On the Virtues of Humility, Modesty and Contentment
Humility is a virtue on which a special stress is laid in the Quran and the Traditions. Man, after all, is a slave of the Lord, and, like a good slave, it is expected of him that every act of his is performed with humbleness. Meekness is a mark of servitude, while pride is the exclusive attribute of Divinity. It, thus, does not become a bondsman to be haughty and vainglorious.
(1) It is related by Ayaz bin Himar that the Apostle of God said: “The Lord has revealed to me, and commanded me to observe humility. The effect of it should be that no one was cruel and unjust to others, nor gave himself airs.”
– Abu Dawood
(2) It is related to us about Omar bin Khattab that one day, in the course of a sermon from the pulpit he said: “Oh people! Observe meekness for I have heard the Apostle of God, saying: ‘Whoever observes meekness, (for the sake of God, i.e. with the aim of earning His good pleasure), God will exalt him, and though he is lowly in his own Judgement, others will hold him in esteem, and whoever is proud and vainglorious, God will reduce him to a lower condition and he will become worthless in the eyes of others, and, though he may be having a high notion of himself, others will consider him worse than dogs and pigs.’”
(3) It is related by Abdullah bin Masud that the Apostle, of God said: “Whoever will have pride in his heart even of the weight of an atom, shall not enter Heaven.”
– Bukhari and Muslim
Greatness is for God in whose hands is the life and honour of everyone. He is Eternal and Everlasting, while everything else, living or non-living, is bound to perish one day. As the Quran says: “And unto Him (alone) belongeth majesty in the heavens and the earth, and He is the Mighty, the Wise.” (XLV; 37)
Thus, a proud and swollen-headed person who thinks too highly of himself and looks down upon others, so to speak, forgets his true state and begins to compete with the Almighty which is the height of insolence. It is about such a man that it is said that, owing to his arrogance, he will not be admitted to Paradise.
As we have seen on various occasions in the past, when it is told in the Traditions about a misdeed that whoever is guilty of it will not enter Heaven, it, generally, denotes that it has the effect of making a man unworthy of entry into Paradise or that such a person will not be admitted to Heaven along with the faithful Believers, or straightaway, like them, but will have to do a spell in Hell.
In the light of it, the above Tradition would mean that a vain and conceited person would not go to Heaven immediately, but pay the penalty of his pride in Hell, and it would be only after the element of vanity had been destroyed in him and he had been cleaned from it in the everlasting Fire, and was, also, a Believer, that he would enter Paradise.
(4) It is related by Abu Hurairah that the Apostle of God said: “There are three men to whom God will not speak on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them. (In another version of the same Tradition, it is stated that God will not even look at them). One, the aged adulterer (or fornicator); two, the lying ruler; and three, the proud pauper.”
Some sins are grave in themselves but their seriousness becomes even greater when they are committed by certain persons and in certain circumstances. As for instance, to steal is a great sin in itself, but if a wealthy person who has no need to do it or a policeman or watchman commits theft, it is unforgivable.
In the above Tradition, it is told about three such offenders that, on the Day of Last Judgement, the Almighty will neither. speak to them nor sanctify them and they will remain deprived of His benevolence: the aged adulterer, the lying ruler, and the proud pauper. The reason is not. far to seek. If a person has an illicit sexual intercourse in his younger years, he can be excused for to yield to sexual passions during that period of life is a natural weakness. But if an old man does it, he is a shameless lecher. Likewise, if an ordinary person tells a lie, it is understandable, but if a man who is in power does so, it will mean that there is no fear of God in his heart and his viciousness is beyond measure. Again, human nature being what it is, if a rich man gives himself airs, one can understand it, but when a beggar begins to behave like that, it is pure meanness.
In sum, all the three kinds of men will have no share in Divine Mercy on the Day of Final Requital. That the Lord will not ‘purify’ them, apparently, denotes that their misdeeds will not be forgiven and they will not be included among the faithful Believers merely on the ground of faith or some virtuous deeds. They will have to undergo chastisement in life to come.
Modesty has a vital role to play in character-building. It restrains a man from behaving in an undesirable manner and acts as a shield against lewdness and immorality. It holds the key to piety and good-doing.
