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November 23, 2008

Haya – Modesty

The following article has been published in the As-Salaam Newsletter Issue 1 published in November 2008


The Arabic word haya is translated into English as modesty but can also mean, shyness, dignity, self-respect and even honour. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, (p.b.u.h.) has been recorded to have said:

“Verily know that haya (modesty)part of your very iman (faith).” (Bukhari & Muslim)

Thus, haya (modesty) is all about controlling our gaze and taming our desires. In reality, being modest is the number one obstacle for the majority of us, irrespective of our age, gender and colour and it is this lack of modesty that keeps us away from our Lord (Allah). No matter how many good deeds we do or love we may have for Allah (All Mighty), it is like a hole in our hearts where everything gets sucked down when we fail to be modest in our actions. This is when one commits obscene acts (fahsha) that may be unbecoming to a believer in terms of faith. The purpose of this article is to shed some light on the importance of the subject of modesty and to try to get rid of the sins connected with the negligence of modestywith evidence extracted from the words of Allah (i.e. from the Holy Qur’an) and from the sayings of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h).

The aforementioned hadith of the Prophet (p.b.u.h) suggests that modesty is the basic form of iman (faith). In fact, scholars say that when Prophet equated modesty with faith, it meant that they complemented each other. The more immodest one might be, the more deficient their faith would be and vice-versa. The great scholar, Imam Bukhari, (may Allah be pleased with him), regarded modesty at such a high position that he coined the entire Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh) as being based on it, by including it as a chapter heading: “Haya is verily a branch [a part] of faith.”

Unfortunately today in our modern, educated,world, we are sometimes taught consciously or subconsciously that haya or shyness is not such a good thing. We should know that once the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h) was passing by a companion and he heard him telling his younger brother that one should not beandshould be bolder and more outgoing.When Prophet (p.b.u.h) heard this, he stopped and addressed both of the companions and said that if one is, it will only bring goodness (khair). 'So why do you counsel one another to not have haya when the only thing it can bring is goodness (khair).' (Bukhari & Muslim)
At another situation, the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) has been quoted to have said,“Al haya –u-khairu kuluhu.” The scholars have translated this to mean either that “everything about modesty is good” or “all of good is to be found in modesty.”

Therefore, the purpose of this life is not to fulfil our own desires and to seek the pleasures of this world, but rather to please our Lord: modesty is a means to such an over-arching goal. Unfortunately, today, we live in a society where advertisements, billboards, magazines, television, and otherbombard us with obscene images. Anyone who even tries to save himself from it is unable to do so. It has the effect of destroying one's haya and of making one immune to such obscenity. Such immunity occurs when one is repeatedly made to see such images and thusspiritual heart, casting a veil over it. If we do not cast a veil over our eyes, thenveil will be casted over our hearts.

Here are two quick recommendations  that one may put into practice straight awayprotect oneself from immodesty:

Start doing invocations (zikr) and the remembrance of your Lord at all times – in the bus, on the train, in the tube, even on your Ipods. It is this remembrance of our Lord during the daily chores that will remind us at all times that there is one great deity always watching our every move. Allah enjoins invocations with guiding our private parts together in following verse from the Holy Qur’an:
“And those believing men who guide their private parts and those believing women who guide their private parts. And those who remember Allah frequently and those female believer who remember Allah frequently” (24:31).

Lower one's gaze: Lowering the gaze is not something for the scholars or the saints but for all of us. It is not something that is optional but rather a commandment from our Lord in many different verses in the Qur’an. To get rid of evil or bad things, one has to fight the battle from the start as it is much easier to defeat the sin, when it’s just about to start. It is much harder to persist and march down from that path of sin. This is our Lord’s mercy to make it easy for us by reminding us to draw the battle line much earlier to save us from the sins. 

November 20, 2008

Halal and Haram: Not just food!

Follow-up to The Heart from Saya's Ramblings...

The following article has been published in the As-Salaam Newsletter Issue 2 published in January 2009


Nu'man b. Bashir (Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as having said : What is lawful is evident and what is unlawful is evident, and in between them are the things doubtful which many people do not know. So he who guards against doubtful things keeps his religion and honour blameless, and he who indulges in doubtful things indulges in fact in unlawful things, just as a shepherd who pastures his animals round a preserve will soon pasture them in it. Beware, every king has a preserve and the things God has declared unlawful are His preserves. Beware, in the body there is a piece of flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound and if it is corrupt the whole body is corrupt, and hearken it is the heart.

