What does dignity/to be dignified and modesty/to be modest mean; could you explain?

The Details of the Question
What does dignity/to be dignified and modesty/to be modest mean; could you explain?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Dignity means sedateness. Dignity means showing a level of seriousness that is appropriate for one’s position, not being flighty, being sedate, acting carefully, following the manners that one’s position and personality require. 

Dignity, which is often expressed as sedateness amongst people, is a virtue that earns other people’s respect to the dignified person. However, dignity should not grow to be arrogance; a dignified person should be modest at the same time. When these two traits exist together in one person, it is a perfect virtue. The Quranic verse “And the servants of (God) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility…” (al-Furqan, 25:63) and the hadith in which the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) suggests that people should not hurry into mosque but walk in quietly and modestly even though the prayer has already started (Bukhari, Adhan, 21) express the dignity which every Muslim should have. The Prophet always had a dignity which evoked a feeling of respectfulness and also a modesty which evokes love. 

Personal qualities, traits, attitudes and behavior represent either high or low moral qualities under different circumstances. A civil servant’s seriousness in his workplace is considered a smart dignity; however, if he keeps the same mood when he is with his family, it is considered a foolish arrogance-proud. While an authorized person’s seriousness at work and a feeling of self-confidence stemming from that seriousness are worthy of praise, it is considered to be self-conceit if he acts the same way when he is home,. Similarly, while it is a virtue that is worthy of praise for an authorized person to be modest when he is with his family, it would be an expression of weakness and derogation rather than modesty if he showed the same mood at work.

At first sight, modesty and derogation look alike; however, they are very different indeed. And they are considered in different ways depending on situation. For instance, it is not an expression of modesty but derogation for an authorized person or a civil servant to stand up for everyone that walks in. however, it is modesty for them to do so in their homes. It is important to be able to realize the difference and distinguish between them. 

Another important problem occurs between tahdith-i ni’mah (proclaiming Allah’s bounties) and arrogance. Proclaiming Allah’s bounties is a command of Allah. (ad-Duha, 93:11). It is also Allah’s command not to be arrogant; and arrogant ones are dispraised. (al-Mumin, 40:56). 

In this sense, in order to show Allah’s bounties, to proclaim them without being arrogant, one should follow this way: Confess the beauties you have got – as a means of gratefulness – and believe that they are all gifts from Allah. 

What increases or decreases the value of one’s words and behavior is that person’s intention. The message stressed in the hadith “A believer’s intention is more valuable than his acts.” (Majmua’z-Zawaid, 1/61) is remarkable. 

We present a few examples which show the Prophet’s (pbuh) dignity and modesty below: 

The Prophet said to a man who started to tremble because of his awe: “Pull yourself together! I am not a sovereign; contrarily, I am the son of a woman, who used to eat dehydrated meat and sole bread, from the tribe of Quraish.” (Ihya, 2/382). 

There is both dignity and modesty in these words. The man trembled because of the Prophet’s awe, dignity, sedateness and seriousness. His statement “I am the son of a woman who used to eat sole bread” is the indication of his unique modesty.

Hazrat Umar narrates: The Prophet (pbuh) said: 

“Never praise me too much, like Christians praise Jesus. I am just a servant of Allah. For this reason, call me Allah’s servant and messenger.” (Tirmidhi, Shamail, 293). 

Hazrat Anas narrates: A woman said: “O Messenger of Allah! I need something; I need to talk to you.” He said: “I will come to wherever you want to talk, to whichever street or place of Madina.” (Tirmidhi, Shamail, 294).

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