Haya’a (Shyness) in Islam
What is Hayaa?
Hayaa itself is derived from the word hayaat which means life. But that is something that we will get into later on in this essay. 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 according to 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.
According to Islaam, Hayaa is an attribute which pushes the believer to avoid anything distasteful or abominable. It keeps him/her from being neglectful in giving everyone what is due upon them, and if for any reason he/she is not able to keep up with his/her commitment then they will feel extremely bad and ashamed about this. The reason being that he/she will have displeased Allaah by breaking a commitment.
Hayaa plays a huge 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:
Narrated by Abu Hurairah (radi-Allaahu ‘anhu):
The Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe 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, and scruple, etc.) is a part of faith.” [Bukhaaree]
We also learn from the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) the importance of having hayaa and how it is not something to be ashamed about, but instead one should be ashamed if they do not have it.
Narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar (radi-Allaahu ‘anhu):
The Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) 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, Allaah’s Apostle said, “Leave him, for Hayaa is (a part) of Faith.” [Bukhaaree]
Now the above hadeeth is also a form of proof that “shyness” is not just something regarding women but also an attribute that believing men should have, for it is an indication if their fear of Allaah and an indication of the value of their deen.
Now to 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 a thing which Allaah and His Messenger (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) has forbidden, and bad Hayaa’ is to be ashamed to do a thing, which Allaah and His Messenger (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) ordered to do.
Firstly, to talk about the types of Good hayaa.
For example, anyone who is a believer, he/she should build their personalities and their character with the good dimensions of hayaa. The most important is that he/she must be shy of doing ANYTHING displeasing to Allaah, with the belief that he/she will have to answer to all their deeds. If one develops a sense such as this one, it will help the believer to obey all of Allaah’s command and to stay away from the sins. Once the believer realizes that Allaah is watching us all the time and we will have to answer for every move we make in this dunya, he/she would not neglect any order from Allaah or His Messenger (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam). So the stronger this sense of hayaa becomes, the more it motivates one to make sure that Allaah doesn’t see him/her doing anything forbidden. The way to develop this hayaa is that one must keep learning and absorbing more and more knowledge of our deen.
Another type of hayaa is more of a social aspect concerning others besides Allaah. Normally these things often come in regard with ones relationship with 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 infront of his teacher (daa’ee). Last but not least is the type of hayaa in which the believers become shy of themselves. This is when they have reached the peek of their eeman. 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 believers commitment to Allaah.
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 (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) but it is also solid proof of the weakness of someone’s eeman. This negative aspect revolves around a person’s shamefulness or shyness of doing something that Allaah has ordered us to do through the Qur’aan or our Prophet’s (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) sunnah. This constitutes the shamefulness or embarrassment of doing a lawful act or something that is ordered upon us from Allaah. Meaning for someone not to follow an obligation of Islaam, due the fact of being shy infront of others about it. This is totally forbidden because then one is giving the people of this dunya more respect than the One who Created this whole universe. It also means if someone is shy or afraid to seek knowledge of Islaam 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 Allaah has told us in the Qur’aan, which is to seek knowledge and preach it to others.
In this society there are many examples. People will go out an get degrees in law schools, or science, or engineering and they will put four to six years of their lives studying for this stuff that will only benefit them in this world. Why? You ask? Well most likely, in this society people including Muslims, choose their careers according to how much money they will make and what status they will have in this society as to being a lawyer or a doctor etc. They do not realize that in Islaam the BEST stature of a Muslim is that of a “daa’ee” or a teacher of Islaam. These Islaamic teachers and scholars are even higher in the eyes of Allaah then one who only sits at home and preaches or does ibaadah. If they want to study law, why not Islaamic Shariah? If they want to study science, why not Islaamic Science? So this explains how people consider the worldly careers to be of higher value and are embarrassed to even express an interest in Islaamic Studies. Only because they will not be considered as high as the other “educated” people. This is having the bad hayaa or “shame” of something that is encouraged to us by Allaah and His Messenger (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam).
