satr (covering and sheltering faults)
all praise and thanks be to almighty allah and peace and blessings be upon his apostle muhammad, the seal of the prophets.
how many houses are ruined because of unveiling their private matters and concerns! how many problems are caused due to revealing a word or secret that should have been kept! how many wounds are in the hearts because some people have not kept their entrusted secrets! how many miseries happened to people after their privacy is uncovered!
covering up the shortcomings and faults of people is an excellent manner. it means to cover people’s sins and private matters as long as it leads to goodness and not to unveil them to ruin their lives. that is why this quality is very much praised by almighty allah. on the day of resurrection, allah will give a matching reward to that man who has such a quality, which means that allah will forgive his sins and will not call him to account for his sins. if at all he will do so, he will not do it publicly so that he is not embarrassed before others.
the meaning of satr:
satr in arabic means to cover, veil and shelter people’s faults and disgraces.
the status of satr:
* satr is an attribute of almighty allah:
allah loves covering and sheltering people’s faults and shortcomings and he is the shelterer, protector and coverer. the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "allah is modest and covering. he loves modesty and privacy." [abu daawood, an-nasaa'i, al-bayhaqi, ahmad]
on the other hand, allah does not love those who flaunts with their sins. whoever deliberately flaunts his sin angers his lord, who will not then cover him. whoever deliberately conceals his sin out of shame before his lord and before people, allah will bless him by concealing it. the prophet (peace be upon him) said: “the believer will come near (his lord) till his lord covers him with his screen and makes him confess his sins. (allah will ask him), ‘do you know (that you did) ‘such-and-such sin?” he will say twice, ‘yes, i do.’ then allah will say, ‘i concealed it in the world and i forgive it for you today.’ then the record of his good deeds will be folded up. as for the others, or the disbelievers, it will be announced publicly before the witnesses: ‘these are ones who lied against their lord.” [bukhari]
the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “all of my ummah will be fine except for those who commit sin openly (al-mujahiroon). part of committing sin openly is when a man does something at night and allah conceals it, but in the morning he says, ‘o so-and-so, last night i did such and such.’ his lord had covered his sin all night, but in the morning he removed the cover of allah.” (narrated by al-bukhari, 5721; muslim, 2990)
* satr is a trait in the prophets and the righteous people:
almighty allah loves the quality of satr in humans. it is a trait in the characters of prophets, apostles, and their followers to the day of judgment. narrated abu huraira that the prophet (peace be upon him) said: "(the prophet) moses was a shy person and used to cover his body completely because of his extensive shyness.” [bukhari]
* the reward of satr in the hereafter is great:
the reward of the believer who conceals the faults or mistakes of his fellow muslim is far greater than the reward in the present life. almighty allah will shelter him in the most difficult situation in the hereafter, the muslim will need shelter, covering and mercy from his lord on the day of judgment when all creatures face allah to be rewarded or punished based on their record of deeds.
it was related on the authority of abu hurairah that the prophet (peace be upon him) said: "whosoever relieves from a believer some grief pertaining to this world, allah will relieve from him some grief pertaining to the hereafter. whosoever alleviates the difficulties of a needy person who cannot pay his debt, allah will alleviate his difficulties in both this world and the hereafter. whosoever conceals the faults of a muslim, allah will conceal his faults in this world and the hereafter. allah will aid a servant (of his) so long as the servant aids his brother. whosoever follows a path to seek knowledge therein, allah will make easy for him a path to paradise. no people gather together in one of the houses of allah, reciting the book of allah and studying it among themselves, except that tranquility descends upon them, mercy covers them, the angels surround them, and allah makes mention of them amongst those who are in his presence. whosoever is slowed down by his deeds will not be hastened forward by his lineage." [bukhari]
kinds of satr (covering):
covering has many kinds such as:
1- covering of awrah ():
the muslim has to cover his awrah and never reveal it to anyone who is not permissible to see. for example, a man should not look at the awrah of another man, but between a man and his wife there is not such rule. also, a woman should not look at the awrah of another woman. it was narrated that abu sa’eed al-khudri said: the messenger of allah (peace and blessings of allah be upon him) said: “no man should look at the awrah of another man and no woman should look at the awrah of another woman. no man should be with another man under one cover and no woman should be with another woman under one cover.” [narrated by muslim, 338]
2- covering during bathing:
it is necessary (wajib) (and recommended according to another opinion) in the hanafi school, to cover one’s minimum nakedness (between the navel and knee for both men and women) even when alone. the exception to this is when there is a need, such as taking a shower, relieving oneself, or changing one’s clothes. even in such situations, it is recommended to minimize the exposure.
