The arrogant are distinctly avaricious and desirous of prestige. They are known both for their ambition as well as their desire to gain prestige. Wherever they are, they want to be the supreme, unique and most powerful one. They rely on their beauty, possessions, intelligence or status, that is, in the things of which they boast. Moreover, they believe they will never lose these qualities or possessions. Not for a moment do they feel any doubt about their flawed way of thinking. Although those around them are aware of their shortcomings, they believe themselves irreproachable. In actuality, they suffer many weaknesses due to their failure to grasp these facts. This mental deficiency is related in the Qur' an as follows:
Among them there are some who listen to you. But can you make the deaf hear even though they cannot understand? Among them there are some who look at you. But can you guide the blind, even though they cannot see? (Surah Yunus: 42-43)
Though the reasons for arrogance differ from one person to another, depending on their respective traits, there is a state of mind common to nearly all arrogant people. In the following section, we will consider some general character traits that result from this state of mind.
They are in a Diseased and Disturbed State of Mind
A normal person, who enjoys a stable state of mind, is extroverted, open and sincere. An arrogant person, however, suffers a darkened and disturbed state of mind. Being deceived and carried away by his pride, his inner-world is a sombre place of distress and anxiety; consumed with devious thoughts and schemes. Such a state of mind becomes exhausting, and causes them to age before their time.
Lacking in character, they are cold and ill-tempered. It is rare to see a pleasant expression or sign of affection or appreciation on their face, or to hear an encouraging word from them. One cannot feel relaxed among them or enjoy their company. Men tend to become aggressive and irascible. In woman, on the other hand, arrogance manifests itself as uneasiness. Wherever they are, a minor problem is likely to cause tension in them and absorb them in quarrel.
They Greatly Fear Making Mistakes
All acts and thoughts of those who are abundantly proud are directed towards earning the appreciation of others, and of making themselves out to be superior. For this reason, they excessively fear making mistakes. For them, making mistakes is a form of humiliation. They have total confidence in themselves, yet, paradoxically, feel the constant worry of doing the wrong thing. The arrogant ardently avoid all kinds of mistakes; making a mistake for them is an embarrassment. Therefore, they deny even the possibility. They are in a constant struggle to escape accusation of any faults. In a verse, Allah describes a disposition of these people:
Do you not see those who praise themselves for purity? No, Allah purifies whoever He wills. They will not be wronged by so much as the smallest speck. (Surat an-Nisa' : 49)
The arrogant humiliate others when they discover their mistakes. They exaggerate the errors other people make, taking every opportunity to bring these to light. They show no pity for anyone who commits an error, and become condescending towards them. They erroneously assume that if they reveal others' mistakes they make apparent their own faultlessness. Therefore, no one can feel at ease in their company. Such people always create an atmosphere of negativity.
Due to these reprehensible qualities, the arrogant can never master sincerity in its true sense. They remain deprived of this quality because they are aloof, always scheming. Such traits hinder them from being sincere towards others, being the reason why others distance themselves from them. They always fear that sincere behaviour, or natural shortcomings may become an object of ridicule. Due to their bad character, the arrogant are usually abandoned by others when they lose their power or fortune. Yet, we need to remember that, even at those times when they feel they are powerful, they are still alone in their own inner-world, so distant from the morality of the Qur' an.
They Cannot Stand Criticism
Being subject to criticism is something an arrogant person dislikes immensely. When criticised, his facial muscles tense up, and his expression dulls. Concerned about damage to his prestige, he is dismayed. He assumes that, if he makes a mistake, he will be ridiculed or humiliated by others, just as he is accustomed to reprove others in similar situations. He believes that being subject to criticism or admonition is degradation. To adopt such a state of mind is detrimental both in the spiritual and physical sense. Their tone of voice fluctuates, they are impaired by twitching, and in their face, you will not find signs of sincerity. Ultimately, they never find peace and comfort.
