The Arabic word for humbleness is tawaadu’, and it’s derived from the letters waw, dad and ‘ayn. The original meaning of this root is “to lay down”. Tawaadu’ belongs to the verb pattern tafaa’ala. One of the meanings of this verb form is “to behave in an unnatural manner” (takalluf).

A person who is not sad, but pretends to cry is described by the verb “tabaaka” and a person who pretends to be ignorant is described by the verb “tajaahala”. In both cases a person is expressing something that is not real. A natural reaction emanates without effort and crying is natural for someone who is sad. To cry when you aren’t sad is unnatural and thus it requires some sort of effort.

But why then is the verb tawaadu’ in this specific verb form? Some scholars say that it is because of the human nature. The human nafs has a natural inclination towards striving to be better than anyone else. This inclination fuels an inner disposition called haughtiness (kibr).

To be humble is therefore unnatural for the nafs and it requires an effort to be humble. The humble person is the one who has pulled down his nafs to the ground by showing it that it hasn’t anything to be arrogant about. 

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