Haya like a lot of Arabic words has several meanings when translated to English. It is often vaguely interpreted as modesty, shyness or humility. A generally agreed upon meaning is a state of accompanied remorse, caused by one’s fear of being exposed for something. The main reason for this uncomfortable feeling is the knowledge that we have disobeyed Allah. Haya is an attribute which encourages Muslims to avoid anything haram and keeps us from being comfortable and unashamed of the wrong we may have done. Haya plays a huge role in the lives of Muslims because it is a very important part of our Iman. There cannot be Iman without haya.

The Prophet (SAW) said, “Faith consists of more than sixty parts. And Haya is a part of faith.” - Bukhari

The Prophet (SAW) 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 (SAW) said, “Leave him, for Haya is (a part) of Faith.” - Bukhari

There are various forms of positive haya.

  • The most important is haya towards Allah (SWT) by shying away from anything that will displease Him and to always remember that we will have to account for all our deeds on the day of judgement.
  • Haya towards the Angels as they are dignified creatures that witness our every act.
  • Haya to those around us especially our parents for whom we do certain things in order to please them.
  • Finally, there is haya to oneself; when we commit even the tiniest sin, we start to feel extreme guilt in our hearts. This builds a high degree of self-consciousness and that is what strengthens a Muslim’s commitment to Allah.

Negative haya revolves around a person’s shamefulness or shyness of doing something that Allah (SWT) has ordered us to do through the Qur’an or the Prophet’s (SAW) Sunnah. This means that someone does not perform his or her duty as a Muslim because of others. This is totally forbidden as it means one is giving the people of this dunya more respect than the Creator. Examples include

  • Not performing solat in a public place due to presence of others.
  • Sisters who decide against wearing hijab for fear of being laughed at or criticized.
  • Being silent in the presence of falsehood or oppression.

If someone really had haya they would never contradict anything Allah (SWT) has ordained upon us no matter how difficult it is. Haya and Iman are interdependent; either they both exist together or they both do not.

“Surely Allah (is One who) has haya and is the Protector. He loves haya and people who cover each other’s faults.” - Bukhari

“Every deen has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty (haya).” - Abu Dawood

“Haya does not bring anything except good.” - Bukhari

“Haya comes from Iman; Iman leads to Paradise. Obscenity comes from antipathy; and antipathy leads to the fire.” - Bukhari