Thursday, September 21, 2006

Modesty


I am reluctant to use this picture with this post as I don't want to suggest that modesty is only for women, or in the same breath, that modesty = hijab. The latter of the two notions is actually what I wish to discuss this morning. More specifically how I struggle to remember the full definition of modesty and how to apply it in my life.


One of the elements that drew me towards Islam was the component of modesty. That women and men would guard themselves against explicitness or that which draws attention. I remember one instance when I walked into one of our local halal stores, a brother from the community who works there, greeted me, and asked if I needed assistance, all the while never making eye-contact with me. For some (especially in a North American society) this may sound like it would be something disrespectful. On that day however, let me assure you it was one of the times I felt most respected. Averting one's gaze, acting appropriately around others (especially when in the company of the opposite sex), and behaving in a manner that is humble with pure intention is what modesty is all about.

I looked the definition of modesty up in the dictionary this morning and here is what was written:
"Freedom from vanity, boastfulness etc. Regard for decency of behaviour, speech, dress etc. Simplicity and moderation."

Now let me start by saying that although I can write about modesty and provide definitions and examples, I am the first to say that putting it into practice on a daily basis has been a continual struggle for me. Maybe my goal in writing this entry is to seek accountability-- as though if I write in encouragement to others, I must certainly be ever-striving to achieve modesty in its truest form in my life.

It is a daily frustration for me... I understand the concept of modesty in its entirety but submitting myself on a daily basis to feel as though I incorporate it properly into my actions is another story. Maybe it is due to the fact that I was raised in a fairly vocal and lively family. I am certainly an extrovert, who likes to talk and to lead, and I often have to consciously think about whether my actions and speech are modest. I find myself looking at my friends who have that naturally quiet manner about them, and at times wish I had been given that personality. (Alhamdulillah I am not complaining, Allah knows best, and who I am is who He made me to be.)

But I believe that if I was able to master modesty then other aspects of my faith would be elevated to an entirely new and more sincere level. Take for example the concept of intention. Those who are modest have that aspect of humility and humbleness about them such that they don't want to be in the spotlight or draw attention to themselves. Praise often makes them feel uncomfortable as because of that their actions never (or very rarely) are for the recognition by others. Imagine living in a way that all of your actions are never for gaining praise or attention of others. You would be living as we are called to live. With intention only to serve and to worship Allah (SWT). You would have mastered such a huge component of living the perfect faith.

It is that point that makes my failure to attain perfect modesty so devastating for me. I know that the more I fail to encompass modesty in all aspects of my life, the more I fail to perfect my faith. That my intention can never be as pure and devoted as it should be.

May Allah guide me, and make this easier for me... for all of us. May He increase our sense of modesty and take away our pride. May He show us the areas of our life where we fall short. Ameen.

If we submit fully to Allah (SWT) it is then that we will be living the religion as it should be.. after all Islam means submission.

7 comments:

tbear said...

The missing Muslim outcry
By Jeff Jacoby
Thursday, September 21, 2006

As she lay dying in a Mogadishu hospital, Sister Leonella forgave her killers. She had lived in Africa for almost four decades and could speak fluent Somali, but her last words were murmured in Italian, her mother tongue. "Perdono, perdono," she whispered. I forgive, I forgive.

She was 65 and had devoted her life to the care of sick mothers and children. She was on her way to meet three other nuns for lunch on Sunday when two gunmen shot her several times in the back. "Her slaying was not a random attack," the Associated Press reported. It "raised concerns" that she was the latest victim of "growing Islamic radicalism in the country."

Raised concerns? Sister Leonella was gunned down less than two days after a prominent Somali cleric had called on Muslims to kill Pope Benedict XVI for his remarks about Islam in a scholarly lecture last week.

"We urge you, Muslims, wherever you are to hunt down the pope for his barbaric statements," Sheik Abubukar Hassan Malin had exhorted worshippers during evening prayers at a Mogadishu mosque. "Whoever offends our prophet Mohammed should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim.” Sister Leonella was not the pope, but she was presumably close enough for purposes of the local jihadis.

If it weren't so sickening, it would be farcical: A line in the pope's speech suggests that Islam has a dark history of violence, and offended Muslims vent their displeasure by howling for his death, firebombing churches, and attacking innocent Christians. One of the points Benedict made in his speech at the University of Regensburg was that religious faith untethered by reason can lead to savagery. The mobs denouncing him could hardly have done a better job of proving him right.

In his lecture, Benedict quoted the late Byzantine emperor Manuel II, who had condemned Islam's militancy with these words: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

In the ensuing uproar, British Muslims demonstrated outside Westminster Cathedral with signs reading "Pope go to Hell" and "Islam will conquer Rome," while the head of the Society of Muslim Lawyers declared that the pope must be "subject to capital punishment." In Iraq, the radical Mujahideen's Army vowed to "smash the crosses in the house of the dog from Rome" and the Mujahideen Shura Council swore to "continue our jihad and never stop until God avails us to chop your necks." Arsonists in the West Bank set churches on fire, and a group calling itself "The Sword of Islam" opened fire on a Greek Orthodox church in Gaza and issued a warning: "If the pope does not appear on TV and apologize for his comments, we will blow up all of Gaza's churches."

