UNIT FIFTEEN – PROPRIETY AND MODESTY

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 As reported by Imran ibn Husayn, the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said: “Modesty only brings good.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Adab, 77; Sahih Muslim, Iman, 60).

 

NARRATOR

Imran ibn Husayn

1. Imran ibn Husayn embraced Islam in the year 628, during the conquest of Khaybar. He served as standard-bearer of the Khuda’a tribe during Mecca’s conquest. 2. He was appointed by Umar to teach the people of Basra Islam, at the city’s establishment. Later, upon the request of Governor of Basra appointed by Caliph Uthman, Ziyad ibn Abi Sufyan, he was appointed to the position of chief judge of Basra. After retiring from office, he spent the remainder of his life teaching hadith in Basra’s mosque. 3. He passed away in Basra in the year 672.

 

EXPLANATION

Modesty (haya) or a sense of shame, like belief, prevents a person from committing evil and deters them from wrongdoing. Thus, modesty only brings good to a human being and it quickly becomes evident that it is altogether good. That is to say, irrespective of its source, a sense of modesty only brings goodness for the human being, from beginning to end. Unfortunately, there is an attempt in our day to debilitate this elevated feeling. Those who make an effort to show immodesty as a requirement of modernity and who dismiss it as nonsense, perpetrate the greatest evil against the human being. By corrupting their sense of shame and responsibility, they inhibit a person’s endeavor to perfect themselves.

1. Allah has cautioned both Muslim women and Muslim men separately concerning modesty and has openly revealed the manner in which they are to act in this regard:

Tell the believing men that they should restrain their gaze (from looking at the women whom it is lawful for them to marry, and from others’ private parts), and guard their private parts and chastity. This is what is purer for them. Allah is fully aware of all that they do. (an-Nur 24:30)

While this verse addresses believing men specifically, the verse below is directed at believing women:

And tell the believing women that they (also) should restrain their gaze (from looking at the men whom it is lawful for them to marry, and from others’ private parts), and guard their private parts, and that they should not display their charms except that which is revealed of itself. (an-Nur 24:31)

Literally meaning reserve and shame, haya in the Islamic sense refers to fear of Allah, refraining from saying or doing anything improper or indecent, to describe one who, out of fear and awe of Allah, seeks to avoid displeasing Him. Indeed, every human being has an innate, Divinely bestowed sense of modesty. However, when this instinctive feeling of modesty is nourished and developed with the modesty at the essence of the religion of Islam, it forms the greatest safeguard against shameful or indecent acts. Alone, and under specific circumstances, it may be diminished or even utterly lost. If this innate feeling of shame is not combined with awareness coming from belief and expressed in verses like: “Does he (who would impede the servant in his Prayer) not know that Allah sees (all that people do)?” (al- Alaq 96:14) and consciousness of Allah’s constant oversight: “Allah is ever watchful over you” (an-Nisa 4:1), it cannot last long, for both its existence and its continuation depends on belief. The modesty of every human being changes in accordance with their degree of belief. Needless to say, just as Prophets are examples in every other regard, they are examples for humankind with respect to modesty also. Despite his body being afflicted with uncountable wounds and illnesses for years on end, Prophet Ayyub (Job), out of his modesty, did not entreat Allah to heal him, but instead was content with presenting his situation to his Lord and called out to Him, saying: “Truly, affliction has visited me (so that I can no longer worship You as I must); and You are the Most Merciful of the merciful” (al-Anbiya 21:83). When, according to one narration, Allah’s Messenger was at Al-Aqsa Mosque during the Ascension, and Archangel Jabrail asked him, “O Allah’s Messenger, ask the spirits of all the Prophets if there is any deity worthy of worship other than Allah,” the Prophet replied, “I will not ask them, because I have no doubt (as to the answer).” He thus demonstrated exactly what true belief and modesty entails.

 

LESSONS FROM THE HADITH

1. Haya, or a sense of shame, deters a person from the vile or shameful acts unbecoming to the character of a believer.

2. Belief distances a person from indecency and wrongdoing.

3. Modesty contributes to an increase and resultant perfection of belief.

 

EVALUATION

 

1. What is the literal and contextual meaning of haya?

2. How many kinds of modesty are there? What are these?

3. Why did Allah place in Paradise an old man, whose hair and beard had grown white, despite his denial of his sin?

4. “Allah the Almighty feels ashamed to punish those of my Community whose ……… have turned ………, but those of my Community with white beards do not feel ……… to commit ……… .”

5. Describe the modesty of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph).

6. Provide a description of Prophet Muhammad’s modesty.