What is Hayaa’? Hayaa’ itself is derived from the word hayaat which means life. This term covers a large number of concepts. In English, it may be translated as modesty, shyness, self-respect, bashfulness, shame, honour, etc. The original meaning of Hayaa’ in accordance with a believer's nature, refers to a bad and painful feeling accompanied by embarrassment, caused by one's fear of being exposed or censured for some unworthy or indecent conduct.
Islamically Hayaa’ is an attribute which pushes the believers to avoid anything distasteful or abominable. It keeps them from being neglectful in giving everyone what is due upon them, and if for any reason they are not able to keep up with their commitment then they will feel extremely bad and ashamed about this. The reason being that they will have displeased Allah by breaking a commitment.
Hayaa’ plays a vital role in the lives of Muslims because it is a very important part of our eeman (faith/belief). If we do not have any form of Hayaa’ in us then it is most likely that our eeman is very weak. For as it states in the following hadeeth (Prophetic Narration), narrated by Abu Huraira (radhiallahu `anhu): The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said, "Faith (Belief) consists of more than sixty branches (i.e. parts). And Hayaa’ (this term "Hayaa’" covers a large number of concepts which are to be taken together; amongst them are self-respect, modesty, bashfulness, scruple, etc.) is a part of faith." (Bukhari)
We also learn from the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) the importance of having Hayaa’ and how it is not something to be ashamed about, rather one should be ashamed if one does not have it.
Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar (radhiallahu `anhu): The Prophet passed by a man who was admonishing his brother regarding Hayaa’ and was saying, "You are very shy, and I am afraid that might harm you." On that, Allah's Apostle said, "Leave him, for Hayaa’ is (a part) of Faith." (Bukhari)
Now the above hadeeth is also a form of proof that "shyness" is not just something related to women but also an attribute that believing men should have, for it is an indication of their fear of Allah and an indication of the value of their deen (faith and religion).
Now we shall discuss the different types of Hayaa’. How many types of Hayaa’ are there?
Hayaa’ is of two kinds: good and bad.
The good Hayaa’ is to be ashamed to commit a crime or do a thing which Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) have forbidden, and bad Hayaa’ is to be ashamed to do a thing, which Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) have ordered us to do.
Firstly, from the good dimensions of Hayaa’ is that a believer feels shy of doing ANYTHING displeasing to Allah (a'zza wa jall), with the belief that he will have to answer to all of his deeds. If one develops a sense such as this, it will help the believer to obey all of Allah's commands and to stay away from the sins. Once the believer realizes that Allah (a'zza wa jall) is watching all that we do and say, and that we will be questioned regarding our actions, the believer would then not neglect any order from Allah or His Messenger (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). So the stronger this sense of Hayaa’ becomes, the more it motivates one to make sure that Allah (a'zza wa jall) doesn't see from one any wrong. The way to develop this Hayaa’ is that one must keep learning and absorbing Islamic knowledge.
Another type of haya’ is that which has more of a social aspect concerning others besides Allah (swt). Normally these things often occur due to one’s relationship with one’s family. For instance a child not wanting to do something displeasing to his mother, or a wife not wanting to do something displeasing to her husband or even a student who is careful about saying something incorrect in front of his teacher.
Last but not least is the type of Hayaa’ in which the believers become shy of themselves. This is when they have reached the peak of their eeman (faith). What this means is that if they do, or say, or see, anything wrong or even commit the tiniest sin, they start to feel extremely bad and embarrassed or they feel extreme guilt in their heart. This builds a high degree of self-consciousness and that is what strengthens the believer’s commitment to Allah (a'zza wa jall).
After discussing the various types of "beneficial" hayaa’, it is time to discuss the type of Hayaa’ which is not only against the teachings of our Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) but is also solid proof of the weakness of one's eeman (faith). This negative aspect revolves around a person's shamefulness or shyness of doing something that Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'ala) has ordered us to do through the Qur’aan or our Prophet's (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) Sunnah (Prophetic guidance). This constitutes one being embarrassed and shameful in doing a lawful act or something that is ordered upon us from Allah (a'zza wa jall). This is totally forbidden because then one is giving the people of this world more significance and respect than the One who Created this whole universe and all that it contains. One such example of bad hayaa’ is that which is rampant amongst our sisters in this western society, something which I will now focus on in detail.
