shyness....selfrespect....bashfulness....shame....honor....humility....constraint...coyness....decency....delicacy....demureness....diffidence....discreetness.... humbleness....inhibition....innocence...purity....quietness....reserve... simplicity....timidity....virtuous.
Women usually have more hayaa by nature, and what I mean here by hayaa is the same as the definition of the ‘ulama’: the noble attitude that always motivates a person to keep away from what is abhorrent or shameful. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was the highest example of hayaa, as the great Sahabi Abu Sa’id al-Khudri described him:
“Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was more shy than the virgin hiding away in her own room. If he saw something (vulgar/rash) he disliked, we would know it only from his facial expression.” 33
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) praised the attitude of hayaa in a number of ahadith, and explained that it is a fundamental part of Iman.
According to a report given by Muslim, he(sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Shyness is all good.”35
Abu Hurayrah (radhiallahu anhu) said:
"The true Muslim woman is shy, polite, gentle and sensitive to the feelings of others. She never says or does anything that may harm people or offend their dignity. "
The attitude of shyness / humility / reservation that is deeply-rooted in her nature is supported by her understanding of the Islamic concept of shyness, which protects her against going wrong or deviating from Islamic teachings in her dealings with others. She does not only feel shy in front of people, but she also feels shy before Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). She is careful not to let her faith become corrupted by wrongdoing, because shyness is one of the branches of faith. This is the highest level that may be reached by the woman who is characterized by shyness. Many women have has lost the characteristic of shyness / humility / reservation. Shy here does not mean not being emotionally or financially independent, but does include patience:
The prophet (saw) said,
“Whoever refrains from asking from people, Allah (SWT) will help him. Whoever tries to be independent, Allah (swt) will enrich him. Whoever tries to be patient, Allah (swt) will give him patience, and no-one is given a better or vaster gift than patience.”37
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) likes three things for you and dislikes three things. He likes for you to worship Him, not to associate anything with Him, and to hold fast, all together, by the Rope which He (stretches out for you), and not to be divided among yourselves [cf. Al ‘Imran 3:103]. And He dislikes for you to pass on stories and gossip, to ask too many questions, and to waste money.”40
The divinely-guided society which has been formed by Islam has no room for gossip, extravagance, wasting money, asking too many questions, or interfering in the private affairs of others, because the members of such a society are too busy with something much more important, which is the establishing of the word of Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) on earth, taking the banner of Islam to the four corners of the earth, and spreading its values among mankind. Those who are engaged in such great missions do not have the time to indulge in such sins.
What is Haya?
Haya itself is derived from the word hayat which means life. This term covers a wide number of concepts. In English, it may be translated as modesty, shyness, self-respect, bashfulness, shame, honour, humility, reservation etc. The original meaning of Haya according to a believer's nature, refers to a bad and uneasy feeling accompanied by embarrassment, caused by one's fear of feeling exposed to, or being reminded of a dishonorable action, unease at being in the company of those that have no such fear; this feeling being the first guard against sins and should always arise when reminded of sins committed and self-humiliated if you are anywhere near such an environment. It is feeling extremely uneasy about anything vulgar, brash, flippancy, indecency, and one should use softly spoken subtle words with bashfulness when referring to anything related to the opposite sex.
Islamically Haya is an attribute which pushes the believer to avoid anything that is linked to or implies anything that is distasteful or abominable. It is to be a reserved character in essence or origin, not necessarily in all actions. It keeps him/her from being neglectful in giving everyone what is due to them, and if for any reason he/she is not able to keep up with his/her commitment then they will feel extremely uncomfortable and ashamed about this. It is also the feeling of wanting to be private, not in a possessive way about material things, but in a shy humble way. It is also the desire to not show our bodies, and expose our voices in attractive ways.