In fact, the pope did apologize, more than once. He emphasized that the words he had quoted "do not in any way express my personal thought" and said he was "deeply sorry" that Muslims had taken offense. Whether the studied frenzy will now subside remains to be seen. But it is only a matter of time until the next one erupts.

This time it was a 14th-century quote from a Byzantine ruler that set off -- or rather, was exploited by Islamist firebrands to ignite -- the international demonstrations, death threats, and violence. Earlier this year it was cartoons about Mohammed in a Danish newspaper. Last year it was a Newsweek report, later retracted, that a Koran had been desecrated by a US interrogator in Guantanamo. Before that it was Jerry Falwell's comment on "60 Minutes" that Mohammed was a "terrorist." Back in 1989 it was the publication of Salman Rushdie's satirical novel, The Satanic Verses.

In every case, the pretext for the Muslim rage was the claim that Islam had been insulted. Freedom of speech was irrelevant: While the rioters and those inciting them routinely insult Christianity, Judaism, and other religions, they demand that no one be allowed to denigrate Islam or its prophet. It is a staggering double standard, and too many in the West seem willing to go along with it. Witness the editorials in US newspapers this week scolding the pope for his speech. Recall the State Department's condemnation of the Danish cartoons last winter.

Of course nobody's faith should be gratuitously affronted. But the real insult to Islam is not a line from a papal speech or a cartoon about Mohammed. It is the violence, terror, and bloodshed that Islamist fanatics unleash in the name of their religion -- and the unwillingness of most of the world's Muslims to say or do anything to stop them.



Copyright © 2006 Salem Web Network. All Rights Reserved.

Yahya said...

Erm, are you gonna keep this up? We are all very sorry for what a few people did, but you are being unjust to quote the actions of some and attach them to the acctual faith of Islam. What if I were to quote all the actions of those who call themselves Christians, would they then reflect the acctual Christian doctrine? No, of course not. Again, we as Muslims are very sorry for what happend to who I assume was an innocent woman, but that does not mean you may then turn arround and condemn Islam as a religion of violence and hatred. If you want to find out about true Islam, then I suggest you read about the acctions of the Prophet and his companions. Then you turn around and tell me that my religion is unjust.

Yahya said...

Yey, at last, I figured out how to comment on this thing! I can't remember why I couldn't do it before... Well, anyway, I have been checking your blog a few times a day since it started for new posts and comments, and I think it is great! Keep it up, sister!

may14muslima said...

Bismillah Rahman AlRahiim... May Allah guide my words and help to me speak truth.

I had to give it the night before I commented on the recent post by hotguy. As I stated in my previous entry to you I try to avoid current affair topics in the blog, because it always ends up in arguments that seem impossible to resolve. I also question why you feel I am the best person to discuss this topic (when I know for certain I am not) as a convert of only four months. I am sure there are others who have a knowledge beyond what mine will ever be. Men or women who could bring a better resolution to you than I am likely capable of. However it would be unfair not to respond. Unfair to your needing an answer (although I question whether or not any response I ever provide will bring you resolution) and unfair to Muslims and Islam not to defend the religion I believe whole-heartedly in. That being said...
What has happened recently as a reaction to the hurtful and damaging remarks made by the Pope needs to be recognized as sad and humiliating. I am the first to say that what happened to that nun is horrible, and unjust. I acknowledge that it is hard to argue a comment, which aims to label Islam as a violent religion when the responses by a PORTION of the community are in fact violent. However, it is equally unfair for a person of such prominence to stand in public view and comment on a religion based on the same Abrahamic principles his own religion holds. Then to label an entire community... no an entire religion as one which is violent, is unfair and will of course cause disruption in the religious community. Imagine if Billy Graham stood up to say that all Catholics were child molesters because of the history of some of those in the Catholic Church. Or how would Christians feel if a prominent Jewish Rabbi stood up and proclaimed that all Christians were Nazi's because Hitler claimed his actions were driven by the will of God. Both are entirely possible scenarios but completely unfair. So why then does it seem to happen in the Muslim community? Why are people so quick to label Islam as violent when it is not the whole community who is acting in such a manner? How would Christians feel if the President (I only use him because of the equal power equivalent he holds to the Pope) stood up and denounced Jesus? Certainly there would be an uproar... likely protests on the White House lawn, and possibly even the burning of flags. What if one of those protests turned into a riot and someone was accidentally killed in the crowd? Would all Christians be murders?
Next comment... Every scholar and religion will admit the existence of the Prophet Mohammad even if they are disbelievers in Islam. Again Islam is founded on the monotheistic beliefs that are found in Christianity, the difference being Islam truly is monotheistic. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) based his teachings on the previous books and teachings revealed to other Prophets: Moses, Jesus, and Abraham. Teachings and principles that could all be found in Christianity (if the Bible had not been changed or corrupted over the last many centuries). The belief in the other books that have been revealed to these prophets is a critical element of belief in Islam. One cannot be Muslim without acknowledging the validity of these books. Again this emphasizes that the religions share many of the same principles.

