Modesty is not only what we wear, but how we act, how we behave, and how we use our body language to communicate with others. Modesty is a way of living, and most importantly, modesty is gracefullness.
We have all experienced those moments when the women sitting on the next table are laughing so loud that our eyes unwillingly turn towards them, and inside we feel a bit of disappointment. Is that feeling of disappointment due to the interruption they have caused us, or are we disappointed because they are representing our gender? Or even worse, when they are Muslim women, they are representing Islam. I sometimes secretly wish that the unsophisticated hijabi woman, would not be wearing the headscarf as I will be judged by her misbehavior through the eyes of a world filled with biases towards Muslims. I know it is bad to think this way, but I do.
I vividly remember once being in a restaurant, and two french-speaking couples entered the place. One of the women was so beautiful that I thought to myself, she is the most beautiful woman that I have ever seen in real life. Monica Bellucci whom I think is remarkably beautiful came second to her. I said to my friend ”Jal Al-Khalegh, how can we not believe when we see such beauties?”
She started drinking wine with her lunch, and she drank, and she drank, until she had lost all control. She was laughing one second, and crying the next. Her husband had to almost carry her out of the restaurant. I was paying the bill and by the exit I looked at her again, and her beauty had vanished. She looked destroyed, and ruined. Not recognizable.
On the other hand, there have been numerous occasions that a non-believer has behaved with such decorum and elegance that I have questioned the way I hold myself.
When I was only 10 years old, my family and I were having ice-cream on a Sunny day in a square in London. While we were sitting there, a little girl was walking with her mother, and for a few seconds she stared at us. Her mother stopped her, told her off. She said to her ”staring at people is not allowed” and that she must apologize to us. The girl came up to me and my family, and with a posh British accent said ”I am truly sorry for staring at you”.
There you go, modesty at its simplest form. Hijab is not modesty, it’s only a very small part of it. Modesty has so many dimensions that one cannot begin to describe all of them in one dedicated life time.
Staring, talking loudly, saying bad words, showing too much, unnecessary body movements, laughing out of control, walking and sitting with no Hayaa, painting one’s face, and acting in a seductive manner are all easy habits to change. These are simple acts that one can change to be more modest. However, there are dimensions that are far more difficult to conquer. It is far more difficult to stop gossiping, overreacting, becoming angry, and talking when you need to be listening.
One of the latest examples that come to mind is Meghan Markle’s public reaction to her father’s misbehavior. She reacted with utter most grace. Yes, of course, she has the entire Royal Family to get advice from. But isn’t that funny? We could easily say that about her, and here we forget that we have so many more role models to get advice from. Greater role models, ones whom were not man-made, but Allah has appointed them for us. But do we? Do we behave as per the guidance of our Prophet (S.A.W)? Do we behave as per the recommendations of Fatima (A.S)? Or Zainab? Or Masoomah?
It maybe a long road to become modest but we can try. We can try with the easy acts of elegance and decorum, and just like any other training, we train ourselves a little bit more with every act. We aim for excellence.