When the term ‘hayaa’ or ‘modesty’ is used, it usually brings to mind aspects such as adopting purdah, dressing modestly, avoiding speech and interaction with the opposite gender and other similar aspects.

While all these aspects ARE undoubtedly important components of hayaa, it should be borne in mind that hayaa is not restricted to one’s outward appearance and physical actions. Rather, hayaa is a value of imaan, rooted in the heart, that governs one’s thinking and behaviour and moulds one’s mindset and outlook.

Therefore, we understand that if a woman is clad Islamically, by concealing herself with the purdah, wearing loose fitting, concealing clothing, etc., or even if a woman conceals herself by remaining in the confines of her home – BUT in her mind, she entertains shameless thoughts, immodest ideas and impermissible fantasies, then though her external self is conforming to hayaa, her heart and mind is bereft of true hayaa.

In today’s times, there are many young girls who sincerely wish to lead lives of chastity, purity and hayaa. Many of them commence wearing the purdah and some of them are even home-schooled. However, despite their efforts, if they are not careful, they fall into one of the devious and cunning traps of Shaitaan.

Most of the time, the trap is in the form of the cell phone and internet. When a girl holds a phone in her hands, then though she may be safely concealed behind the walls of her home, she is able to get into contact with boys throughout the world. Even if she does not see the boy, the chatting that is initiated causes feelings of attraction and urges of lust to be created, leading to the mindset being corrupted and hayaa being corroded.

Likewise, with unmonitored access to the internet, a girl is able to watch all types of movies and series. The romance, immoral inclinations and immodest actions that are portrayed on the screen undoubtedly pollute the mind and poison the heart. In certain households, reading novels is seen as a lesser evil, but the reality is that the shameless ideas and inclinations of the non-Muslim author (or Muslim author who is not committed to Deen) are subtly or blatantly interwoven through the plot and storyline of the novel. Hence, the pollution and poisoning of hayaa that arises from reading novels (especially romance novels) is akin to that of movies.

At times, the trap is in the form of impious friends. If a girl is exposed to immoral and impious company, then she will lose her hayaa in a matter of moments. She will rapidly be stripped of her innocence and introduced to evil concepts, ideas and evil habits which are completely contradictory to the demands of hayaa.

In all cases, the end result is the same – though the girl may remain at home and may be clad in the hijaab and niqaab, her mind and heart will entertain filthy fantasies and immoral ideas that were acquired from movies, the internet, novels and bad company.

Often, when such a girl later enters into nikaah and wishes to make her impermissible and filthy fantasies materialize, then she finds that her husband is appalled and disgusted by her shameless expectations, and this may even lead to a breakdown in the marriage!

It is important to note that even if a woman does not possess true hayaa of the mind and heart, then this does not mean that she should not adopt the outer aspects of hayaa, as dressing with hayaa, etc. are separate injunctions of the sharee‘ah and must still be upheld. Rather, the point is that together with the external aspects, one must also focus on the purity of the heart and mind so that one may acquire complete hayaa. Many a time, through not focusing on and being concerned about the purity of the heart and mind, even the external aspects of hayaa are at risk and gradually begin to weaken until they leave one’s life.

Thus, the first step is to shield and protect ourselves and our children from the abovementioned evil influences. Thereafter, if we are attacked and assailed by the whispers of Shaitaan, due to which we find shameless thoughts entering our minds uninvited, then we should immediately recite the ta‘awwuz (a‘oozu billahi…) and “Laa howla walaa quwwata illa billaah”.

Thereafter, immediately turn the mind away to something that will clear the heart of the evil whispers of Shaitaan. For instance, immediately start thinking that I have just been lowered into the grave and I can feel the hard, cold floor underneath me. Then think of what will happen next… Or think of the sweltering heat on the Day of Qiyaamah, with people standing in pools of perspiration, and that you are next in line for questioning! You may also just start silently ‘shouting’ ALLAH, ALLAH, ALLAH” from your heart for a minute or two until the evil thoughts vanish.

So long as we do not intentionally bring such thoughts to mind, or entertain these thoughts once they come to mind, then insha-Allah, Allah Ta‘ala will forgive us and assist us to remain chaste and pure.

May Allah Ta‘ala bless us all with modest minds and assist us to acquire true internal and external purity, aameen.