By Abdul Moeez
There was a time up till my early teenage years when I used to look at Islam as something that my parents had instilled in me because their parents had instilled them with it. Similarly, I used to look at Islamic teachings from quite a common and somewhat narrow point of view. For example, I used to believe that modesty is a concept associated with women only because they have to dress up in a certain way. It was in my late teens, when I started to re-evaluate my beliefs with my conscience.
One day, while I was attending my Qur’an classes, my teacher asked me that if you have a muscular body and you wear tight shirts so that people could know how muscular you are, can you be called modest? Or if you own a new iPhone and you want to show it off to everyone, is that a modest attitude? I was stunned by these questions. I had never imagined modesty as something more than a tool to prevent sexual perversion in society. But it was now that I could see another very important aspect of it, which is, to eliminate narcissism and through it, eliminate feelings of envy in society. I still could not quite understand it until I came to know that the Qur’an itself testifies to this aspect of modesty. In Surah Yusuf, at one point in the story, Prophet Yusuf’s brothers take permission from their father, Prophet Ya’qub (Jacob), for leaving for Egypt. They were a group of eleven young, good looking, and sturdy men. Obviously, on entering the city, they would have gained people’s attention because of their youth and strength. Prophet Ya’qub’s advice to them at that moment is quoted in Surah Yusuf in this way:
“He also said, ́O my sons, enter not by one door; enter by separate doors. Yet I cannot avail you anything against God; judgment belongs not to any but God. In Him I have put my trust; and in Him let all put their trust who put their trust.’”
This Ayah shows that Prophet Ya’qub (A.S.) wanted them to enter in small numbers from different doors of the city rather than entering together from the main gate. The purpose behind this advise was to protect themselves from jealousy of the people as they were a band of young and attractive men. This advice of Prophet Ya’qub should serve as a principle in our lives if we want to avoid unwanted envy. Yes of course, modesty does not, like all other things, come for free. It comes at the expense of our worldly pleasure from attention seeking behavior. We have to restrict our urge to show off our fancy things and beautiful bodies if we want to protect ourselves from the evil of envy. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Modesty does not bring anything but goodness” (Sahih Bukhari). Once a companion asked The Prophet (peace be upon him), “O Messenger of Allah, is modesty part of faith?” In reply, our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Rather, it is the entire religion” (al-Sunan al-Kubrá).
Hence did I conclude that if we want to follow the creed of Allah’s messenger (peace be upon him), we should strive to be modest and humble in our lifestyle and conduct. This was the point where I understood the true meaning of modesty too, which was indeed not just something about sexual perversion; rather a constant rule for life in order to prevent ourselves and others from the inherent evil of jealousy. It is also an acknowledgment of how insignificant our lives are on Earth in the face of this vast universe, to boast and brag about our miniscule existences.