Defining the Satar

Oct 10 - Defining the SatarBy S. K. Siddiqui and Tasneem Vali

In December, 2001, Nicholas Kristof reported in the New York Times that although Afghan women were no longer required to wear the Burqa, they did so anyway. In his view, only the subjugated and backward women would choose to cover themselves. Islamic law, however, assigns it moral, social and legal dimensions. It is of utmost importance to dress correctly, because your dress is a reflection of yourself.

It is human nature to make even the simplest instruction complicated; the same has happened with Allah (swt) commandment, especially regarding a Muslim woman’s dress. If we study the fundamentals of what Allah (swt) has commanded, there are very few rules to remember – they are clearly defined in the Quran.

“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts. That is purer for them. Verily, Allah’s All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms, etc.) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.” (An-Nur, 24: 30-31)

1. Extent of Covering

The dress of Muslim men must cover the area from the navel to the knee, while women should cover their entire body, except for the face and hands. The area that must not be uncovered in the presence of any person, except the spouse, is called Satar. Some additional instructions are as follows:

(a) A Muslim woman cannot exhibit her beauty and adornment, except for “that which must ordinarily appear thereof”. This prohibition could include:

  • natural beauty,
  • acquired adornment (jewellery, clothes, etc.).

2. Looseness

The dress must not be tightly fitted.

3. Thickness

The clothes should not be transparent, so that the colour of skin or the shape of the body is apparent.

4. Overall Appearance

It should not attract undue attention.

In addition to the above clear requirements, there are some minor considerations:

  1. The dress should not be similar to what the opposite sex wears. Ibn Abbas (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) cursed the men who act like women, and the women who act like men. (Bukhari)
  2. The dress of a Muslim must not imitate/emulate that of another nation. Muslims have their distinct identity and must ‘wear the label’ so to say. Al-Qurtubi says: “Women in those days used to cover their heads with the Khimaar, throwing its ends on their backs. This left the neck and the upper part of the chest bare, along with the ears, in the manner of the Christians. Then Allah (swt) commanded them to cover those parts with the Khimaar.”
  3. It should not be a dress of fame, pride and vanity. “Whoever wears a dress of fame in this world; Allah will clothe him with a dress of humiliation in the day of resurrection, and then set it afire.” (Al-Albani). At the same time, it is imperative to wear clothes that are befitting your socio-economical status – in other words, it is not right to wear rags to appear more pious.
  4. The dress must be clean, reflecting one’s concern for Taharah.

The verses in Surah An-Nur inform us about special relations known as Mahrams. These are the people in front of whom a woman may appear with her head uncovered, but the rest of her still needs to be covered. The spouse is a special case, in front of whom the other party may appear uncovered to any degree.

The basic code to follow is practicing what you preach. Allah (swt) says: “Most hateful it is with Allah that you say that which you do not do.” (As-Saff 61:3)

The rule never to break is that of decency. In every culture, the norms of decency vary, for instance, in the west, exposing your legs is not considered indecent, and in India, where wearing a Saree is common, exposing the midriff is acceptable.

However, as Muslims, we must interpret everything in the light of the Quran and Sunnah; thus, our dress and actions must follow the aforementioned conventions.

Even though Muslims might be properly covered physically, their eyes must remain open to the world. They may come across things which are Haram for them to see – they should avoid looking at them. This might include lowering the gaze when seeing a person who does not follow the Islamic dress code, exercising caution when watching TV, avoiding looking at billboards and sticking to guidelines of modesty in social interaction with the opposite sex.

Those of us armed with western education ‘know’ that it is rude not to keep eye contact with people when addressing them. However, Islam teaches that believing men and women lower their gaze to protect themselves. We need to unlearn these alien theories.

In addition to this, we should be aware that even though most of these rules apply post puberty, we have a responsibility to create awareness in our children about their bodies as soon as they become conscious of their clothing or actions. Children should be made aware that wearing certain types of clothes or acting in a certain way in front of the opposite sex is unacceptable.

Allah (swt) has given us simple and clear guidelines. It is our responsibility to follow them as closely as we can. We should avoid the trap of such excuses as – “If I cover my face, the other person will not understand what I say.” Do you see a person’s lips move, when you talk on the phone? A nun, who covers herself, is dedicated to God, but a Muslim woman who chooses to do the same, is viewed as oppressed and down trodden.

Break the shackles of your education – think with your heart’s eye! Let Allah (swt) be your sole guide.

The Art of Complimenting

Oct 10 - The Art of Complimenting

“You look amazing!”