When we think back to when we were young around eight or nine years old - we all remember this feeling of shyness and humility naturally occurring - for many it was when we felt we wanted to conceal our bodies from our mums or siblings. We were often told - "don't be silly" or "we have seen it all before" and the many other comments that people in the west or ignorant Muslim parents affected by the non-Islamic values say to their pure innocent children. If these natural instincts of shyness and shame are taken by the smart parent and nurtured, it will develop and affect their entire character and also most importantly lead to a conscious responsible Muslim who prioritises their life towards submission to Allah (swt).
We often find that shyness, humility and bashfulness is frowned upon by our society as a weakness or a lack of confidence when, infact these are qualities of a dignified upright human being, who is conscious of their actions and their responsibilities in life.
Imam Ibnu Al Qayyim, may Allah have mercy on him, stated that Haya is a part of life, and depending on how much Haya the heart possesses, actually reflects how much moral character the individual may have. The smaller the amount of Haya the individual, shows the greater the deficiency of spiritual life and ineffectiveness his ability and competence reflects. Haya may be practised between a servant and his Rabb (Lord), when the servant shows shyness for his Rabb (Lord), especially in committing a disobedience. It may also be practised between a person and other people.
Now the Haya` between the servant and his Rabb, was explained in a Hadeeth by the Prophet, Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam who said: #
"Be shy of Allah as you should truly be shy”.
They said: “We are shy (of Allah), O Prophet. “
He said, “It is much more than that. He who is truly shy of Allah, let him preserve his head and what it perceives, let him preserve his stomach and what it desires, let him remember death and afflictions, and he who desires the Hereafter abandons the adornments of this world. He who performs all these, is the one who is shy of Allah as he should be".
The different types of haya?
The type of haya in which the believers become shy of themselves is good haya. What this means is that if they see, anything wrong or even commit the tiniest error, they start to feel extremely bad and embarrassed or they feel extreme sorrow and practical resolve in the heart to never do it again. This builds a high degree of self-consciousness and that is what strengthens the believers commitment to Allah (swt).
The negative aspect of haya revolves around a person's shamefulness or shyness of being Muslim, shame in following Islam, shame in doing something that Allah (swt) has ordered us to do through the Qur'an or our Prophet's (saws) Sunnah. This is when someone does not follow an obligation of Islam, due the fact of being shy in front of others about it. This is totally forbidden because then one is giving the people of this dunya more respect and obedience than the One who Created this whole universe.
It also can be exemplified by someone being shy or afraid to seek knowledge of Islam for worldly reasons, because they do not want others to see them or to know of their ignorance. This once again goes contrary to what Allah (swt) has told us in the Qur'an, which is to seek knowledge and not be shy about seeking.
In this society there are many examples of this. People will go out and get degrees in law schools, or science, or engineering and they will put four to six years of their lives into studying for these certificates that will only benefit them in this world. Their motivation is for this world not for the next. They do not realise that in Islam the BEST stature of a Muslim is that of a "dai'i" or a teacher of Islam. These Islamic teachers and scholars are even higher in the eyes of Allah (swt) than one who only sits at home and does ibaadah (worship). If they want to study law, why not Islamic Shariah? If they want to study science, why not Islamic Science? So this explains how people consider the worldly careers to be of higher value and are embarrassed to even express an interest in Islamic Studies. It is usually because they will not be considered as high as the other "educated" people. This is having the bad haya or "shame" of something that is encouraged to us by Allah (swt) and His Messenger (saw).
Another proof of bad haya is that which is extremely popular amongst many sisters in this western society, that is the issue of hijab and/or general behaviour in public. One of the most important aspects of haya, for women, is that of guarding their chastity and their modesty. To do this they must follow the order from Allah (swt) telling them to keep themselves and their adornments hidden from all men lawful to them in marriage. This order involves all the aspects of haya for those who do follow it – who wear hijaab. The believing women are ashamed of disobeying Allah (swt). They are shy of the opposite gender in this society and if men look at them and lastly they have haya because they feel shy about going out in public and committing this grave sin of displaying their beauty in public. There are many women in this society who claim that they have haya but to follow the order of hijab is backwards and that women in this society shouldn't have to cover. If someone really had haya they would never contradict what Allah (swt) had ordained, even if they found it a test and a trial.
