Book Club > Purification of the Heart > Blameworthy Modesty

This is an effort to provide an impact summary of one of the chapters read in the book club established at the mosque. Refer to the book club page for more information.


Modesty is a defining characteristic of Islam, therefore Muslims who embody Islamic teachings are modest. However, modesty can have variations. This chapter focuses on exaggerated modesty that can lead to harm. When someone is too modest to refrain from either denouncing that which is condemnable or asking sensitive questions concerning religion or other affairs, one is afflicted with blameworthy modesty. That which is condemnable, tyranny or corruption for example must be denounced. And we should all be curious, open and courageous to ask more knowledgeable people sensitive questions so we redress our actions and lifestyle.

Modesty can be noble, that which comes with generosity and kindness. But too much of it can cause harm. On his wedding night with Zainab, a few guests overstayed and prophet Mohammed couldn’t tell them to leave. He hinted at them twice by excusing himself to the other room and coming back. But the guests didn’t leave as they were enjoying his companionship. That harms the prophet and his family. That is why God disciplined prophet Mohammed by revealing a Quran verse to tell his guests to leave at the end of his wedding night while prophet Mohammed was too generous and kind to tell them so.

Modesty can be blameworthy, that which comes with meekness and lack of self-importance. Someone might not face or condemn another about a wrong-doing if the latter is a close relative, an authority or a wealthy person. One might feel modest but what is at work is submissive humbleness to other than God disguised in their own perception as noble modesty. Also someone might not ask a scholar about a sensitive matter in religion or other affairs out of timidness although they feel they are being modest. It’s as if they fear the scholar or people around them will condemn them for asking. Again that is submissive humbleness to other than God. Those who shy away from asking in order to redress their behavior end up doing the wrong things over and over again. This harms them and others. Prophet Mohammed told us that the women of the Anssar were never shy to ask about Islam’s teachings regarding their affairs which could be at times too sensitive to ask such as menstruation. If the prophet needed to demonstrate he would ask his wife to teach them.

The signs of blameworthy modesty may be observed in scholars knowledgeable of religion when they refrain from condemning other scholars because of a difference in opinion. Scholars show respect for the extensive knowledge and scholarship of other scholars especially when each sets forth proof and reasoning that does not contradict the Quran or the prophet. This is the only exception to blameworthy modesty. The author mentions that on the opposite side, there are people not well versed in the subject of the debate who are quick to condemn others. These people are inflicted with self-rightesouness another spiritual disease of the heart.

God ultimately taught through the Quran prophet Mohammed and all of us that the prophet shied away from the truth on the night of his wedding, but God does not shy away from the truth.