They maintain goals such as being "the most beautiful," "the most clever" or "the most qualified." Such pursuits place them under constant pressure. Seeing themselves as so perfect or superior, (or rather that they aim to prove themselves to be so), even a minor admonishment suffices to infuriate them. However, there is a point on which they are forgetful; they may seek to present themselves as perfect and infallible, and in some cases even succeed at doing so. Yet, on the Day of Judgment, they will be confronted with all their wrongdoings, whether minor or grave. As Allah informs us in the Qur' an, "Do they not know that Allah knows what they keep secret and what they make public?" (Surat al-Baqara: 77), everything about them is known to Allah, the Almighty. But being forgetful of their Lord and the Day of Judgment, they only deceive and humiliate themselves.
Praise Is What Pleases Them
That state of mind peculiar to the arrogant is discernible in their looks and their manner of speaking. These people either praise themselves openly, or place themselves in those circumstances by which they will gain praise. On the other hand, other people' s good qualities make them envious. This envy becomes immediately perceptible in their facial expression. Because of their arrogance, they become unsociable. Basically, they are tense and distressed, trying to appear "cool" and different to others. What they enjoy most is praising themselves or to be praised by others.
On the contrary, believers are aware that they are merely servants of Allah, and only Allah is Praiseworthy. The Prophet Muhammad (saas) sets an example of modesty for all Muslims, as revealed in his saying:
Do not exceed bounds in praising me; I am only the Lord' s servant; then call me the servant of Allah and His messenger. (Bukhari, Muslim)
Arrogance Prevents Man from Loving and Being Loved
The arrogant love themselves most, and thus, can never experience true love. At most, they can only pretend to love. They find it demeaning to show their love to others; they always desire to be the one to whom love and attention is shown. They deem it to be a kind of weakness to love others and to show them affection.
Due to their overbearing pride, they are incapable of love. Loving another person demands, primarily, that one be able to discern those qualities that are deserving of love. Yet, an arrogant person is loath to recognise these favourable qualities in people. Indeed, in their eyes, it is they who are most worthy of love. For this reason, they feel jealous of the beauty, intelligence, virtue or possessions of others. Sometimes, this jealousy reaches to such an extent that they wish others to lose all their good.
Another reason why they are incapable of showing love is that they cannot appreciate other people' s good qualities. Moreover, even if they were to recognise them, they expressly avoid mentioning them. The presence of someone else with better qualities than they make them feel uneasy. Consumed with jealousy, they are malicious and hostile.
The arrogant, with such disquieted spirit, are, in actuality, in great loss; throughout their lives, they are never able to experience true love, a feeling which is a great blessing from Allah. Apart from not being able to love, they are also not loved in the true sense, though they may be good-looking or intelligent. Because they share certain mutual interests, they may have established relationships with some people. Otherwise, most dislike their company. There is something unpleasant about their character and air. Considering the absence of tenderness, warmth, sincerity and modesty in their character, it is not difficult to understand why people avoid such people, no matter what their status or privilege.
They Are Unable to Enjoy Anything
An arrogant person is also unable to enjoy anything. Events and places that others generally take pleasure in do not meet up to their taste. In such circumstances, they seek the imperfections of others, and, all the while, strive to make known their supposed superiority. They consider being "cool" and "indifferent" as a mark of that superiority, and find it degrading to enjoy themselves.
Nevertheless, it is again only themselves who suffer from the consequences of such a disposition; they cannot taste the blessings of having joy, constantly submerged in their gloomy world. Curiously, they are incapable of understanding the reason for their uneasiness. Although they possess many superior features, according to them, they cannot rid themselves of distress and unhappiness. This demonstrates the fact that those who are arrogant towards Allah are bereft of understanding; they cannot grasp that it is Allah Who inspires this anxiety into their hearts.
A verse gives a detailed account of the sort of the arrogance of these people:
When he is told to have fear of Allah, he is seized by pride which drives him to wrongdoing... (Surat al-Baqara: 206)
Allah causes these people to feel depressed and buries them in ignominy, on account of their "pride" and "forgetfulness" of Him:
When Allah desires to guide someone, He expands his breast to Islam. When He desires to misguide someone, He makes his breast narrow and constricted as if he were climbing up into the sky. That is how Allah defiles those who disbelieve. (Surat al-An' am: 125)
Surely these are the troubles inflicted upon people in this world; their repayment in the hereafter will be much severer.