A women's haya comes from her modesty and her shyness and her fear of Allah, so how can she have haya if she walks around in public un-veiled? The proof lies in the following hadith.
Abdullah ibn Umar (ra) narrated that the Prophet (saws) said:
"Indeed haya (modesty) and Iman are Companions. When one of them is lifted, the other leaves as well." (Baihaqi)
There are many verses in the Qur'an and many ahadith explaining the attitudes that go with observing Hijab. The Islamic Shariah has not stopped at giving the commandments of Hijab, it has also clarified every such thing which directly relates to these commandments and, with the slightest carelessness, may result in vulgarity and immodesty. In other words such things such as being too extrovert, loud, vulgar, bad mouthed, over confident, all have also been forbidden in order to close the doors to indecency and lewdness, in return providing a stronger pillar for haya.
Modesty (haya) and maintaining one's honour and dignity 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 hopefully prevents ill-intentioned men from daring to have bad thoughts about her. This haya has been made a part of her nature.
Narrated on the authority of Anas bin Malik, the Prophet (saws) said:
“When lewdness is a part of anything, it becomes defective; and when haya is a part of anything it becomes beautiful.” (Tirmidhi)
So it is therefore obvious that Hijab plays an extremely important role in regards to Haya, for hijab reduces lewdness and Haya then backs this up and then a person's Iman becomes even stronger. So both things work together in a partnership. At the time of our beloved Prophet (saws) as soon as the verses of Hijab were revealed, all the men of the Quraish and Ansar ran home to their wives and daughters and close female relatives to tell them to cover themselves. The ones who had veils used them and the ones who did not have veils made some right away. For instance the following hadith tells us:
Narrated by Aisha (ra):
“May Allah have mercy on the early immigrant Muslim women. When the verse of the Quran "…they should draw their headscarves over their bosoms" was revealed, they tore their thick outer garments and made scarves from them. And when the verse "That they should cast their outer garments (jilbabs) over themselves" was revealed, the women of Ansar came out as if they had crows over their heads jilbabs” (Abu Dawood)
Yet, another hadith talks about the level of modesty in Aisha (ra): Narrated Aisha (ra):
"I used to enter my house where Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) was and take off my garment, saying that only my husband and my father were there; but when Umar was buried along with them, I swear by Allah that I did not enter it without having my clothes wrapped round me owing to modesty regarding Umar. (even though he was dead)" (at-Tirmidhi and Ahmed)
People who are ignorant of the teachings of the Prophet (saws) do not concern themselves with Haya and Honour. Haya and Iman are interdependent; therefore either they both exist together or they both will perish. Thus, the Prophet (saws) has said in one hadith,
"When there is no haya left, then you will do as you please."
Today vulgarity and all its ingredients have become a common place even among Muslims. Indulging in indecency for so long has killed the sense of modesty (haya) which Islam had commanded them to preserve. It is this natural desire of maintaining one's honour which compels men to protect the respect and honour of their women. What these men and women do not understand is that if the women do not develop Haya inside of them, they will be entertaining those who have taken the path of Sheytan. Such as the following hadith:
Malik b Uhaimir reported that he heard the Prophet (saw) saying that,
"Allah (swt) will not accept any good deeds or worship of an immodest or vulgar person."
We asked "give us an example of a vulgar or immodest person?"
