Modesty Is A Virtue
A Simple & Modest Lifestyle
Saves You Troubles
(M. Javed Naseem)
وَلاَ تَمْشِ فِى ٱلأَرْضِ مَرَحاً إِنَّكَ لَن
تَخْرِقَ ٱلأَرْضَ وَلَن تَبْلُغَ ٱلْجِبَالَ طُولاً
“And walk not in the earth exultant.
Lo, you cannot rend the earth, nor can
you stretch to the heights of the hills.”
The race for the material wealth is on, at full speed, and more and more competitors are joining in. Everybody knows that materialism is causing us lots of economic, cultural and social problems, still nobody wants to quit the race. They just want to win. And win what? There is no end to the ‘greed’ because it is built on the foundation of ‘more’.
Just 50 years ago, we didn’t have those problems that we are facing today. The life, in general, was simple and modest. There was love, affection, sympathy, care and warmth among human beings. Now, we have lost it all. We are derailed as we have gone astray. We can still get back on track, only if we try honestly and sincerely.
We need to redefine our ‘needs’ and ‘essentials’ of life keeping in mind the goal of a ‘simple’ life. At the same time we should obey the commands of our Creator. The Almighty God has commanded all believers through the Holy Quran to be modest. He says:
وَٱقْصِدْ فِى مَشْيِكَ وَٱغْضُضْ مِن صَوْتِكَ
إِنَّ أَنكَرَ ٱلأَصْوَاتِ لَصَوْتُ ٱلْحَمِيرِ
“Be modest in your bearing and subdue
your voice. Lo, the harshest of all voices
is the voice of the donkey.”
Modesty is a virtue – the virtue of the prophets and the saints. It can only bring good and protect us from evil. It is actually a part of our faith that will lead us to Heaven. Muslims are required to be modest in all walks of life. The true Muslim community always encourages the believers to be modest, kind and generous.
Modesty is a virtue that our Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w.) was keen to stress upon. He himself had a very modest lifestyle and believed to be simple. Modesty is a universally acclaimed virtue and most of the world’s religions or cultures praise it. In Islam, it is a part of the faith itself. Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w.) said:
“By God! A person is not a believer (a
Muslim) unless he loves for his brother
(other Muslim) what he loves for himself.”
This Hadith makes modesty a condition of faith that one considers others in the same way as he/she considers his/her own self. This promotes not only equality and simple lifestyle but also eliminates the evil of selfishness from the society. A Muslim cannot be a snob or an arrogant. He has to be considerate of others. He is always humble. Remember that old saying our elders used to repeat to us:
“When a branch of a tree bears fruit,
it bends (bows) down.”
Now, that is being humble and modest. You are loaded but you are modest.
In another Hadith, one of the Prophet’s companions, Imran ibn Hussayn, narrated:
Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w.) said:
“Modesty brings nothing but good.”
Here is a true story from our modern times. Everybody knows Muhammad Ali, the ex-heavyweight boxing champion of the world. An incident took place when Ali’s daughters arrived at his place wearing clothes that were not modest. Here is the true account as narrated by one of his daughters:
“When we finally arrived, the chauffeur escorted my younger sister, Leila, and me up to my father’s suite. As usual, he was hiding behind the door waiting to scare us (great sense of humor!). We exchanged as many hugs and kisses as we could possibly give in one day. My father took a good look at us. Then he sat me down on his lap and said something that I will never forget. He looked me straight in the eyes and said:
“Hanna, everything that God made valuable in the world is covered and hard to get to. Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground, covered and protected. Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, covered up and protected in a beautiful shell. Where do you find gold? Way down in the mine, covered by layers and layers of rock. You’ve got to work hard to get to them.”
He looked at me with serious eyes and said:
“Your body is sacred. You are far more precious than diamonds and pearls, and you should be covered too.”
(From the book: More Than A Hero: Muhammed Ali’s Life Lessons Through His Daughter’s Eyes.)
Now, that is a beautiful piece of advice from an experienced and wise father to his young and aspiring daughters. Indeed, it is a great message of modesty.
Islam has elevated the status of woman by giving her more rights than other nations, but at the same time granting her a lot more respect for her modesty. In the Western materialistic cultures, a woman is an object of physical pleasure. A pretty model or a blonde actress of film/TV commercials can attract big crowds (clients). She becomes a ‘sales tool’ in the hands of traders. But if you ask those who come to see her, they will tell you that they came because they ‘liked’ her, and not because they ‘respected’ her. It is her physical (sexual) attraction. On the contrary, a modest and pious woman is considered a treasure in Islam and men are considered lucky to have such a wife. She is more valuable than all the gold and silver you can possess.
Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w.) was once talking to Umar bin al-Khattab (r.a.a.) and said:
“Let me tell you what the best thing is to safeguard as treasure. It is the woman who is pious and modest that when her husband looks at her, he gets happiness from the sight of her. And when he tells her to do something, she obeys him. And when he goes away temporarily, she respects the limits of Halal & Haraam and protects his property including her own honor.”
Some people misinterpret modesty. They think it is like poverty. Not at all! Modesty is a great quality that springs from contentment. When you are satisfied and content with whatever God has provided for you, you are modest. There are millions of examples of people living in different eras who had the means and the wealth but they chose a modest lifestyle. Simplicity is a part of modesty. A modest life is a simple life, close to nature and far from material corruption. Living within your means also falls within the limits of modesty.
