Islamic Perspectives

Immodesty: The Root Cause of Evils

By Obaidur Rahman Nadwi

The gang-rape of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi on December 16, 2012 is indeed a blot on the social behaviour of Indians. Such incidents are not new but this particular case came into public gaze with such a fury that it has shaken the whole political and judicial systems. Such incidents are order of the day and occupy a permanent feature in newspapers and electronic media reports.

According to the National Crime Bureau report, a woman is raped every 22 minutes in India while a minor is subjected to the same crime every 76 minutes.

Why then this crime has become so common? There are many reasons behind it. But immodesty appears to be the root cause. Both male and female are responsible for allowing such circumstances to prevail in our society. In the past, such crimes were rare in our country. Ever since we have adopted the western culture, the situation has taken an ugly turn. It is western culture which relegated our Indian culture to the sidelines and smashed our age-old social fabric.

No doubt, modesty plays a constructive role in character-building and in the formation of a sound and healthy society. It also wards off all sorts of obnoxious and unholy acts.

There is much emphasis in Islam on observing modesty. Holy Prophet said, “Every religion has a distinctive quality and the distinctive quality of Islam is modesty (Muwatta). He also said, “Modesty and Faith exist together and when one of them goes out, the other, too, goes out” (Baihaqi); “Modesty brings only good” (Bukhari and Muslim).

Noted Islamic scholar Manzoor Nomani observed that, “Modesty 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”. He further said, “The word ‘modesty’ is used in a very wide sense in the terminology of the Quran and the Prophetic Traditions. In the common usage, what it signifies, simply, is that a man avoids lewdness and keeps away from lustfulness and 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 commits an error or behaves in a manner having semblance of sinfulness” (Meaning and Message of The Traditions, Vol. IV, p. 63).

The immodesty, no doubt, is the root cause of evils. It is a menace which leads us towards adultery, fornication, rape, molestation and other obscene acts. It is modesty that keeps us away from indulging in a host of evil deeds and absurd acts. The lack of modesty which results in nudity and obscenity these days is now considered an act of “modernity”. Transparent aprons and designer dresses instead of covering the body contours expose them in a vulgar way. It is unfortunate that today immodesty has reached such an extent that women are made to dance to attain political mileage. Such cases can be seen during election campaigns in our country. Women should not be exploited in such a way.

According to Islam, the world and all things in it are valuable, but the most valuable thing in the world is a virtuous woman. The Holy Prophet said, “The more civil and kind a Muslim is to his wife, the more perfect of faith he is” (Tirmidhi).

Islam strictly prohibits vulgar depiction of the female or male body. We may easily comprehend through the following Ahadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad) as to how Islam combats immodesty and indecency. The Holy Prophet said, “Allah is highly entitled that one should observe haya (modesty) before Him” (Al-Tirmizi). He further said, “Mind, never be naked, for you are being attended by the angels of God who never leave you alone, except at the time when you have to attend to the call of nature or when you go to your wives. Therefore, you should feel ashamed of these angels and have regard for them” (Al-Tirmizi); “Allah has cursed those women who wear clothes but still are naked”; “Those women who remain naked even after wearing clothes allure others and are allured by others and walk coquettishly with their heads turned to one side, will never enter Paradise, nor even get its scent” (Muslim). Hafsa, daughter of Abdur Rahman, came before Hazrat Ayesha. She was wearing a thin wrapper over her head and shoulders. Hazrat Ayesha tore it into pieces and put a thick wrapper over her”. (Mu’atta of Imam Malik).

Islam warns men not to dress like women and women too should not wear masculine dresses. Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: “The Apostle of God cursed men who assume a likeness of women (in dress, manners, deportment etc.), and women who assume a likeness of men” (Bukhari). It is narrated by Abu Hurairah that the Apostle of Allah cursed men who wear clothes of women, and women who wear clothes of men” (Abu Dawood).

It is obvious that modesty is the essence of Islamic way of life. We may lead prosperous and peaceful lives by observing it. Besides, we can keep ourselves aloof from a variety of anti-social activities if we inculcate this virtue in our lives.

In this context, we may recall Saudi king Abdullah ibn Abdul Aziz’s directive to the media warning against displaying obscene and inappropriate pictures of women. He advised Gulf media not to publish naked pictures of women to achieve material gains. He said, “one must think: do they want their daughter, their sister or their wife to appear in this way?”

It would not be out of place here to recall the former chief minister of U.P. Mayawati’s advice wherein she laid stress on weeding out obscenity and immodesty from the society. She advised her party leaders not to attend functions where women are made to dance in an obscene manner or exhibit their bodies. She got annoyed on seeing her party leaders watching dance shows by bar girls aired on TV channels. She said, “Agar tumhari maa aur baheno ko nachaya jaaye to kaisa lagega?” (How will you feel if your mothers and sisters are made to dance like this?)

In short, no religion promotes immodesty and indecency. Each faith wants to do away with this social menace. Hence, we should develop a sense of modesty and bashfulness and avoid all sorts of immodest, indecent and impudent acts so that an atmosphere of peace and serenity may prevail in the societies.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 February 2013 on page no. 20

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