Haya itself is derived from the word hayat which means life. This term covers a wide number of concepts. In English, it may be translated as modesty, shyness, self-respect, bashfulness, shame, honour, humility, etc. The original meaning of Haya according to a believer's nature, refers to a bad and uneasy feeling accompanied by embarrassment, caused by one's fear of being exposed or censured for some unworthy or indecent conduct.
Islamically Haya 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 uncomfortable and ashamed about this. The reason being that he/she will have displeased Allah by breaking a commitment.
Haya plays a huge role in the lives of Muslims because it is a very important part of our Iman (faith/belief). If we do not have any form of haya within us then it is most likely that our Iman is very weak. For as it states in the following hadith:
Narrated by Abu Huraira (ra): The Prophet said, "Faith (Belief) consists of more than sixty branches (i.e. parts). And Haya is a part of faith." (Bukhari)
We also learn from the Prophet (saws) the importance of having haya and how it is not something to be ashamed of, but instead, one should be concerned and ashamed if they do not possess it within their character.
Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar (ra): The Prophet (saws) 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)
Now the above hadith 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 Allah and an indication of the value of their Deen.
When we think back to when we were young around eight or nine years old - we all remember this feeling of shyness and humility naturally occurring - for many it was when we felt we wanted to conceal our bodies from our mums or siblings. We were often told - "don't be silly" or "we have seen it all before" and the many other comments that people in the west or ignorant Muslim parents affected by the western values (or lack of them) say to their pure children. If these natural instincts of shyness and shame are taken by the smart parent and nurtured, it will develop and affect their entire character and also most importantly lead to a conscious responsible Muslim who prioritise their life towards submission to Allah (swt).
We often find that shyness, humility and bashfulness is frowned upon by our society as a weakness or a lack of confidence when, Infact these are quality of a dignified upright human being, who is conscious of their actions and their responsibilities in life.
Now to discuss the different types of haya. How many types of haya are there?
Haya' is of two kinds: good and bad:
The good Hayâ' is to be ashamed to commit a sin or a thing which Allah and His Messenger (saws) has forbidden, and bad Hayâ' is to feel ashamed to do a thing, which Allah and His Messenger (saws) ordered to do.
Firstly, to talk about the types of Good haya. For example, anyone who is a believer, he/she should build their personalities and their character with the good dimensions of haya. The most important is that he/she must be shy of doing ANYTHING displeasing to Allah (swt), with the belief that he/she will have to answer for all their deeds. If one develops a sense such as this one, it will help the believer to obey all of Allah's command and to stay away from sins. Once the believer realises that Allah (swt) is watching us all the time and we will have to answer to every move we make in this dunya (world), he/she would not neglect any order from Allah or His Messenger (saws). So the stronger this sense of haya becomes, the more it motivates one to make sure that Allah (swt) doesn't see him/her doing anything prohibited. The way to develop this haya is that one must keep learning and absorbing more knowledge and applying it to their lives.
Another type of haya is more of a social aspect concerning others besides Allah (swt). 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 in front of his teacher.. Last but not least is the type of haya in which the believers become shy of themselves. This is when they have reached the peek of their Iman. 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 Allah (swt).
After discussing the various types of "beneficial" haya, it is time to discuss the type of haya which is not only against the teachings of our Prophet (saw) but it is also solid proof of the weakness of someone's Iman. This negative aspect revolves around a person's shamefulness or shyness of doing something that Allah (swt) has ordered us to do through the Qur'an or our Prophet's (saw) Sunnah. This constitutes the shamefulness or embarrassment of doing a lawful act or something that is ordered upon us from Allah (swt). Meaning for someone not to follow an obligation of Islam, due the fact of being shy in front 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 Islam 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 Allah (swt) has told us in the Qur'an, 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 Islam the BEST stature of a Muslim is that of a "dai'i" or a teacher of Islam.
These Islamic teachers and scholars are even higher in the eyes of Allah (swt) then one who only sits at home and does ibaadah (worship). If they want to study law, why not Islamic Shariah? If they want to study science, why not Islamic Science? So this explains how people consider the worldly careers to be of higher value and are embarrassed to even express an interest in Islamic Studies. It is usually because they will not be considered as high as the other "educated" people. This is having the bad haya or "shame" of something that is encouraged to us by Allah (swt) and His Messenger (saw).
Another proof of bad haya is that which is extremely popular amongst many sisters in this western society.
One of the most important aspects of haya, for women, is that of guarding their chastity and their modesty. To do this they must follow the order from Allah (swt) telling them to keep hidden themselves and their adornments from all men lawful to them in marriage. Now this order involves all the aspects of haya for those who do follow it. The believing and following women are ashamed of disobeying Allah (swt). 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 haya 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 haya 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 haya they would never contradict ANYTHING that Allah (swt) has ordained upon us even if they found it a test and a trial. A women's haya comes from her modesty and her shyness and her fear of Allah, so how can she have haya if she walks around in public un-veiled? Proof lies in the following hadith.
Abdullah ibn Umar (ra) narrated that the Prophet (saw) said: "Indeed haya (modesty) and Iman are Companions. When one of them is lifted, the other leaves as well." (Baihaqi)
There are many verses in the Qur'an and many ahadith explaining the reasons behind observing Hijab. The Islamic 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 haya.
