Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Illusion of Piety

We’ve all heard the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Well it certainly is true when we apply it to how we see ourselves and see others. We may see a brother with a long beard and kufi and say “Mashallah, that brother is such a good guy, he’s so religious” or we may see a sister wearing a hijab and say “Mashallah, that sister is so modest and religious.” Well the matter of the fact is the exterior does not always match the interior for some. For some it’s like they’re actors playing a role on a stage, but inside they’re fake. They play a part, but what’s really in their hearts? They wear hijab or they grow a beard to put on the front of being religious so they may be seen by people or be perceived in a certain way by others, thus hiding a deeper uglier spiritual state.

We stress the exterior so much, although I am not disregarding the sunnah or the importance of the hijab, but merely pointing out wearing a hijab or wearing a kufi and growing a beard does nothing if one’s interior spiritual state is in ruins, intentions are not pure or the heart is diseased with hypocrisy, ostentation, or self-glorification, etc. There are some of the so-called pious/righteous amongst us who we perceive as righteous/pious who we trust with our lives and our deen, namely some imams, who have done unspeakable crimes against Muslims and society. This is dangerous as it not only places doubt in the minds of Muslims and creates a fitnah amongst Muslims and doesn’t allow us to trust one another. How can we trust those who claim to be the leaders of our ummah, masaajid, and communities when they deceive us? Also, brothers may put on a religious front and abuse their wives or they may treat their own families terribly. Sisters may wear hijab, yet may also cuss, backbite, gossip or may overstep boundaries we won’t talk about. What good did the hijab or the kufi and beard do? Did it remind them of Allah? Also, this shows the backwardness of stressing the exterior and not focusing on cleansing and improving the interior spiritual state of the heart. The Prophet SAW said in a hadith:

‘Surely there is in the body a small piece of flesh; if it is good, the whole body is good, and if it is corrupted, the whole body is corrupted, and that is surely the heart’.
(Sahih Bukhari)

So those who stress the exterior and think that their exterior look will make them more pious are mistaken as the heart must be purified, then the exterior will show. This can be seen amongst us as we see there is sometimes sisters who don’t wear hijab who are in fact more modest than the sisters who wear hijab. This definitely shows you the fallacy of the exterior argument and the stress on the outer state rather than the inner spiritual state. Again I am not discounting or diminishing the importance of hijab, but one must not merely put it on and think that they’re any more pious or religious than any one if the hijab does not remind them of Allah and their actions and character don’t change, then the hijab is merely a piece of clothe on one’s head. The hijab is not only a clothe, rather it includes the behavior of a woman. When a sister puts on hijab she should be reminded of WHY she’s putting on and for WHO and for WHAT intention. If any of those questions have any doubt in them, the sister should question her intentions. The greatest examples sister’s have are the Prophet SAW’s wives, who carried themselves with dignity and honor and only spoke the truth, carried themselves in a certain manner in which they protected their modesty. Sisters often erroneously complain “Oh in Islam we don’t have a role model for women.” This is clearly false if you’re to look in the Quran and the Seerah of the Prophet SAW, there have been great women whose lives not only women can learn from, but men too.

Modesty isn’t merely a cloth on one’s head, it’s in the character, demeanor and actions of a person. This modesty is not only limited to dress, it’s modesty of the tongue (not saying bad things, backbiting, gossiping, lying,etc.), actions of the hands (not hurting anyone or harming anyone) and modesty of the eyes (not seeing that which is haraam). Modesty is extended to brothers too as they are meant to carry themselves in an honorable way and treat sisters in a certain manner in a way to not compromise either’s reputation or modesty. Brothers need to hold themselves to a certain moral and ethical standard according to Quran and Sunnah.

And we may have sincere brothers and sisters who wear the hijab and grow the beard and wear what they wear out of sincere piety, but we need to check our sincerity in our actions and what we do. Are we wearing the hijab because of family pressure, culture or because we’re hiding behind it? Are we wearing the kufi, growing the beard just to be seen by people and have people praise you? In the Quran Allah says:

Among the people there are some who say, "We believe in Allah and the Last Day," when they are not believers. They think they deceive Allah and those who believe. They deceive no one but themselves but they are not aware of it. There is a sickness in their hearts and Allah has increased their sickness. They will have a painful punishment on account of their denial. (Surah al-Baqara, 8-10)


When you see them, their outward form appeals to you, and if they speak you listen to what they say. But they are like propped-up planks of wood. They imagine every cry to be against them. They are the enemy, so beware of them. May Allah destroy them! How they are perverted! (Surah al-Munafiqun, 4)

The hypocrites think they deceive Allah, but He is deceiving them. When they get up to pray, they get up lazily, showing off to people, and only remembering Allah a very little. (Surah an-Nisa', 142)

[O you who believe! do not make your charity worthless by reproach and injury, like him who spends his property to be seen of men and does not believe in Allah and the last day; so his parable is as the parable of a smooth rock with earth upon it, then a heavy rain falls upon it, so it leaves it bare; they shall not be able to gain anything of what they have earned; and Allah does not guide the unbelieving people.] (Al-Baqarah 2:264)

There are several other ayahs from the Quran that relate to hypocrisy and hypocrites, but the fact of the matter is ultimately hypocrites are deceiving themselves and may be deceiving others, but they cannot deceive Allah:

Say: "Whether ye hide what is in your hearts or reveal it, Allah knows it all: He knows what is in the heavens, and what is on earth. And Allah has power over all things.] (Aal `Imran 3:29)

May Allah protect us all from hypocrisy and from being hypocrites and purify our spiritual states, forgive our sins, and grant us Jannat al Firdaus. Ameen.

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