“Your eyes are so beautiful!”

“Masha’Allah, what a beautiful house!”

“You delivered this Dars so effectively!”

“I don’t think anybody can cook as well as you do!”

Sounds familiar? I’m sure it does, because either we hear such words from someone or say them to others.

Today, praise is the shortest route to popularity. Be generous with compliments and you are that person’s ‘bestie.’ Criticize, even if sincerely and positively, and you may be thought of as jealous. But is praising an Islamically accepted social exercise? One of the attributes of Allah (swt) is Ash-Shakoor – the Appreciative. As humans, we do need to appreciate others and at times, also need appreciation and encouragement. But how and why are important questions for a Mumin.

Everyone loves a sincere compliment or encouragement. But often encouragement moves on to become praise and exaggerated adulation. Although all the mentioned words are similar, they do have very different meanings. ‘Appreciation’ means ‘a favourable critical estimate, a sensitive awareness or an expression of admiration, approval, or gratitude’. ‘Praise’ can mean anexpression of approval, commendation or admiration; but it can also mean the extolling or exaltation of a deity, ruler or hero. ‘Adulation’, however, goes a step further and means ‘excessive or slavish admiration or flattery.’

There is no doubt that Allah (swt) wants us to be appreciative and express gratitude. But in Islam, gratitude is expressed in the form of giving back something in return – a sincere Dua! The Prophet (sa) showed his appreciation for one of his generous hosts by giving him prayers of Barakah. Often, he showed appreciation not in words but by eating what someone got for him or wearing what was gifted to him. In the Prophet’s (sa) Sunnah, we do not see the exaggerated praise that people often shower on each other nowadays. In fact, according to Sunnah, excessive praise is not healthy, because our Muslim brother or sister can start losing humility. This is why praise even in matters of Taqwa can give a person a false sense of Kibr (arrogance), which can be detrimental to one’s Iman.

The Prophet (sa) did encourage his companions many a times. He praised the Haya (modesty) of Usman Ibn Affan (rta) and the Ilm and intelligence of Aisha Bint Abu Bakr (rta). He gave the title of the ‘sword of Allah’ to Khalid Ibn Waleed (rta) for his bravery in the battlefield. He acknowledged the natural gift of a beautiful, strong voice Bilal Ibn Abi Rabah (rta) had by making him the first Muadhin (caller to prayers) of Islam. Abi Musa Al-Ashari (rta) was praised for his beautiful recitation of the Quran, and the women of Ansar were praised for the fact that they were not shy to ask questions for learning matters of Deen.

Intense admiration can sometimes result in Nazar (evil eye), as we see in this Hadeeth: Malik related to me from Ibn Shihab that Abu Umama Ibn Sahl Ibn Hunayf said: “Amir Ibn Rabia saw Sahl Ibn Hunayf taking a Ghusl and said: ‘I have not seen the like of what I see today, not even the skin of a maiden, who has never been out of doors.’ Sahl fell to the ground. The Messenger of Allah (sa) was approached, and it was said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, can you do anything about Sahl Ibn Hunayf? By Allah, he can not raise his head.’ He said: ‘Do you suspect anyone?’ They said: ‘We suspect Amir Ibn Rabia.’” He continued: “The Messenger of Allah (sa) summoned Amir and was furious with him and said: ‘Why does one of you kill his brother? Why did you not say ‘may Allah bless you’? Do Ghusl for it.’ Amir washed his face, hands, elbows, knees, the end of his feet, and inside his lower garment in a vessel. Then he poured it over him, and Sahl went off with the people, and there was nothing wrong with him.” (Muwatta Imam Malik)

The one common factor that we see in the method of complimenting adopted by the earlier prophets, Prophet Muhammad (sa) and his companions is that the credit for any Khair (any praiseworthy attribute) is given to Allah (swt). A Mumin is well aware of the fact that all praise belongs to Allah (swt), Who is the source of all good. Isa (as) is reminded in the Quran that all the miracles he was able to perform were by the Izn (permission) of Allah. In Surah Yusuf, Prophet Yusuf (as) gives the credit to Allah (swt) for the gift of being able to interpret dreams and being able to resist a beautiful woman’s advances. The realization; that all good is actually from Allah (swt) makes a person humble.

