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Modesty in islamic refrences and great patterns of modesty

Imam Sadiq (a.s) said:

مَنْ حَسَّنَ بِرَّهُ أهْلَ بَيْتِهِ زِيدَ فِي رِزْقِهِ.

One who serves his family nicely his sustenance would be expanded.[1]

حُسْنُ الخُلُقِ يَزِيدُ فِي الرِّزْقِ.

Affability increases sustenance.[2]

Attempt in getting lawful sustenance is considered an important Islamic worship. The Messenger of Allah (s.a) states:

مَنْ أكَلَ مِنْ كَدِّ يَدِهِ كَانَ يَوْمَ القِيَامَةِ فِي عِدَادِ الأنْبِيَاءِ وَيَأخُذُ ثَوَابَ الأنْبِيَاءِ.

One who gains sustenance through his own endeavor is placed among the prophets and receives their reward on the Resurrection Day.[3]

مَنْ أكَلَ مِنْ كَدِّ يَدِهِ نَظَرَ اللهُ اِلَيْهِ بِالرَّحْمَةِ ثُمَّ لاَ يُعَذِّبُهُ أبَداً.

One who gains sustenance by his own effort, Allah would have Mercy on him and does not punish him.[4]

Imam al-Riza (a.s) stated:

إنَّ الَّذِي يَطْلُبُ مِنْ فَضْلٍ يَكُفُّ بِهِ عِيَالَهُ أعْظَمُ أجْراً مِنَ المُجَاهِدِ فِي سَبِيلِ اللهِ.

Surely one who seeks Allah’s sustenance through his lawful effort in order to maintain his family from poorness and need would have more reward than a campaigner in Allah’s way.[5]

Prophet Mohammad (s.a) said:

العِبَادَةُ عَشَرَةُ أجْزَاءٍ؛ تِسْعَةُ أجْزَاءٍ فِي طَلَبِ الحَلاَلِ.

Worship has ten sections nine sections of which are in seeking lawful sustenance.[6]

Anyway human sustenance is a reality that is provided on the earth and has a definite amount for anyone. This definite amount is either extended or narrow, according to Allah’s expedience. The extendedness of one’s sustenance does not imply his amicability before Allah nor one’s narrow sustenance means he is disfavored; rather extended or narrow sustenance is Allah’s test of gratitude for the rich and of patience for the poor. Thus the grateful and patient servants would be rewarded in this way. The rich would also be rewarded by granting to the poor and the poor by maintaining face and patience for the certain fate.

One who has an extended sustenance should know that if he does not spend his money in true and lawful paths would be subject to worldly and heavenly chastisement. The one who has a narrow sustenance should also consider that if he does not tolerate poorness would also be chastised. Imam `Ali (a.s) states:

وَقَدَّرَ الأرْزَاقَ فَكَثَّرَهَا وَقَلَّلَهَا وَقَسَّّمَهَا عَلَى الضِّيقِ وَالسَّعَةِ فَعَدَلَ فِيهَا لِيَبْتَلِيَ مَنْ أرَادَ بِمَيْسُورِهَا وَمَعْسُورِهَا وَلِيَخْتَبِرَ بِذَلِكَ الشُّكْرَ وَالصَّبْرَ مِنْ غَنِيِّهَا وَفَقِيرِهَا.

… And Allah destined people’s sustenance and made it extended for some and narrow for others and he divided sustenance among people justly to test anyone He will with expansion and narrowness of sustenance, thus examine the rich for gratefulness and the poor for tolerance of difficulty.[7]

The Muslim believer should, on the other hand, be content with Allah’s fair distribution of sustenance and not be angry at his portion of sustenance. The believers should follow their leader, Imam `Al¢ (a.s), who prayed Allah for safety in this world and the next world.