(5) It is related by Zaid bin Talha; he relates that the Apostle of God said: “Every religion has a distinctive quality, and the distinctive quality of Islam is modesty.”
– Muwatta, Ibn-i-Maja and Baihaqi
It shows that in every faith or canonic law, some particular aspect of moral behaviour receives paramount attention and an extraordinary emphasis is laid on it. Thus, compassion and forbearance form the cardinal point of the teachings of Jesus. In Islam, in the same way, modesty is of fundamental significance.
It needs, however, be emphasized that the word ‘modesty’ is used in a very wide sense in the special terminology of the Qur’an and the Traditions. In the common usage, what it signifies, simply, is that a man avoided lewdness and kept away from lustful and indecent acts. But, in Islam, it appears that it stands for a state of feeling which is intolerant of everything that is not desirable and produces a reaction of disgust and agony within anyone who, knowingly or unknowingly, falls into an error or behaves in a manner having a semblance of sinfulness.
We learn, further, from the Qur’an and the Traditions that modesty is not in relation merely to our own species, but the greatest claim, on it, is of the Supreme Being who created man and is sustaining him, from moment to moment, and from whom nothing is hidden. Or, let us take it this way. A modest man is, generally, inclined to feel shy in the presence of his parents and other elders and benefactors, and God being the King of Kings and the Benefactor of Benefactors, the: bondsman should, naturally, be modest and humble, in the highest degree, in respect of Him, the primary requirement of which will be that he felt pain and repugnance at everything that was displeasing to God, and, therefore, abstained from it.
(6) It is narrated by Abdullah bin Omar that, (once), the Apostle of God passed by an Ansar who, [at that time], was talking to his brother about modesty and admonishing him in that regard. The Prophet, thereupon, said to him: “Leave him to his state for modesty is a part (or fruit) of Faith.”
– Buhkari and Muslim
It tells that, among the Ansars, there was a man whom God had, particularly, blessed with the virtue of modesty owing to which he was very mild and lenient in his dealings with others. He avoided severity in the realisation of dues and did not like to be outspoken even when it seemed necessary. A brother of his who did not approve of it was, one day, reproaching him and telling him that it was not good to be so timid and diffident that the sacred Prophet happened to pass that way, and, on hearing the conversation, told the Ansar to leave his brother alone. His was a highly blessed condition. Modesty was a branch or fruit of Faith, and even if it was not profitable from the point of view of worldly interests, it would, surely, lead to elevation in ranks in the Hereafter.
(7) It is related by Abdullah bin Omar that the Apostle of God said: “Modesty and Faith exist together, and when one of them goes out, the other, too, goes out.”
It shows that Faith and modesty are so closely related to each other that either both will be present in an individual or community or not any of them.
(8) It is related by Imran bin Husain that the Apostle of God said: “Modesty brings nothing but good.”
– Bukhari and Muslim
On superficial view, modesty may appear to act to one’ disadvantage, but the above Tradition insists that it, invariably, does good and leads to beneficial results, and even when from a narrow, materialistic angle, if, seems to be a drawback, there is nothing but gain in it from the larger Islamic viewpoint.
(9) It is related by Abdullah bin Masud that the Apostle of God said: “A familiar saying that has reached us from the former Apostles is that ‘when there is no modesty in you, do as you like.’”
Though the complete teachings of the earlier Apostles could not remain intact, some of the sayings and precepts have withstood the ravages of time and become proverbial, one of which is what has been referred to by the holy Prophet in the above Tradition: “When there is no modesty in you, do as you like.” There is a similar proverb in Persian which says: “Be shameless, and do what you like.”
Among the moral virtues which make a man beloved of the Lord, and raise him, also, in the estimation of the world, and save him from a lot of frustration, one is contentment. What it denotes, in a nutshell., is that one should rest satisfied with what one has and be not greedy of more, He, indeed, is fortunate who is blessed with a contented heart. There is a special favour of the Lord on him.
(10) It is related by Abdullah bin Amr that the Apostle of God said: ‘Successful was he who was blessed by the Lord with the ‘reality of Islam, and was granted enough provision to sustain life, and God, also, made him satisfied with it.”
