Modesty: A lofty character trait
By: Osman Nuri Topbaş
Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş
Servitude to Allah the Almighty is first of all an act of consciousness. It is the essence of our servitude to realize our nothingness before Divine Power and Might, and to comprehend that we go from nothingness to existence through His Will and to know that we maintain our existence as a result of His blessing and to be aware of the fact that we need Him in every single breath and every single moment of life.
In other words, servitude means to be able to see our weak state before the Divine Kingdom and to know our place. When a person properly recognizes his place, there would be no strength left in him to claim arrogance, egoism and even his very own existence. He then confesses his gratitude, contentment, thankfulness in reverence as in the saying of Aziz Mahmud Hüdâyî
“You are the one who takes; You are the One Who gives,; You are the Maker! What else do we have other than what You have given?”
Those who have no share from modesty are the ones who do not recognize the Greatness of the Lord.The real modesty makes the servant confess his nothingness and nonexistence before the Divine Majesty and bow his head, like in the following supplication of Mawlānā Jalal al-Dīn Rumī:
“I have become a servant, I have become a servant, I have become a servant. I, humble servant, have ashamed of not fulfilling my servitude properly and bowed my head down (in shame). Every slave becomes happy when he is emancipated. Dear Lord! I have become happy for being Your slave.”
As a matter of fact, Prophet’s grandson Hasan’s (r.a) supplication after circumambulating the Kaaba and performing two rak’ahs of prayer at the quarter of Ibrāhīm is one of the best examples of manners of servitude:
“Dear Lord! Your little and weak servant came to Your door. O Allah! Your weak servant came to your door. Dear Lord! Your beggar came to your door, Your poor came to Your door…”
After this touching supplication, Hasan (r.a) met on his way with some poor people, who were sharing a dry piece of bread. He greeted them, and they invited him to their modest table. Prophet’s grandson Hasan (r.a) sat with them and said:
“If I knew that this bread did not come from charity, I would eat with you.” Then he said:
“Let’s go to my home.”
After serving them a nice meal, he clothed the poor people with nice clothes and gave them considerable amount of money and then sent them back in a very happy state.” (Abshihī, Al-Mustatraf, Beirut, 1986, I, 31)
This is the state of real modesty and an eminent manner of servitude, which makes a believer live in deep sensitivity towards his Lord and Creation. Those who adorn their souls with this exclusive trait act prudently. This manner manifests itself in their sitting, standing, walking, choosing their clothes, speaking, walking, and, in short, in all of their actions.
Allah the Almighty states:
“And the servants of the Beneficent Allah are they who walk on the earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say: Peace.” (25; 63)
“And do not go about in the land exultingly, for you cannot cut through the earth nor reach the mountains in height.” (17; 37)
“And do not turn your face away from people in contempt, nor go about in the land exulting over much; surely Allah does not love any self-conceited boaster;” (31; 18)
In these verses, walking arrogantly and swaggering is clearly prohibited. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) always walked fast and his eyes fixed on the ground like going down a hill. This was a manifestation of his humility. In fact, this good behavior has become one of the principles of the Sufis, in which they referred to as “nazar ber qadem – one’s eyes fixed on his feet.”
There are many merits in looking at one’s feet while walking, such as modesty, good manners, knowing one’s place, protecting eyes from seeing unlawful sights, obedience to the commands of Allah and His Messenger (pbuh), etc.
Being humble not just in walking but in the conduct of all aspects of life; thus becoming a means to attain Allah’s love and pleasure. This, in fact, is stated in the following tradition:
“…Allah elevates the level of those who act humbly just for the sake of Allah; and He lowers the level of those who act arrogantly.” (Haythamī, X, 325)
The great Sufi master Mawlanā Jalal al-Dīn Rumī points out the humbleness of the earth, and invites people to be like the earth in modesty in the following lines:
“Allah the Almighty said, “O People! Look carefully how I have sown a seed from My soul in your body created from the earth, and elevated you: you are the dust of the earth, and I have raised you aloft. I have bestowed upon you intelligence and love. Do you once more adopt the practice of earthiness (modesty), so that I may make you a prince over all creation.”
Sheikh Sādī Shirāzī points out the role of modesty in spiritual achievement and interprets the wisdom of water as follows:
“Flood tumbles down because of its arrogance. On the other hand, because it’s so small and weak, dew drop is raised aloft into the skies by the sun.”
Modesty is a means to receive Divine rewards. It is stated in the following verse:
“And to every nation We appointed acts of devotion that they may mention the name of Allah on what He has given them of the cattle quadrupeds; so your god is One God, therefore to Him should you submit, and give good news to the humble, (To) those whose hearts tremble when Allah is mentioned, and those who are patient under that which afflicts them, and those who keep up prayer, and spend (benevolently) out of what We have given them.” (22; 34-35)
Therefore, humility and sincerity have vital significance in the performance of our duties towards Allah the Almighty.