Imam °asan Mojtaba (a.s) says in this regard:

كَيْفَ يَكُونُ المُؤْمِنُ مُؤمِناً وَهُوَ يَسْخَطُ قِسْمَهُ وَيُحَقِّرُ مَنْزِلَتَهُ وَالحَاكِمُ عَلَيْهِ اللهُ؟

How can a Muslim believer be discontent with his portion of sustenance and considers his position low, while the One who dominates all his endeavors is Allah?[8]

The Messenger of Allah (s.a) asked Gabriel: “What is the exposition of content?” He answered:

الرَّاضِي لاَ يَسْخَطُ عَلَى سَيِّدِهِ: أصَابَ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا أمْ لَمْ يُصِبْ، وَلاَ يَرْضَى لِنَفْسِهِ بِاليَسِيرِ مِنَ العَمَلِ.

The content servant does not take anger over his Lord, either he possesses something in the world or not, and he is not content with his own trivial deeds.[9]

Imam Sadiq (a.s) stated:

اِرْضَ بِمَا قَسَمَ اللهُ لَكَ تَكُنْ غَنِيّاً.

If you are content with Allah’s sustenance, you would get needless.[10]

Amir Al-Mo’minin (a.s) said:

مَنْ رَضِيَ مِنَ اللهِ بِمَا قَسَمَ لَهُ اسْتَرَاحَ بَدَنُهُ.

If one is content with what Allah has allocated to him his body would rest.[11]

Imam Sadiq (a.s) stated:

مَنْ لَمْ يَرْضَ بِمَا قَسَمَ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ اتَّهَمَ اللهَ فِي قَضَائِهِ.

Whoever is not content with what Allah, out of expedience, has set as his sustenance has charged Him in His Government and Expediency.[12]

When Amir Al-Mo’minin (a.s) was asked about the exposition to the holy verse:

…فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً…

‘We shall assuredly give him to live a goodly life. (16:97)’

He replied:

The goodly life is contentment in life.

إنْتَقِمْ مِنْ حِرْصِكَ بِالقُنُوعِ كَمَا تَنْتَقِمُ مِنْ عَدُوِّكَ بِالقَصَاصِ.

Fight against your greed, which leads you to the unlawful and destroys your belief, by means of your contentment with Allah’s sustenance, as you take revenge from your enemy by retaliation.[13]

The teachings of the infallible Imams (a.s) signify that greed and avarice does not increase lawful sustenance and wealth, rather leads to unlawful acts that weaken belief, destroy moral principles, and disgraces humans. Contentment with lawful sustenance and the destined life, on the other hand, is an infinite treasure and a guarantee for human world and Hereafter. The Messenger of Allah (s.a) sates:

خِيَارُ أُمِّتِي القَانِعُ، وَشِرَارُهُمُ الطَّامِعُ.

The good people of my nation are the content ones, and the bad ones are greedy.[14]

Imam al-B¡qir (a.s) said: “`Al¢ (a.s) ate the most inferior type of date that was sold and then drank water. Then he struck his belly and said:

مَنْ أدْخَلَهُ بَطْنُهُ النَّارَ فَأبْعَدَهُ اللهُ.

‘One whose stomach drags him to the Hell is away from Allah’s Mercy.’

And then recited a poem denoting that one who fulfills his lust would be defamed.”[15]

Imam al-B¡qir and Imam Sadiq (a.s) stated:

مَنْ قَنِعَ بِمَا رَزَقَهُ اللهُ فَهُوَ مِنْ أغْنَى النَّاسِ.

One who is satisfied with his portion of Allah’s sustenance is the most needless of people.[16]

Imam Sadiq (a.s) also stated:

إقْنَعْ بِمَا قَسَمَ اللهُ لَكَ وَلاَ تَنْظُرْ إلَى مَا عِنْدَ غَيْرِكَ، وَلاَ تَتَمَنَّ مَا لَسْتَ نَائِلَهُ، فَإنَّهُ مَنْ قَنِعَ شَبِعَ، وَمَنْ لَمْ يَقْنَعْ لَمْ يَشْبَعْ، وَخُذْ حَظَّكَ مِنْ آخِرَتِكَ.

