When we look at many character traits found in a believer, as mentioned in the Qur' an, it is clear that modesty is a resultant quality of faith in Allah. As the Allah' s messenger pointed out, modesty is one of the fundamental notions of Islam:
Every religion has a distinctive virtue, and the distinctive virtue of Islam is modesty. (Malik)
In fact, while the Qur' an describes the modesty of the believers, it is merely mentioned as being part of their normal disposition. In other words, for believers it is not necessary to expend effort to act modestly; they are naturally modest, because their outlook is based on the truth of the Qur' an.
The following verse explains this:
The servants of the All-Merciful are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant speak to them, say, "Peace." (Surat al-Furqan: 63)
The next verse explains the reason of this modesty:
Those who pass the night prostrating and standing before their Lord; (Surat al-Furqan: 64)
In other words, the modesty of believers is an outcome of their submissiveness to Allah. The fact that they have grasped the secret of this world, that is, understood the existence and might of Allah, accounts for their modesty.
As a result, the true modesty can only be attained through faith.
It is impossible to attain true modesty through another means than faith. Because, in a society composed of disbelievers, those who are seen as "modest" are, usually, those perceived as lacking "confidence." Because most attach too much importance to worldly things, those who are successful in attaining them become boastful, while those who cannot are deemed to be weak and insecure. Therefore, the wealthy tend to be arrogant, whereas the poor are considered insecure. However, we need to underline that this lack of "self-confidence" is a disposition nothing near what is true modesty, a form of behaviour which is noble and dignified.
The story of Qarun, as narrated in the Qur' an, sets a good example of what we discussed above. In addition to Qarun, who was excessively proud about his wealth and possessions, the Qur' an also informs us about those who longed for that which he possessed. In addition to these, another group were the true believers who grasped the secret of faith:
He went out among his people in his finery. Those who desired the life of the world said, "Oh! If only we had the same as Qarun has been given! What immense good fortune he possesses."
But those who had been given knowledge said, "Woe to you! Allah' s reward is better for those who believe and act rightly. But only the steadfast will obtain it."
We caused the earth to swallow up both him and his house. There was no group to come to his aid, besides Allah, and he was not someone who is helped.
Those who had longed to take his place the day before woke up saying, "Allah expands the provision of any of His servants He wills or restricts it. If Allah had not shown great kindness to us, we would have been swallowed up as well. Ah! Truly the disbelievers are not successful."
That abode of the hereafter-We grant it to those who do not seek to exalt themselves in the earth or to cause corruption in it. The successful outcome is for those who do their duty. (Surat al-Qasas: 79-83)
It may well be that those who desired Qarun' s belongings were not as proud as he; or, they might have lacked "self-assurance." Yet, if they had been in his shoes, they would, most probably, also have been as arrogant as Qarun. That is because, just as Qarun had, they failed to grasp that the real owner of everything is Allah. They only grasped this fact when they witnessed the end of Qarun.
The truly modest ones were the believers who "had been given knowledge," that is, those who had grasped the secret of life. Aware that what Qarun possessed was temporal, and thereby, unimportant, they did not yearn for his possessions. In any case, owning a wealth the likes of Qarun' s would not have hampered their dignity or humility.
These "people of knowledge," as mentioned in the story of Qarun, are role-models for all Muslims to emulate. They show that real modesty can only be attained by being a servant to Allah, and that Allah bestows His blessings only on His noble servants. That is because, they are those "who do not seek to exalt themselves on the earth or cause corruption in it." They do not become arrogant, but feel grateful for the blessings granted them.