Modesty (Haya)

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modesty (haya)

we will focus on the summit of good manners, the ornament of faith and the trait of islam according to a hadith by the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) who said: “every religion has a (distinct) characteristic and the characteristic of islam is modesty.” [ibn maajah]

haya is a term in arabic that covers a wide number of concepts. in english, it may be translated as modesty, shyness, self-respect, bashfulness, shame, honor and humility, they all can be summarized in modesty. haya itself is derived from the word hayat which means life. modesty of the person is based on the life of the heart. when the heart is alive and alert, it means it has modesty.

it is related by abu hurairah that the apostle of allah (peace be upon him) said: “faith is composed of seventy and odd branches of which the highest is belief in la ilaha il-lalah [i.e., the testimony of divine oneness] and the lowest is the removal of a hindrance from the road, and the sense of modesty is an important branch of faith.” [bukhari and muslim]

fact of modesty:

modesty is a quality that urges the person to do every good deed and abandon every bad one. it is a praised trait in the person as it is a proof of goodness that leads to safety and protection from disgrace.

status of modesty:

* modesty is an attribute of almighty allah. 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]

* modesty is a trait in the character of the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him). narrated abu sa'id khudri: “the prophet (pbuh) was more modest than a virgin behind her veil and when something displeased him we realized it from his face.” [bukhari and muslim]

* modesty is the characteristic of islam. the prophet (pbuh) said: “every religion has a (distinct) characteristic and the characteristic of islam is modesty.” [ibn maajah]

* modesty is a part of faith, in other words modesty and faith are like inseparable companions. the prophet (pbuh) said: “modesty and faith are companions; if one of them is removed the other is removed.” [sahih al-targhib wa-al-tarhib]

what is not modesty:

to be modest does not mean to be silent about the truth, as muslims should say only the truth, seek knowledge, promote virtue and prevent vice. in these situations, the muslim should not be modest or shy. he has to be firm, polite and wise in such situations, namely not to be shy to ask about what he does not know. the companions used to ask the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) about the slightest and most delicate matters in their daily lives and he answered them directly without any shyness.

kinds of modesty:

1- modesty towards almighty allah:

modesty is not to be observed only in relation to human beings. first and foremost we should be modest towards the almighty creator. generally, a person who does not entertain respect for his elders and behaves reprehensibly towards or before them is considered to be shameless and impudent, but not one is more unfortunate and insolent than him who feels no shame before the lord and knowing that allah sees and hears directly all that he does or speaks. yet, some people do all sorts of dirty and deplorable things in his presence. accordingly, if the sense of modesty is alive and active in a person, his life will not only be clean in the sight of fellow-men but he will also commit very few acts of transgression. it is stated in tirmidhi that once the prophet (peace be upon him) observed, while speaking to the companions: “practice modesty towards the lord as it ought to be practiced towards him.” “o messenger of allah,” replied the companions, “we practice modesty towards him”. “no”, the prophet said, “it is not that. the proper way of observing modesty towards allah is that you took care of the head and all the notions and ideas that are contained in it, and you took care of the belly and all that is contained in it [i.e., protected the mind against evil thoughts and the stomach against unlawful food], and remembered what your state is going to be on death and in the grave after death. whoever did so, know that he fulfilled the duty of observing modesty towards allah as it ought to be.” [sahih tirmidhi]

2- modesty towards the prophet muhammad (pbuh):

the muslim should be modest towards the prophet (peace be upon him) by committing to his sunnah (prophetic teachings) and following his guidance.

3- modesty towards angels:

it is known to muslims that almighty allah orders angels to guard humans day and night. there are angels who accompany the people of obedience such as those who seek knowledge, the attendants of circles and gatherings of knowledge or remembrance of allah and the visitors of the ill etc. almighty allah clarifies this in the qur’an: “and surely there are indeed over you preservers, honorable writers, (who) know whatever you perform.” (al-infitar: 10-12)

to be modest towards angels is to respect them and remember that they see us, so they should not see any obscenity or act of disobedience from us. the prophet muhammad (pbuh) said: “beware, never be naked for you are being attended by the angels who never leave you except at the time when you answer the call of nature or when you sleep with your wives. therefore you should be modest towards them and have regard for them”. [al tirmidhi] some companions advised people of remembering that angels are present: “angels never leave you, so be modest in their presence and be respectful to them.”

3- modesty towards people:

modesty towards the self is to be committed to virtue, chastity, respecting privacy and purity of the sprit.

fruits of modesty:

1- almighty allah loves modesty and he rewards believers for their modesty and fear of him. salman reported that the prophet (pbuh), said, "your lord, the blessed and the exalted one, is modest and generous, and he loathes to turn away his servant empty-handed when he raises his hands to him in supplication." [narrated by ahmad and ibn hibban]

2- modesty brings goodness as the prophet muhammad (pbuh) said: “modesty does not bring forth anything except goodness.” [sahih muslim]

3- modesty leads to paradise as it was stated in the hadith by the prophet muhammad (pbuh): “modesty is a part of faith and faith is in paradise and indecency is from evil and evil is in hell.” [tirmidhi]

4- modesty establishes glorifying allah’s rights, namely obeying his commands and avoiding his prohibitions, and fulfilling society’s rights.

how to adopt the quality of modesty:

1- it is innate in the child, so it should be developed and nurtured since an early age.

2- considering and always remembering the mighty and glory of allah and the torture in hell. the believer should always bear in mind that a reason to enter hell is obscenity and lack of modesty.

3- never to underestimate the rights of people, be generous and considerate to them and follow goodness towards them.

4- sitting and mingling with people of good manners, and benefiting from the life stories and guidance of modest people.

may allah guide us all to the path that pleases him!

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