Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Faith or belief consists of more than sixty branches or parts, and Hayaa’ is a part of faith”.
There is no true English definition of the word ‘Hayaa’’ but the closest one can get to it is shame, modesty, and bashfulness. Hayaa’ is an essential characteristic of a Muslim; it must be obtained in order to attain faith as they come together as a pair:
Abdullah ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Indeed Hayaa’ and Iman are companions. When one of them is lifted, the other leaves as well.”
Ibn Al-Qayyim is reported to have said that the moral character of a person is determined by how much Hayaa’ his heart possesses. Clearly, we find that the greater the humility and shame is of a person, the further they will stay away from sins and the better-mannered the individual will be.
In the world around us we can see the rapid deterioration of Hayaa’ amongst Muslims and non-Muslims which is having an adverse effect on the next generation as many previous indecent practices have now become the norm. This snowball effect of losing more and more Hayaa’ as the generations go past is a terrifying prospect, especially because personally, I already feel sickened at the state of people. Who knows what kind of world my children and their children will abide in?
There is much information available on Hayaa’ and so what I want to explore are the aspects of Hayaa’ that we sometimes forget about. When you ask people what Hayaa’ means, they normally link it to the female gender and what a person wears, but there are many more aspects of Hayaa’ that we either fail to realize or fail to implement. I’m going to cover 6 different aspects of Hayaa’ which I feel encompass the overall gist of what Hayaa’ should be. Insha’Allah, the following advice is as much for me as it is for everyone else:
1. Hayaa’ in what we watch
Television has become a part of the majority of our lives and through this medium we are exposed to anything and everything. There is so much filth on television ranging from nudity and obscenity to subtle indecency through sitcoms and films. Watching such material slowly erodes our sense of morality and shame, so we need to be very careful about what we watch. One of the most shameless aspects of television is the half-naked men and women – be it in films, programmes or even in adverts. We need to lower our gaze; even better, we should avoid anything in which we know obscenity would be present, for that would be the highest Hayaa’. Even watching a kiss is wrong despite it seeming so trivial these days. We should not expose our eyes to such things because of the effects they can have.
“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts. That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and protect their private parts…and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their women…” [Qur'an 24:30-31]
Another aspect is the freeness in portraying immoral practices such as multiple physical partners or even joking about or discussing intimacy and sexual organs – this is rampant in nearly everything that is currently shown on TV, but because we have become so used to it, we don’t realize it is there and thus do not feel it wrong to be watching something we regard as harmless. But if we open our minds, we will see the indecent content. One with Hayaa’ would abstain from watching such programmes as they would be troubled and their hearts would be filled with disgust even hearing such things.
Similarly, we should be careful about what we listen to, so when others around us are discussing indecent matters, we should stay away and feel uncomfortable listening to any crude material.
2. Hayaa’ in what we say
I have seen a lack of Hayaa’ primarily when we joke around with friends as we tend to feel most comfortable and free at this time and so lose a sense of modesty. We can joke about indecent things, mostly regarding the opposite gender in some way or another, and although fuelled by the environment and media that are around us, we become a product of our society by spreading lewd talk amongst society.
Swearing can also form a part of our conversations. It is self-explanatory why swearing is indecent and thus contradictory to having Hayaa’. Gossiping is very similar; for some reason, we humans love to gossip, even if it is with no ill intent to defame anyone. We tend to always discuss other people and what is going on in their lives with such curiosity. This is a dangerous practice and can quickly fall into backbiting, so it is best to stay away from it. If a person had a high level of shame and modesty, they would not gossip about other people and so it should not be something we as Muslims do.
Moreover, Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri narrated that Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “When man wakes up in the morning each day, all parts of the body warn the tongue saying, ‘Fear Allah as regards to us for we are at your mercy; if you are upright, we will be upright and if you are crooked, we become crooked” (At-Tirmidhi)
This is why it is important to think before you say anything and consider whether it would be appropriate and thus, slowly remove the habit of speaking about such things.
