In the Holy Qur'an, Allah has said: "And do not go about in the land exultingly, for you can not cut through the earth nor reach the mountains in height."
For those who have not noticed, that is how a lot of us walk around today. Arms out, strutting through a local Islamic center near you! My chin is covered more than yours; I am totally a better hijabi than you are! Or the classic, my beard is wayyy thicker, darker, and even longer than yours, beat that bro! Or the classic one: I can pronounce my ayn deeper than any other youth in the prayer hall, I am so good.
Those of us who feel we are always right, and the best Muslims on earth, may tend to find ourselves as "moderate", or even unable to see where we need improvement. I believe that it is one of those curtains Allah places on our eyes, or heart, which prevents us from pinpointing what our problems are. Being arrogant is a hurdle in facilitating brotherhood and stronger community bonds and growth. When we feel more knowledgeable than others, whether it be religious knowledge or worldly, it naturally creates a separation, or difference between us and others. Islam teaches us that even if it is true, that one may have more experience or be more learned than another in a subject, there is no need to place oneself superior to another. Allah has ordered even our Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny), who was the most pious of all men and so much more compared to any of us, in the Holy Qur'an by saying, "And make yourself humble to the believers."
Here is a small example that comes to mind when thinking about the "Big Head Syndrome." And not to pick on sisters or anything, but I only know a girl's mind.
You have your fellow sister at the center. She is a quiet girl and an independent thinker. She's usually in all the youth group activities and makes sure to voice her opinion. She, Alhamdulillah, practices hijab. You've seen her at school and at the mall a few times, but you two have just never clicked for some odd reason. Hmmm…she's an introvert; maybe that is what is stopping her from approaching you. You ,on the other hand, are the sociable type, always reaching out to fellow sisters to come to the programs or join all the other sisters at so-and-so's house for a girls lunch. She's just too quiet for me, I can't stand it. But she always looks at me, and we do exchange salaams…but what is it with her hijab?! How come it never matches her shirt? Every hijabi girl must match their hijab, or it gives hijab such an ugly look, especially today when fashion no-no's are spotted by even the youngest of kids.
And there you have it, the smallest, most insignificant, and probably dumbest results of having an ego. Some of you may think I am absolutely crazy, but I can almost sure that almost half of the sisters reading this have either thought this about someone, or has a friend who has spoke to them about it. Sad, but true! Yeah so, someone may have less fashion or matching sense than you, but should that hold us back from creating bonds with our fellow Muslims? And this is my point exactly. In this day and age, thoughts, as "cheap shot" as that one may have been, come in the minds of our Muslim youth. It is what is holding us back from self-improvement and good character, which in turn can create domino effects, for leading by example is the best.
Quoting Luqman the Wise, He says: "And do not turn your face away from people in contempt, nor go about in the land exulting overmuch; surely Allah does not love any self-conceited boaster."
So what can we do about it? Self reflection is key. Sure we can all improve; there really is always room for improvement. So what does it mean to be humble? Surely a compliment about what a "Masha'Allah brother or sister" I am can't hurt…right?
Imam Ja'far-as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) said it best: "It is of humility to be pleased with sitting in a lower place, to greet everybody encountered, to give up contending even when one is truthful, and to be unhappy of people's praise for one's piety."
How many times have we made sure we sat in the front row as to make sure we are seen? Or how about arguing till our brains melt because I must be right and I will stay in the center until the lights in the hallway turn off and the gate is halfway closed to prove that I am. And we are all guilty of feeling good when praised for being good kids. There is nothing to be ashamed of; it is a natural feeling. But we are to strive to be what Imam has described, and this will happen with self-reflection and improvement, whether it be by cracking open that Sahifa Sajjadiya twice a week, or waking up half an hour early to pray Salatul Layl.
We will see improvements in our families, our circle of friends, our communities, and Insha'Allah our Ummah when we being to attack our ego. The ego is our biggest enemy. We all are familiar with Jihad an-Nafs (struggling against the ego), so instead of making it harder for each other, let's help a brother out, literally…
Imam Khomeini has said, "Each one must begin with himself and adapt his conduct, views, and deeds to Islamic decrees and, having thus corrected himself, then proceed to reform others."
Insha'Allah with many resources and options, we begin to break down the curtain of ego from our hearts, and bring our nose out of the clouds.
Besides, if our nose is up there too long anyways, we're bound to catch a cold sooner or later.
For further reading on breaking the ego and refining the self, highly suggested is the book The Disciplines of the Prayer by Imam Khomeini. It can be found online at: http://www.al-islam.org/adab