Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Modesty: Islam's distinctive trait|
|09/06/01 at 00:02:19|
|Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh|
[center]Modesty: Islam's distinctive trait
Dr Muhammad Kamal Al-Shareef[/center]
The Prophet says: "Every religion has a distinctive trait, which, in the case of Islam, is modesty." (Related by Malik and Ibn Majah)
God has fashioned man in the fairest form and gave him a psychological mechanism, emotions and motivation that help him to discharge his duties as the creature placed in charge of the Earth. These also help man to be God-fearing, fully aware that fear of God and refraining from what God has forbidden do not clash with his nature. Indeed believing in God, together with all the good actions which such belief encourages, provide the natural state in which a human being will not suffer any internal conflict. One of the feelings which helps a believer to pursue good action is modesty.
Modesty that Islam encourages is different from both shyness and social phobia which impede good action. In a community that has moved away from upright nature, chastity becomes a drawback, or even a stigma. Should a weak person live in such a society, his or her fear of people prevents them from pursuing a course of modesty, purity and chastity. Thus, shyness forces them away from modesty. This proves that the two are widely different. In essence, modesty means that a person is anxious that his or her image must not be distorted in the sight of other people, or God or even in their own sight.
A person who values his dignity, is aware of the presence of God, the Creator of all, respects people and shows no arrogance is always keen to maintain the high standard of morality that behoves all respectable human beings. Such a person is keen not to descend into what is unbecoming or degrading. He wants to make sure that God will not see him doing what He has forbidden, and that people will not see him doing what he considers to be beneath him. He tries to maintain his self-respect by steering away from what gives him a bad image with other people or with God Almighty.
When a modest person is faced with a situation which threatens his self-respect or undermines the ideal he so keenly cherishes, he will soon blush and experience the same emotions generated by worry, such as faster heartbeats, shivering, perspiration, etc. Should he slip into error, he loses his self-respect. If he feels that people are aware of his error, he believes that his position has diminished in their esteem. To him, this means that he has slipped into what is unbecoming of a man of virtue. It is he who judges himself to be less respectable as a result of his error. What gives a man such a feeling of humiliation is not big fear of other people, but his committing of what distorts his own image in his own sight and in the sight of other people.
Modesty gives a person a new sense that serves to guard the moral values and standards one believes in. A believer in God firmly holds on to moral values, because he truly believes in these values. Hence, modesty is the distinctive trait of the religion of Islam. The Prophet makes modesty an attribute of God when he says: "God is kind and generous. When a person raises his hands in supplication, He is too kind to let him take them down empty." (Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawood and At-Tirmithi). The Prophet says: "Modesty is totally good." (Related by Muslim). He also says: "Modesty brings nothing but good."(Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Abdullah ibn Omar reports that the Prophet passed by a man who was admonishing a brother of his for being too modest. The Prophet said to him: "Let him be; for modesty is a part of faith." (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). The Prophet provides for us the best example of modesty. His companion, Abu Saeed Al-Khudri says: "God's messenger was more modest than a virgin in her own room. If he saw something that he disliked, we would know his feeling by the expression on his face." (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
As modesty is the psychological factor that restrains a person from contravening moral values, a psychopath has none of it, because he has no respect for other people. In fact a psychopath does not hesitate to commit anything in order to indulge his desires. The Prophet points to an undeniable fact when he says: "Part of the teachings of early prophethood that people have learned is, 'If you have no sense of modesty, you may do what you like'." (Related by Al-Bukhari).
To conclude we say that modesty is the product of an attitude of double respect: one's respect of oneself and one's respect of others. Should either respect be absent, modesty disappears. Modesty is the essence of moral life that distinguishes man from animals. When modesty is non-existent, we see a wild beast in the form of a human being.
One should be very careful if one has to deal with a person devoid of modesty. Such a person will not hesitate to commit anything unless he fears to be caught and punished. If he feels he can escape punishment, nothing prevents him from indulging his desire, even though that may be at other people's expense.
[i]"Islam in Perspective" - Arab News - 13 November 2000[/i]
Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
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