Islamic Wisdom: Haya: More Than Just Modesty

Raja Muhammad Mustansar Javaid
16 min readJun 7, 2022

The concept of Haya is considered a major Islamic virtue and an integral part of human character. Haya’ is modesty, bashfulness and shyness combined. It refers to an extremely desirable quality that protects us from all evils. It’s a natural feeling that brings us pain at the very idea of committing a wrong. Haya is the basic building block of Islamic morality. When it is lost everything is lost.

Hello, Dear Readers and followers, welcome back to my new story, I hope all’s well. People always strive to find happiness and tranquility in their lives. Islam contains a good moral code of living. Haya’ (or Al-Haya’) is a key constituent of this code. Modesty is a widely used term nowadays.

It is often misinterpreted as just the feelings of shyness or shame one has. Everyone has their own opinion of what being modest is, and they try to brag about their levels of modesty while looking down upon others.

Let us look at what Allah and our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) have to say.

The term modesty is referred to in the Quran in the following verses:

‘‘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 The Islamic concept of Haya’ might seem like an outdated, impossibly archaic ideal.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.

Islam encourages and treasures Haya as it is one of the most important characteristics that a Muslim can have. The prophet, Muhammad (PBUH), said, “I have not been sent except to perfect noble character.” Cultivating good character and moral excellence toward God and towards His creation is therefore the primary objective of Islam. But in order to effectively develop this in people, Islam centralized certain moral qualities that serve a foundational role upon which all other virtues can be built.

Haya (healthy shame) is without doubt from among these qualities, so much so that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) deemed it the very hallmark of Islam by saying,

“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.

The word Haya is derived from the word “hayah”, which means life. Implicit in its meaning is that the person without Haya is like a dead person. There is no equivalent word for it in the English language. Most people translate it as “shame”, but that is totally wrong. One feels shame when one has made a mistake. But HAYA is a totally different concept. It is a word used in the Holy Quran extensively. The word Haya and its derivatives have been used four times in the Quran.

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.

Modesty in the Quran is an inborn quality and also it is rooted in a sense of self-respect, honor, and dignity. Haya is a contraction of the soul or feeling of shame. It leads to graceful and honorable behavior and avoiding wrong actions, in other words, it leads to abstaining from the haram and avoiding abandoning the obligatory acts (wajibat).

Modesty is part of a broader spirituality. Haya entails the power of your soul. It means that you are not weak or a coward, but a powerful person. This power comes from the fact that you consider a high position for yourself and your soul.

The inner and outer modesty of Haya is just two aspects of a Muslim’s spirituality, which focuses on worship and obedience to One God. Muslims should also strive to be truthful, sincere, humble, patient, forgiving, charitable, moderate, kind, and considerate.

As Muslims, we should possess both inner and outer modesty. This is reflected in behavior, speech, and appearance, and includes being mindful of God at all times.

There are many Islamic narrations that define Haya and explain the practice of this virtue in one’s life. For instance, Ja’far ibn Muhammad (peace be upon him) considers modesty (Haya), chastity (‘Iffah), and guarding of the tongue as manifestations of Iman (faith).

Imagine Haya is called a branch of Imaan and how lightly do we treat it. We bash people who are shy and modest and praise those who are bold in immodesty. We call those women who are dressed modestly, backward, and those showing their flesh, confident.

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 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.” (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.

In another hadith from Ali ibn Abi Talib (peace be upon him), we read that religion, intellect (Aql) and modesty (Haya) always go hand in hand.

In another beautiful narration, Ja’far ibn Muhammad (phub) says,

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.

Haya in what we dress is perhaps the most widely thought of in terms of modesty. Dressing up in the right way as commanded by Allah plays a major role in boosting our Imaan as well as bringing us closer to Him. There are many instances in which people feel close to Allah by just covering themselves modestly. One thing we need to be wary of and avoid, in terms of the way we dress, is boastfulness and vanity. We must be careful that we are dressing modestly for the right reasons; our intentions must be sound.

The way we speak is also a part of Haya. The words we use and our tone matter a lot. The present trend is to use immodest words when expressing either happiness or grief, which is picking up fast; sadly, it is now taking effect in the Muslim community. Since childhood, we are taught to treat others with respect and kindness. Treating others like you would want to be treated’ is perhaps the best policy that one can follow to maintain this aspect of Haya.

Boldness is not only in dress but also in our speech and conduct. Some people are shy about using a certain language in their homes and in front of elders, whereas others do not think before speaking or who they are addressing. They do not pay attention to the words that come out of their mouths and say anything to their families and elders. This is not a praiseworthy trait.

