Credit to Mohammed Hassim who emailed me this piece:
Narrated by Abu Huraira (ra): The Prophet[pbuh] said, “Faith (Belief) consists of more than sixty branches (i.e. parts). And Haya[modesty] is a part of faith.” (Bukhari)
Walk into the toy store, and you’ll find “baby” dolls dressed in clothing reminiscent of prostitutes’ outfits. Walk into the clothing store, and prepubescent girls are already being introduced to tank tops, mini skirts, and items of clothing that were once reserved for mature women.
But hey, this is nothing new. It’s been around for a while. and I think that many of us have become somewhat desensitized to this. There are times that we’ll remember how bad it is, but what usually happens is that we cluck over it for a bit and then get distracted by the many other problems we’re facing.
Now, however, I’d like to take the time to address this issue from a couple different angles – both a psychosocial and religious point of view.
In Wendy Shalit’s book “Girls Gone Mild,” she discusses the culture of hypersexualization: how it’s being promoted, through both media and consumerism, how it’s permeated society, and how it has so dangerously affected our lives and mentalities- the psychosocial ramifications of hypersexualized culture are already evident and recognized even by non-Muslims.
Awareness of sexuality is occurring at a much earlier age today, and almost always with a confused or warped understanding of it. Girls and boys are both growing up insensitively exposed to sights and concepts about the human body that were once discovered at a much slower rate that accommodated their level of mental and emotional maturity.
It doesn’t exist only amongst non-Muslims. Even Muslims are infected with the disease of hypersexualization, and its effects are far-reaching. Girls who wear hijaab still obsess over their weight and their image and try to look older than they are-without the maturity or understanding of what ‘older’ really means.
In addition to general psychological and social effects of hypersexualization, as Muslims there is another dimension that makes the issue even more important for us to be aware of.
The concept of hayaa’ – of modesty and shyness – is one that we Muslims should all be aware of, and prize highly, and do our best to cultivate within ourselves. There are many different kinds of hayaa’, but in this context we’ll deal specifically with modesty relating to our bodies.
In Islam, we have something which we call the ‘awra: the part of our bodies that we try to keep covered as much as possible. In general, although of course it differs with women in respect to the hijaab and so on, the ‘awra can be described as what is between the navel and the knees.
Sheikh Hisham al-Awadhi mentions in his series about Children Around the Messenger that sex education and awareness is supposed to begin at an early age for Muslim children – starting with the understanding that there are certain times and places that they cannot enter without permission. Hopefully this is something that Muslim parents are implementing with their children. but then there’s another kind of sex education that must be addressed. That is, teaching our children how to have respect and modesty regarding their own body, and others.’
It’s not enough to just give kids “the birds and the bees” talk and to make girls start wearing hijaab – indeed, I find that there are far too many girls out there who wear hijaab without even fully understanding the many wisdoms behind it, including that of respect, modesty, and self-esteem. Rather, we have to cultivate within them an understanding that whatever they see outside, whatever they hear from others about their bodies and self-image, there is something far more important to keep in mind: to have taqwa not just in matters of “dos” and “don’ts” but also about our attitude towards our bodies.
Respect your body and have self-confidence. Know that first of all, we don’t cover our bodies because we’re ashamed of it – rather, we’re proud of it and respect it. Allah created us in the best of ways, with body parts that both look good (well. mostly!) and perform neccessary functions. However, just ‘cuz we look good doesn’t mean that we should be showing it off to the whole world! (BTW, this goes for men also – please, no Speedos! Those don’t even look good.)
I think it’s of especial importance to get this message across to young girls: hijaabi or not, most girls have issues with their self-esteem and self-image, especially in this society where so much emphasis is placed on making oneself physically attractive. In addition to making them realize that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, we can’t forget that it’s human nature to want to be beautiful – Therefore parents are reminded to make their daughters feel good by complimenting her on her beauty inside the house. Notice when she’s wearing a new outfit, tell her how the colour looks great with her eyes, how lovely she is, etc. In this way, by knowing that others – who are allowed to see her beauty(i.e. her mahaarim) – think she’s beautiful, there’ll be less of a need for her to desire others’ approval of her attractiveness.
Respect others’ bodies. Whether it’s a kaafir or a Muslim, a man or a woman, covered or naked. have respect and shyness for their bodies. Don’t look at what’s not permissable to look at; don’t behave in a manner that’s contrary to the entire concept of hayaa’. Lower your gaze and have good manners. Far too often have I seen hijaabi girls giggling over a model, actor, or even a brother at a community function; similarly, stories about men ogling hijaabis or drooling over non-Muslim women is disgusting because that’s NOT how a Muslim is supposed to act at any time, towards anyone.