In the light of Islamic principles, the following ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of complimenting would be useful to observe:

DO

  1. Encourage and appreciate, where appreciation is due.
  2. Appreciate the people closest to you. Often, we forget to appreciate our families, colleagues and servants, but praise people in our outer circle of friends and acquaintances.
  3. Make special effort to appreciate your spouse, children and parents in particular.
  4. Make sure that your appreciation or praise is genuine and true.
  5. Make sure that your appreciation is to the point.
  6. Appreciate where you think it will encourage a person to do further good. For example, when a child has started to pray or recite the Quran beautifully or when a sister has started wearing the Hijab.
  7. Check your Niyyah (intention) when you praise someone. Is it just so you can become popular? Is it just because you are in that habit? Will it help that person do further good?
  8. Find other creative ways, besides verbal praise, to show encouragement. Sometimes a smile, a single gesture or a gift can say more than words.
  9. Be careful about what you are praising. Rather than praising such inborn qualities as good looks, it is preferable to appreciate a good deed or a good habit someone has acquired, so that they may continue it.
  10. Always say “Masha’Allah La Quwwata Illa Billah” or “Tabaarakallah”, when you like something.

DON’T

  1. Avoid exaggeration in your praise, so that it doesn’t become an attempt to feed the ego and doesn’t border on adulation.
  2. Refrain from praising someone all the time, unless it would encourage them to continue a good deed.
  3. Don’t praise someone on doing something that displeases Allah (swt) or is forbidden in our Deen. For instance, appreciating the dress of a Muslim woman, who is not observing Hijab/Purdah.
  4. Don’t praise unless it is the truth.
  5. Avoid praising someone in his/her presence all the time!
  6. Never use praise as a social crutch to become popular.
  7. Don’t compliment someone with such adulation that they get afflicted with Nazar (evil eye). Instead, do Dua for them.
  8. Refrain from praising someone, even your children, excessively, as that person may start doing things to fish out praise, rather than for Ajar (reward) from Allah (swt).

As for when someone praises us, the Dua we are supposed to recite is: “O Allah, do not make me account for what they say and forgive me for what they have no knowledge, and make me better than they imagine.” (Bukhari)

The Vanity Affair

Oct 10 - The Vanity AffairBy J. Samia Mair

Raising children to be knowledgeable, practicing Muslims poses many challenges. The Internet, television, movies and the iPod inundate children with visual and auditory messages, often competing and being contrary to Islamic values.

Technology alone, however, cannot be blamed. Long before this communication revolution, Muslim children were learning un-Islamic values. Since the time of our beloved Prophet (sa), may Allah (swt) bless him and grant him peace, cultural beliefs and practices have seeped into the Deen, often masquerading as authentic teachings.

No one should be surprised that purity of belief and practice is deteriorating, and holding onto the Deen is becoming increasingly difficult. The Prophet (sa) stated: “Islam began as something strange, and it shall return to being something strange, so give glad tidings to the strangers.” (Muslim)

“You are in a time when, whoever abandons a tenth of what he has been ordered, he is ruined. Then, there will come a time in which whoever does a tenth of what he has been ordered shall be saved.” (At-Tirmidhi)

One of the areas, where this is evident, is the emphasis placed on beauty. Worldwide, the beauty industry accounts for$500 billion of revenues a year. It has been forecasted that the global market for cosmetic surgery will reach $40 billion by 2013. Plastic surgery in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has skyrocketed over the past decade. An Associated Press article (August, 2009) noted that there are thirty-five plastic surgery centres in Riyadh alone. The most popular surgeries among women are liposuction, breast augmentations and nose jobs, while men opt for hair implants and nose jobs.

Plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons presents a problem. Despite reported Fatwahs drawing the line between Islamically acceptable and unacceptable surgeries, it is hard to deny where things are heading.

But one does not need a cosmetic surgery to become infected with the beauty pandemic. A look at some Muslim fashion magazines and Islamic clothing websites tells its own story. Although the models have properly covered their Awrah, some are breathtakingly beautiful and stylish, completely defeating the purpose of not drawing attention to one’s beauty publicly.

Advertisements for marriage reveal the inordinate emphasis placed on fair skin. A few representative examples are copied below:

“Attractive well-established South Asian Sunni Muslim guy seeks a light-skinned South Asian Sunni Muslim girl…”

“…I am 34, single and never married, graduate [Kashmiri female]…5 ft 5.5 inches tall, very slim and very fair, considered to be very attractive by most people…”

While equating fair skin with beauty is not exclusive to Muslim cultures, the emphasis on fair-skinned mates raises issues in Islam. The Prophet (saw) reminded us in his farewell sermon:

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black, nor a black has any superiority over white, except by piety and good action.”