One of the most important aspects of hayaa’, for women, is that of guarding their chastity and their modesty. To do this they must follow the order of Allah (a'zza wa jall) which tells them to keep hidden their beauty and adornments from all men unlawful to them in marriage. There are many women in our society who claim that they have believed in Islaam and have hayaa’ but consider the commandments pertaining to veiling as backward. Even though the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) has said, "Indeed hayaa’ (modesty) and eemaan (faith) are Companions. When one of them is lifted, the other leaves as well." (Baihaqi)
There are many verses in the Qur’aan and Prophetic Narrations explaining some of the reasons behind the injunction of hijaab. The Islamic Shar’iah (Islamic sources of law) has therefore also clarified that which relates to the commandment of hijaab and which, with the slightest carelessness, may result in vulgarity and immodesty, in order to close the doors to indecency and lewdness, which in turn provides strength to one’s hayaa’.
Modesty (hayaa’) and maintaining one's honour are of primary importance in preserving the moral fibre of any society. This is why modesty has been called the ornament of a woman, which protects her from many sins and which prevents ill-intentioned men from daring to have evil thoughts about her. This hayaa’ has been made a part of her nature to safeguard her from being abused by immoral men.
Narrated on the authority of Anas bin Malik, the Prophet (saw) said: "When lewdness is a part of anything, it becomes defective; and when hayaa’ is a part of anything it becomes beautiful." (Tirmidhi)
So it is only obvious that Hijaab plays an extremely important role with regards to hayaa’. For, Hijaab prevents lewdness and in fact helps one grow in eeman (faith). So both things work together in a partnership. In the time of our beloved Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam), as soon as the verses pertaining to hijaab were revealed, all the believing men ran home to their wives and daughters and close female relatives in order to tell them to cover themselves. The ones who had veils used them and the ones who did not have veils made some straight away! For instance the following hadith tells us:
Narrated by Aisha (radhiallahu `anha),
"May Allah have mercy on the early immigrant women. When the verse "That they should draw their veils over their bosoms" was revealed, they tore their thick outer garments and made veils from them. And when the verse "That they should cast their outer garments over themselves" was revealed, the women of Ansaar came out as if they had crows over their heads by wearing outer garments." (Abu Dawood)
This indicates that all these women wanted to guard their modesty which is why they carried out the orders of Allah. Yet, another verse talks about the level of modesty in Aisha (radhiallahu `anha). Narrated Aisha (radhiallahu `anha):
"I used to enter my house where Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) was and take off my (outer) garment, saying that only my husband and my father were there; but when U’mar was buried along with them, I swear by Allah that I did not enter it without having my clothes wrapped round me (i.e. the hijaab, jilbaab and niqaab) owing to modesty regarding U’mar."(at-Tirmidhi and Ahmed)
In truth, hayaa’ is a special characteristic of a Mu'min (believer). People who are ignorant of the teachings of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) do not concern themselves with hayaa’, bashfulness and shyness. Hayaa’ and eeman are interdependent; therefore either they both exist together or they both perish. Thus, the Prophet (saw) has said in one hadith, "When there is no hayaa’ left, then do as you please."
Today vulgarity and all its ingredients have become commonplace even among Muslims in the zeal of imitating the non-believers. It is these people who have been struggling to bring Muslim women out of Hijaab into immodesty and indecency.
Such people are in a dilemma. On the one hand, they desire to freely look at the half-clad bodies of the wives and daughters of other Muslims on the streets; and on the other hand, they do not have the courage to deny the teachings of the Holy Qur’aan and the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). Neither can they say they have given up Islam, nor can they bear to see Muslim women wear Hijaab and showing hayaa’. Actually, the fact is, indulging in indecency for so long has killed the sense of modesty (hayaa’) within them, which Islam had commanded them to preserve.
