Islamic Wisdom: Haya: More Than Just Modesty

‘‘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.” (Quran 30 24:30)

As Muslims, we have to constantly be in touch with our own Haya (modesty) and make sure we are not displeasing Allah in any way. It is mentioned in a hadith:

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “Faith (Belief) consists of more than sixty branches (i.e. parts). And Haya (This term “Haya” covers a large number of concepts which are to be taken together; amongst them are self-respect, modesty, bashfulness, and scruple, etc.) is a part of faith.” (Sahih Bukhari Book #2, Hadith #8)

Islam is a way of life and has teachings that Muslims must follow. One of the teachings that are stressed for both men and women is Haya. The Islamic concept of Haya’ might seem like an outdated, impossibly archaic ideal. But Haya is a great concept of Islam which simply means to feel ashamed of Allah when doing any indecent act just to remind yourself that Your Allah sees you and knows all things about you. Iman and Haya are linked together when the Muslims have Iman, they have Haya and vice versa.

“Every religion has its signature character trait, and the signature character trait of Islam is Haya.”

This article is a very brief description of ‘Haya’ in Islam and the impact its presence or absence leaves on the society as a whole and its value, and the domains in which it operates in our lives. A virtue cherished by people of all walks of life and at all times is modesty.


HAYA is an Arabic word that can be translated to mean modesty, shame, shyness, or bashfulness. Literally speaking, Haya (modesty) means feeling embarrassed about doing what is wrong.

Indeed, Allah is not ashamed to draw a parable whether it is that of a gnat or something above it. As for those who have faith, they know it is the truth from their Lord; and as for the faithless, they say, ‘What did Allah mean by this parable? (Holy Quran 2:26)

Haya is a self-controlling force rooted in fear of embarrassment, knowing that a respected observer is watching. It regulates man’s actions based on religious law (Sharia), the intellect (‘Aql), and accepted customs (‘Urf). In telling the truth, modesty is reproached. Hence, in informing others of the truth and bringing examples in that regard, there is no shame.

“Faith (Belief) consists of more than sixty branches (i.e. parts). And Haya [This term Haya covers a large number of concepts which are to be taken together; amongst them are self-respect, modesty, bashfulness, and scruple, etc.] is a part of faith.” (Volume 1, Book 2, Number 9)

Haya leads one to other branches of Imaan (Faith) or to other good deeds. A person who has Haya from Allah will be encouraged to perform good deeds and stay away from sins. A person who has Haya fears humiliation in the Dunya and also in the Hereafter. A person who does not have Haya has no fear of Allah and lives a life of immorality. He has no regrets for disobeying Allah and considers himself free of reckoning.

The immodest is faithless

This means that if a person is faithful, he would also be modest. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:

The characteristic of a wise person is that modesty never separates him.

Haya (modesty) and Iman (faith) are two that go together. If one is lifted, the other is also lifted.” (Recorded by al-Hakim)

In other words

Haya’ does not produce but goodness.” (Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

These all hadith clear that Haya is a part of Iman and without Haya, no one becomes a good Muslim or its Iman never be completed. Haya is one of the most beautiful things which Allah gifted to every Muslim heart. It gives peace and provides satisfaction to Muslims. It's a most beautiful part of every Muslim's nature which keep away from evil. Some People mix the concept of Haya with silence and passive behavior on wrongdoings which happening around them. Although, Haya is totally different from this, as it encourages Muslim to do Good and righteous things and at the same time it saves Muslims from wrong or evil things. It makes capable for every Muslim to raise their voice when seeing bad things happening around them.

“So he made them fall, through deception. And when they tasted of the tree, their private parts became apparent to them, and they began to fasten together over themselves from the leaves of Paradise. And their Lord called to them, “Did I not forbid you from that tree and tell you that Satan is to you a clear enemy?” [The Holy Qur’an — 7:22]

“And Adam and his wife ate of it, and their private parts became apparent to them, and they began to fasten over themselves from the leaves of Paradise. And Adam disobeyed his Lord and erred”. [The Holy Qur’an — 20:121]

Moreover, an example of the natural Haya’ could be that of what we read to be a key characteristic of Sayyidina Othman ibn Affan (May ALLAH be pleased with him), the Companion of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the third Caliphate. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Should I not show modesty to one whom even the Angels show modesty.” [Saheh Muslim]

“You have two attributes which ALLAH loves.” I said, “And what are they.” He (peace be upon him) said: “Maturity (الحلم) and shame.” I said, “Have they been with me since long ago or just recently?” He (peace be upon him) said: “Since long ago.” I said, “Praise be to ALLAH who put in my nature two attributes which He loves.”

However, with time and with changing life circumstances, environment, ideologies, and mode of living, one’s Haya’s level, whether natural or acquired, can fluctuate, either increasing or decreasing. In fact, the more a person commits sins and lewd acts, the more his or her feeling of Haya’ is lessened, to the point where it may disappear altogether.