It is reasonable to pay special attention to what our beloved Prophet (saw) chose to emphasize in his farewell sermon. Judging someone by their skin tone is clearly discouraged.

This does not mean that physical appearance is not a consideration when choosing a mate. Both Bukhari and Muslim report similar versions of the following Hadeeth:

“A woman may be married for four reasons: for her property, her rank, her beauty and her religion; so get the one who is religious and prosper.”

Thus, beauty is a legitimate consideration, but certainly does not take precedence. The Quran and Sunnah repeatedly stress that one’s inner beauty is what ultimately counts. For example, the Prophet (sa) has stated: “Verily, Allah does not look to your faces and your wealth, but He looks to your heart and to your deeds.” (Muslim)

And this is where parental responsibility comes in. Muslim parents need to teach their children that while it is okay to appreciate physical beauty, stress should be placed on a person’s character.

To this end, drawing attention and comparing children’s looks should be avoided. It would be highly inappropriate, for example, to discuss with another parent, especially in the presence of a child, that you think a particular child is so cute, while another child is unattractive. Parents should teach their children not to identify others by appearance, avoiding such words as dark, fat, ugly, etc. And the first step in this lesson is for parents to practice what they preach.

Pick up almost any book on child rearing, and experts will stress that children should not be labelled. When children are repeatedly called ugly, stupid or clumsy, they come to believe it with hurtful and destructive consequences. A child, who believes that he or she is stupid, will give up on intellectual efforts, and a child, who thinks of himself as clumsy, may avoid activities that require agility. A child identified as ugly is likely to develop low self-esteem, possibly leading to permanent emotional and physical trauma and potentially life-threatening behaviour.

Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Ugly Duckling” concerns a homely, young bird that matures into a graceful, beautiful swan. It is a tale of personal transformation – a transformation resulting from nature, not effort. By contrast, the human story of “The Ugly Duckling” entails personal struggle with one’s base desires or ‘the greater Jihad’ as a famous Hadeeth states.

“An old woman came to the Prophet (sa) and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, pray for me that I will enter Paradise.’ He replied [jokingly]: ‘O mother of so-and-so, old women will not enter Paradise.’ The woman turned to go, weeping, but then the Prophet (sa) recited: ‘We have created them in new creation and made them virgins; faithful lovers, equal in age.’ (Al-Waqiah 56:35-37).” (At-Tirmidhi)

Islam teaches us the difference between ephemeral and eternal beauty. It teaches us that we are all ugly ducklings with the potential to become magnificent swans.

What does a Beautiful Soul look like?

beauty

By Ruhie Jamshaid

It is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In Islam, however, Allah (swt) sets for us certain guidelines to live and decide by, so that personal human opinions are not involved. Even true beauty is defined in our religion. While in today’s world we fancy silken hair, fantastic figures, beautiful clothes and plastered make-up as the epitomes of great beauty, in Islam, the meaning of true beauty is understood to be something else.

In Islam, beauty of the soul is greatly emphasized over the outer, physical beauty. Therefore, the saying “beauty isn’t skin-deep” is absolutely true. The Quran and the Sunnah repeatedly remind us to avoid Tabarruj or the outer display of beauty.

Allah (swt), being our Creator, is All-Aware of the path to our happiness. Logically speaking, if we (men or women) are consumed by looking physically attractive in a culture of ‘showing-off,’ the development and beautification of our inner souls will inevitably suffer. For instance, we will be consumed with the desire of having lovely hair and spend hours enhancing its beauty, instead of spending that time and effort in uplifting our souls through Dhikr and prayers, or attending to our primary responsibilities, which is also a form of worship. And if we look at the total time involved in embellishing the beauty of such outwardly displayed body parts as eyes, skin and figure, we can well imagine how time-consuming the entire process would be!

Natural beauty, like all other good things, is a blessing bestowed upon us by Allah (swt), and we must appreciate it. It is good to look after ourselves and take care of our physical self. However, it is important to remember that inner beauty is far more permanent than any excellence in external appearance. Time ravages the outer beauty, but a beautiful soul will remain beautiful forever! Therefore, if Allah (swt) has granted us great outer beauty, we must appreciate this blessing. On the Day of Judgement, we will be questioned about it. Did we use this beauty to achieve wrongful means? Did we display it outlandishly and disobey Allah (swt) in the process?

