All praise and thanks, Who is most Wise and able to all things. He sent down the Book to His slave so that mankind may contemplate its messages. 1 hereby testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allāh, Alone without partners, and that Muḥammad is His slave and Messenger.
My dear brothers and sisters in Islām! We learn through a Ḥadīth that “every religion has a chief characteristic, and the chief characteristic of this religion (i.e., Islām) is modesty.” This Ḥadīth informs us that modesty or Ḥayā’ as it is called in Arabic is a prominent feature of Islām. According to a Ḥadīth,
الْحَيَاءُ شُعْبَةٌ مِنَ الإِيمَانِ
Modesty is a Branch of Faith.
Insha’Allāh, in today’s khuṭbah, we shall be sharing some thoughts with you on the concept of modesty or Haya’ from the Islamic Perspective. The word Ḥayā’ has different shades of meanings. Some of its meanings are: modesty, self-respect, shame, shyness, bashfulness, honour and humility. Islām encourages and treasures Ḥayā’. It is one of the most important traits that each and every Muslim should acquire and possess. Ḥayā’ is a quality that keeps a person from committing a sinful act. It is the feeling of rejection for every disgraceful matter. It prevents man from doing anything disgraceful no matter how minor it is. It is an attribute which pushes one to avoid anything detestable or distasteful.
If a person has no modesty, he or she will do almost anything. Muslims should possess both an inner as well as an outer modesty. This is reflected in behaviour, speech and appearance, and includes being mindful of Allāh at all times.
In the last Khutbah we discussed the concept of Fitrah and how Allāh (SWT) created human beings with fiṭrah, which is a natural disposition that is inclined towards right action and submission to Allāh. Our inborn fiṭrah can direct us towards Ḥayā’ and good morals. Our fiṭrah is programmed to feel uneasiness when codes of morality are violated. The believer is most in touch with his or her fiṭrah, and is keen to act in accordance with this natural disposition. Ḥayā’ is a quality that for some people comes naturally, and some may need to struggle to instill it in some aspects of their life. It is possible to revive and kindle this great quality of Ḥayā’, just as it is possible to ruin it by consistently neglecting it. Nurturing Ḥayā’ in our hearts is part of the process of our spiritual development and building our relationship with Allāh (SWT).
We often find that shyness, humility and bashfulness are frowned upon by our society as a weakness or a lack of confidence when, in fact these are quality of dignified upright human beings, who are conscious of their actions and their responsibilities in life.
We are living in a time where we are constantly exposed to nakedness and shamelessness; to the extent that we get desensitized to it. No thanks to BB Naija and the likes. When someone sees something lewd and vulgar for the first time, he gets disturbed; why; because his sense of shame is intact. But if he sees it over and over again, he no longer considers it a big deal. He becomes desensitized. The more he becomes desensitized to shamelessness, the more spiritually bankrupt he becomes. He begins to question. Why are people making such a big deal about it? Why is it that it’s such an evil? When the heart is not disturbed by sin anymore; when the heart is not disturbed by evil anymore, and you don’t find a problem with it anymore, that is a deep spiritual problem. And if we have that problem, then we will not be able to concentrate in our prayers. We will not be able to humble ourselves before Allāh. We will not be able to cry before Him. Those things will disappear from our life; because we allowed shamelessness to take over us; to take over our life.
