Is it true that it is permissible for us to be arrogant towards others who are arrogant towards us? I once heard from an ustaz that this is stated in a hadith of the Prophet PBUH.
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Arrogance is a prohibited attitude in Islam. Allah SWT state in the Quran:
وَلَا تَمْشِ فِي الأرْضِ مَرَحًا إِنَّكَ لَنْ تَخرِقَ الأَرْضَ وَلَنْ تَبْلُغَ الْجِبَالَ طُولًا
“And do not walk upon the earth exultantly. Indeed, you will never tear the earth [apart], and you will never reach the mountains in height.”
Surah al-Israa’ (37)
The Prophet PBUH said:
لَا يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ مَنْ كَانَ فِي قَلْبِهِ مِثْقَالُ ذَرَّةٍ مِنْ كِبْرٍ
“He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride shall not enter Paradise.”
Sahih Muslim (51)
Only Allah SWT reserves the right of being al-mutakabbir. Allah SWT state:
هُوَ اللَّـهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْمَلِكُ الْقُدُّوسُ السَّلَامُ الْمُؤْمِنُ الْمُهَيْمِنُ الْعَزِيزُ الْجَبَّارُ الْمُتَكَبِّرُ ۚ
“He is Allah, other than whom there is no deity, the Sovereign, the Pure, the Perfection, the Bestower of Faith, the Overseer, the Exalted in Might, the Compeller, the Superior.”
Surah al-Hasyr (23)
Acting arrogant towards people who are arrogant
There are words that are claimed to be of the Prophet PBUH’s:
التَّكَبُّرُ علَى المُتَكَبِّرِ صَدَقَةٌ
“Being arrogant towards people of arrogance is a form of charity.”
The above phrase is famous in our society, but it is not a hadith.
Syeikh Mulla Ali al-Qari included the narration in the fake hadith category, however he acknowledged that it is a phrase stated by scholars conveying the same meaning. (Refer Al-Asrar al-Marfu’ah fi al-Akhbar al-Maudhu’ah, pg, 163)
In another narration, it is stated as:
إِذا رَأَيْتُمْ المتواضعين من أمتِي فتواضعوا لَهُم وَإِذا رَأَيْتُمْ المتكبرين فتكبروا عَلَيْهِم
“In front of humble people, be humble; and when in front of arrogant people, be arrogant towards them.”
The above narration is mentioned by Imam al-Ghazali in Ihyaa’ Ulum al-Din, however, Imam Tajuddin al-Subki did not find a sanad for this narration. (Refer Tobaqat al-Syafi’iyyah al-Kubra 6/354)
Abu Sa’id al-Khadimi commented on the above narration states, originally, being arrogant is prohibited. However, it is permissible for us to be arrogant towards people of arrogance for if we are humble, they will continue with their bad attitude. But, if we are arrogant towards them, he may realize his mistake.
This is in line with the advice of Imam al-Syaf’ie where in a narration he said: “Be arrogant towards those who are arrogant.” Imam al-Zuhri once said: “Arrogance towards those who loves worldly wealth is a strong Islamic covenant”. Imam Yahya bin Mu’adz said, “Being arrogant towards those who are boastful of his property towards you is a form of humility.”
Hence, it is said that showcasing one’s arrogance as a lesson (so that they will realize their bad behaviour) is a commendable act, such as acting haughty in front of people of ignorance and rich people who are arrogant. (Refer Bariqah Mahmudiyyah fi Syarh Tariqah Muhammadiyah, 2/186)
Furthermore, Imam al-Munawi includes arrogance towards people who are arrogant as one of good deeds. (Refer Faidh al-Qadir Syarh al-Jami’ al-Saghir 3/386)
To conclude, the narration regarding acting arrogant towards those who are arrogant is not a hadith, however, it is just the words and opinions of scholars, as stated in the above discussion.
It is permissible for someone to act aloof with the intention of rebuking or advising an arrogant person as a lesson. However, arrogance showcased should not be his true feelings in his heart.
However, in our opinion, it is prioritized to apply the dakwah method that is stated in the Quran. Allah SWT state:
وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ۚ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ
“And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.”
Surah Fussilat (34)
Allah SWT also state:
وَجَزَاءُ سَيِّئَةٍ سَيِّئَةٌ مِّثْلُهَا ۖ فَمَنْ عَفَا وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَجْرُهُ عَلَى اللَّـهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الظَّالِمِينَ
“And the retribution for an evil act is an evil one like it, but whoever pardons and makes reconciliation - his reward is [due] from Allah. Indeed, He does not like wrongdoers.”
Surah al-Syura (40)
Lastly, it depends on the wisdom of a person considering the situation he is in. If he is certain that if he advises the arrogant person politely, then the arrogant person will accept his advice, then it is the prioritized. However, if he is certain that if he responds with arrogance it would make the arrogant person realize his mistake, then this method is permissible.