Interestingly, it is no secret that physical beauty attracts others towards us, even if we are not overtly displaying it and are within the confines of the Hijab. If we have been bestowed with pleasant features, it is often easier for us to gain friends and, perhaps, do Dawah more effectively. Hence, we can use the gift of natural beauty to enhance our inner selves and further the cause of Allah (swt)!

We must always remember that the glamorous celebrities or the stunning friends or relatives we might admire are not necessarily more valued in the eyes of Allah (swt) than an average looking individual. Outer beauty as the yardstick for measuring our personality is set by humans, not Allah (swt).

This life, as we know, is temporary. With death being our ultimate fate, it is simply more sensible to spend a larger proportion of time on beautifying our souls for a better hereafter, than spend the same amount of time on enhancing our physical body, which we will leave behind in this Duniya! When life will seep out of us at the point of death, our physical beauty will probably be the least of the concerns. In fact, it will be the beauty of the soul, which will decide the ease of our passing into the hereafter.

It will be this beauty that will confer us a place in Jannah. And when Allah (swt) decrees for us to be the inhabitants of Jannah (Insha’Allah), our beauty will increase manifold.

Hence, in this lifetime, we must strive to obey Allah (swt) and do good deeds, because it will be our beautiful hearts (Qalb-e-Saleem) and not our physical attributes which will be the winners in the hereafter!

The Meaning of Good Character

character-traitsA speech by Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani at Masjid Bait-ul-Mukarram

In common parlance, character is said to be good conduct with other people. In Shariah, it has a very wide meaning and besides these things, it also refers to compassion and the conditions of the heart in terms of the sentiments and desires that grow in it. These manners can be good or bad, depending on the kind of sentiments. It is a significant part of the Shariah that man corrects his manners and reforms the sentiments that grow in his heart.

Check your instincts

Every person possesses certain natural instincts in his heart. Everyone has the potential to become angry, lustful and egoistic. These are instinctive qualities present in the heart and they vary in degree from person to person. One must keep them in check and to keep them in check is to possess good character. As long as they are in balance, it is a good sign. If they are below or above moderation, it means the character needs to be corrected. 

Anger

Allah (swt) has created the instinctive sentiment of anger in every person – it is a natural instinct. It is also a necessary trait, for if anyone lacks the sentiment of anger, then he cannot defend himself. If anyone attacks another person unjustly and he does not react in the least, it means his sentiment of anger is below the balance. If someone attacks a man’s father or wife, and he quietly watches him, not feeling angry at all, he is a coward and there is no room in Shariah for such a person.

We have to use anger at the right place. “Fight those of the disbelievers who are close to you, and let them find harshness in you.” (At-Tawbah 9:123) Anger used at the right place is praiseworthy and is a sign of good manners.

Anger should be used within limits. Do not overdo it. Display only so much anger as is necessary. If your children do wrong and do not heed your advice and warnings, then your anger must be directed at a proper place. No doubt, their conduct has called for it. However, if you beat them so much that you disfigure them, it means you have exceeded the limits.

The limits of anger are determined by Shariah. The Prophet (sa) said: “When a child is seven years old, teach him the Salah, so that he is accustomed to it in childhood.” He is not to be beaten at this age.  “When he is ten and he does not offer the Salah, then you may beat him.” Thus, the limit is determined. He e also said: “Do not hit him on the face. And do not give him a beating that leaves marks on the body.”  This is the limit set by the Prophet (sa), who made everything very clear.

Self-respect and arrogance

No man wishes to be disgraced before others; rather, every one desires to be respected as a Muslim and a human being. This sentiment is praiseworthy, because Shariah forbids us to disgrace ourselves. Without a sense of self-respect, a man is like a toy in the hands of the other and anyone can disgrace him. However, if this sentiment increases beyond limit, and he regards himself as superior to other people, it means that he is arrogant. Thus, if a rich man looks down upon a poor hawker, then he is arrogant and has transgressed the limits of self-respect. Arrogance is such an evil trait that Allah (swt) detests it more than any other evil in man.

Arrogance is the root of all evil that breeds such other evils as jealousy, hatred and so on. This is why the Quran says that success awaits those who purge their character of these evils. They must display anger only where necessary and within limits. They must observe self-respect within limits and must not be arrogant. They must be sincere in whatever they do, without being ostentatious. This is the true purification of character, to teach which the Prophet (sa) was sent.

Pious companionship

The method for purifying the character is the same as adopted by the Prophet (sa) and his companions. It is pious companionship. The Sahabah had the company of the Prophet (saw) and their manners were moderate and balanced. They entrusted themselves to him, resolving to mould their lives according to what they heard from him and saw him do, and to obey him in whatever he said. He observed each of them and learnt of their lives and sometimes they told him of their experiences and feelings. He would advise them on what they should do and how far they could go. Soon they had the same manners as he had brought.