Happy is the man who is blessed with the wealth of Faith, and, with it, he, also, has enough worldly goods to meet his needs, and the Almighty has, further, favoured him with a contented heart, Contentedness can make even the life of a beggar happier than that of a king,
A person may have heaps of wealth, but if his acquisitive desire is beyond reason and it is ceaselessly urging him on to acquire more, he can never enjoy peace of mind, and will,’ “in fact, be no better than a beggar, On the contrary, if his worldly possessions are sufficient to keep him going, and he is satisfied with what he has, he is rich at heart, in spite of poverty, and his life will be a life of comfort and cheerfulness.
(11) It is related by Abu Hurairah that the Apostle of God said: “Prosperity does not come from worldly possessions, but real prosperity is the contentment of the heart.”
(12) Abu Zarr Ghifari related to us, saying: “One day, the Apostle of God said to me: ‘O Abu Zarr! Do you think prosperity is the name of abundance of worldly goods?’ ‘Yes, Sir, I replied. ‘(So it is supposed)’. The Prophet then, asked: ‘Do you think poverty is the name of scarcity of worldly goods?’ ‘Yes, Sir,’ I replied, ‘(So it is supposed)’, The Prophet said it thrice, and, then, observed: ‘Real prosperity is in the heart and so, also, is real poverty.’”
In truth, prosperity and poverty are related more to me heart man to wealth. If me heart of a man contented; he is rich, and if it is full of avarice, he will never know what well-being is and will always remain a grumbler though he may be possessing any amount of wealth.
(13) Hakeem bin Hizam narrates that “once, I asked the Apostle of God for some money which he gave. (After sometime), I, again, asked him for it and he, again, gave it (to me). The Prophet then, observed (by way of an advice): ‘Wealth is pleasant to everyone and it is sweet. So, whoever will obtain it with high-mindedness and without greed, for him there will be abundance and auspiciousness in it and whoever will obtain it with greediness of the heart, for him there will be no abundance and auspiciousness, and his condition will be like that of a glutton who eats to excess and yet remains hungry. And the upper hand is better than the lower hand. (The place of the giver is higher while to stretch one’s hand before others is degrading, and a person should avoid it as far as possible.’ Hakeem bin Hizam adds that” (on hearing it), I said to the holy Prophet: ‘By the Holy Being who raised you up as the Apostle with truth! I will not accept anything from anyone, after you, till the end of my days.’”
– Bukhari and Muslim
In another Tradition referring to the same incident, and reported, again, in Sahih Bukhari it is told that Hazrat Hakeem bin Hizam remained true to his word to the extent that after the holy Prophet’s death, Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Omar sent for him repeatedly, during their tenures of office as the Caliph, (when grants and stipends were being given to everyone), and wanted to offer him something, but he declined.
It is, further, mentioned by Hafiz bin Hajr in Fath-ul-Bari, on the authority of Musnad-i-Ishaq-bin Rahwiyah that Hakeem bin Hizam did not accept a grant or allowance, also, during the Caliphate of Hazrat Osman “and Emirate of Hazrat Muawiyah till he passed a way at the age of 123.
(14) It is related by Abdullah bin `Amr that “one day, the Apostle of God delivered a sermon in which he said: ‘Protect yourselves from greed because it has been the undoing of the earlier communities. It bade them to be miserly, and they became miserly; it bade them to sever the ties of kinship, i.e., infringe on the rights of relatives, and they severed the ties of kinship; it bade them to evil-doing, and they took to evil-doing.’”
– Abu Dawood
It shows that avarice is not only a bad habit, but it also gives rise to many other evils in society which eats into its vitals, and, ultimately, destroy it. The Muslims should, therefore, guard themselves religiously against greediness.
(15) It is related by Abu Hurairah that he heard the Apostle of God say: “The worst thing in a man is vexing greed and confounding cowardice.”
– Abu Dawood
A greedy person is constantly tormented by the thought that he hasn’t got this thing and that thing while such-and-such a man is doing so well and enjoying so much superiority or success. Likewise, a coward is always assailed by fears, real or imaginary, and there is no peace for him. The holy Prophet has described the two states as exceedingly distressing.