Allah, the Provider, Who considers modesty as one of the greatest morality. Allah, Exalted is He, has declared the truth in His Holy Book:
“And this [Qur’an] is a Book We have revealed [which is] blessed, so follow it and fear Allah that you may receive mercy.” (Al-Quran, surah Al-An’am : 155).
He also says,
“So give good tidings to My servants. Who listen to speech and follow the best of it. Those are the ones Allah has guided, and those are people of understanding.” (Al-Quran, surah Az-zumar : 17-18).
There is no doubt that people are different in their characters; some have good morality while others have less or fewer. You may also find others, who are known for their generosity, others for their tolerance and others for their courage and loyalty. All of these fine manners are loved by Allah the All-Glory and His Messenger Muhammad. Yet one of the principles of Islam, Hayaa or (modesty- a pious shyness from committing religious indiscretions), stands out. This is closest to faith. In this regard our Prophet said, “every religion has its distinct characteristic, and the distinct characteristic of Islam is modesty.” The Prophet was modest and decent. Narrator Abu Said said, “the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had modesty more than a virgin in her tent.”
In many places in the Quran and Sunnah, Islam has urged us to seek the path of modesty. He (Muhammad) considered it part of faith as he said, “faith has over seventy branches or over sixty branches, the most excellent of which is the declaration that there is no deity but Allah, and the humblest of which is the removal of what is injurious from the path and modesty is the branch of faith.”
The fact that the Prophet singled out Hayaa in particular means that this part is central and leads to all other branches of faith. This is echoed by what a wise man said that self-respect is dependent on dignity in the same way as a plant is dependent on water for survival. It is also said that anyone who makes modesty his cloak, no one can see his flaws.
For his part, Umar Ibn Al Khattab said, “anyone who had his modesty weakened, his piety would wear out. And whoever had weak piety, his heart had died.”
On the same matter, a poet praising its virtues said what means: “there is no good living for man if living is decency bare, for the tree remains alive so far as its bark is there.”
Decent behavior is also one’s way to committing to acts of worship and benefiting from rewards. Our Prophet said, “modesty does not bring anything except good.” In another narration: “modesty is altogether good.”
Looking at modesty from this perspective, it is clear that who embraces such a fine characteristic shall see his faith strengthened and his acts of goodness increased, ultimately leading him towards Paradise. However, someone who goes impudent he does injustice. And who does injustice will be a loser and shall be overwhelmed by remorse. In this Hadith we read: “Al Hayaa is from faith, and faith is in Paradise. Obscenity is from rudeness, and rudeness is in the Fire.”
Each of these calls for good and keeps evil at bay. Faith urges the believer to do acts of obedience while decency prevents him from sliding into immorality. Our Prophet said, “modesty and belief are together. If one of them is removed, the other is removed.”
But the most honorable form of modesty is the one towards Allah the All-Glory. Our Lord is the most Decent and loves His servants who are modest and well-mannered. This is evidenced in the following Hadith: “Allah is characterized by modesty and concealment.” In another Hadith our Prophet says, “I advise you to obey Allah and be ashamed of Allah in the same way you be ashamed of a righteous man of your own people.”
This is achieved by protecting your limbs as dictated by Allah the most Exalted. Abdullah bin Mas’ud narrated that the Messenger of Allah said, “have Hayaa for Allah as is His due.” We said, “O Prophet of Allah, we have Hayaa, and all praise is due to Allah.” He said, “not that, but having the Hayaa for Allah which He is due is to protect the head and what it contains and to protect the insides and what it includes, and to remember death and the trial, and whoever intends the Hereafter, he leaves the adornments of the world. So whoever does that, then he has indeed fulfilled Hayaa, meaning the Hayaa which Allah is due.”
This means someone who is not modest, lacking Hayaa, is most likely will transgress Allah’s prohibitions, and he can easily commit major sins. The Prophet says, “one of the sayings of the early Prophets which the people have got is: if you don’t feel ashamed do whatever you like.”
The Prophet Companions were characterized with Hayaa as much as angels [out of respect] showed respect to some of them. Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, said,
“Allah’s Messenger was lying down in my room with his thigh or shank uncovered when Abu Bakr asked for permission to enter. He gave him permission to enter, remaining as he was. Then Umar asked for permission to come in and he gave him permission, remaining as he was. Then Uthman asked for permission to enter and the Prophet sat up and arranged his garment and then came in and spoke. When he left, I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, Abu Bakr came in and you did not exert yourself nor concern yourself with him. Then Umar came in and you did not exert yourself nor concern yourself with him. Then Uthman came in and you sat up and arranged your garment.’ He said, ‘should I not be modest before a man before whom the angels are modest?'”
Aisha also said, “whenever I entered the house in which the Prophet and my father (i.e. Abu Bakr) are buried, I used to take off my sheet (from head) thinking that it’s only my father and husband (whom I am visiting), however By Allah! When Umar got buried with them, I never went inside without being fully covered; this is because of being ashamed of Umar.”
That is said, if Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, felt ashamed of a man buried, then modesty must be shown first and foremost to those who are still alive. Similarly any Muslim woman must act with dignity when dealing with all people. We read in the holy Quran the story of a woman who was known for her modest behavior. About her Allah the Almighty says,
“Then one of the two women came to him walking with shyness. She said, “Indeed, my father invites you that he may reward you for having watered for us.” So when he came to him and related to him the story, he said, “Fear not. You have escaped from the wrongdoing people.” (Al-Quran, surah Al-Qasas : 25).
Truly modesty is a protection for the Muslim woman and man from misdeeds. So whoever stays ashamed of Allah the Exalted is He by averting one’s gaze, protecting one’ limbs, maintaining the chastity of heart and tongue, he will see his manners elevated and his treatment of people dignified.
May Allah direct us all to the blessings of the Glorious Quran and the Sunnah of His Messenger and benefit us all in whatever is in them.