In the pre-Islamic days, the Sahabah were very short-tempered. They sought lame excuses to start wars, which would last for a long time, sometimes as much as forty years. But, with the Prophet’s (sa), association they transformed into mild-tempered people, who expressed their anger only where it was necessary and within limits.

Umar Ibn al-Khattab (rta) of the Jahiliyah was known for his anger. He had rushed out of his home once to put an end to the Prophet’s (sa) life because of the new religion he had brought. But, before he could meet the Prophet (sa), Allah (swt) enabled him to hear verses of the Quran, which made him turn over a new leaf. He met the Prophet (sa) and presented his life for Islam.

The Sahabah used the same method with their successors and students (The Tabieen). In their turn, the Tabieen used it with their students (the Taba Tabieen).

Hence, we too should improve our manners and keep the company of those, who are friends of Allah (swt), who have fear of Allah (swt) in their hearts; those, who think about the hereafter and whose manners are clean and bright.

Adapted (with permission) from “”Extracts from Discourses on Islamic Way of Life to Preach and Practice” (Collection of Speeches) By Justice (R) Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani published by Darul Ishaat. 

The Highs and Lows of Modesty

Oct 10 - Highs and lows of modesty

Balzac described modesty as “the conscience of the body.” In Islam, the term Haya (modesty) means ‘to be alive.’ It has been derived from the word Hayat, which stands for ‘life.’ In the Arabic language, Haya is also used for rain, freshness or greenery that beautifies its surroundings.

The life of one’s heart is associated with Haya. If one’s heart is deprived of Haya, it dies. The by-product of Haya is alertness, liveliness and a fully functioning conscience. We can understand it better by considering someone who is in a state of slumber or death.

Such person is oblivious to the surroundings, whether evil or good. The same happens when we are deprived of Haya.

What does Haya bring with it? It brings an overall goodness in one’s relations with the Creator as well as the creation. Following are its types:

Haya Taqseer

It means to admit one’s inadequacy in serving Allah (swt). A good example is of the angels, who do not spare a moment away from Allah’s worship and obedience. Yet, on the Day of Judgement, out of humility they will regret their ineffectiveness and insufficiency in submitting to the Lord (swt). This is a pivotal lesson for humans to learn.

Haya Un Nafs

This is a high category of modesty, when one is unable to face himself after sinning. The person places a system of checks and controls on himself. And when he slips, he reprimands himself and feels embarrassed to confront his own errors. A state of unrest is created within him/herself until he/she asks for Allah’s (swt) forgiveness and maybe, cries out in repentance.

Haya in Nature

Allah (swt) has placed a barometer inside every human being, regardless of faith or race. It is an instant reaction for him to hide his faults and cover his body out of modesty. When Adam (as) and Hawa (as) disobeyed Allah (swt) due to Shaitan’s trickery, and their shame became manifest to them,they instantly tried to screen themselves with tree leaves – no one had told them to cover up. That was an inbuilt impulse or reaction, as their faith was still alive.

Allah (swt) forbid, if someone becomes negligent or oblivious to this sense – it means that his Fitrah (natural disposition) is marred. He deserves our sympathy, as he is in Shaitan’s control. This level of Haya also distinguishes between humans and animals, and discredits Darwin’s theory that man has evolved from apes.

Haya in Religion

This means to give up evil for pleasing Allah (swt) – to stand guard against sins. It also entails bearing the quality of Haya, which prompts a person that Allah (swt) is watching. A person having such Haya is embarrassed and bashful to let down his Lord.

Haya in the Life of the Prophet (sa)

It is said about our beloved Prophet (sa): “He was far more modest than an untouched spinster, who stays behind a veil.” (Bukhari) Even the sight of sin or an ill-spoken word was enough to change the colour of his face. Such was his repulsion for evil.

“Haya is all the way goodness (Khair).” (Muslim)

“Immodesty blemishes and modesty beautifies.” (At-Tirmidhi)

“Haya, an inner control, and modesty in one’s talk are two branches of faith, while ill talk and excess in talk are signs of hypocrisy.” (At-Tirmidhi) The Prophet (sa) only talked as per necessity. His conversation was always clear, concise and courteous. On some occasions in life, he even taught the companions simply by staying silent.

