Vanity is a harmful attitude that is linked to arrogance, narcissism pride and often to cruel words and even violence. It is the quality of the false scholars and leaders of religious groups who are not seeking to serve God but rather they are seeking money, power and the praise of men.
It is recounted in the Acts of the Adepts that one day Rumi was invited to a great assembly of notable scholars and Sufis in the palace. The scholars struggled over the best places to sit and argued over who should have the best seats.
The scholars of Fiqh who may sometimes be like the Pharisees of the Bible, obsessed with the letter of the Law but oblivious to its spirit had vainly taken their places in the highest seats. When Rumi arrived there was nowhere left for him to sit therefore e he sat down in the middle of the floor, which then caused another argument and stampede as those present sought to re seat themselves in what was an honourable position according to this new circumstance.
A sinner who lifts his hands in supplication
is better than a devotee
who keeps them proudly on his head.
I remember, being in my childhood pious,
rising in the night, addicted to devotion and abstinence.
One night I was sitting with my father,
remaining awake and holding the beloved Qur’an in my lap,
whilst the people around us were asleep. I said:
‘Not one of these persons lifts up his head or makes a genuflection.
They are as fast asleep as if they were dead.’
‘Darling of thy father,
would that you were also asleep
rather than disparaging people.’
The pretender sees
no one but himself
Because he has the
veil of conceit in front.
If he were endowed
with a God-discerning eye
He would see that
no one is weaker than himself.
Sensible human beings and jinn avoid haughtily considering themselves superior to others due to wealth, looks, ancestry or any other reason. God dislikes the vain and haughty ones, they are like Satan in their attitudes and they are most unlike the Prophets and the other friends of God who although they may have numerous good qualities – remember that these are just gifts from God to be used for the benefit of all, not for the inflation of egoism.
One who thinks that he is great
Is truly said to be squinting.
Know that if you have skills, beauty, wealth, power, influence, a great family, possessions or even piety – that these are gifts from your Creator or indeed tests from your Creator. He gives and he takes away.
Sometimes God makes one who He loves weak and impoverished, hated by men and amongst those who struggle in their day to day lives as a mercy which brings that one close to him and raises his spiritual station, protecting him from spiritual harms of the self. Constantly reminding him of the temporariness of life, leading him to remembrance by causing him to seek refuge in God from his many troubles and difficulties. Making him one of those who wakes in the night crying and reaching out for God, begging for His Mercy and desperate for His Love.
Sometimes God gives one who He dislikes riches, power, worldly beauty, fame, influence, attractive family and many possessions and the acclamation by the people of their imagined religious superiority – purely as a test, giving their inner Pharaoh the rope with which they may hang themselves through their arrogance, hypocrisy, vanity, tribalism, cruelty and greed. Allowing them the opportunity to manifest their inner evil and thus destroy themselves, an opportunity that they never would have had if they had remained poor and lonely, struggling to live in a difficult world.
Therefore, wise people are humble (whatever gifts God has given them) they are thankful and seek to share with and help others, using talents and gifts for the benefit of all, and never for self aggrandizement.