On Maintaining Modesty in a Hostile Environment

Answered by Sayyidi al-Ḥabīb `Umar bin Hafīẓ (may Allāh preserve him and benefit us by him).

When I was in Tarīm I loved the modesty that girls showed in their clothing and transactions at home and outside. How can we make this modesty a feature of our communities in the West in an environment which does not welcome these etiquettes?

It is possible for all these etiquettes to be followed. However, if it is difficult to implement some of them, it does not mean that they should all be left, and we should do what we can.

The various environments that we find ourselves in are not an obstacle for people with strong resolve and high aspiration whether they be men or a women. This strong resolve is the most important thing, and the effects are greater if one works gradually with wisdom. The modesty that you see in Tarīm and many places amongst the pious people of the Ummah is the result of the teaching of the Prophet, who came to a degenerated society where the modesty of women was exposed. This is the state of disbelieving societies today.

Allah says:

Do not expose yourselves like the exposure of the former times of ignorance.1

However, the society of the Prophet was transformed due to strong faith and resolve. Similarly disbelieving societies may change if there is this resolve and aspiration combined with Prophetic guidance. Allāh in His wisdom may cause things to happen in the short term or in the long term and the whole affair belongs to Him. We succeed by expending our efforts to try to bring about change to the extent of our ability sincerely for the sake of Allāh.

Another step we must take is to constantly teach our womenfolk about the modesty of the Mothers of the Believers, the daughters of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), the women Companions and the women who Allāh praises in the Qur’ān. We should also teach them the merit of modesty and its benefit in this life and the next. Finally we should pray to Allāh in abundance that modesty becomes a feature of our communities.

1Al-Aḥzāb, 33:33