Another proof of bad hayaa is that which is extremely popular amongst our sisters in this western society. That is what the rest of this essay will be focused on. 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 from Allaah telling them to keep hidden themselves and their adornments from all men unlawful to them in marriage. Now this order involves all the aspects of hayaa for those who do follow it. The believing and following women are ashamed of disobeying Allaah. They are shy of the opposite gender in this society because of what they might experience if strange men look at them and lastly they have hayaa because they are ashamed of going out in public and committing this grave sin of displaying their beauty is public. There are many women in this society who claim that they have hayaa but to follow the order of hijab is backwards and that women in this society shouldn’t have to cover, is obviously disbelief. For if someone really had hayaa they would never contradict ANYTHING that Allaah has ordained upon us even if they did not exactly like the idea. A women’s hayaa comes from her modesty and her shyness and her fear of Allaah, so how can she have hayaa if she walks around in public un-veiled? Proof lies in the following hadeeth.
Abdullah Ibn Umar (radi-Allaahu ‘anhu) narrated that the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:
“Indeed hayaa (modesty) and Iman are Companions. When one of them is lifted, the other leaves as well.” [Bayhaaqee]
There are many verses in the Qur’aan and many ahadeeth explaining the reasons behind observing Hijab. The Islaamic 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 have also been forbidden in order to close the doors to indecency and lewdness, in return providing a stronger pillar for hayaa. Modesty (hayaa) and maintaining one’s honor are of primary importance in preserving the moral fiber 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 bad 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 Ibn Malik (radi-Allaahu ‘anhu), that the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:
“When lewdness is a part of anything, it becomes defective; and when hayaa is a part of anything it becomes beautiful.” [Tirmidhee]
So it is only obvious that Hijab plays and extremely important role in regards to Hayaa. For Hijab prevents lewdness and Hayaa backs this up and then person’s eeman becomes even stronger. So both things work together in a partnership. At the time of our beloved Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) as soon as the verses of Hijab were revealed, all 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 hadeeth tells us:
Narrated by Aa’ishah (radi-Allaahu ‘anhaa):
“May Allaah 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 Ansar came out as if they had crows over their heads by wearing outer garments.” [Abu Daawood]
This indicates that all these women wanted to guard their modesty which is why they followed out the orders of Allaah. Yet, another verse talk about the level of modesty in Aa’ishah (radi-Allaahu ‘anhaa).
Narrated Aa’ishah (radi-Allaahu ‘anhaa):
“I used to enter my house where Allaah’s Messenger (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) 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 Allaah that I did not enter it without having my clothes wrapped round me owing to modesty regarding Umar.” [at-Tirmidhee and Ahmad]
If women in today’s society choose not to wear the veils, but some belief in their hearts, than they might be categorized as Muslim women but not Mumineen. The truth is that Hayaa is a special characteristic of a Mu’min. People who are ignorant of the teachings of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) do not concern themselves with Hayaa and Honour. Hayaa and Iman are interdependent; therefore either they both exist together or they both perish.
Thus, the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) has said in one hadeeth,
“When there is no hayaa left, then do as you please.”