He replied, "A man who lets his wife be an entertainment (of the eyes or more) for non-mahram men"
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"
People were surprised. This news reached Allah's Apostle who then said,
"You people are astonished at Sa'd's Ghira (jealousy and protectiveness). By Allah, I have more Ghira than he" (Sahih Bukhari)
"Ghirah is an Arabic word which means protectiveness or jealousy. It is a good type of jealousy, like when a man feels jealous or protective over his wife or sisters and other-womenfolk and doesn't like other men to look at them. It is a natural inbuilt feeling Allah has given men and even for women (Gheerah for themselves). The Prophet had the most Ghirah for his wives and all of the companions were well known for their Gheerah. Also all Muslim men should have a collective sense of protectiveness for Muslim women as Allah says in the Qur'an: "The Men are the protectors and maintainers of women…" (Surah An-Nisaa, Ayah 34). Men who do not care about how their women behave and appear in front of other men and don't enforce hijaab upon their wives or women-folk are called Dayyooth. Being a Dayyooth is a major sin and a detailed discription of this evil characteristic can be found in adh-Dhahabee's book of Major Sins” (Kitaab ul-Kabaa'ir).
Sometimes the situation becomes as such that people will have done wrong/sins for such a long period of time that they will not be able to differentiate between shameful and pleasant things. Another way to put this is that, a person's exceeding indulgence in indecency in the past results in the loss of wisdom and the ability to see or understand Hayaa.
As the Prophet (saw) said:
"I have a sense of Honour. Only a person with a darkened heart is deprived of Honour."
There are many merits of Haya if one wants to know. Here are some just to list a few.
Firstly Allah loves Haya. We know this by the following hadith:
"He (Allah) loves haya and people who cover each others faults."(Bukhari)
Secondly, Haya itself is a Greatness of Islam as our Prophet indicated:
"Every way of life has an innate character. The character of Islam is haya." "Every Deen has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty (haya)." (Abu Dawood)
Thirdly, Haya only brings good and nothing else. Our Prophet (saw) said:
"Haya does not bring anything except good." (Bukhari)
Fifthly, last but not least, Haya leads us to PARADISE. As the Prophet saws) told us:
"Haya comes from Iman; Iman leads to Paradise. Obscenity comes from antipathy; and antipathy leads to the fire." (Bukhari)
As we have said the actual word Haya is derived from Hayat. This means life. It is only obvious that when someone has Haya in them, they will LIVE a life of Islam. On the other hand if they do not have Haya they are living a life that is dead "Islamically" but alive according to this dunya.
The Prophet (saws) said: "Haya and Trustworthiness will be the first to go from this world; therefore keep asking Allah for them." (Baihaqi)
The Prophet said, "Faith consists of more than sixty branches. And Haya is a branch of faith." (Bukhari)
The Prophet said: "When vulgarity or lewdness is a part of anything, it becomes defective; and when hayaa is a part of anything it becomes beautiful." (Tirmidhi)
The Prophet said: "Indeed haya (Shyness) and Iman are Companions. When one of them is lifted, the other leaves as well." (Baihaqi)
The Prophet said that, "Allah will not accept any good deeds or worship of an immodest or vulgar person."
Remember Sa'ad bin 'Ubada said, "I will not hesitate a bit in killing my wife with a sword if I see her with another man”
Allah's Apostle who then said, "You people are astonished at Sa'ad's Ghira. By Allah, I have more Ghira than he" (Sahih Bukhari)
However Aisha (ra) stated the virtues of the women of the Ansaar, and said "shyness does not keep them from seeking (or teaching) knowledge " (Recorded by al-Bukhari)
ALL PRAISE BE TO ALLAH, AND MAY HIS PEACE AND BLESSINGS BE UPON MUHAMMAD (SAW), HIS FAMILY, HIS COMPANIONS AND HIS TRUE FOLLOWERS UNTIL THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT.
1 Glossary of Islamic terms
2 Safi Khan, Selections from Sahih-ul-Bukhari
3 Kashif ul-Astar un-Zuwaid-ul-Barrar, pg.187
4 Ihyaa Uloom-ud-Deen (selected texts)
5 Firdous Al-Dailmi