Be content with what Allah has set as your sustenance and do not look at others’. Do not greed people’s wealth and do not wish what you cannot gain. Undoubtedly, one who is content is satisfied and gets reward in the Hereafter. And the discontent did not satisfy.[17]

Imam `Ali (a.s) stated:

كَيْفَ يَسْتَطِيعُ عَلَى صَلاحِ نَفْسِهِ مَنْ لاَ يَقْنَعُ بِالقَلِيلِ؟

Whoever is not content with his narrow sustenance and with trivial possessions is not able to discipline himself.[18]


Modesty is a great moral reality that helps humans reach spiritual positions. It is so high a state that Amir Al-Mo’minin asks it from Allah in Kumayl supplication. If human applies it to all his deeds, he can obtain goodness in this world and the Hereafter, be safe from Allah’s chastisement, and reach His nearness.

Modesty should be considered in two aspects; one is before Allah and the other is before the people.

Being modest before Allah is accepting all His orders about worldly and heavenly issues wholeheartedly, stated in Qur’¡n, Prophet’s tradition, and Imams’ speech. Then these orders should be applied to life.

Modesty before the people is not letting oneself boast to Muslim brothers and consider oneself superior to them. Modesty is humbling no one, respecting and helping anyone, and forgiving others’ mistakes.

Modesty in Qur’¡n

The holy Qur’¡n not only invites anyone to be modest before Allah, but also asks all the Muslims to be modest before other believers.

The holy Qur’¡n even asks the Prophet (s.a), whose position is higher than any other human’s or jinn’s, to be modest before the believers:

وَاخْفِضْ جَنَاحَكَ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ.

… but lower thy wing (in gentleness) to the Believers. (15:88)

تِلْكَ الدَّارُ الآخِرَةُ نَجْعَلُهَا لِلَّذِينَ لاَ يُرِيدُونَ عُلُوًّا فِي الأَرْضِ وَلاَ فَسَادًا وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ.

That House of the Hereafter We shall give to those who intend not high-handedness or mischief on earth: and the End is (best) for the righteous. (28:83)

The holy Qur’¡n clearly stipulates that the Almighty does not favor the arrogant, and that such people are placed in the Inferno.

إِنَّهُ لاَ يُحِبُّ الْمُسْتَكْبِرِينَ.

Verily He loveth not the arrogant. (16:23)

أَلَيْسَ فِي جَهَنَّمَ مَثْوًى لِلْمُتَكَبِّرِينَ.

Is there not in Hell as abode for the Haughty? (39:60)

Modesty in Traditions

It is narrated from the Messenger of Allah (s.a) who said:

مَا لِي لاَ أرَى عَلَيْكُمْ حَلاوَةَ العِبَادَةِ؟… التَّوَاضُعَ.

How come I don’t see the sweetness of worship in you? What is the sweetness of worship? he was asked. The Prophet (s.a) replied: Modesty![19]

Am¢r al-Mu’min¢n, Imam `Al¢ (a.s), after pointing out the modesty of previous believers before Allah and other Muslims, advises people:

وَلَكِنَّهُ سُبْحَانَهُ كَرَّهَ إلَيْهِمُ التَّكَابُرَ وَرَضِيَ لَهُمُ التَّوَاضُعَ، فَألْصَقُوا بِالأرْضِ خُدُودَهُمْ وَعَفَّرُوا فِي التُّرَابِ وُجُوهَهُمْ وَخَفَضُوا أجْنِحَتَهُمْ لِلمُؤْمِنِينَ.

The Almighty made them disfavor pride, and favored modesty for them. So they touched the earth with their faces for showing service to Allah, and showed respect and modesty to all the Muslims.[20]

He also stated:

عَلَيْكَ بِالتَّوَاضُعِ، فَإنَّهُ مِنْ أعْظَمِ العِبَادَةِ.