Just as girls need a bit of help with the first point, I think parents need to spend more time teaching boys about the second. Part of good manners is to have respect for women and treat them decently no matter how they’re dressed – to truly lower the gaze and behave as the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) did towards women. It needs to start when they’re young, and reinforced as preteens and young teens, so that it will stick with them as adult men who have to deal with women in many different kinds of situations. Recently I saw witnessed two youngsters – although they’re only 12 and 13, they felt shy when they passed by a woman who was indecently dressed. They made a point of averting their gaze, but still treated whoever it was with respect by speaking politely. Sadly, there aren’t many examples of such kids these days.
Another problem that I know many parents struggle with is trying to teach their kids that the pictures of half-naked men and women on advertisements, billboards, TV, etc. are not acceptable Islamically. I believe that this issue is related to the point above: having respect for other people’s bodies. A somewhat uncomfortable question that younger kids might bring up (usually at most inopportune moments!) is something along the lines of, “Mama, why is that lady not wearing any clothes?” or “Dad, why is that man in his underwear?”
This is when, instead of cringing or hissing at them to be quiet or ignoring them, you explain to them about how there are many people who don’t protect their bodies the way we do. Insha’Allah, if you handle it the right way – open, matter-of-factly, but pressing the concept of hayaa’ – your children will grow up knowing that while the human body isn’t something to be ashamed of, it IS something to be cared for, protected, and respected.
Innocence is an endangered species. Instead of ignoring the repercussions of the situation, complaining about it, and not doing anything about it, we have to be proactive in dealing with it. Recognize how it affects our children, and take the necessary measures to address it in an Islamic and psychologically healthy manner.
Also by far, our own example will be most beneficial. If we as parents lower our gazes when in front of the opposite sex this will be educative. Lets also take out SPECIAL DEDICATED time to interact and educate our kids.
Here are a few hadith that we can use to educate our kids:
The Prophet said, “Beware! Avoid sitting on the roads.” They (the people) said, “O Allah’s Apostle! We can’t help sitting (on the roads) as these are (our places) where we have talks.” The Prophet said, “If you refuse but to sit, then pay the road its right.” They said, “What is the right of the road, O Allah’s Apostle?” He said, “Lowering your gaze, refraining from harming others, returning greeting, and enjoining what is good, and forbidding what is evil.” [Bukhari]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: A man should not look at the private parts of another man, and a woman should not look at the private parts of another woman[Abu Dawood]
“Ibn Abbas narrated: ‘The Prophet (S) cursed the men who appear like women and the women who appear like men.'” (Bukhari)
“Ayesha (R) reported that Asmaa the daughter of Abu Bakr (R) came to the Messenger of Allah (S) while wearing thin clothing. He approached her and said: ‘O Asmaa! When a girl reaches the menstrual age, it is not proper that anything should remain exposed except this and this. He pointed to the face and hands.” (Abu Dawood)
From the Quran: ” And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display theri beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof, that they should draw theri veils over their bosoms adn not display their beauty except to their husbands, tathers, husbands’ fathers, sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women or the slaves whom their right hand possess or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sence of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! Turn ye all together towards Allah(S.W.T) that ye may attain Bliss (Surah 24:31)
A beautiful Story!
“There was a muslim brother in Glasgow who became ill and was hospitalized. He was admitted for three days and on the fourth day the attendant nurse said, “Marry me”.He [the brother in Glasgow] asked, “Why? I am a Muslim, you and I cannot become companions.”She said, “I will become Muslim”.”What’s the reason?” it was asked.She said, “In all my time that I have served in hospitals, except you, I have never seen a man lower his gaze in front of a woman. In my life you are the first person who lowers his gaze when seeing a woman. I come, and you close your eyes. Such great modesty can be taught by none other than a true religion.”The protection of one’s gaze entered Islam in her. She testified to the Oneness of Allah and became a Muslim. They both got married. By now, the same woman was and is the means of bringing so many other girls and women into Islam.
In a Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (saw) is reported as having said: “And the eyes commit zina (adultery). Their zina is gazing.” The Prophet Muhammad (saw) commanded Ali (RA) and said to him: “Ali! Do not look once after another, for the first look is for you (since it happens accidentally) while the second is against you.”
May Allah protect us all from the fitnah, fasaad, and faahishah that is all around us, ameen!