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How Modesty Strengthens Faith

Along with fear and love of Allah, modesty is a requisite of faith. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) made it clear that modesty is part of faith (Muslim).

The reference is not to natural bashfulness, which we profess and practice in our mutual relations, but to the modesty that man must practice in his relationship with Allah.

If we are not modest in our relationship with Allah, it will undermine modesty in other relationships, resulting in a loss of aesthetic beauty.

What’s True Modesty?

Modesty has a bearing on human life in a variety of ways and defends man against Satan’s snares. In the following hadith, the Prophet (PBUH) brings out its comprehensive function:

Abdullah ibn Masud reported that the Prophet (PBUH) observed,“Be of true shyness of Allah.”

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When those present affirmed that they were modest, he guided them to the real meaning of modesty. According to the hadith, true modesty is to:

– be watchful of one’s mental faculties and the ideas which one entertains;

– keep an eye on one’s stomach and what it consumes;

– be constantly mindful of one’s death and the disintegration of one’s body in the grave.

– Besides, one who looks forward to the Hereafter does not run after the joys of this life.

And meeting these qualities makes one truly modest towards Allah. (At-Tirmidhi)

Main Elements of Modesty

Divine attributes infuse into one the consciousness of the need to maintain modesty. Those who possess true knowledge of these attributes have strong belief in them and feel genuinely shy of Allah.

By contrast, those ignorant of divine attributes, or those who are not careful about them, are not shy of Allah or fellow human beings. They are little better than animals who do not have any perception of modesty.

Let us illustrate the above point of how a correct perception of certain attributes infuses into one the virtue of modesty and its impact upon conduct. Of all the divine attributes, the idea of His perfect knowledge makes one really conscious of one’s own conduct.The believer should be always mindful that Allah watches each and every act (An-Nisaa’ 4:1).

Likewise, one should have the conviction that He is aware of the treachery committed by the eyes and of the secrets within the breast (Ghafir 40:19). It is also important to realize that we are always accompanied by Allah.

{There is no whispering among three but He is their fourth, nor among five but He is their sixth, nor fewer nor more, but He is with them wheresoever they may be} (Al-Mujadilah 58:7)

Evidently, those who believe in the import of that verse cannot commit any misdeed, even in privacy, which may embarrass them in the sight of Allah, for they cannot conceive of any place where they are not seen by Allah.

This persuades them that any sin they commit is being observed by Allah. Only a pervert or fearless person could commit a crime while conscious of that reality.

Day and night we observe numerous manifestations of Allah’s glory and power. In the face of these, we should not entertain any false notion about our own supremacy and greatness. Man is no more than a fly or an ant in this vast universe. The mountains around us are high in comparison to us. Compared to the oceans, we scarcely weigh a drop.

Given this, if we think highly of ourselves and walk around arrogantly, it is a sort of self-mockery. A parable tells of a fly that sat on a bull’s horn. After some time, the fly asked the bull whether it should move away lest its weight burden the bull. The bull replied that it was unaware of the fly’s existence and it was immaterial to it whether the fly sat there or not.

The same is true, in a measure, for certain arrogant people who attach too much importance to themselves. They walk arrogantly on earth and always speak in harsh tones. While admonishing them, Allah tells them,

{And do not strut on the earth insolently. You will not by any means rend the earth. Nor can you match the mountains in stature.}(Al-Israa’ 17:37)

Human beings stand nowhere in comparison to the numerous manifestations of Allah’s power and glory. Therefore, we should be all the more modest and humble.

We should take to heart the truth that all our faculties and resources are granted to us only by Allah. We are not the creators of any of these and we do not possess them except by His leave.

If we realize this, we are less liable to commit ingratitude or disobedience or rebellion. We cannot do anything without drawing upon the very resources granted by Allah.

Human beings are favored with these resources so that we may lead our lives as grateful and obedient servants of Allah. However, if we abuse these in favor of treachery and rebellion, it constitutes a heinous crime. So, we should be constantly and profoundly aware that it is Allah Who has blessed us with these favors. The Quran reiterates this truth many times.

Some persons think very highly of their contribution to the faith. They mistakenly consider themselves as the ones who have done good for Allah and His Messenger. However, even the greatest sacrifice offered by them does not really belong to them. If they donate money in His cause, money was granted in the first place to them by Allah.

If they suffer the delusion that they earned their wealth by dint of their talents and skills, they should not forget that those same talents and skills were granted by Allah.

Even if people sacrifice their lives for the sake of Allah, they should think more of their failings than of the sacrifice they are making.

This acknowledgement of our inability to do anything worthwhile in Allah’s cause and this repentance are the very essence of all acts of worship and obedience. The Quran identifies it as the spirit of humanness. The Quran reproaches some people for their mistaken belief that they did a favor for Allah and His Messenger by embracing Islam.

They are told that they have not made any favor. Rather, they should be grateful to Allah that He guided them to Islam.

 * Excerpted with slight modifications from ‘Tazkiyah: The Islamic Path of Self-Development.’ Courtesy of The Islamic Foundation.