Befriend modesty, since it is a great worship.[21]

Imam Sadiq (a.s) said about the amount of modesty:

التَّوَاضُعُ أنْ تَرْضَى مِنَ المَجْلِسِ بِدُونِ شَرَفِكَ وَأنْ تُسَلِّمَ عَلَى مَنْ لاَقَيْتَ وَأنْ تَتْرُكَ المِرَاءَ وَإنْ كُنْتَ مُحِقّاً؛ وَرَأسُ الخَيْرِ التَّوَاضُعُ.

Modesty is your contentment with your seating position, while it doest not deserve your highness, that you say hello to everyone you see, that you leave quarrel in discussions even if you are right. Modesty is the core of every goodness.[22]

Prophet Mu¦ammad (s.a) said:

إنَّ أفْضَلَ النَّاسِ عَبْداً مَنْ تَوَاضَعَ عَنْ رِفْعَةٍ.

Surely the best people in worship are those who are the most modest ones in the highest positions.[23]

He also stated:

إنَّ التَّوَاضُعَ يَزِيدُ صَاحِبَهُ رِفْعَةً؛ فَتَوَاضَعُوا يَرْفَعْكُمُ اللهُ.

Modesty raises human position. So be modest, so that Allah would make you dignified.[24]

Ethics scholars have considered arrogance as extravagance, contempt before everyone as wastage, and modesty as the Golden Mean, that is a humane attribute.

It is narrated from the infallible Imams that modesty before Allah is worshipping Him wholeheartedly, associating with people justly, and equaling oneself to others in terms of human rights.

The Modesty of the Messenger of Allah

The great Prophet of Islam (s.a) joined with the poor and the needy with humility. He said hello to everyone, even to the children, sat on the ground, befriended people in the streets and bazaars, and asked them about their lives. He rode a regular roadster, milked the sheep, washed his clothes, ate with his servants, and lived ordinarily among other people.

The Modesty of Imam `Ali

Amir al-Mu’min¢n (a.s) lived an ordinary life, too. Ibn Abbas says: One day I went to Imam `Ali (a.s) and saw him patching his shoe. I told him: “This shoe does not worth pitching.” Imam (a.s) stated:

وَاللهِ، لَهِيَ أحَبُّ إلَيَّ مِنْ إمْرَتِكُمْ، إلاَّ أنْ أُقِيمَ حَقّاً أوْ أدْفَعَ بَاطِلاً.

By Allah that this shoe is dearer to me than your world, if I take power in it and trample some rights. If I ever have a government, I like to establish the truth and demolish any untruth via it.

Ibn Abbas continues: “Imam `Al¢ (a.s) patched his clothes himself and rode an ordinary roadster.”[25]

The Modesty of Prophet Solomon

Prophet Solomon (a.s) had such a splendor and greatness that no one else on the earth was his counterpart in this regard, but he was so modest and just that even a weak ant could judge his behavior and take its right from him.

One day an ant was moving on Solomon’ hand when he took the ant and put it down on the ground. He did not think the ant might object to this. However, his modesty was to such an extent that the ant dared talking to him: “What is this proud of you? Why are you such an arrogant person? Don’t you know I am a servant of Allah’s just as you are? Are we different from each other in terms of His worship that you behave toward me this way?” Solomon was deeply affected by the ant’s frankness. He got anxious about Allah’s judgment on the Resurrection Day and thus fainted. When he was sober again he called the ant. But Solomon didn’t mean to punish the ant for its frank criticizing. He was a divine man of prophethood position and was adorned with all ethical goodness and humane perfection. He actually was happy with the ant’s idea, because it showed that everyone in his kingdom was free to comment and oppose. He asked the ant: “What made you oppose me so frankly?” The ant said: “My body is very fragile, so when you took me and dropped on the ground, my whole body got painful and this made me oppose you.” Solomon said: “I apologize you for bothering your body. I didn’t do it on purpose, though, so please forgive me!”

When Solomon, the powerful king and the divine prophet, behaves a little wrongly he gets sad and apologizes even a weak ant. The ant told Solomon: “I forgive you, provided that your longing for this world is not for mere enjoyment, you desire wealth for helping your people, not wasting it, support any deprived person who seeks help from you.”

