Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Salih al-'Uthaymeen رحمه الله said:
"The Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama'ah prohibit treating people as if one is superior to them; and that is when a person behave as if he is better than another.
The reality is that part of you being grateful for the favours that Allah has given you, when Allah has favoured you with virtues over others, from wealth, or position, or rank, or knowledge, or other than that; then it is necessary that you become more humble, adding goodness to goodness; because the one who humbles himself with an exalted subject, he is the truly humble person." [Sharh al-'Aqidah al-Wasitiyyah]
"Consider yourself to be most inferior, so much so that if you observe with your own eyes another indulging in the worst of vices, then too you shall not despise that person, nor shall you consider yourself nobler than him. On the contrary, one should fear and bear in mind that it is very possible that the perpetrator of the vice may resort to sincere repentance (tawba) and become a person of high piety, while the one who despised the sinner may become ensnared (Allah forbid) in the meshes of the lower self and Shaytan and be diverted from worship and obedience. One has no certainty regarding one's end. Therefore, one has no basis for regarding another with contempt."
[Shaykh Masihullah Khan رحمه الله: Path to Perfection, An Edited Anthology of the Spiritual Teachings of Hakim Al-Umma Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi رحمه الله]
"Conceit is a deep-seated disease. It is when the servant looks at himself with the eye of honour and self-glorification, while looking at others with the eye of lowliness and disdain.
Its effect on the tongue is that he says, "I this" and "I that." As accursed Iblees said, "I am better than him; You created me from fire, and You created him from clay."(7:12)
Its result, when in company, is believing oneself to be above others, seeking to have precedence and to take pride of place at gatherings. In discussion, it results in an aversion to being contradicted. The arrogant person is one who, when warned, haughtily rejects the advice, yet, when warning others, does so aggressively.
Rather than being arrogant, you should realise that the virtuous one is the one considered virtuos by Allah in the Final Abode, and that is something that is unseen and depends upon one's state at death. Your conviction, therefore, that you are better than others is pure ignorance. Rather, you should not look at any other person without seeing that he is better than you, that his merit surpasses yours, and yourself as nothing.
If you see a child, you should say [to yourself], "This child has not transgressed against Allah, and I have, so certainly he is better than me."
If you see an older person, say, "This person is better than me; he has been worshipping Allah longer than I have."
If you see a knowledgeable person, say, "This person has been given what I have not been given, and has reached [in rank] what I have not reached; and he knows what I am ignorant of - so how could I be like him?"
If you see an ignorant person, say, "This person has transgressed against Allah Most High in ignorance, while I have done so knowingly, so Allah's evidence against me is greater. And what do I know about my final stage [at death] will be and what his final state will be?"
And if you an unbeliever, say, "I don't know, maybe he will become a Muslim, and his life will be sealed with the best of deeds, and for his Islam he will emerge free of sin, as a strand of hair is gently removed from dough. As for me, Allah could cause me to go astray, so that I become of the unbelievers, and my life could be sealed with the worst of deeds. So tomorrow this person might be of the Ones Drawn Nigh [to Allah], and I of the distant ones!"
"Indeed, it has been revealed to me that you must observe humility, until no one considers himself above someone else and until no one covets what is with someone else." 
"And look at (the humility of Ameerul Mu'mineen) 'Umar Ibn al-Khattab رضي الله عنه when he produced the accounting books of the treasury and they said, 'The Ameerul Mu'mineen (should) begin with himself!' So he replied, 'No! Place 'Umar where Allah has placed him.'
So he began with the family of the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم, then those who followed them until his turn came within the tribe of 'Adiyy and they were listed after many of the elite Quraysh."
 Saheeh: Related by Ibn Majah (4179) and Abu Dawud (4859)
Abu Salamah رضي الله عنه narrated that 'Abdullah Ibn 'Amr رضي الله عنهما ran across Ibn 'Umar رضي الله عنهما on the hill of Marwah, so they descended and talked. Then 'Abdullah Ibn 'Amr رضي الله عنهما left and Ibn 'Umar رضي الله عنهما sat and wept. He was asked, "Why are you weeping?" He said, "'Abdullah said that he heard the Messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه وسلم say, 'Whoever has an atom's weight of arrogance in his heart, Allaah will throw him into the hell-fire on his face.'"
[Reported by al-Bayhaqi, 10:191. Al-Haythami referred it in 'Majma uz-Zawa'id' to at-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer and Ahmad. Al-Haythami said: "Its men are in the Saheeh."]
