Monday, January 19, 2009

Hayaa: A Distinguishing Characteristic Of The Muslim

Fourteen centuries ago , a man was sent as a mercy to humankind . He , sallallahu alayhe wa sallam , came to lead the people away from darkness and into light . He liberated the world from the bondage of idolatry and taught them to worship the only true God . He is the last messenger , a perfect example for humanity , and a true mercy from Allah.

With the message of Islam , the Messenger , sallallahu alayhe wa sallam , elevated human being to their most refined form because he taught them the most beautiful morals . He taught that moral integrity was central to faith and that one of his main goal was to rear men and women of impeccable character . He said , '' Verily , I have been sent for the purpose of perfecting morals .'' ( Muwatta ) . Indeed , it is an integral part of worship for the Muslim to train himself to have the best manners . When the Muslim struggles in purging himself of offensive attributes , he does so for the pleasure of Allah and not for the praise of people .

The most important of the morals that he , sallallahu alayhe wa sallam , taught is Hayaa ( loosely translated as modesty or bashfulness ) . The Prophet , sallallahu alayhe wa sallam , said, '' For every deen there is khuluq ( a distinguishing characteristic ) and the khuluq of Islam is Hayaa .'' Hayaa cannot be explained in one word because it encompasses an entire attitude of being . It could be said that Hayaa means that one feels shame or guilt or resistance to acting in a way that might offend any other being ( Allah ,human , or otherwise ) . Hayaa has two main parts : 1) Hayaa from Allah and 2) Hayaa from people .

Having Hayaa from Allah entails knowing His beautiful names and attributes because this knowledge will make one have awe of Allah's great power and majesty , fear of His punishment , and gratitude for his blessings . The way this will manifest in the Muslim's behavior is that he will always remember that Allah is watching him , hence, he will be so afraid and shy to commit a sin in front of Allah . Hw will always think of Allah before he acts or speaks , out of fear that he would displease his Lord . He will feel so ashamed if he disobeys Allah and rush towards repentance . A person who has Hayaa from Allah will also have sincerity ; he dreads the thought of being a person who acts pious in front of others while disregarding Allah's pleasure .

The Prophet , sallallahu alayhe wa sallam , explained this reality to his companions when he said to them : '' Have Hayaa from Allah as you truly should .'' They said : '' We have Hayaa from Allah Alhamdulillah .'' He , sallallahu alayhe wa sallam , said : '' It is much more than that . He who truly has Hayaa from Allah , let him preserve his head and what perceives it , let him preserve his stomach and what it desires , let him remember death and afflictions , and he who desires the Hereafter abandons the adornments of this world . He who performs all these , is the one who has Hayaa from Allah as he should .''

The meaning of the hadeeth is that true Hayaa is expressed in feeling ashamed to use the blessings that Allah , subhanahu wa ta'ala , has granted humans in disobedience . Hence , one with Hayaa would not dare to taint his mind with that which Allah dislikes or allow any of his senses , the outlet to his mind , indulge in haram acts .He would feel ashamed to even taste that which Allah has forbidden of food while Allah provides him with abundant means from halal sources .Most importantly , he would be so conscious of Allah and fearful of Him , that he would never forget his purpose in life or allow this world to distract him from Allah's worship .

It is then natural that this Hayaa , which is an integral part of the human's relationship with Allah , would manifest in the Muslims relationship with people . Having Hayaa from people is expressed in many ways . Among these ways is proper Islamic dress . Men and women are ordered by Allah to cover certain parts of their body as a way to protect their dignity , chastity , and reputations . It is a way to protect against the means that lead to zina ( sexual relations outside marriage ) and fortifies the family institution . This is also achieved through Allah's order to lower one's gaze . It is not permissible for a Muslim to view pictures of nudity , sexual suggestion , intimacy between two people , or a person of the opposite gender who is improperly covered . These are examples of how Hayaa must manifest itself externally , through the adherence to proper Islamic dress and manners , and internally , by not viewing lewd , vulgar , pornographic , or otherwise illicit material .

Hayaa among people is not limited to mere matter of sight , however . Touching or interacting with members of the opposite sex in a manner that is against Shari'ah is also a way in which Hayaa could be violated . In general , men and women are not allowed to mix freely or socialize needlessly . All their conduct should be dignified and formal so that both men and women are treated with respect .

Still , Hayaa is not just a combined set of all of these Islamic rules . Rather it is a whole demeanor . It should be so pervasive in the life of a Muslim that anyone who meets him/her would think of no other word to describe him/her by except : Hayaa . It is manifest in respecting one's elders and teachers . It can be the soft tone a child uses when speaking to his parents or the polite word used when speaking to others in general .

All these acts are part of Eman ( faith ) , because the Prophet , sallallahu alyhe wa sallam , said , '' Eman consists of more than 70 parts and Hayaa is a part of Eman .'' ( Bukhari and Muslim ) .He also said , '' Hayaa and Eman have been paired together , if one is removed the other is removed .'' So every sincere Muslim must evaluate his behavior for the presence of Hayaa – this will indicate his level of Eman .

It is important to understand that the one who acts with Hayaa is not a person who is weak and quiet all the time . Rather , he is a person who is so conscious of Allah at every moment that he acts very carefully . His acts are always based on what please Allah , subhanahu wa ta'ala , so he always brings benefit to others and never harms any one with words or deeds . Indeed , the one who acts with Hayaa should feel confident , for the Messenger of Allah , sallallahu alayhe wa sallam , said , '' Hayaa does not bring anything but goodness .'' ( Bukhari )

Taken From Al-Jumuah Magazine