Dear Believer Series: Shyness fosters respect

Dear Believer,

Today we were sitting in class covering Hadith #20 in Imam Nawawi’s 40 hadith. The teacher took the opportunity to mention how once Ibn Umar was sitting in a gathering where the Prophet asked a question. Umar knew the answer, however he said nothing. Why? If you look at the hadith, you’ll see it discusses the attribute of “shyness,” and you’ll probably come to the conclusion that it means Ibn Umar was being shy in that setting.

He was, but not in the way that you may be thinking. He clarified that the reason he said nothing was due to the companions that were around, they were all older. Growing up I was also taught this aspect of shyness, which often culminates in respect and awe for my elders. I was taught to have a level of shyness not only around elders, but with my teachers and even older friends. As I’ve grown older, started a family and have experienced various tests and trials in life, I’ve come to understand that there are immense blessings in fostering this attribute (and restraining oneself from going to an extreme with it). Oftentimes if one doesn’t cultivate some shyness in their personality, it can be very difficult to give that respect when the time is opportune. Especially when you’re in a situation like Ibn Umar and you’re well aware of the answer.

There is a statement where one said that if they felt the need to speak, they would remain silent. And when they felt the need to be silent, they would speak.

It all comes down to subduing the ego, and that is part of what shyness does. When the Prophet mentioned that faith is like a tree that has a plethora of branches, he specifically mentioned that one of the branches is shyness, why? To show the importance of fostering this characteristic.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to have some reservedness and to restrain your speech even when you may believe your opinion is needed. But hey, if you don’t want to, do as you wish.


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