The Prophet (s) said, “Every Deen has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty (haya).” (Abu Dawood)
The Definition of Haya’
Haya’ comes from hayat (life). It is that which keeps you ethically and spiritually alive. Just like a body gets its value from being alive, the spirit, soul, character and person gets their value from having haya’. The reality of haya’ is that it is that trait which motivates you to do what is good. That same trait discourages you from doing anything shameful. It is the one quality that make Muslims stand out.
Words that encompass aspects of haya': shame, humility, self-respect, honor, bashfulness, shyness
The Prophet’s Statements on Haya’
- The Prophet (s) said, “Faith (Belief) consists of more than sixty branches (i.e. parts). And Haya’ is a part of faith.” (Bukhari)
- The Prophet (s) passed by a man who was admonishing his brother regarding Haya’ and was saying, “You are very shy, and I am afraid that might harm you.” On that, Allah’s Apostle said, “Leave him, for Haya’ is (a part) of Faith.” (Bukhari)
- Prophet (s) said: “Haya does not bring anything except good.” (Bukhari)
Everything in our lives – from our relationships, our jobs, to our roles in society – are just a means to get to the final destination. Imagine introducing a computer to someone from the 10th century. If you tell this person the computer will help them get through life but do not explain what it is for, they may protect it with their life but will never benefit from it because they lack the knowledge and training to do so. Their end will be protecting the computer instead of using the computer as a tool or means to achieving their goals.
This is an analogy for our experiences in life. In life we are lost when we first come to the dunya (world). It is vast and full of distractions, and we become attached to its many pleasures. But Allah did not bring us to life for the purpose of serving life, because life is fleeting and transitory. Rather, everything in this dunya is for a greater purpose. Allah tells us that our purpose in life is very simple: to worship Him.
“I have not created men and jinn except to worship Me.” (Qur’an, 51:56)
Everything from our beauty, our shortcomings, our experiences, to our passions – everything you can imagine – is meant to be utilized for the purpose of worshiping Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Unfortunately, we get so caught up in the distractions of this world that we forget our Lord. Allah says,
“And be not like those who forgot Allah (became disobedient to Him) and He caused them to forget their own selves (let them forget to do righteous deeds).” (Qur’an, 59:19)
How many of you have seen the Bourne Identity? The main character forgets who he is and what is his purpose; he tries to figure out why he has the skills that he has and what the purpose for them are.
We are Blessed
Imagine not knowing your parents. People who never received the blessing of knowing their parents will always have a part of them missing. Many of them develop resentment and anger as a result. If we understand the blessings we have been given, and that we are meant to be using them towards our purpose of pleasing Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (Exalted is He), we will understand the implications of our major. We will appreciate our body, our ‘ilm (knowledge), our rizq (set amount of sustenance from Allah). Believers are happy because their lifestyle is in harmony with everything around them – they understand that everything around them is working towards the one and only purpose of pleasing Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and helping them gain Jannah (Paradise).
A good example of this is the weather – instead of having a favorite type of weather (which is not bad) we will become appreciative of all different conditions. Even if there’s a blizzard – you can catch up with the things you need to do, relax with your family. Rain is not a bad thing – when it rains, our du’a’ (prayers) are more easily accepted! See the blessings of Allah in whatever happens to you. A Muslim who has a connection with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will have a connection with everything in a healthy fashion. Sunrise, sunset, moon phases, day and night – you will always know your place in the grand scheme of things.
If one does not know their purpose, they lose themselves. You start to judge yourself using personal, arbitrary criteria – an example would be artists like “50cent” and “Eminem.” They have renamed themselves and have their own criteria by which they judge themselves. Their value system keeps changing, depending on what they feel are their current passions. They’ll never be happy until they’ll subjugate their desires.
Inna maa bu’ithtu li atamimu al-akhlaq
The Prophet (s) said: “I was sent to perfect good character.” (Malik)
We cannot cover Islamic Character in four classes, so what should we focus on?
- Honesty is the best policy? Being honest with yourself.
- Sincerity – keeping our intention for the sake of Allah.
- Taqwa – sometimes we forget to fear Allah, or we fail to keep ourselves in check
- inna likulli dinan khuluqa wa inna khuluqa al-islam al-haya’ – Every Deen has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty (haya). (Abu Dawood)
Reasons for picking Haya’
- Most of the issues and questions that people have, and most of the people the Shaykh deals with as an imam or counselor, are due to lacking haya’. An example would be a man who cheats on his wife and is not embarrassed.
- One of those statements that reached us from the previous prophets, is that “If you do not have haya’ do as you wish.”
- Haya’ is so rare and foreign we don’t even understand what it means and what to look for.
Haya’ is Natural
Haya’ is so innate and natural to human beings, even animals, you wonder how people even lose it! In the story of the Adam and Eve, right after eating they ate from the tree, what happened? They had been dressed in Jannah before by the Grace of Allah; now they lost their privileges. Their immediate reaction was to cover themselves.
Haya’ and Hayat (Life)
Haya’ comes from the Arabic word for life, hayat. It is a quality that is alive, that breathes, lives, dies, grows, and reacts to different circumstances. It has also become something so foreign that we do not know what it is and what to make out of it. It is the only quality that you can never have too much of. There is no portion that is bad.
Haya’ is a sign of iman (faith). Haya’ is a quality of the believer. A person who had haya’ of Allah, Allah will grant him taqwa (consciousness of God). If a person has haya’ with Allah, it will make them honest because it will prevent them from doing something they would be shamed by. If one has haya’, it will increase sincerity because it will prevent one from duplicity, pretension, double standards, etc.
Some people associate haya’ with weakness, but it is not something that makes one weak. The Prophet (s) was said to have more haya’ than a newlywed on their wedding night, and he was the most successful individual in the history of the world. There is the criticism that this life is anti-haya’, so to have haya’ means that you are paralyzed and restricted. But the truth is that haya’ enlivens your heart.