What these men and women do not understand is that if the women do not observe Hijaab and do not develop Hayaa’ inside of them, they will be entertaining those who have taken the path of shaytaan. Such as in the following hadith: Malik b Uhaimir reported that he heard the Prophet (saw) saying that, "Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'ala) will not accept any good deeds or worship of an immodest and vulgar person." We asked, "Who is an immodest and vulgar person?" He replied, "A man whose wife entertains non-mahram men."
Now the word "entertains" implies that she is showing off her beauty instead of keeping herself covered up. If the Muslim brothers of today's society knew the benefits of hayaa’ and hijaab they would definitely not tolerate the opposite. At the time of our beloved Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) the husbands could not even imagine their wives leaving the houses unveiled, let alone go out and beautify themselves for other men! The following hadeeth illustrates this fact clearly:
Narrated by Al-Mughira: Sa'd bin 'Ubada said, "I will not hesitate killing my wife with a sword if I see her with another man." This news reached Allah's Apostle who then said, "You people are astonished at Sa'd's gheerah (self-respect, honour). By Allah, I have more gheerah than he, and Allah has more gheerah than I, and because of Allah's gheerah, He has made unlawful shameful deeds and sins done in open and in secret. And there is none who likes that the people should repent to Him and beg His pardon (more) than Allah, and for this reason He sent the Warners and the Givers of Good News. And there is none who likes to be praised more than Allah does, and for this reason, Allah promised to grant Paradise (to the doers of good)." (Sahih Bukhari)
Sometimes the situation becomes such that people will have done wrong and perpetrated sins for such a long period of time that they are no longer able to differentiate between right and wrong. Therefore, a person's exceeding indulgence in indecency results in the loss of wisdom and the ability to distinguish good deeds from bad deeds. As the Prophet (saw) said:"I have a sense of Honour (a part of hayaa’). Only a person with a darkened heart is deprived of Honour."
There are many merits of Hayaa’, the following are just a few:
Firstly, Allah loves Hayaa’. We know this by the following hadith: "Surely Allah (is One who) has Hayaa’ and is the Protector. He loves Hayaa’ and people who cover each other’s faults." (Bukhari)
Secondly, Hayaa’ itself is a Greatness of Islam, as our Noble Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) indicated: "Every way of life has an innate character. The character of Islam is Hayaa’." Or "Every deen (religion) has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty (Hayaa’)." (Abu Dawood)
Thirdly, Hayaa’ only brings good and nothing else. Our Prophet (saw) said: "Hayaa’ does not bring anything except good." (Bukhari)
Fourthly, Hayaa’ is a very clear indication of our eeman (faith). As the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) mentioned to an Ansari Companion who was condemning his brother about being too shy: "Leave him, for Hayaa’ is (a part) of Faith." (Bukhari)
Fifthly, and last but not least, Hayaa’ leads us to PARADISE. As the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) infomed us: "Hayaa’ comes from eeman (faith); eeman leads to Paradise. Obscenity comes from antipathy; and antipathy leads to the fire." (Bukhari)
As mentioned earlier, the actual term Hayaa’ is derived from Hayaat, which means life. It is only obvious that when someone has Hayaa’ in them, they will LIVE a life of Islam. On the other hand if they do not have Hayaa’ they are living a life that is Dead "Islamically" but alive in the scientific definition of this world.
The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said: "Hayaa’ and trustworthiness will be the first to go from this world, therefore keep asking Allah for them." (Baihaqi)
In conclusion, Hayaa’ is important for both men and women. Men are to control themselves by getting married as young as possible or if they cannot afford that then they should fast. Women are told to conceal themselves so that the men will not be overtaken by the whispers of shaytaan and will not disrespect or take advantage of them. There are many verses in the Qur’aan that have clearly explained how we have to behave and Allah is Al-Aleem, the All-Knowing, therefore He knew that we would face these problems living in this society, and that there is no excuse to try and change the Islamic teachings and only practice what we feel is right. Allah (a'zza wa jall) has told men how to guide their modesty and has told women how to guide their modesty. If they refuse to follow the commandment of their Lord, then they will cause harm to themselves and the society around them, may Allah have mercy on them and may He guide them to the straight path.
"Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty…" (Surah Nur, 30-31)