“Have shame before ALLAH as is befitting.” We said: “O ALLAH’s Messenger, we do have shame praise be to ALLAH.” He (peace be upon him) said: “Not that, rather having shame before ALLAH as is befitting is to guard your head and what it contains, your stomach and what it takes in, to remember death and disintegration and whoever desires the hereafter leaves the ornamentation of this world. Whoever does all that has shame before ALLAH as is befitting.”. [Recorded by At-Tirmidhi]

Different types of Modesty & Shyness:

Haya Jinayah (the shamefulness of committing a crime), Haya Taqseer (the shamefulness of deficiency), Haya Ijlaal (the modesty regarding the magnificence of Allah), Haya Karm (modesty in being hospitable), Haya Hishmaa (shyness in personal matters), Haya Istissghar lilnafs (modesty and humbling one’s soul), Haya Muhabbah (bashfulness of love), Haya Uboodeeyah (shyness in worship), Haya Sharaf wa Izzah (being ashamed of his own nobility and honor) and Haya (being shy) of one who is modest from his own self.

1. Al-Haya (the shamefulness) of committing a crime:

From this is the Hayaa of Aadam -alaihi salam- when he fled to Paradise.

2. Haya Taqseer (the shamefulness of deficiency):

This is like the Haya of the Angels who glorify Allah day and night and do not disobey Him and when the Day of Judgment comes, they say ‘You (O Allah) are far from imperfection and we did not truly carry out Your worship.’

3. Haya Ijlaal (modesty regarding the magnificence of Allah):

This Haya is of having knowledge, it is the level of knowledge a slave has of his Lord — then the level of his Haya in this will be in accordance to his level of knowledge of Allah.

4. Haya Karm (modesty in being hospitable):

Like the Haya of the Prophet –s all Alla hu alayhi wa sallam– from the people when they called him to the Walima (wedding party) of Zainab and they sat with him for a very long time and he stood up and was shy from telling them to leave.

5. Haya Hishmaa (Shyness regarding personal matters):

Like the Haya of Ali bin Abi Taalib -radiAllaah anhu — in asking the Prophet regarding the discharge/wetness a man feels when being aroused, due to the status of the Prophet’s –sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam– daughter.

6. Haya Istissghar lilnafs (modesty and humbling one’s soul):

Like the Haya of the slave of Allah from His Lord when he asks Him for his needs, whereby he realizes that he is so needy and is humbled by it.

7. Haya Muhabbah (bashfulness of love):

This is the Haya of the one who loves when he remembers what he feels for his beloved, to such an extent that if this feeling occurs to him in the absence of his beloved then it stimulates the Hayaa in his heart and reaches his face (bashfulness) and he does not know why he feels this is.

8. Haya Uboodeeyah (shyness in worship):

This Haya is combined with love and fear and one witnesses that his worship of the One being worshipped (Allah) is not good enough and the worth and value of the One being worshipped are higher and more magnificent than his worship. Thus, this worship will certainly obligate his feeling shy of Allah.

9. Haya Sharaf wa Izzah (being ashamed of nobility and honor):

If the value and the goodness of his sacrifice, giving, and goodness is less (than he is capable of) then Haya emanates from this great and powerful soul and his soul becomes ashamed even though he has sacrificed (but it is not according to the caliber of his capability).

10. As for the Haya of the person from his own self:

It is the Haya of the honorable, noble and lofty soul, which is not pleased with the deficiency within itself, which is (the deficiency) of being satisfied with less (goodness). So, he finds himself being shy from himself to such a degree that it is as though he possesses two souls, one soul feels shy from the other.

The Reward of modesty:

The commander of the faithful, Ali (AS) says:

The reward of a struggler martyred in the way of God is not more than one who tries one’s best to remain chaste; as though the chaste is one of God’s angels.

Elsewhere his holiness says,

Modesty is the key to all virtue and goodness.

Shyness and Modesty in a man is an excellent virtue, but the Shyness and Modesty of a woman are ever more so.

Final Thoughts:

Islam calls us to revive our internal compass and protect our sense of self-respect, by accentuating our Haya and amplifying it with Taqwa (God-consciousness). It validates the fear of feeling inadequate as an incentive that can begin us on the journey to piety. From there, one’s veneration and love for God are cultivated to immunize a person from all that could jeopardize their standing with Him.

I write to keep you thinking and to keep me thankful and reflective and until next time, keep reflecting.

Thank you for reading!

Finally, I pray to Allah to benefit those who read this article and others, grant me truthfulness in what I say and do, preserve my thoughts and my pen from deviation and guide me in all my affairs.

And all praise and thanks are due to Allah, without Whose help and guidance nothing can be accomplished. May Allah bless you with happiness, success, guidance, health, and knowledge. May Almighty Allah give us the strength to follow the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) and make us part of the group who is among the most righteous! Ameen.

Be patient with yourself. And Keep learning!!

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Raja Muhammad Mustansar Javaid

Raja Muhammad Mustansar Javaid


Writer | network engineer | Traveler | Biker | Polyglot. I’m so deep even the ocean gets jealous