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Islam Considers Modesty Part of Faith

Adil Salahi

Arab News, 7/23/04

Islam encourages Muslims to adopt certain qualities and characteristics so that they are able to cope with the problems of life and conduct their social relations in the best way. This helps to cement relations within the Muslim community and maintain strong ties between its members. We discussed modesty last week, and highlighted the fact that Islam adopts a totally different attitude from that of other communities, including modern Western civilization, which consider modesty a weakness and encourage overcoming it through assertiveness. That modesty encourages a person to sacrifice some of what belongs to him in order to earn reward from God or win other people’s love and respect fits perfectly with the Islamic approach to social relations, material values and the concept of action and reward. At the same time, Islam insists that everyone should have their rights and no one can limit or disregard the rights of another.

Islam makes modesty part of faith, a fact which is stressed in several Hadiths. One of them is reported by Abdullah ibn Umar, the companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “Modesty and faith are interlinked: if either of them is lacking, the other is lacking too.” We see this clearly apparent. Good believers are, generally speaking, modest, easy to get on with, and would not stress their own roles. By contrast, people who lack faith often lack modesty. This is due to the fact that when faith is lacking, the life of this world becomes people’s primary preoccupation. Therefore they try to get as much as possible out of what they hold to be important for them. This leads them to be presumptuous, overbearing, assertive and may often lead some people to trample over the rights of others. A believer who is convinced of meeting God and having to account for what he does in this life will hesitate before stressing his own importance, let alone usurping someone else’s rights.

Another important quality Islam stresses is the need to tame one’s feelings of love and hate. It is reported that Ali ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet’s cousin who was a great scholar, said to Ibn Al-Kawwa: “Do you know the old statement: Love moderately, for the person you love today may be the one you hate in future; and hate moderately, for the person you hate today may be your loved one in future.” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Al-Tirmidhi and Al-Tabarani).

This is a very sound advice because when feelings of love and hate are too strong, they blur a person’s vision and he or she is unable to put things in the proper perspective. It is universal wisdom that tells us that when we love we tend to overlook the faults of the person we love. Should that person make mistakes, we try to find justification for them. If others criticize him for his mistakes, we are ready to defend him. Sometimes we go to great lengths in order to show that what is a clear mistake or flaw of character is not what it appears like. Such an attitude will always lead to problems, because it expects perfection where it is not possible. Hence, when a mistake is repeated one time too many, or a flaw consistently appears to be visible, facts stare us in the face and we have to admit that what we valued too high is far from meeting our expectations. If this happens over something of importance, then it could lead to love giving way to hate. The stronger our love used to be, the greater our disappointment and the more likely that it would be replaced by hate that could again be too strong. Therefore, the first part of the advice contained in this Hadith is absolutely correct: “Love moderately, for the person you love today may be the one you hate in future.”

The same thing can be said in reverse. Should we hate someone for misdeeds, unacceptable conduct or some other cause, our hate should be tampered with reason. If it is exaggerated, it will blind us to that person’s positive points. It should be remembered that no one is without some goodness that reflects in his or her actions or character. To ignore such good points and think only of the hate we feel toward such a person is wrong, because it could lead to further complications. On the other hand, some people whom we may not like may prove us wrong and allow their good side to prevail in their dealings with us. This puts us in bad light, because we will be ignoring what is universally approved as good.

On the other hand, our hate might be due to a mistake or some failing on our part, and the person concerned may take some positive action to clear a misunderstanding or remedy a bad situation. When we allow this to take place and give a positive response to a good initiative we may set in a complete transformation in our relationship. In time, the old hate may change into love. If our initial hate is too strong, it could hamper such a process and deprive us of a chance to win over a good friend. Hence, the second part of the advice in the quoted Hadith: “Hate moderately, for the person you hate today may be your loved one in future.”

Indeed, strong love or hate should never be the feelings entertained by adults. This is stressed by Islamic values. Aslam reports that Umar ibn Al-Khattab once said to him: “Do not allow your love to be too passionate, or your dislike to be ruinous.” When Aslam asked him to explain, he said: “When you love, do not do like a child who is too passionate about the things he loves, and when you hate you feel like you would like to ruin the one who is the object of your hate.” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, and Abd Al-Razzaq).”

This Hadith sums up the point about allowing passions to be too strong and the need to tamper them with moderation and reason. Unless we do this, then we would be like children when we love and we would wish ruin on the ones we do not. This is not a proper attitude for a Muslim.



Earth, a planet hungry for peace

 Apartheid Wall

The Israeli Land-Grab Apartheid Wall built inside the Palestinian territories, here separating Abu Dis from occupied East Jerusalem. (IPC, 7/4/04).


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, like a Python (Alquds, 1/25/03.

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