When we are in debt to someone or burdened by a favour, we always feel obliged and ashamed. This is the kind of emotion we need to create within ourselves. We have to acknowledge what the Lord has granted us and keeps on granting, whether we ask Him or not. We should feel embarrassed to disobey Him out of gratitude and feel the boulder of blessings upon our shoulders. That will be a state of Haya.

Abu Masood narrated that Prophet (sa) said: “The teachings brought by the messengers of the past included that if you become void of modesty, do as you please.” (Bukhari) It almost sounds as if Allah (swt) and the Prophet (sa) disown such an individual, who adopts the attitude that screams out loud: “I don’t care!” In such a case, he is also deserted and left humiliated like the Shaitan.

How can we develop this quality?

Modesty is a culture and a lifestyle. Adoption of this wondrous quality gives birth to responsibility, sobriety, depth in thoughts, accountability and reflection. You can embrace Haya through the following suggested actions:

  1. Make sincere Dua for yourself. Admit to Allah (swt) that you have been immodest in the past. Ask Him to accept your repentance and guide you to the straight path.
  2. Be mindful of Allah’s (swt) presence, when thinking of or indulging in sin. Remember His Blessings, Majesty and Might.
  3. Haya is not simply a result of gaining knowledge about the Deen. It evolves gradually. Spend time in the company of noble and modest companions. Observe them in silence.
  4. If you tend to be an ill-tempered person, control your foul language. Learn to bite your tongue. Walk away from the scene which is provoking you. Ask someone to record what you say, if your memory fails when you are angry.
  5. Work on your language. Use beautiful words with sincerity more often in order to develop a habit of using them regularly and unconsciously.
  6. List your most commonly used hate words or phrases such as: shut up, are you crazy? Consciously resolve not to use them.
  7. If you are a great TV fan, try to cut down the viewing time of frivolous programmes. Engage in other activities that you enjoy.
  8. If you are a late night viewer, try to begin your day at Fajr, so that by nightfall you are too tired to plop yourself before the screen.
  9. Try not to undress completely even in private moments, as Hadeeth tell us that Shaitan has the power to see us.
  10. Maintain a strict dress code (Satar) even in the presence of the same gender, especially when you go for a dip in the pool, beauty salon or spa.
  11. Being a lady, if you fancy wearing sleeveless shirts, ensure that you satisfy your cravings within your home, with friends or before your Mahrams only. For outdoors, wear an Abaya over it or in case you haven’t started wearing one, make sure that you cover your entire Satar with loose fitting clothes.
  12. While walking in a mixed crowd or Bazaar, keep your gaze low or away from the opposite gender.
  13. Your mannerisms shouldn’t invite public attention, such as a loud voice, giggling or arguing.
  14. Maintain a distance from the opposite gender whenever you come in contact with them. Whenever you speak to them, adopt a business-like tone, and be to-the-point.
  15. Remember! Haya is not just about clothes and covering up. It is a way of life and the lifeline of your Iman!

“Allah (swt) is beautiful and He loves beauty” (Muslim)

Oct 10 - Allah swt is beautiful

When studying other religions, one realizes what a blessing Islam is, for it does not associate religiosity with depriving the human nature of its natural urges. In fact, Islam encourages its followers to adorn themselves, when worshipping Allah (swt):

“O Children of Adam! Take your adornment (by wearing your clean clothes), while praying…” (Al-Araf 7:31)

Furthermore, in the next verse, Allah (swt) says:

“Say ((O Muhammad (sa)): ‘Who has forbidden the adoration with clothes given by Allah, which He has produced for his slaves, and At-Taiyibat [all kinds of Halal (lawful) things] of food?’” (Al-Araf 7:32)

Therefore, Muslims should bear in mind that Islam does not associate piety with a dishevelled appearance.

During the time of the Prophet (sa), people beautified themselves in various ways – some were encouraged and retained by Islam, whilst other forms were prohibited, as they were repugnant to the human nature.

