I was hoping that you could provide me with the contextual background to the following verses taken from verses 18 and 19 in Surah Luqman:
Turn not thy cheek in scorn toward folk, nor walk with pertness the land. Lo! God loveth not each braggart boaster. Be modest in thy bearing and subdue thy voice. Lo! the harshest of all voices is the voice of the ass.
I had thought that it might be connected to the reprimanding of individuals who used to bother the Prophet when knocking on his door and speaking loudly.
The verse that you have referred to is a part of Luqman’s advice to his son. This advice, as is quite clear from its contents, covers a number of the very basic moral duties of man toward his Creator and toward other fellow humans. These points of advice clearly follow the sequence of priority.
The first advice in this respect is to refrain from associating partners with the Creator. Associating partners with the Creator and sharing the reverence that is the right, solely, of the Creator, with such false partners is an obvious injustice.
The second advice is to deal with one’s parents in the best of manners and yet not surrender to their will if they want a person to hold partners with God.
The third advice is to follow the path of those who are repentant of their mistakes; those who sincerely turn toward their Lord, asking for His forgiveness.
The fourth advice is to constantly remind oneself that nothing in this universe is hidden from our Lord. Whatever we do, whether it is done in the light of the day in front of everyone else or in the dark of the night, hidden from everyone else, our Lord is fully aware of it. And because He is fully aware of it, He shall definitely make a distinction between the consequences following the good and the evil deeds. It should be remembered that a living awareness of the Omniscience1 of God, is the most effective way of fighting against the attractions of the evil forces in the world.
The fifth advice is to offer regular prayer as a show of gratitude for the blessings of our Lord and to keep oneself mindful of his commitment to follow the path of the Lord’s liking. To promote all that is good and to dissuade his brethren from all that is evil and to stay steadfast [on the right path] in the face of the difficulties that come his way during the life of this world.
The sixth advice, the one that you have quoted, is to avoid haughtiness and arrogance. All such behavior that is an evidence of arrogance should be shunned and refrained from. In this respect, Luqman has pointed out some of the common behavioral patterns, which evidence arrogance in a personality, and has advised his son to avoid these behaviors. The mentioned behavioral patterns include, sulkiness, walking with pride and talking to others in a high tone.
In view of the above explanation, it is obvious that your referred verses are a narrative of the advice of Luqman to his son. The narration of this advice, as the context of the referred verses as well as the placement of Surah Luqman shows, was to inform the people of Mecca that the attitude they have adopted toward the message of the Prophet (pbuh) is despicable and does not meet any ethical and moral values. The correct attitude would have been the one that Luqman advised his son to adopt. It should be kept in mind that Luqman and his teachings were quite well known and highly respected in the Arab tradition.
16th May 1999
- That is, the concept that God is aware of all things. [↩]