Modesty is referred to in the Qur’ān in the verses 30 and 31 of Sūratun–Nūr:
قُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ذَلِكَ أَزْكَى لَهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ
Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allāh is well acquainted with all that they do. (Q. 24: 30)
وَقُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلاَّ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُيُوبِهِنَّ وَلا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ
And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty… (Q. 24: 31)
Addressing the entire humanity, Allāh says in verse 26 of Sūratul al-A῾rāf,
يَا بَنِي آَدَمَ قَدْ أَنْزَلْنَا عَلَيْكُمْ لِبَاسًا يُوَارِي سَوْآَتِكُمْ وَرِيشًا وَلِبَاسُ التَّقْوَى ذَلِكَ خَيْرٌ ذَلِكَ مِنْ آَيَاتِ اللَّهِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَذَّكَّرُونَ
O children of Ādam, We have bestowed upon you clothing to conceal your private parts and as adornment. But the clothing of righteousness – that is best. That is from the signs of Allāh that perhaps they will remember. (Q. 7:26)
It is reported that the Messenger of Allāh (SAW) said: “Among the things that people have found from the words of the previous prophets was: ‘If you feel no shame, then do as you wish.” This Ḥadīth can be understood in several ways because there are different explanations given by scholars. It is interesting that all these explanations are correct and are possible simultaneously. One way to understand it is as a threat. Do whatever you want, but be prepared to face the consequences. This mode of expression is well known in the Arabic language, and it is used for threatening someone. This mode is used by the Qur’ān in verse 40 of Sūrat Fuṣṣilat, which says,
اعْمَلُوا مَا شِئْتُمْ إِنَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ
Do what you like. He sees whatever you do. (Q. 41:40)
A second interpretation is that if you engage in an act and it is such that there is no reason to be ashamed of doing it before Allah (SWT) or the people, then you may do that act. The command here is in the form of permission. A third interpretation is that the hadith under reference is not a command but a statement of fact, meaning that if a person does not have any modesty, then there is nothing to prevent him or her from doing anything. This problem can manifest on two levels: on an individual level where someone is openly indecent and sinful, and on a community level where society as a whole embraces immorality.
There are many aḥādīth related to modesty. A few of these are: “Ḥayā’ and Īmān are two that go together. If one is lifted, the other is also lifted.” “Ḥayā’ will not bring anything but good.” “Īmān consists of more than sixty branches and Ḥayā’ is a part of Īmān.”
There are many manifestations of Ḥayā’. One of them is to have Ḥayā’ towards Allāh. A Muslim should feel ashamed to have Allāh (SWT) see him doing something or hear him saying something that is undesirable, and that may displease Allāh. There is Ḥayā’ towards the angels, as they are noble and dignified creatures who witness the acts performed by humans. Then there is Ḥayā’ towards other humans, an essential characteristic that keeps people from harming one another and from performing indecent acts. There is also Ḥayā’ towards the person himself such that he should be ashamed of his acts that are shameful. Basically, the sense of Ḥayā’ should affect a Muslim’s conduct before Allāh; before others, and even when one is alone.
The Islamic concept of Ḥayā’ should be promoted through all possible means and at all levels and by everyone: educators, teachers, preachers, lecturers, and parents. While modern day technology when used wisely is of utmost benefit, at the same time, when abused, it brings nothing but harm and destruction. Evildoers leave no stone unturned to promote anything that distorts and corrupts Ḥayā’. Entertainment is taking new destructive directions. Chances of committing crimes become higher in a society where nudity, adultery, violence, drug addiction, lewd music, and distasteful acts are all looked as means of entertainment. When Ḥayā’ is distorted, Īmān gets distorted too.
It was narrated on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar (RA) that he called on the Prophet (SAW) and found him crying. He asked him: “Why are you crying, O Messenger of Allāh?” The Prophet said: “I was told by Jibrīl that Allāh feels shy to punish a slave whose hair turned white while in Islām; so shouldn’t this (person) feel shy to sin after his hair turned white while in Islām?” Unfortunately, this Ḥadīth applies to many of those whose hair has turned white and are at the brink of their graves. Yet they are still heedless. They still look forward to this life and to collecting as much money as they can. They still do not pray, do not give their Zakāh dues, do not perform Ḥajj or even remember Allāh (SWT). Moreover, they do not try to avoid sinning. How disgraceful, arrogant and heedless can they be? May Allāh protect us and bless us with the right sense of modesty.
