Imam Zijad’s Corner: AL HAYA (BASHFULNESS) IN ISLAM

Al Haya’ means bashfulness, shyness, modesty, self-respect, etc. It is a much praised habit for it prevents its owner from doing something that is wrong/unethical. It also brings only good to its owner, as the Messenger of God (S) said: “Al Haya’ does not bring anything except good.” {Bukhari, Muslim}

Once the Messenger of God (S) was passing by a man who was blaming someone for his bashfulness. The Messenger (S) told him to leave the person adding: “Al Haya is a part of Faith, and Faith leads into Jannah and  Al Bitha’ {indecency-shamelessness)  is a part of corruption or disgust (Al Jafa’) and corruption leads to Jahannam.” {Ibn Majah, Ahmad, Tirmithi}

As it can be seen from the Hadith, the Haya’ is related with character (Akhlaq} and it helps in bringing up moral people with virtuous behaviour which will lead them to Jannah. Ibn Al Qayyim, may God be pleased with him, said that Al Haya’ is a part of life, and depending on how much Al Haya’ heart possesses, actually reflects how much moral character an individual has. The smaller amount of Al Haya’ the individual shows, the greater deficiency of spiritual life and ineffectiveness his/her ability and competence reflects. The Messenger of God, Muhammad (S) said: “The Faith consists of more than sixty branches, and Al Haya is a part of Faith.” {Al Bukhari}

Al Haya’ may be practiced between a servant and his/her Rabb (Lord), when a servant shows bashfulness (Al Haya’) before the Lord, especially in committing disobedience be it openly or secretly. Almighty God informs us: “God knows the fraud of the eyes, and all that the breasts conceal.” {Al Gafir 19}

The shyness between God and His servants is the shyness of honour, because Almighty God is shy to refuse His servant when he/she raises his/her hands in supplication (Du’a).

As for shyness between the individual and other people, it is that which prevents him/her from committing a wrong, and thus hates people witnessing his/her feeling of humiliation and guilt. He who is shy of God, rejects what is forbidden in all situations: in the presence of people as well as in their absence. This Al Haya’ is the shyness of worship, and it can only be acquired by knowing God, His nearness to His servants, and His knowledge of what is open and being kept hidden and secret. This form of Al Haya’ is the highest form of Al Ihsan. It is very clearly explained in the Hadith: “Al Ihsan is to worship God as though you are seeing Him, and while you do not see Him, yet truly He sees you.”  (Muslim)

Without having Al Haya, there remains nothing that would prevent a person from behaving/acting indecently. The Messenger of God, Muhammad (S) has pointed out on this reality in the following words: “Among the words people obtained from the first Prophecy are: If you do not feel any inner feeling of being shy, then do as you wish to do.” {Bukhari, Muslim}