Modesty, bashfulness, timidness, shyness - call it what you will, is a trait that is considered a weakness in our society.
Looked upon almost as a personality flaw, even our children are systematically programmed during their cognitive years to gradually shed their shyness and be bold, forthright and assertive.
And the instruction pays off: by the time many of us become adults we're quite comfortable boasting about our achievements, possessions and whatever else it is that makes us feel good.
Yet this attitude of individualism and, to a great extent, immodesty, is far from universal. Modesty in other cultures is far from being considered a deficiency, instead it is a highly desired virtue in both men and women.
In fact modesty is not only measured by what one says but also how one looks. Therefore flaunting oneself physically is not considered different from being a boasting braggart. In the same vein those who speak with restraint and appear modest in their disposition are rightfully regarded as virtuous.
An incident appears in Hadeeth literature where a man advises his brother to try and overcome his extreme shyness. The man is clearly worried about his overly bashful sibling who due to his excessive shyness and modesty could easily be manipulated and taken for a ride by frauds.
Nevertheless the remark made by the Prophet, may Allah's blessings and peace be upon him, at the end of this Hadeeth is noteworthy, and speaks volumes about the virtues of modesty.
Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar:
Once the Prophet passed by a man from Madinah who was admonishing his brother regarding (his) shyness. On that, Allah's Messenger said, "Leave him, for indeed modesty is a part of faith." Sahih al-Bukhari - Kitab ul-Iman 13:20
Yusuf Khan resides in the Washington DC area and writes for the Examiner. He speaks frequently at various Islamic centers.