"Conceit originates from loving the self. For indeed the faults of the beloved are never noticed and are not believed to be flawed, rather they are seen as perfect by the lover.
From among the consequences of conceit is that it leads to detesting the thing that caused conceit in the first place, because the one who possesses conceit regarding a matter does not increase himself in it, rather he advances to find faults in others.
The cure of conceit is to know one's faults, as I have mentioned earlier, to ask other people about one's flaws, to reflect on the state of those who proceded him and had what he has [i.e. conceit].
Therefore, when a scholar has conceit regarding his knowledge he should read the biographies of the scholars who preceded him, or when one has conceit regarding his asceticism, then he should read the biographies of the ascetics. For this is when he shall not be proud of himself. [How can a person have self-conceit when knowing that] Imam Ahmad رحمه الله knew one million ahaadeeth by heart, and Kahmas Ibn al-Hasan رحمه الله used to recite the whole Qur'aan three times a day, and Salmaan at-Taymi رحمه الله prayed Fajr with the same wudu' (ablution) of 'Ishaa' for forty years.
Whoever reflects on the lives of other people would know that he, compared to them, is like a man who has a dinar, he is so happy with it, yet he does not know that there are people who have thousands and thousands of dinars.
Ibraheem al-Khawas رحمه الله said, 'Conceit prevents from knowing one's capabilities and limits.'
A wise man said, 'A man's conceit of himself is an enemy of his mental capacities, and how harmful is conceit to the merits.'"
Hasan al-Basri رحمه الله once noticed a slave with a woman near the banks of the River Tigris. In his hand, the slave held a bottle from which he was drinking. The saint thought to himself, "I regard myself as a sinner, but I am superior to this slave."
As he looked on, a boat with seven men on board began to sink in the river. The slave instantly jumped into the water and saved six of them. He then turned to the saint and remarked, "I have saved six of the seven. Since you regard yourself as superior to me, I request that you save the remaining person on the boat."
He then explained, "I was trying to test you to see if you were blind or observant. This woman by my side is my mother and the bottle in my hand contains nothing but water."
Hasan al-Basri رحمه الله realised his error and immediately begged the man for forgiveness. He also requested, "Just as you saved six men from drowning, save me from drowning in the sea of blindness."
From then onwards, Hasan al-Basri رحمه الله never regarded anybody with contempt.
[Tadhkiratul Awliyaa; as quoted in Pearls from the Path]
This is a story filled with lessons and warning, anyone who is in a high position of academic activity or in Tasawwuf or in any other service of Deen will derive benefit and guidance from it. They will learn that it is of utmost importance for one to avoid thinking of others as being inferior to him. They should always remember the advice of Shaykh Shahabuddin Suhrawardi رحمة الله عليه, the spiritual guide of Shaykh Saadi رحمة الله عليه: “Never become self-conceited and never look down upon anyone else.”
This story takes place at a time when piety, trust and righteousness was quite prominent in the lives of the people. In every town there were numerous Ulema and pious men, especially in Baghdad, which at the time was the seat of the Islamic State. It was a gathering place for the jurists, scholars of hadith, and the saints. In this city among all these pious people, was one Abu Abdullah Al-Andalusi رحمة الله عليه, who had thirty khanqahs (spiritual retreats) in Baghdad. In addition he was a well-known scholar and Muhaddith and it said that the number of his disciples was 12,000. He knew 30,000 Hadith by heart, and could recite the Quran in all the various ‘Qiraats’.
On a certain occasion he was going on a journey and was accompanied with a large crowd of attendants among whom were the well-known Junayd Baghdadi رحمة الله عليه and Shibli رحمة الله عليه. Hadrat Shibli رحمة الله عليه continues the story: “Our caravan was travelling along quite nicely, safely and comfortably until we passed by an area where Christians were residing. It was already time for Salaah, but because of the unavailability of water, we had not performed it yet. When we reached the Christian village, a search was made for water. We went about the village and discovered the town had many temples, sun-worshipping altars, synagogues and churches. Some of them worshipped the sun, some were worshipping the fire, and some were directing their pleas at the cross. We passed all this and reached the outskirts of the town, where we found a well and a few girls drawing water for people to drink.”
Shaykh Abu Abdullah’s رحمة الله عليه eyes fell upon one of the girls who stood out from the rest through her exquisite beauty. She was dressed in beautiful clothes and adorned in jewelry. The Shaykh رحمة الله عليه asked the other girls who she was. They replied: “This is the daughter of our chief”. The Shaykh رحمة الله عليه replied: “Then why did her father degrade her to such an extent that she has to sit by the well and give people water to drink?”