ya’la ibn umayya reports that the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “verily allah is modest and discreet and he likes modesty and discretion. when one of you takes a bath, one should cover one’s self.” [hadith sahih, sunan abu dawud, sunan nasa’i & musnad ahmad]
3- concealing the secrets of marriage:
spouses should be protectors and trustworthy towards each other. they are like garments for each other, a garment that cover the body and protects it. almighty allah says in the qur’an: “it is made lawful to you, upon the night of the fast, to lie (literally: lying) with your wives; they are a garment (i.e. vestment, mutual protection) for you, and you are a garment for them.” (al-baqrah: 187) the sunnah also teaches muslims to protect their spouses and conceal their secrets. muslim reports from abu sa’eed al-khudri that the prophet (peace be upon him) said:”the most evil person in the sight of allah on the day of resurrection is a man who sleeps with his wife and then goes out and spreads her (sexual) secrets.” [sahih muslim]
4- concealing charity:
the muslim has to pay charity only for the sake of almighty allah and his reward in the present life and in the hereafter. this is why the muslim should hide and conceal charity or his due zakah when he gives it to the needy and poor, it should be given in secrecy without anyone seeing, unless he aims to encourage others to do so if he shows it, this should be his intention. at the end, indeed allah is the all-knowing of people’s intentions.
conditions of satr:
if the muslim wants to conceal the faults of his brother or sister in islam, then he has to consider some conditions when he does so that the aim of satr is achieved. some of these conditions are:
1- covering or sheltering the faults of a person should not be a mean to humiliate or blackmail him.
2- concealing the secrets shouldn’t ban us from telling our testimony, i.e. if we are asked to testify in a court. almighty allah says: “and do not keep back the testimony; and whoever keeps it back, then surely his heart is vicious; and allah is ever-knowing of whatever you do.” (al baqarah: 283).
3- satr is based on returning trusts and deposits, namely giving rights back and fulfilling duties. if they are not returned to their owners, then the one who conceals or covers up for the unreliable trustee is an accessory to him in dishonesty. they are both partners and associates in wasting others’ rights.
4- if the person whom we cover his faults or mistakes insists on sinning, corruption and extorting others’ rights, then we should never cover or conceal his crimes as this might encourage him to increase his illegal and unreligious activities.
fruits of satr:
1- satr extinguishes the fire of corruption and promotes amiability and love among people.
2- satr achieves happiness to the protector or the one who provides shelter of others. it leads him to the reward of the present life and in the hereafter.
3- satr attains and gives to the protector wisdom, prudence, insight and an ability to conceal. these traits are only found in moral people.
how to gain the quality of satr:
1- contemplating and considering the quality of satr and remembering that allah conceals the faults and sins of a person who does the same for his brother/sister in the present life.
2- applying and following the quality of altruism. to love to your brother what you love for yourself and wish for others what you wish for yourself.
3- remember the punishment of following or pursuing others’ secrets and weak points to expose them to disgrace them. whoever exposes the secrets or faults of his fellow muslims or disgraces them, allah will expose his secret or fault because he aimed to scandalize others so his punishment is of the nature of his bad deed.
may allah shelter, protect and conceal our faults. may allah surround us with his patronage, care and lead us to goodness and reward in the present life and the hereafter, ameen!
() awrah: parts of the body that are not supposed to be exposed to others, but this is not to be confused with the english meaning 'private parts', because a woman's legs, for example, is an awrah.