“We were of the most disgraced of people, and Allah granted us honor with this Islam. Now if we are to seek honor in other than that which Allah honored us with, Allah shall disgrace us”- Umar ibn Khattab (rA)
The problem is that we have forgotten the concept of ‘izzah (honour). We have forgotten that no matter what our physical or financial state is, Allah has placed us in a position of superiority over all other creation.
The Arabic word ‘izzah is from ayn-zay-zay, which means might, honor, respect, dignity, prestige, fame and glory. It also means to have the upper hand; sometimes ‘izzah is used positively for praise, and sometimes it’s used negatively for arrogance (such as surah Saad āyah 2).
• The root word for I’zzah, Azeez and Uzzah is ‘Azz which means to be or become strong, powerful or/and respected.
• ‘Azz’ can also mean to overpower/defeat.
…and He overpowered Me In speech. [Saad 23]
• Al ‘Izzah is a state which prevents a person from being overcome. When the Arabs call a land عزاز [‘azaaz’] they mean it is hard, solid, stiff and rigid.
• Linguistically this term means: might/ power/ standing/ strength/ force/ honour/ glory/ high rank/ fame/ pride.
In the Qur’aan, ‘Izzah is sometimes mentioned in a praiseworthy sense and at other times it is mentioned in a blameworthy sense as the examples below illustrate:
‘But honour, power and Glory belong to Allāh, his Messenger (Muḥammad Sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe Wa Sallam), and to the believers’ [Al Munaafiqoon 8]
‘Do they seek honour, power and Glory with them? Verily, then to Allâh belongs all honour, power and glory.’ [Al Nisaa 139]
When ‘Izzah is mentioned with regards to Allāh, His Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), and the believers, it’s an everlasting honour, power and glory – it’s the true [haqiqi] ‘Izzah. On the other hand, when ‘Izzah is mentioned with regards to the disbelievers, its used to denote both disgrace and dishonour:
‘Nay, those who disbelieve are in false pride and opposition’. [Saad 2]
To the Muslim, honour is something which Allāh has blessed us with. It’s the knowledge that in humbling ourselves to Him and Him alone, He has raised us above all other creation. It is the knowledge that by fearing Him and seeking reward from Him alone, no one and nothing else on Earth can inspire within us fear or interest in what they have to offer us. It is something which is attained by truly loving, believing, and acting upon the words of Allāh’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) when he said:
“Be mindful of Allāh, and Allāh will protect you. Be mindful of Allāh, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of Allāh; if you seek help, seek help of Allāh. Know that if the Nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that Allāh had already prescribed for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with anything, they would harm you only with something Allāh had already prescribed for you”.
‘Izzah is attained by worshipping Allāh alone, obeying His commands, avoiding what He has prohibited, and placing our entire reliance upon Him and Him alone. Thus, its loss occurs when we do the opposite: when our emaan weakens, and our tawakkul fades, and we allow into our lives that which Allāh hates for us. What kind of ‘izzah can we have when we abandon the very actions which are the cause of this elevated status? How can we have honour of any kind when we humiliate ourselves by neglecting the ṣalāh, replacing the Words of Allāh with the Qur’an of the Shaytaan (music), and place more importance in political activism than spiritual strength?
‘Izzah is borne of action, and is manifested as attitude. It is an attitude of superiority and of confidence, an attitude which we need to reclaim.
Allāh has stated repeatedly that He has chosen al-Islam as the only acceptable religion and that the true believers are those whom He has chosen as the khulafaa‘ of this Earth.
‘The (only) religion with Allāh is Islaam, but if they dispute with you, say, “I have submitted myself entirely to Allāh.”’ (3:19 – 20)
“So, do not become weak or sad, and you are superior if you are believers.” [Al ‘Imran; 139]
Once this is recognized, then we must go back to what we said in the beginning – this superiority and honour, this ‘izzah, comes only
from studying, understanding, and implementing Islam correctly in every sphere of our lives.
“‘So whoever hopes to see his Lord and be rewarded by Him, then let him make his worship correct and make it purely and exclusively for Him; and let him not give any share of it to other than Him.’ [Surah al-Kahf 18:110].
If we obey Allāh as we are supposed to, we will feel the peace, the tranquility, the strength and the confidence that befits those whom Allāh is pleased with. And once Allāh is pleased with a people, and He has promised them victory, is there anyone or anything on the face of this earth which could possibly stop them?
“Say: ‘O Allāh. Lord of Power (And Rule), You give power to whom You please, and You strip off power from whom You please: You endow with honor whom You please, and You bring low whom You please: In Your hand is all good. Verily, over all things You have power.’” (3:26).