What is modesty?

July 26, 2021

Modesty, or Haya’ in Islam, is a matter of great importance. Despite the fact that many have made modesty something that is primarily attached to women in Islam, it is something that men too should seek to perfect. Modesty includes the appearance of a person (such as concealing their ‘awrah), yet it also includes the way in which a person conducts themselves; both in mannerisms and speech.

The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Among the words of the earlier Prophets that still remain with people are: If you feel no shame, then do as you wish.” [Bukhari, 3484].

Al-Hafiz mentioned that the words “then do as you wish” appear in the imperative (a command) but what is meant is a threat, i.e., do as you wish and Allah will requite you. Henceforth, it can be seen that one thing that separates Muslims from non-Muslims, is the great focus on shame and modesty – and trying to emulate the Haya’ that our Prophet (ﷺ) had.

In Islam, our actions are related to our faith, and many Scholars of Islam have stated that our faith in Islam also consists of what we say and what we do. With regards to modesty, a particular Hadith regarding Iman highlights this concept.

Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه) reported that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Iman has over seventy branches – or over sixty branches – the uppermost of which is the declaration: ‘None has the right to be worshiped but Allah’; and the least of which is the removal of harmful object from the road, and modesty is a branch of Iman.” [Bukhari and Muslim].

Salim reported from his father that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) passed by a man who berating/admonishing his brother about his modesty. He told him, “Let him be. Modesty is part of faith.” [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, 602 – Sahih (Al-Albani, reported in Bukhari as well].

How does one increase in Haya’?

  • 1. Dress modestly. It comes as no surprise that if you appear in modest dress, you will feel a greater need to match it with your manners and speech.

  • 2. Remain humble and do not be prideful. If you are full of yourself, seek to feed your Nafs (self, ego) and belittle others – it will surely cause you to decrease in modesty. Since you believe that you are above others, you will feel no need to rectify your conduct.

  • 3. Do not overstep boundaries. This particularly applies to mixed settings, and trying your best to avoid freely mixing with the opposite gender. Do not seek out personal information, avoid private discussions with the opposite gender when there is no need and ultimately remember where the line is.

  • 4. Learn about the Prophet and the great Companions. For they were certainly among the most modest of people; so learn about them and emulate them. Knowledge surely makes the path to Paradise easier.

  • 5. Speak good, or stay silent. Do not be bashful, hasty, annoying, and an embarrassment to yourself and others. If you know that you have nothing good to say, the best thing to do is stay silent. In the context of both social media and real-life interaction, think before you type/speak and ask yourself whether what you wish to say is permissible and beneficial.

  • 6. Have good company. It was said that we should befriend the one who is above us in the religion and below us in the worldly life. Surrounding yourself with people who have perfected their shyness, modesty and shame will cause you to reflect on your own levels of modesty. Subsequently, you should also try your best to remove immodest influences (be it people, social media accounts, etc) as they will slowly desensitize your soul from that which is Haram.