A Muslim is a respectful person who watches his words, his actions, his dressing, etc. He doesn’t shed his clothes in public to be called a modern person. Neither does he use swear language to be considered educated.

Our circle of friends does matter a lot! A person is more likely to follow what his friends do, as well as believe. Be careful when it comes to maintaining close friendships with people. It is also a part of Haya.

We should be wary of what we watch on the television or read in media outlets; it is also called Hays. Television is the number one source of immodesty followed by books. You can find a number of shows and books that deal with immodest topics. So, look at the type of shows you are watching, and the kind of books you are reading.

In addition to the way we speak, dress, and behave, the places we visit are just as important in maintaining our Haya. Haya in what we do amongst people is as important as Haya in front of Allah. Our actions when in public and in private should reflect piety and obedience to Allah.

Haya is not limited to women. It is necessary for all Muslim men and women. Haya is not optional. All men and women should live a dignified, modest life. Therefore, in the Qur’an when Allah commanded the women to cover themselves, He instructed the men to lower their gaze. In Surah Hujarat ayah verse 11, He commanded men to not make fun of other men and women to not make fun of other women. This ayah tells us that it is not acceptable for unrelated men and women [non-mahrams] to sit together and crack jokes. How common this action is in our families and at our workplaces and most importantly in our educational institutes? Male and female cousins, class fellows, and work colleagues are seen together and talking about more than what is necessary. Anything comes out of our mouths, having no shyness.

All of us are born with natural Haya’. It is something that every human being naturally possesses. We feel a sense of shame covering our private parts. This feeling originates from the Prophet Adam (AS) and his wife Hawa as we can see in the following verses from The Holy Qur’an:

“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]

It is also narrated in Imam Ahmed’s book that Ashajj ibn ‘Asar said: The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said to me,

“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.

For example, television and some social media show many images that are considered to lack Haya’. If we intentionally expose ourselves to these images then our level of Haya’ will eventually decrease.

The more one continues to watch these images the lower and lower his or her level of Haya’ becomes until he or she reaches a point where he or she feels unashamed to watch these images in front of anyone else even children, other family members, and friends. They become numb and desensitized about this kind of behavior that makes their minds normalize and the behavior becomes part of their life and becomes fully accepted.

This very low level of Haya’ is alarming and should alert the person to do something to overturn the impact and revive his or her Haya’ bar. A person who notices that his or her Haya’s level is low should improve it by abundance remembrance of ALLAH (dhikr), getting closer to Him Almighty, and fearing Him. The person is also advised to be closer to and network more with the righteous Muslims to revive his or her natural Haya’. Obviously, the more we realize the presence of ALLAH Almighty and His blessings upon us, the more the natural Haya’ within us grows.

In this regard, it is narrated that The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“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.

Allah said ‘Are you escaping from Me O Adam?’ he answered: ‘No, my Lord rather being ashamed in front of You.’

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.

There could be two reasons for this type of Haya :

a) The questioner regards himself as small and insignificant and regards his sins as great in number.

b) He (the questioner) regards the One he is asking (Allah) as Great.

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.

This is the most complete type of Haya, because if a soul feels shyness from his own self, then it will obviously feel a greater shyness from other than himself.’

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.

Haya, therefore, constitutes the first layer of moral insulation, that which grabs us against the elements of indecency around us. Taqwa is the second layer, and earned upgrade in Haya which further reinforces it for the believer. With regards to Allah’s words, “The garment of Taqwa that is best,” Sufyān b. ʿUyaynah said, “Haya is the most elementary form of Taqwa, and the servant does not fear [Allah] until he first experiences shame.

Hope this article inspired you to do something that you always wanted to do but lost interest in, due to something. I would like to express great gratitude to all who reviewed this article and generously fed back to me their comments and suggestions. please recommend this article and follow me on Medium. A special Thank You

If you like articles like this, make sure to subscribe to my Newsletter and If you found this article helpful, click the button below (remember it can go up to 50 claps — it helps me a lot if you’re generous with that clap button ;) ) or share the article on Facebook/TWITTER if you want your friends to benefit from it in some way at all.

🗣Connect with Me on Twitter or Instagram.

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!!

Yeah, don’t forget to follow me for more amazing content. Happy Reading!!!

If you enjoyed reading, learned anything interesting, or know anyone who should read this, please feel free to recommend or write a response. I’m always excited to hear from others and learn.

You can read my most popular medium stories here.



Raja Muhammad Mustansar Javaid

"Versatile Wordsmith | IT Solutions Strategist | Motorcycle Voyager | Multilingual Enthusiast". I’m so deep even the ocean gets jealous