In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, Most Merciful.
Modesty is an important aspect of Islamic teachings, as it builds a person’s character. It is the attribute of modesty that keeps a person safe from any sinful and evil act, whereas its absence leads one easily in all sorts of wrong-doings and makes him responsible for bringing disgrace to oneself. Our Prophet (PBUH) has said: “When you do not have modesty, do whatever you like.” (Sahih Bukhari) Therefore modesty can be defined as a virtue that protects a person from doing any act that is disliked in the sight of Almighty Allah and His servants. Modesty encompasses all that is good and dignified from attire to one’s behavior, speech, and actions.
Modesty has been given equal importance in the Holy Quran with other virtues like Faith, obedience to Allah (SWT), truthfulness, patience and humbleness etc. as it is said in Surah Al Ahzab, “Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their chastity and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so - for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.” (33:35)
Islam urges both men and women to observe modesty as it is the basis of all ethics. It is stated in a hadith that every religion has a characteristic (Khulq) and the characteristic of Islam is modesty. (Ibn-e-Maja) The Quran explicitly instructs both men and women to lower their gaze, dress modestly, and guard their chastity. In Surah An Nur, Allah (SWT) says, “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest.” (24:30-31)
Our beloved Prophet (PBUH) also emphasized the importance of modesty in his teachings and actions. He encouraged to dress modestly, to speak and act with humility and to avoid arrogance and pride. In a Hadith it is said, “Modesty is a branch of faith, and faith is the key to Paradise. Whoever has no modesty has no faith.” (Sahih Muslim). According to this Hadith, modesty is not just a desirable quality in Islam, but it is an essential part of faith. It is a sign of piety and devotedness to the Commands of Allah (SWT) and His Apostle (AHS).
In another Hadith that is narrated by Hz. Abu Hurairah (Rz), Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said: “Faith (iman) consists of more than seventy branches. And modesty (haya) is a branch of faith.” (Sahih Bukhari)
Sufyan bin Uyaynah, an Islamic scholar from 8th century said, “Haya is the most elementary form of taqwa, and the servant does not fear (Allah) until he first experiences shame. How else did the pious reach piety except through haya?” Further, we also learn from the holy Quran, that Piety, God-consciousness is one of the most honorable characters of a Muslim as it is stated in the Holy Quran, “….Verily the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-fearing of you. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware”. (49:13)
Hz. Abdullah bin Umar (Rz) narrates that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Haya and faith have been paired together whereby if one is gone, the other is removed as well.” We must be aware of the fact that today immodesty is being spread by means of films, advertisements, cartoons, social media, etc., that is making Muslims weak in faith. Hence it should be our duty to protect our Faith by avoiding all such means which harm it because nothing is as precious as Faith. It should be noted that Islam is the religion that promotes and encourages modesty the most. When Haz. Umar bin Abdul Aziz (Rh) heard people saying, “Haya (modesty) is part of the religion”, he responded, “Rather it is the entire religion.”
In the companions of our beloved Prophet (PBUH) we have shining examples to follow. It is well-known that Allah distinguished Hz. Uthmān bin ʿAffān (Rz) in particular, with this quality. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) attested to this himself, saying, “The most genuine of my nation in haya is Uthman.” His haya was so intense that it elicited the haya of the people and angels around him.
Hz. ʿĀʾishah (Rz) herself was known for her incredible haya, to the degree that she would be uncomfortable removing her hijab even in front of the grave of Haz. Umar (Rz) . She says, “I used to enter the room without my veil where the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and my father were buried and would tell [myself] that it was only my husband and my father. But, by Allah, once ʿUmar (Rz) was buried [there], I never entered it without my garbs pulled over me—out of haya of ʿUmar (Rz) ." Bibi Fatima (Rz) , the beloved daughter of our Prophet (PBUH) is well-known for her modesty. She observed modesty in such a way that she remained hidden from the glance of every stranger her whole lifetime and urged strictly to take her corpse for burial in the night so nobody could see it.
Such were the high standards of modesty in the past but alas! Today we take pride in copying the culture of other nations which don’t have due value for modesty.
Hijab is an important part of a Muslim woman. It is a term used to describe the covering and modest clothing worn by Muslim women in public and in front of non-Mahram. The concept of Hijab in Islam is there to protect the dignity of women in society, as it is said in Surah Al-Ahzab, verse 59: “O Prophet (PBUH) Ask your wives, daughters, and believing women to draw their cloaks over their bodies. In this way it is more likely they will be recognized as virtuous and not be harassed. And Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” Apart from this verse, other verses are there in the Holy Quran which emphasize the importance of Hijab for women.
Doing hijab has several benefits for women. It protects them from falling for the beauty standards of the world’s society that goes against Islamic values. It may change their priorities and they may focus to beautify their inner qualities rather than outward appearances. The concept of modesty encourages both men and women to behave in a respectful and dignified manner.
Hz. Abu Masud al Badri (Rz) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Verily, among the words people obtained from the Prophets are this: If you feel no ḥayāʾ, then do as you wish.” (Sahih Bukhari) From this Hadees, it is clear that we must obey and abide by The Commands of Allah (SWT) and the teachings of the Haz. Khatamain (AHS). Islam is a way of life, and we must not make it convenient for us as we please. For example, if a woman is not doing hijab, she must not justify her action but be aware that she is doing wrong and pray that one day she will start practicing Hijab for the sake of Allah (SWT). We must always be God-conscious in our actions.
May Allah bring the Holy month of Ramzan as a reminder and hope for us to change and be better Muslims. May Allah always guide us towards the Straight Path. Ameen.