For instance, during the time of the Prophet (sa), people used to dye their hair. Jabir Ibn Abdullah (rta) reported that Abu Quhafah (rta) was brought on the day of the conquest of Makkah, and his head and beard were white like Thaghamah (a plant whose flowers and fruit are white). The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Change this with something, but avoid black.” (Muslim)

The Prophet (sa) is also reported to have said: “The Jews and the Christians do not dye their hair, so differ from them.” (Bukhari)

The Prophet (sa) also recommended which dye to use. Abu Dharr (rta) reported that the Prophet (sa) said: “The best things, with which to change grey hair, are henna and Katam (a plant similar to henna, which is used as a dye).” (At-Tirmidhi)

From another Hadeeth, we know that the Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever has hair should care about it.” (Abu Dawood)

Ata Ibn Yasser (rta) reported that a man came to the Prophet (sa), when he was in the mosque, with uncombed hair and an untidy beard. The Prophet (sa) pointed at him, as if ordering him to fix his hair and beard. He did so and returned. Thereupon, the Prophet (saw) observed: “Isn’t this better than one of you coming with his hair uncombed, as if he was a devil?” (Malik in Al-Mawatta)

Whilst reading the Ahadeeth, one gets an insight into the fashion and styles prevalent in that age. For instance, men and women used to shave their heads. The Prophet (sa) allowed men to shave all their heads but made it Makruh (disliked) for women to do so. Ali t said: “The Prophet (sa) told the women not to shave their heads.” (An-Nasai)

He also instructed the men not to shave portions of their heads and leave portions. Ibn Umar (rta) said: “The Prophet (sa) told us not to have the Qaza haircut [shaving some portions and keeping some].” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Ibn Umar (rta) said: “The Prophet (sa) saw a boy, whose head was partially shaved, and told the people not to do so and said: ‘Shave it all or leave it all.’” (Abu Dawood)

Likewise, men used to wear pure silk and gold. Although silk and gold were prohibited for men, they were allowed for women. From a Hadeeth we learn that the Prophet (sa) took silk in his right hand and gold in his left, and said: “These two are Haram (prohibited) for the males among my followers.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood, An-Nasai and Ibn Majah)

People also used perfume to adorn themselves. One of the sons of Umm Atiyya (rta) died, and on the third day, she asked for a yellow perfume, put it over her body and said: “We were forbidden to mourn for more than three days, except for our husbands.” (Bukhari)

The Prophet (sa) encouraged the use of perfume: “Whoever is offered some perfume should not refuse it, because it is light to wear and has a good scent.” (Abu Dawood and An-Nasai)

He always used to accept perfume when presented to him. (Bukhari)

In fact, the Prophet (sa) rebuked people who ate raw legumes and threatened to exclude them from approaching the mosques due to the unpleasant odour that they carried.

Al-Mughirah Ibn Shubah (rta) reported: “Whoever has eaten from this malignant tree should not approach our mosque, until its smell completely vanishes.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood and Ibn Hibban)

Ibn Umar (rta) reported that the Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever has eaten garlic should not approach our mosque.” (Bukhari and Muslim) A foul breath is indeed a matter of great discomfort for people around.

Women used to wear earrings and bangles. On Eid day, when the Prophet (sa) preached about giving charity, women started giving their fore-arm bangles and earrings. (Bukhari) It was also a practice to apply Kohl in the eyes.

Umm Atiyya (rta) narrated from the Prophet (sa): “It is not lawful for a lady, who believes in Allah (swt) and the Last Day, to mourn for more than three days for a dead person, except for her husband, in which case she should neither put Kohl in her eyes, nor perfume herself, nor wear dyed clothes, except a garment of Asb.” (Bukhari)

In order to enhance their beauty, women used to pluck their eyebrows, widen and sharpen their teeth, tattoo their skins and attach hair pieces and wigs to lengthen their hair. The Prophet (sa) said: “Allah has cursed the Washimat and the Mustawshimat [tattooers and the tattooed], the Namisat and the Mutanammisat [those who pluck eyebrows and those whose eyebrows are plucked], and the Mutafallijat [those who widen the gaps between their teeth] for beauty, who change what Allah has created.” (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood and At-Tirmidhi)

In another Hadeeth, the Prophet (sa) said: “Allah has cursed the Wasilah and the Mustawsilah [those women who make wigs and hairpieces, and those who wear them].” (Bukhari)

However, if a woman has some obtrusive hairs on her face, which are a problem and an embarrassment for her, she may remove them. Aisha y was approached by the young wife of Abu Ishaq. She wished to remove her facial hairs in order to look beautiful for her husband. Aisha y advised her to do so. (At-Tabarani)

In all ages, men and women have paid attention to their personal appearance and spent time, money and effort in beautifying themselves. However, it is disturbing to note that the emphasis on personal appearance is so excessive in the current age.

As Muslims we need to remind ourselves that inner beauty comes before external appearances. After all, we have been taught to pray: “O Allah, just as You have made my external features beautiful, make my character beautiful as well.” (Hisnul Haseen) Ameen.