Solomon whose heart was full of mercy and compassion toward those inferior to him, accepted the terms stipulated by the ant, so the ant forgave him.[26]


[1] Bi¦¡r al-Anw¡r: 66/ 407, Bab 38, tradition 117; M¢z¡n al-°ikmah: 5/ 2056, Al-Rizq, tradition 7185.

[2] Mishk¡t al-Anw¡r: 221, Al-Fasl Al-Awwal; M¢z¡n al-°ikmah: 5/ 2056, Al-Rizq, tradition 7187.

[3] Jami’ Al-Akhbar: 139, Al-Fasl Al-Tasi’ wa Al-Tis’un; M¢z¡n al-°ikmah: 5/ 2060, Al-Rizq, tradition 7218.

[4] Jami’ Al-Akhbar: 139, Al-Fasl Al-Tasi’ wa Al-Tis’un; M¢z¡n al-°ikmah: 5/ 2060, Al-Rizq, tradition 7217.

[5] Al-K¡f¢: 5/ 88, Bab Man Kadda…, tradition 2; M¢z¡n al-°ikmah: 5/ 2058, Al-Rizq, tradition 7204.

[6] Jami’ Al-Akhbar: 139, Al-Fasl Al-Tasi’ wa Al-Tis’un; M¢z¡n al-°ikmah: 5/ 2058, Al-Rizq, tradition 7202.

[7] Nahj Al-Balagha: Sermon 91, wa min Khotbat lahu ta’rifo bi khotbati Al-ashbah…

[8] Mishk¡t al-Anw¡r: 34, Al-Fasl Al-Sabi’; M¢z¡n al-°ikmah: 5/ 2090, Al-Riza, tradition 7295.

[9] Bi¦¡r al-Anw¡r: 66/373, Bab 38, tradition 19.

[10] Khisal: 1/ 169, tradition 122; M¢z¡n al-°ikmah: 5/ 2092, Al-Riza, tradition 7312.

[11] Bi¦¡r al-Anw¡r: 68/ 139, Bab 63, tradition 27; M¢z¡n al-°ikmah: 5/ 2092, Al-Riza, tradition 7315.

[12] Bi¦¡r al-Anw¡r: 75/ 201, Bab 23, tradition 34.

[13] Ghorar Al-Hikam: 391, tradition 8981.

[14] Kanz Al-Ommal: 7095; M¢z¡n al-°ikmah: 10/ 5054, Al-Qina’at, tradition 17141.

[15] Kanz Al-‘Ommal: 8741; M¢z¡n al-°ikmah: 10/ 5054, Al-Qina’at, tradition 17143.

[16] Al-K¡f¢: 2/ 139, Bab Al-Qina’at, tradition 9.

[17] Al-K¡f¢: 8/ 243, tradition 337.

[18] Ghurar al-°ikam: 238, tradition 4806.

[19] Majmu’yi Wurram: 1/ 201, Bayan Fazilat Al-Tawazu’; M¢z¡n al-°ikmah: 14/ 6846, Al-Tawazu’, tradition 21825.

[20] Nahj Al-Balagha: Sermon 192, wa min khutbat lahu tussama Al-qasi’a.

[21] Bi¦¡r al-Anw¡r: 72/119, Bab 51, tradition 5.

[22] Bi¦¡r al-Anw¡r: 72/ 123, Bab 51, tradition 20.

[23] Bi¦¡r al-Anw¡r: 74/ 181, Bab 8, tradition 15.

[24] Al-K¡f¢: 2/ 121, Bab Al-Tawazu’, tradition 1; M¢z¡n al-°ikmah: 14/ 6856, Al-Tawazu’, tradition 21872.

[25] Tazkiri-yi Ibn Jowzi: 67.

[26] Qisas Al-‘Anbia’ Tha’labi: 288.

source : `Allamah Husayn Ansariyan
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