أَقُولُ قَوْلِي هَذَا وَأَسْتَغْفِرُ اللَّهَ لِي وَلَكُمْ وَلِسَائِرِ المُسْلِمينَ وَالمُسْلِمَاتْ فَاسْتَغْفِرُوهْ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
I say this and ask Allāh for forgiveness for me and you, so invoke Him for forgiveness, for He is the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful.
الحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على سيد المرسلين وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين
All praise is due to Allāh, the Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon our Master Muḥammad, his pure family, companions, and all those who follow them in righteousness till the Day of Judgment.
My dear brothers and sisters in Islām! What course of action should a person take if he or she happens to do something evil, immoral or shameful? Let me share with you the advice given by the Qur’ān in this regard. Verse 35 of Sūratu Āl Imrān says,
وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا فَعَلُوا فَاحِشَةً أَوْ ظَلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ ذَكَرُوا اللَّهَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا لِذُنُوبِهِمْ وَمَن يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَلَمْ يُصِرُّوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلُوا وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ
And those who, when they have committed fāḥishah (shameless acts) or wronged themselves with evil, remember Allāh and ask forgiveness for their sins; – and none can forgive sins but Allāh – and do not persist in what (wrong) they have done, while they know. (Q. 3:135)
This āyah is telling us about persons who, when they have committed a shameless act, i.e., they looked at something they shouldn’t have looked at, they went somewhere where they shouldn’t have gone, they were with someone that they shouldn’t have been with or they did something they shouldn’t have done; but then on realizing their mistake, they turn to Allāh (SWT) in repentance. So, if we want to save ourselves from becoming shameless, and if we do fall into any act of shamelessness, then the remedy for protecting ourselves is to immediately remember Allāh, and to immediately ask Allāh to forgive our sins. Who else is going to forgive our sins other than Allāh (SWT)?
Brothers and sisters in Islām! When we do something shameless, we feel really bad about ourselves. When we feel bad about ourselves, Shayṭān comes and says, “How are you going to talk to Allāh now? What face are you going to show Him? First you do this, and now you think you’re going to pray to Allāh?” And so we say “Yes, I shouldn’t talk to Allāh.” And we become distanced from Allāh. And Shayṭān succeeds. When we do something evil, especially an act of shamelessness, something that’s humiliating; we should immediately ask Allāh (SWT) to forgive us. But we should not persist in doing that act again. To have the attitude of persisting in a shameless act means that we are not sorry before Allāh. So, this is a Qur’anic advice for getting out of the cycle of shamelessness.
There is Ḥayā’ in the way we dress, in what we watch, in what we listen to, and in what we say. There is Ḥayā’ in the way we conduct ourselves, in how we treat others, in the friends we choose, in the places we go, and in what we do.
May Allāh (SWT) make us people adorned with the garment of Ḥayā’ and God-consciousness (taqwa). May Allāh allow us to have the gift of good company and keep us away from brazen and shameless activities. May Allāh (SWT) protect us from all kinds of shamelessness, and may He protect our Īmān and make us live and die on Islām.
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَأمُرُ بِٱلعَدلِ وَٱلإِحسَٰنِ وَإِيتَايِٕ ذِي ٱلقُربَىٰ وَيَنهَىٰ عَنِ ٱلفَحشَاءِ وَٱلمُنكَرِ وَٱلبَغيِ يَعِظُكُم لَعَلَّكُم تَذَكَّرُونَ
“Surely Allāh enjoins the doing of justice and the doing of good (to others) and the giving to the kindred, and He forbids indecency and evil and rebellion; He admonishes you that you may be mindful”. (Q. 16:90)
O Allāh, please confer Your blessings and grant peace upon our Prophet Muḥammad (SAW), his family and all of the companions. May Allāh have mercy on the honourable martyrs of our country and those of the coalition and gather them with the righteous. May Allāh make their dwelling with the ones upon whom Allāh has bestowed favour of the prophets and the steadfast affirmers of truth, O the Most Gracious the Most Forgiving. O Allāh, please grant the best reward for the families of the martyrs and offer them patience and solace.
Written by: Imam Mubin Olatoye Raji