3. Hayaa’ in how we treat others
Sometimes we can get angry, become rude, and even be judgmental. Our attitude and way of speaking is a fundamental part of Hayaa’ because the way in which we communicate and treat people is a sign of the kind of person we are and thus the level of Hayaa’ we have. It is not difficult to understand that a good person would treat others with utmost respect at all times, unless in exceptional situations, and be well-mannered and polite. Yet, how many times have we suffered from regret because of how we spoke to someone? It is time we change our manner and emulate the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) who was always a kind and gentle man. It is through this change that the society around may also have the potential to transform.
In Sahih Muslim, it is reported that our beloved Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Do not think little of any good deed, even if it is just greeting your brother with a cheerful countenance.”
Further than this would be how we treat others. There are two extremes: not caring about anyone at all and caring so much that you ignore yourself. Neither of these is correct as there needs to be a balance. We should treat others well and help them wherever and whenever we can but not at the expense of our own lives and responsibilities.
As one can see, Hayaa’ is not only about ourselves but also about our interactions with those around us. If we cannot treat others well, then we have a grave defect in our Hayaa’ that enables us to adopt malicious characteristics which are good neither for enriching our souls nor for gaining Allah’s pleasure.
4. Hayaa’ in the friends we choose
It makes sense that a person with Hayaa’ and is a God-fearing moral human will choose to be around people of good faith and character as it is with these people they will feel most at peace. Companions that behave in a way that is improper will undoubtedly bring about discomfort to this person and so they will distance themselves from such a group.
Similarly, one that has Hayaa’ will not be able to feel at ease around those who are Non-Mahram for them because it is wrong to be friendly with the opposite gender and so a sign of modesty is having nothing more than a professional and polite relationship with all those who are Non-Mahram to us.
Friends can also shape the way we develop as Muslims as they will be the ones that we spend a lot of our time with, If they have good habits, we will also pick up good habits, but if they have bad habits, we will also pick up those bad habits. And so it is imperative we choose our friends wisely.
The Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Man is influenced by the faith of his friends. Therefore, be careful of whom you associate with.”
Therefore one needs to ask him/herself if his/her friends reflect qualities of the Sahabah and thus of Hayaa’: piety, love, mercy, honesty, patience and decency.
5. Hayaa’ in the places we go
To have Hayaa’ means to dislike everything that is wrong according to Islam, so even if we may not be committing wrong ourselves, if there is immorality around us, we should feel the repugnance in our hearts when around such places.
We are much more exposed to these environments in the West, compared to most of the Muslim world, with places such as bars, pubs, nightclubs and beaches.
6. Hayaa’ in what we do
The highest amount of Hayaa’ is when we refrain from committing any sin out of humiliation and guilt in front of Allah. One that has such levels of Iman and Ihsan will, out of worship and fear for Allah (glory and exalted be He), abandon all sins whether committed in public or in private. They simply won’t be able to bring themselves to commit sin, and if they do, they will sincerely regret it. This is the level that we should all try to attain.
One that has Hayaa’ in front of people will avoid sinning in public and boasting of his sins to people. But this Hayaa’ will only provide external righteousness; to obtain internal righteousness, one must also feel regret when sinning, even and especially in private, and try to abandon all Haram out of shame in front of Allah.
In a Hadith narrated by Umar ibn Al Khattab, Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Ihsan is to worship Allah as though you are seeing Him, and while you see Him not, yet truly He sees you.”
When one loses Hayaa’, they then lose Iman and they tumble into destruction, losing all sense of shame. Nothing will prevent them from adopting wicked and evil ways due to the absence of any regret or guilt.
Abu Masood Al-Ansari narrated that the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Among the words people obtained from the first prophecy are: ‘If you feel no shame, then do as you wish’” – which is exactly what is happening and so this decline in Hayaa’ has resulted in the society becoming an ugly place to live in.
However, if one can obtain Hayaa’, and improve upon it, then one will taste the sweetness of faith and countless blessings. Their actions will be based upon the teachings of Islam and the way they will go about their lives will be an example for all. Insha’Allah, we should all try to change ourselves and increase our Hayaa’ by focusing on the above mentioned aspects as well as the many others that we encounter in our lives.
Anas bin Malik reported that the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “When lewdness is a part of anything, it becomes defective; and when Hayaa’ is a part of anything, it becomes beautiful.”