The girls replied: “He does not want her to sit around and be proud and boastful of her father’s possessions”. Hadrat Shibli رحمة الله عليه says: “The Shaykh رحمة الله عليه sat down with his head bent forward and remained silent like that for three days. At the time of Salaah he would perform his Salaah.” On the third day becoming despondent with his situation, I decided to speak to him. I said: “O Shaykh, your mureeds (disciples) are very worried and perplexed at this continued silence of yours. Please speak to us. What is the problem?”
The Shaykh رحمة الله عليه replied: “My beloved friends! For how long can I keep my condition hidden from you? My heart has become filled with love for the girl we saw the day before yesterday. So much has this love filled me that it is in control of all my limbs. It is not possible for me under any circumstance to leave from here.” Hadrat Shibli رحمة الله عليه replied: “Our leader! You are the spiritual guide of all Iraq. You are known for your piety, knowledge and virtues. Your disciples number over 12,000. I beg you through the Holy Quran not to disgrace us.” The Shaykh رحمة الله عليه replied: “My beloved friends, your lot and my lot has already been sealed by fate. The cloak of sainthood has been removed from me and the signs of guidance have been taken away from me. What has been predestined has come to pass, now I am nothing.” Saying this the Shaykh رحمة الله عليه started weeping bitterly.
When the people heard of our return, they turned up in large numbers at the outskirts of the city to come and meet the Shaykh رحمة الله عليه . They saw that he was not with us and asked about it. We told them the entire story. They was a lot of sorrow and crying. Many fell down in prayer begging Allah to guide the Shaykh رحمة الله عليه to the right path and return him to his former position. In the meantime all the khanqahs were closed down. We were still talking about the Shaykh’s رحمة الله عليه tragedy one year later when we decided to visit that town again and find out how he was. A group of us set forth and after enquiring were told that he was in the woods looking after pigs. We said: “Allah protect us! What has happened? The villagers told us that he had proposed marriage to the daughter of the village chief. The girls father had accepted the proposal on the condition that he would look after the pigs.”
“With tears streaming down our eyes, we went to the woods where he was rearing pigs. We saw him with a string of sacred beads around his neck. He stood leaning on a staff as he watched the pigs, standing in the same way in which he stood when he used to deliver the Khutbah for us. This was like rubbing salt into our open wounds.”
When he saw us coming towards him he bent his head in shame. We came nearer and said “Assalamu Alaykum.” He replied: “Walaykumus salaam”. Then Hadrat Shibli رحمة الله عليه asked: “Shaykh رحمة الله عليه inspite of your knowledge and virtue what is this that has happened to you?” The Shaykh رحمة الله عليه replied: “My brothers! I am now no longer driven by my own choice and will. Whatever Allah has desired for me, He has done with me. After having brought me so near to His door, He has now thrown me very far away from Him. Who is there that can overturn the decree of Allah? O my brothers, fear Allah’s power and wrath. Never become proud and arrogant regarding your knowledge and virtues. Then turning towards the heavens he said: “O my Lord, I never expected that You will make me so disgraced and despised and send me away from Your door.” Then he began crying bitterly and appealing to Allah.
Seeing the Shaykh رحمة الله عليه in such hopelessness, they left for Baghdad. However on the way they saw the Shaykh رحمة الله عليه in front of them coming out of a river, where he had just performed a bath. In a loud voice he said: “I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship besides Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) is the Messenger of Allah” The Shaykh رحمة الله عليه asked us for pure clothing to wear. He then started performing Salaah after which he was asked the reason why he was put through such an intense trial?
The Shaykh رحمة الله عليه replied: “When we arrived in the village and saw the temples, synagogues and churches and we saw fire-worshippers busy worshipping things other than Allah, a pride overtook my heart. I thought that these people were so foolish to worship lifeless things. At that time I heard a voice inside me saying: ‘This Iman that you have, in not part of your virtue or good qualities. All this is merely Our favors upon you. Do not consider your faith to be of your own choosing, that you can now look down upon these people with despising eyes. And if you so wish, We will test you now.’ At that moment I felt has if a dove had left my heart and flew away. That was in fact my Imaan.”
Hadrat Shibli رحمة الله عليه relates: “Thereafter our caravan arrived in Baghdad with great joy all around. All of his mureeds were extremely happy that the Shaykh رحمة الله عليه had reverted to Islam. He resumed his activities in Tasawwuf, Tafseer and Hadith. The Khanqahs were reopened and in a short while, his mureeds numbered over 40,000.
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.
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