Zakat is payable on the money that you possess, store, invest or keep it for one year. His son Shoaib narrates that during certain times his father’s income was around 25 thousand Dinars per year but he was always under debt. Zakat was never due from him. The amount of income kept fluctuating during different periods of time but he always gave away his money in charity. So, at the end of the year he never had a taxable amount.
One day a woman came to Laith bin Saad with a small empty cup and said that she needed some honey. Laith gave her a whole leather-bag full of honey. Somebody said: O Laith! She was only asking for a little bit of honey but you gave her a whole bag. Laith replied:
‘She asked for it according to her need. And I gave her according to my capacity. Allah has blessed me with His bounties, therefore, I cannot hold back.’ Allah-o-Akbar!
Those who understand Islam, they know that modest living can protect them from material problems or corruption. Despite the fact that sometimes they had a lot of money, they used only what was sufficient for their needs. The rest of it they shared with the less fortunate. When you lead simple life, you are modest in your appearance too. Men are not allowed to wear silk clothes and gold jewelry, and women are asked to pay Zakat on their jewelry. Gold and silver utensils are not allowed in a Muslim household. Muslims should look modest in their clothing too – no luxury robes. And then comes the modesty of character. The Almighty (Allah) directed all believers to be modest. He says in the Holy Quran, Surah al- Noor (An-Nur), Ayah 30 and 31:
قُلْ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّواْ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا
فُرُوجَهُمْ ذٰلِكَ أَزْكَىٰ لَهُمْ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ
“Say to the believing men that they should
“Say to the believing men that they should
lower their gaze and guard their modesty;
that will make for greater purity for them. And
Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.”
وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ
فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلاَ يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلاَّ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا
وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّ وَلاَ يُبْدِينَ
زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلاَّ لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَآءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ
أَوْ أَبْنَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَآءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِيۤ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ
أَوْ بَنِى أَخَوَاتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُنَّ
أَوِ ٱلتَّابِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُوْلِى ٱلإِرْبَةِ مِنَ ٱلرِّجَالِ أَوِ ٱلطِّفْلِ
ٱلَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُواْ عَلَىٰ عَوْرَاتِ ٱلنِّسَآءِ وَلاَ يَضْرِبْنَ
بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِن زِينَتِهِنَّ وَتُوبُوۤاْ
إِلَى ٱللَّهِ جَمِيعاً أَيُّهَا ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
“And say to the believing women that they
“And say to the believing women that they
should lower their gaze and guard their
modesty; that they should not display their
beauty and ornaments except what (must
ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should
draw their veils over their bosoms and not
display their beauty except to their husbands,
their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons,
their husbands' sons, their brothers or their
brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their
women, or the slaves whom their right hands
possess, or male servants free of physical
needs, or small children who have no sense
of the shame of sex; and that they should not
strike their feet in order to draw attention to
their hidden ornaments. And O Believers!
Turn you all together towards Allah,
that you may attain Bliss.”
The woman gets concession when she is among the family members. Otherwise, both men and women have the lines drawn – the limits or the ‘Hudood’ in this respect. The rules have been laid down, clear in black and white.
I live in a so-called Arab Muslim country and always see the young girls on the beach in their bikinis. Some of them are dressed far worse than the non-believing Western women. Even the young women who wear Hijab, dress up in very tight jeans, revealing pants or shorts, skimpy blouses and all kinds of skirts. It is a shame to see the city streets full of ‘sexy’ looking objects, and not self-respecting young ladies. There is no doubt that their parents will get their share of punishment for not bringing up their children according to the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah.
How strange that people feel the heat of the summer to dress up half-naked and do not feel the heat of Hellfire that is waiting for them!
Here is another Hadith quoted by Al-Bukhari in al-Adab al- Mufrad, Ibn Majah, and al-Hakim. They quote our Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w.) as saying:
“Modesty is part of faith, and faith leads
to Heaven; while vulgarity is part of unfaith,
and unfaith leads to Hell.”
It is unfair to blame the society or the surroundings for all the evil in our lives. We are the society; we are the community and we are responsible for the surroundings.
The Western world considers the famous Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, as the most influential personality of the twentieth century. In some quarters he is treated like a saint. Indians, in general, and Hindus in particular, claim Gandhi as the greatest ‘son of
India’. He always preached modesty
and showed the world his simple lifestyle. In 1937, while he was addressing the
Indian Congress party government’s cabinet of ministers, Gandhi advised all
cabinet members to lead simple life. He said:
“I cannot give you the examples of Ram
Krishna, because they were not
the historical personalities. I have no other
choice but to give you the examples of Abu
Bakr and Umar (bin al-Khattab) – the first
two Caliphs of Islam – as symbols of modesty
and simple life. They were the rulers of a great
empire but all their lives they lived like beggars.”
(Quote from ‘Hareejan’, dated 27th July, 1937).
Amazing, isn’t it? The funny thing is that non-Muslims appreciate the teachings of Islam, whereas we Muslims don’t even care about it. As Muslims, we are terrible role- models for others. It is time to get up and play the role we are supposed to play for the sake of our future generations. We should act with care and responsibility.
We are gradually losing our identity. We better do something quickly about it before we lose everything – this world and the Hereafter. We should revert to our origin. As every child is born in the nature of Islam, therefore, Islam is our origin and Islam teaches us to live a simple and modest life.
May Allah guide and help us all – Aameen!
(From my book “A Wake-up Call”, published in 2010)