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Last Updated: 2009/08/16
Summary of question
Isn’t it self-pride for scholars to introduce themselves as ayatullahs or hujjatul-Islams?
Isn't it wrong for an Islamic scholar to introduce himself as a scholar? For instance, if a scholar says that he is an ayatullah or a hujjatul-Islam?
Would the imams introduce themselves as imams and use this title for themselves? Isn't such a demeanor considered arrogance and self-pride?
Concise answer

Humility is a very praiseworthy virtue that helps a person develop spiritually. On the other hand, arrogance and self-pride are exactly the opposite. Self-pride means for one to show him/herself to others higher and greater than what he/she actually is. Therefore, if one introduces him/herself as he/she really is, it won't be arrogance anymore, the only thing is that he/she hasn’t observed humility either. In many cases, it is necessary for experts, scholars and researchers to introduce themselves to the people so that they become aware of their skills and expertise in order to refer to them for the solution to their problems.

As for the prophets, their cases were very significant and important ones; they had been appointed by Allah (swt) and had to introduce themselves to the people they were sent to. The same goes for the imams; although they had been introduced to the people by the prophet (pbuh) and the imam preceding them, in many cases, for important reasons, they would engage in personally introducing themselves and expressing their abilities, and calling themselves imams and leaders of society.

Detailed Answer

Humility and humbleness are very praiseworthy virtues that give rise to the spiritual development of their bearers. Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) says: “One who is humble for the sake of Allah (swt), Allah (swt) will take raise him.”[1] Great individuals are usually unknown, because they conceal their capabilities and character, sometimes to the extent that even after their deaths, only a few learn of who they truly were.

On the other hand, self-pride and arrogance are extremely dispraised and ugly attributes. Imam Ali (as) says: “Allah (swt) makes abject those who are arrogant when it comes to others.”[2] Takabbur or arrogance means for one to introduce his/herself higher and greater than what he/she actually is, and to expect others to respect him/her more than she deserves. Therefore, if one introduces his/herself as he/she actually is, it isn't considered self-pride, yet the person hasn’t been humble either.

Of course, it is necessary for scholars, researchers and experts to introduce themselves to the people in order for them to become acquainted with their abilities so that they know who to refer to for the solution to their inquiries and problems. For instance, if a doctor doesn’t install a sign in front of his office that reflects his expertise and field of medicine, how are patients in need of his medical attention supposed to be seen by him? How are they supposed to know that he is the person they need to visit? In such cases, it is necessary for experts in any field to put humility aside and introduce themselves. There are chances that if they don’t, those in need of them will go to non-experts for help and sometimes even be deceived by those who claim they are experts but aren't. The same goes for Islamic scholars; if they don’t introduce themselves, those who need to refer to them might refer to others who falsely claim that they are religious experts and be misled by them. Keeping this in mind, scholars, experts and researchers need to be encouraged to introduce themselves to society in order to help those who are prone to falling for phony experts. Of course, if an organization accepts the responsibility of introducing those who truly need to be known by society, it will be much better because it will prevent a lot of false accusations that they might face if they do so themselves.

Because of the importance of their case, the prophets were obliged by Allah (swt) to introduce themselves to society, and to prove their prophethood through miracles so that the people had a way of distinguishing between false and true prophets. Also, although the imams had been introduced to the people by the prophet (pbuh) and the imam preceding them, they would still sometimes personally engage in doing so and would speak of their abilities and reputations so that the people would have no excuse in not following them, and would support and obey them. When introducing himself, Imam Ali (as) says: “I am the trustee of your prophet, his successor, the leader of the pious and believers, their commander and master…”[3]

[1] Kuleini, Al-Kafi, vol. 2, pg. 122, hadith 3. “قَالَ أَبُو عَبْدِ اللَّهِ (ع): مَنْ تَوَاضَعَ لِلَّهِ رَفَعَهُ اللَّهُ وَ مَنْ تَکَبَّرَ وَضَعَهُ اللَّهُ

[2] Al-Kafi, vol. 8, pg. 18, hadith 4 “قَالَ علی (ع): َ مَنْ تَکَبَّرَ عَلَى النَّاسِ ذَلَّ

[3] Ibn Shadhan Qummi, Mi’atu Manqabah, pg. 59. “أمیر المؤمنین ع قال و الله لقد خلفنی رسول الله ص فی أمته فأنا حجة الله علیهم بعد نبیه و إن ولایتی لتلزم أهل السماء کما تلزم أهل الأرض و إن الملائکة لتتذاکر فضلی و ذلک تسبیحها عند الله أیها الناس اتبعونی أهدکم سبیل الرشاد لا تأخذوا یمینا و شمالا فتضلوا أنا وصی نبیکم و خلیفته و إمام المتقین و المؤمنین و أمیرهم و مولاهم و أنا قائد شیعتی إلى الجنة” (المنقبة الثانیة و الثلاثون)

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