Today vulgarity and all its ingredients have become a common place even among well-known Muslims in the zeal of imitating the non-believers. It is these people who have been struggling to bring Muslim women out of Hijab into immodesty “be’hayaai” and indecency. They have adopted the lifestyles of the Christians more than the traditions of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam). 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 (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam). Neither can they say they have given up Islaam, nor can they bear to see Muslim women wear Hijab and showing some Hayaa. Actually the fact is, indulging in indecency for so long has killed the sense of modesty (hayaa) which Islaam had commanded them to preserve. It is this natural desire of maintaining one’s honor which compels men to protect the respect and honor of their women. What these men and women do not understand is that if the women do not observe Hijab and do not develop Hayaa inside of them, they will be entertaining those who have taken the path of shaitaan. Such as the following hadeeth:
Malik Ibn Uhaimir (radi-Allaahu ‘anhu) reported that he heard the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) saying,
“Allaah will not accept any good deeds or worship of an immodest and vulgar person.” We asked, “Who is a vulgar and immodest person?” He replied, “A man who’s wife entertains Ghair-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 hijab hey would definitely not tolerate the opposite. At the time of our beloved Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) the husbands could not even imagine their wives leaving the houses un-veiled let alone go out and beautify themselves for other men to get “free looks”. The following hadeeth shows this fact clearly:
Narrated by Al-Mugheera (radi-Allaahu ‘anhu):
Sa’d Ibn ‘Ubada said, “I will not hesitate killing my wife with a sword if I see her with another man” This news reached Allaah’s Apostle who then said, “You people are astonished at Sa’d’s Ghira (self-respect, honor). By Allaah, I have more Ghira than he, and Allaah has more Ghira than I, and because of Allaah’s Ghira, 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 than Allaah, 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 Allaah does, and for this reason, Allaah promised to grant Paradise (to the doers of good).” ‘Abdul Malik said, “No person has more Ghira than Allaah.” [Saheeh Bukhaaree]
So this should be enough to understand why Hijab is so important for women to establish Hayaa in themselves and live the lives of true mu’mineen. Sometimes the situation becomes a such that people will have done wrong/sins for such a long period of time that they will not be able to differentiate between right and wrong. Another way to put this is that, a person’s exceeding indulgence in indecency results in the loss of wisdom and the ability to see good deeds from bad deeds.
As the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:
“I have a sense of Honour (a part of hayaa). Only a person with a darkened heart is deprived of Honour.”
So one wonders….what if this observing of Hijab and maintaining Hayaa is so important then how come we have nothing to show us the merits? Well the answer to that question clearly lies in the Qur’aan and ahadeeth.
There are many merits of Hayaa if one wants to know. Here are some just to list a few.
- Allaah loves Hayaa. We know this by the following hadeeth:
“Surely Allaah (is One who) has hayaa and is the Protector. He loves hayaa and people who cover each others faults.” [Bukhaaree]
- Hayaa itself is a Greatness of Islaam as our Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) indicated:
“Every way of life has a innate character. The character of Islaam is hayaa.” Or “Every deen has an innate character. The character of Islaam is modesty (hayaa).” [Abu Daawood]
- Hayaa only brings good and nothing else. Our Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:
“Hayaa does not bring anything except good.” [Bukhaaree]
- Hayaa is a very clear indication of our eeman. As the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) had mentioned to the Ansar who was condemning is brother about being shy:
“Leave him, for Hayaa is (a part) of Faith.” [Bukhaaree]
- Last but not least, Hayaa leads us to PARADISE. As the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) told us:
“Hayaa comes from eeman; eeman leads to Paradise. Obscenity comes from antipathy; and antipathy leads to the fire.” [Bukhaaree]
The actual word Hayaa is derived from Hayaat. This means life. It is only obvious that when someone has Hayaa in them, they will LIVE a life of Islaam. On the other hand if they do not have Hayaa they are living a life that is Dead “Islaamically” but alive according to this dunya.
The Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:
“Hayaa and Trustworthiness will be the first to go from this world; therefore keep asking Allaah for them.” [Bayhaaqee]
In conclusion to this essay we must understand that 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 they should fast.
Women are told to conceal themselves so that the men will not be over taken by the whispers of shaitaan and will not disrespect or take advantage of the women. There are many verses in the Qur’aan that have clearly explained how we have to behave and Allaah is All-Knowing therefore He knew that we would face these problems living in this society, and that is no excuse to change Islaam and only practice what we feel is right. Allaah has told men how to guide their modesty and has told women how to guide their modesty. If either one of them refuse to follow the commandment of their Lord, may Allaah 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 Allaah 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…” [Soorah an-Noor (24):30-31]
ALL PRAISE BE TO ALLAAH, AND MAY HIS PEACE AND BLESSINGS BE UPON MUHAMMAD (SAL-ALLAAHU ‘ALAYHE WA SALLAM), HIS FAMILY, HIS COMPANIONS AND HIS TRUE FOLLOWERS UNTIL THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT.
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