But I can see how verses that talk of death, the wrath of God, and murder or people would be distressing. How upon reading them you would want to generalize that it is a religion based on hate, torture and violence and anger. Take the following verses for example; I certainly can see where you would question what kind of religion says such things…

"Suppose your brother, son, daughter...comes to you secretly and says, 'Let us go worship other gods'...If they do this do not give in or listen and have no pity. Do not spare or protect them. You must put them to death! You must be the one to initiate the execution; then all the people must join in."

"But one night God came to Abimeleh in a dream and told him, 'You are a dead man, for that woman you took is married.' But Abimelech had not slept with her yet, so he said, 'Lord will you kill an innocent man?' ... "Yes I know you are innocent," God replied..."Now return her to her husband, and he will pray for you for he is a prophet. Then you will live, but if you don't return her to him, you can be sure that you and your entire household will die."

'Should they repay evil for good? They have set a trap to kill me, though I pleaded for them and tried to protect them from our anger. So let their children starve! Let the sword pour out their blood! Let their wives become widows without any children! Let their old men die in a plague, and let their young men be killed in battle! Let screaming be heard from their homes as warriors come suddenly upon them."

"...Fear God who has the power to kill people and then throw them into hell."

"And the Lord said 'I will completely wipe out this human race that I have created. Yes and I will destroy all the animals and birds, too. I am sorry I ever made them."

Reading these verses it is hard to imagine a God who promotes peace and tolerance. Now what if I told you that all of the above verse came from the Christian Bible? Which in fact they all did. Please feel free to read for yourself: Deuteronomy 13: 6-9, Genesis 20:3-7, Jeremiah 19: 20-22, Luke 12:5, Genesis 6: 7-8.

A perfect example of how words can be taken out of context. On how the media always is quick to show verse of the Quran that talk about Allah's wrath, but fail to mention other religions speak the same words. Even in the articles that you have been posting on this website they are full of ellipses that too eliminate context in which the words were spoken. It is very easy for the media and world to focus on that which seems negative when Islam is in the spotlight. So let me conclude by telling you just what the Holy Qur'an says about murder and the atrocity related to that nun.

“That if any one slew a person—unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land—it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life. I would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”
5:32

One of the closest companions of the Prophet, Abu Bakr, devoted all of his life to serving Allah and following Mohammad is quoted:
“Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must no mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy’s flock save for your food.”

As you can see, not only does Islam NOT encourage the killing of the innocent, it directly forbids it. It is a huge sin and those who commit such an act, it is as though they have killed all of mankind. Allah places such value on life even trees in battle are not to be harmed.

In conclusion… I would ask that if you are going to make accusations against Islam you would use your own words and not those of someone else. If you want to make comments about our religion, please first make sure you know what context any Quranic verse you quote was revealed in, and please also know the religion, which you are comparing it to. As a person who studied Christianity for years before I converted to Islam, and has read the Bible, I can assure you there is just as much talk of the wrath of God in it, just as there is equally as much wrong that has been committed by other races, organizations and religious groups.

Yahya said...

Yeah... so there. You might wanna THINK about what you are going to say before you launch another irrational attack. Good one, sis'. BTW, you ever notice how on the news the nutters who keep going on about 'Death to America' and all that nonsense are dressed in traditional Islamic garb whilst all those who advocate peace are in your good ol' shirt and tie? Maybe nobody told the guys in T.V. land about the millions of us who wear dubas and yet don't advocate the slaying of innocents. To be fair, that's not immpossible. I mean, it's not like we hold to many of the cards, so, it wouldn't really be worth while takin' notice, would it? So long as we get our pat on the back for fasting, how admirable, then there is NO WAY that were gonna rock the boat over something so trivial as dawah! Who CARES if they think Islam is for the asylum, they like us, the people! Never mind the deen! Hey, my old non-muslim head master even used to do salam when he gave an adress to the parents! Oh, it does make me feel special! Fortunatly for us, it pays for them to use the 'multicultural' guise to hide the fact that it is THEY who slay and imprison our brothers and our sisters and our children. But we don't talk about that. Don't rock the boat, now!

manzoor said...

Alhumdulillah well said sister...that was perfect answer..

JazakAllah.

sadaf said...

jenny, mashallah..

you are a very inspiring woman.