Modesty (haya) and maintaining one's honour and dignity are of primary importance in preserving the moral fibre 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 haya has been made a part of her nature to safeguard her from being abused by immoral men.
Narrated on the authority of Anas bin Malik, the Prophet (saw) said: When lewdness is a part of anything, it becomes defective; and when haya is a part of anything it becomes beautiful. (Tirmidhi)
So it is only obvious that Hijab plays an extremely important role in regards to Haya. For Hijab prevents lewdness and Haya backs this up and then person's Iman becomes even stronger. So both things work together in a partnership. At the time of our beloved Prophet (saw) 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 hadith tells us:
Narrated by Aisha (ra): May Allah 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 Dawood)
This indicates that all these women wanted to guard their modesty which is why they followed out the orders of Allah. Yet, another verse talk about the level of modesty in Aisha (ra):
Narrated Aisha (ra): "I used to enter my house where Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) 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 Allah that I did not enter it without having my clothes wrapped round me owing to modesty regarding Umar." (at-Tirmidhi and Ahmed)
If women in today's society choose not to wear the veils, but some belief in their hearts, than they might be categorised as Muslim women but not Mumineen. The truth is that Haya is a special characteristic of a Mu'min ( believing, practicing Muslims). People who are ignorant of the teachings of the Prophet (saws) do not concern themselves with Haya and Honour. Haya and Iman are interdependent; therefore either they both exist together or they both perish. Thus, the Prophet (saws) has said in one hadith, "When there is no haya 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 disbelievers. It is these people who have been struggling to bring Muslim women out of Hijab into immodesty and indecency. They have adopted the lifestyles of the disbelievers more than the traditions of the Prophet (saws). Such people are in a dilemma. On the one hand, they desire to freely look at the half-clad bodies of their 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'an and the Prophet (saws). Neither can they say they have given up Islam, nor can they bear to see Muslim women wear Hijab and showing some Haya. Actually the fact is, indulging in indecency for so long has killed the sense of modesty (haya) which Islam had commanded them to preserve. It is this natural desire of maintaining one's honour which compels men to protect the respect and honour of their women. What these men and women do not understand is that if the women do not observe Hijab and do not develop Haya inside of them, they will be entertaining those who have taken the path of Sheytan. Such as the following hadith:
Malik b Uhaimir reported that he heard the Prophet (saw) saying that, "Allah (swt) 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-mehram 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 haya and hijab hey would definitely not tolerate the opposite. At the time of our beloved Prophet (saws) 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 hadith shows this fact clearly:
Narrated by Al-Mughira: Sa'd bin 'Ubada said, "I will not hesitate killing my wife with a sword if I see her with another man" This news reached Allah's Apostle who then said, "You people are astonished at Sa'd's Ghira (self-respect, honour). By Allah, I have more Ghira than he, and Allah has more Ghira than I, and because of Allah'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 Allah, 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 Allah does, and for this reason, Allah promised to grant Paradise (to the doers of good)." 'Abdul Malik said, "No person has more Ghira than Allah." (Sahih Bukhari)
So this should be enough to understand why Hijab is so important for women to establish Haya 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 (saw) said:
"I have a sense of Honour ( a part of haya). Only a person with a darkened heart is deprived of Honour."
So one wonders…..what if this observing of Hijab and maintaining Haya is so important then why is it we have nothing to show us the merits? Well the answer to that question clearly lies in the Qur'an and ahadith. There are many merits of Haya if one wants to know. Here are some just to list a few.
Firstly Allah loves Haya. We know this by the following hadith: " Surely Allah (is One who) has haya and is the Protector. He loves haya and people who cover each others faults."(Bukhari)
Secondly, Haya itself is a Greatness of Islam as our Prophet indicated: "Every way of life has a innate character. The character of Islam is haya." Or "Every Deen has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty (haya)." (Abu Dawood)
Thirdly, Haya only brings good and nothing else. Our Prophet (saw) said: "Haya does not bring anything except good." (Bukhari)
Fourthly, Haya is a very clear indication of our Iman. As the Prophet (saw) had mentioned to the Ansar who was condemning is brother about being shy: "Leave him, for Haya is (a part) of Faith." (Bukhari)
Fifthly, last but not least, Haya leads us to PARADISE. As the Prophet saws) told us: "Haya comes from Iman; Iman leads to Paradise. Obscenity comes from antipathy; and antipathy leads to the fire." (Bukhari)
The actual word Haya is derived from Hayat. This means life. It is only obvious that when someone has Haya in them, they will LIVE a life of Islam. On the other hand if they do not have Haya they are living a life that is dead "Islamically" but alive according to this dunya.
The Prophet (saws) said: "Haya and Trustworthiness will be the first to go from this world; therefore keep asking Allah for them." (Baihaqi)
In conclusion we must understand that Haya 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 Sheytan and will not disrespect or take advantage of the women. There are many verses in the Qur'an that have clearly explained how we have to behave and Allah is All-Knowing therefore He knew that we would face these problems living in this society, and that is no excuse to change Islam and only practice what we feel is right. Allah (swt) 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 Allah 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 Allah 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……."(Qur'an Nur, 30-31)