan. He arrogantly refused to obey God and prostrate in front of Adam, because he though he is BETTER than him (7:11-13).
Another example would be all the disbelievers, hypocrites, idol worshipers and atheists, who simply turn away from the guidance because they think they are far better than the guided ones and high above the prophets and messengers who deliver God's message. Out of arrogance and ignorance, they wouldn't let go of their ideologies and traditions:
Appearances May Be Deceiving
[2:204] Among the people, one may impress you with his utterances concerning this life, and may even call upon GOD to witness his innermost thoughts, while he is a most ardent opponent.
[2:205] As soon as he leaves, he roams the earth corruptingly, destroying properties and lives. GOD does not love corruption.
[2:206] When he is told, "Observe GOD," he becomes arrogantly indignant. Consequently, his only destiny is Hell; what a miserable abode.
[45:7] Woe to every fabricator, guilty.
[45:8] The one who hears GOD's revelations recited to him, then insists arrogantly on his way, as if he never heard them. Promise him a painful retribution.
[84:10] As for the one who receives his record behind his back,
[84:11] He will be ridden with remorse.
[84:12] And will burn in Hell.
[84:13] He used to act arrogantly among his people.
[84:14] He thought that he will never be called to account.
On the other hand, high self esteem is a positive attribute. It is proportional to the level of our AWARENESS of who we are, the level of our RESPECT and COMFORT we have for our own selves, how much we are PASSIONATE about our souls, how much BELIEF and TRUST we put in everything about us and within us, and how much we APPRECIATE all what is about us and within us ; personality, upbringing, morals and integrity, beliefs, ideologies, style of thinking, family, culture, education, experience in any aspect of life, etc.. Self esteem gets developed in our character after we are born and could be enhanced or, unfortunately, would deteriorate depending on our surroundings and on the strength of our will.
A good example of a prophet with a good level of self esteem would be prophet Joseph. He asked the king of Egypt to be the chief of the ministry of finance (the highest position in that ministry) and said " I'm good at that, or I'm qualified for that." He was aware of his area of strength, he was content and confident about that, he acknowledged his ability, and he expressed his respect to himself in that regard, BUT he never claimed that he is better or far above every one else in that area (12:54-56).
Certainty or being assertive is another quality when based on physical facts, verifiable information, knowledge and logically balanced arguments. The tone of this kind of certainty is always intimidating for those who are weak in knowledge and character. They often find their comfort zone and balance by weakly adhering to their own views, attacking the voice of certainty, and bringing down any introduced good logic, or proven knowledge. Out of arrogance and ignorance, they resist to absorbor or add any new information to their rusty and rigid memories. God commands us to not be intimidated by such people:
A Common Occurrence
[22:8] Among the people there is the one who argues about GOD without knowledge, and without guidance, and without an enlightening scripture.
[22:9] Arrogantly he strives to divert the people from the path of GOD. He thus incurs humiliation in this life, and we commit him on the Day of Resurrection to the agony of burning.
[30:60] Therefore, you shall steadfastly persevere - for GOD's promise is the truth - and do not be intimidated by those who have not attained certainty.
Positive leadership, in most of the times, is indicative of integrity, psychological health, self confidence, clear and organized mind, good vision, logical mentality, knowledge and education, high quality of team work, strong character, ability to listen and learn and creativity. All these positive qualities, combined together, are part of the personality of an authoritative and successful leader. Out of arrogance, ignorance and hypocrisy, those who are weak in character simply do not appreciate healthy models like that. Jealousy eats them up inside out, and hatred flows out of their actions and words when they encounter such positive models. A good example that indicates there is no contradiction between being righteous worshipers and authoritative leaders would be Abraham and some of his descendants. The hypocrites, of course, set the worst example for those who would not appreciate such a quality:
[4:54] Are they envious of the people because GOD has showered them with His blessings? We have given Abraham's family the scripture, and wisdom; we granted them a great authority.
[38:45] Remember also our servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were resourceful, and possessed vision.
[21:72] And we granted him Isaac and Jacob as a gift, and we made them both righteous.
[21:73] We made them imams who guided in accordance with our commandments, and we taught them how to work righteousness, and how to observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and the obligatory charity (Zakat).* To us, they were devoted worshipers.
Do Not Befriend Hypocrites
[3:118] O you who believe, do not befriend outsiders who never cease to wish you harm; they even wish to see you suffer. Hatred flows out of their mouths and what they hide in their chests is far worse. We thus clarify the revelations for you, if you understand.
[3:119] Here you are loving them, while they do not love you, and you believe in all the scripture. When they meet you they say, "We believe," but as soon as they leave, they bite their fingers out of rage towards you. Say, "Die in your rage." GOD is fully aware of the innermost thoughts.
[3:120] When anything good comes your way they hurt, and when something bad happens to you they rejoice. If you steadfastly persevere, and maintain righteousness, their schemes will never hurt you. GOD is fully aware of everything they do.
In conclusion, a person who is blessed with a reasonable amount of self esteem, doesn't need to exaggerate or inflate his/her self respect. A person with a good self esteem doesn't demand the attention of everyone around, doesn't believe in his/her superiority, but simply is confident, comfortable, and content with who he/she is. This attitude brings humility and automatically antagonizes the power of our egos inside us, thus makes us grow healthier, observe more, with eagerness to learn.
A person who is assertive based on true knowledge and proofs simply is not in any need to rise above the group. The presented verifiable views will score so high against falsehood, without an effort or an urge by the certain ones to claim superiority. Ego has no place, again, in this equation as knowledge and certainty cannot be attained if the ego is active within us.
A righteous and healthy leadership cannot continue to grow on a successful path if paired with arrogance. This deprived the leader from listening, seeing, or feeling the needs of others.
Neither one of these three positive attributes, good self esteem, certainty and positive leadership, would complement or truly coexist with a grown ego. Once our egos are inflated, we are doubtful and insecure ; our self esteem goes down, we cannot attain knowledge or certainty, and we lose our authority and the respect of those around us.
As believers it is always a plus to be self confident, and it is highly recommended to always try to seek all the means to enhance our self esteem. The reason for that is because with the inner beauty a good self esteem brings, we could set a righteous example and promote the truth God has blessed us with in a pleasant and positive attitude. When we are confident and passionate about who we are, this gets reflected in everything we say and do. When we exhibit our self respect, others sense the same way about us. All this would make them more receptive to whatever we preach. It is absolutely OK to acknowledge, respect and love who we are. It is not a negative attribute to be certain based on knowledge not conjecture and it is a blessing from God almighty to be granted all the qualities of leadership in order to establish God's laws.
It is a sickness and a formula of self destruction to lose the balance and cross the lines to the point that would allow our egos to show in the picture and reverse these positive attributes.
Humility is one of the guards against losing that balance. Being humble goes hand in hand with self esteem, certainty or righteous leadership. In fact, humility is the positive strength and the beauty we gain from all three. As widely misunderstood, humility is not attainable by staying quiet or shying away from sharing our views but rather by kindly utilizing our healthy energy and characters to live for and serve others and to strive in making a difference.
Peaceful Friday, salaam and God bless.