New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

Good Character Part Two: Etiquette, Shyness, Modesty, and Freedom

Posted in articles by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2009-07-25

A.1. Etiquette/Courtesy (Adab) Adab involves good comportment, whether one is standing or sitting; maintaining good character, and manifesting praiseworthy traits. Its essence involves knowing all the things to be avoided in order not to commit errors in dealing with self and others.

A.2. Bashfulness or Modesty or Shame (Haya’) Haya’ is a constrained feeling caused by the fear of something that would impugn one’s character, or leaving that thing fearing that involvement with it would lead to one’s condemnation.

A.3. Humility (Tawadu’) Tawadu’ involves one’s consciously declining to assume a station desired by those seeking to exalt one.

A.4. Freedom (Hurriyya) Hurriyya is to cut off one’s deepest sentiments from being obsessed with anything in the creation in order to be preoccupied with the One (God) who owns all of creation.

A.5. Sayings of the Scholars: Freedom (Hurriyya)

“Verily, you will not arrive at pure freedom as long as you see any trace of your servitude to God emanating from yourself.”

“Whosoever desires to taste the flavor of real freedom and to relax from the burden of devotional acts, let him purify the depth of his heart so that it is a space shared by only him and God.”
Bishr al-Hafi

“When the worshipper has internalized all of the stations of servitude he will be free from the fatigue involved in worship. He will then diligently undertake devotions with no second thoughts or burden.”
Al-Husayn bin Mansur

“The children of the world are served by handmaidens and servants. The children of the Hereafter are served by the liberated and the righteous.”
Yahya bin Mu’adh

A.6. Texts from the Qur’an and Sunnah: Modesty/Shyness (Haya’)

One of them came to him walking with utmost modesty. She said, “My father is summoning you in order to compensate you for the water you fetched for us…”  (Qur’an 28:25)

Verily, that is something that offends the Prophet. However, he is [too] modest before you. Allah is not too modest expound the truth. (Qur’an 33:53)

The Prophet, peace upon him, mentioned, “By shy before Allah as is His full right.” We said, “O Messenger of Allah! We are shy before Him, and all praise is for Allah.” He said, “That is not what I mean. Rather, to be shy before Allah as is His full right is that you guard your head and everything associated with it [ears, eyes, etc.]; and that you guard your stomach and what it consumes; and you should remember death and the time you will be decomposed. One who desires the hereafter leaves off chasing the adornment of the world. Whosoever does all of this has been shy before Allah as is His full right.” Tirmidhi #2458

The Prophet, peace upon him was approached by a man who demanded, “O Messenger of Allah! Counsel me.” He said, peace upon him, “I counsel you to be shy before Allah, be He Mighty and Majestic, to the extent that you are shy before a man from the righteous elect of your people.”
Bayhaqi, Al-Shu’ab 2:462

The Prophet, peace upon him, said, “Every religion has a defining characteristic, and the defining characteristic of my religion is modesty.”
Ibn Majah #4181

The Prophet, peace upon him, mentioned, “Faith has seventy some odd branches, and modesty is a branch of faith.”
Bukhari #91


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