"There are men among the believers who honored their pledge to God: some of them have fulfilled it by death, and some are still waiting. They have not changed in the least." (Qur’an 33:23)
There is no doubt that, as of late, many Muslim women have decided to remove their head-scarves, despite a consensus among scholars that hijab is required. Oftentimes, when modesty as a virtue is discussed within our communities, the discussion almost always exclusively surrounds the modesty of Muslim women. Personally, I feel that when discussing modesty (both character (inward) as well of clothing (outward)), a greater focus needs to be put on men as contributors to the decline of modesty within the community. Although there are many factors that play into Muslim women’s decisions to remove their head-scarves, that is not part of this particular discussion. It is my belief that many of the causes in the decline of modesty are based mainly upon the lack of modesty amongst Muslim males (and the double standards they tend to enjoy). Through reviving Prophetic chivalry and masculine modesty within themselves, Muslim men can more effectively contribute to sustaining modesty within the Muslim community.
In a profound noble prophetic narration, the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) gives us an understanding of communal modesty and chastity which places the greater (but not exclusive) responsibility upon men. He says (peace and blessings be upon him, "Be kind to your parents, and your children will be kind to you; be chaste, and your women will be chaste." [Tabarani - classified as hasan]
The first half of the Prophet’s statement (God bless him and grant him peace) is general, whereas the second half of the narration is directed specifically at men. One way of understanding this prophetic narration is that if Muslim men implement modesty and chastity within themselves, their virtuous character will spread and positively influence women as well. By extension, the opposite is also true: if men lose their sense of chastity, their immorality will negatively influence women within society. If one takes a moment to reflect on the way this plays within society, they will see its truth, especially in today’s world. It suffices to say that the pornographic industry which essentially turns women into sex-slaves is largely run and sustained by males.
The fact of the matter is that we live in a hyper-sexualized world obsessed with appearances, and this presents severe challenges upon the Muslim spiritual psyche. We are bombarded with immodest images (oftentimes against our will) of the human body that affect us consciously and unconsciously, making it an uphill battle to be a chaste and modest human-being. Nevertheless, the definition of a righteous Muslim is one who fights against their lowly desires and purifies their souls from the tarnishes of this world. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and mercy be upon him) said, "Islam began as a stranger and it will return to being a stranger as it once was. Therefore, blessed are the strangers who remain virtuous when everyone else becomes corrupt." [Muslim, Tirmidhi].
Regardless of what we are surrounded by, Muslim men must hold themselves to a higher standard of morality and virtue. Once Muslim men take their piety, education, and character seriously, our noble female counterparts will recognize and appreciate that within us. We must abolish the double standard that exists in our communities - not by lowering the standard of feminine modesty, but rather by demanding Muslim men live up to standards of modesty already given to us by God and His Messenger. When Muslim males gawk at half-naked women (whether in public, on television, or on the internet), act and speak lewdly, and show a greater appreciation for immoral women, then what kind of message does that send to Muslim women who attempt to maintain their dignity inwardly and outwardly? Oftentimes, when Muslim women see so many Muslim males acting this way, they lose hope in finding a righteous husband and sometimes ask themselves why they even bother to wear the head-scarf. If Muslim men held themselves to a higher standard, acted like gentlemen, and appreciated the greater qualities within women such as mercy, trustworthiness, loyalty, and modesty - then Muslim women would feel more appreciated for their struggle to be modest, or at the very least feel that Muslim men can relate.
Being a male does not make you a man. A man is made through uprightness, dependability, and virtuous character. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and mercy of God be upon him) was the greatest human being and the greatest man to ever walk this earth, and one of his most outstanding virtues was his intense modesty. He is our standard; he is our master; he is our model - may God bless him and grant him peace! We have to hold ourselves to higher standards and not unjustly place the entire burden of communal modesty upon our sisters’ shoulders. When men step up and take greater responsibility in their own modesty, it will show our care for and solidarity with our Muslim sisters, and create a sense of cooperation between the believing men and women. When Muslim men show greater appreciation towards the struggles of Muslim women by being upright men, it will make our sisters feel truly appreciated and create a sustainable moral environment within our communities.
As the great poet, Amir Sulaiman once said, “When a man is truly a man, it makes a woman comfortable to truly be a woman.”
And success is from God.