Narrated in Sahih-Al-Bukhari and Al-Muslim

The aforementioned saying of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) touches on the concept of lawful (halal) vs. the unlawful (haram) matters (in light of shari’ah), the doubtful (ambivalent) matters and the biology of the heart.

The scholars of Islam differ in the precise definition of halal and haram. Abu Hanifah, the leader of the Hanafi School of Jurisprudence, has said, “The halal is that for which there is a proof which shows that it is halal.” While the leader of the Shafi’i school, Ash-Shafi’i said, “The haram is that for which there is a proof which shows that it is haram.” Thus, irrespective of whichever school we follow, it is safe to suggest that if one finds lack of evidence to support otherwise, then the matter is left where it is. Having said that, those ambiguous matters that have characteristics of both the halal and the haram, are the matters that are unclear. These matters distinguish oneself from others in terms of religion and honour. Where the ambivalence is absent, then disapproval of that matter is absent and to ask further about it is an innovation (bidah).

It is further suggested that one may have sought to have his religion free from any blame and safe from any uncertainty. As for the freedom of his honour from blame, if he does not give up the ambivalent matter, ignorant people would show arrogance towards him by backbiting. They would attribute to him that he consumed the haram and it would then be the decisive factor in their falling into wrong actions.

At another instance the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) has been reported to have said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him not take a stance that causes suspicion.” In Sahih at-Tirmizi it has been reported that the Holy Messenger of Allah once said, “When any of you break wind in the prayer, let him take hold of his nose and then leave.” That is so that it will not be said about him, “He broke wind.”

The aspect of falling into the “ambivalent matters” that it may “lead to haram,” may mean two things, one of which is that he will fall into the haram, thinking that it is not haram. The second meaning would be that he would almost fall into the haram, as is said, “Acts of disobedience are the postal service of disbelief.” Because when a person falls into infringements, he will advance step by step from one corruption to another greater than it.

This has been indicated by the words of our Lord, in the Holy Qur’an in chapter 3, verse 112, “and the (Children of Isra’il) killed the Prophets without any right to do so. That was because they disobeyed and went beyond their limits,” meaning that they went gradually from acts of disobedience to killing the prophets. The mention of the shepherd and his flock is analogous to the ambivalent matters leading to haram, whereby the flock wandering near the boundaries of it's owner's land (pasturage), may encroach into forbidden pasture.

Know that every forbidden thing has its protected pasturage surrounding it. The private parts are forbidden and the two things are their protected pasturage because they are a sanctum (harem) for that which is forbidden. Similarly, seclusion with a woman [other than wives, slave-women or family] is the protected zone around that which is forbidden, so that a person must avoid both that which is forbidden and the protected zone around it.

The body has a morsel of flesh, which, when in humility then the limbs have humility, and when it is corrupt then the limbs are corrupt. The scholars have said that the body is the kingdom of the self and its city. The heart is in the middle of the kingdom. The members are like servants and the inner faculties are like landed estates in the city. The intellect is like a concerned minister (wazir) who advises him (the king). Appetite is a seeker of the servants’ provisions. Anger is a policeman and a foul cunning slave who assumed the aspect of a counsellor but whose advice is deadly poison, and whose untiring habit is always to quarrel with the counselling minister (i.e. the intellect).

The faculty of imagination is at the front of the brain like a treasurer, the faculty of thought is in the middle of the brain and the faculty of memory is in the rear of the brain. The tongue is an interpreter. The five senses are spies. Each one of them has been entrusted with making one of the arts, so the eye has been entrusted with the worlds of colours, hearing with the worlds of voices, and so on for all the others, for they are means of information.

Then it is said that they are doorkeepers which bring that which they have grasped to the self. It has been said that the hearing, sight and the faculty of smell are like capabilities from which the self looks. The heart is the king, so that if the shepherd is sound, the flock will be sound and if he is corrupt, the flock will be corrupt. His soundness is only obtained by his safety from inner sicknesses such as malice, spite, greed, miserliness, pride, ridicule, showing off, seeking reputation, deceit, covetousness, ambition and discontent with the decree.

There are many illnesses of the heart amounting to almost forty. May our Lord heal us of them and make us of those who come to Him with a sound healthy heart.

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