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Get your Haya on, bros!


By Ch. Hasan Saifullah


Do you want to enhance the purity of your soul? Do you want to overcome all the negativity around you? Do you want to stay away from all kinds of temptations and lustful desires? Well, if you do, then this article envelops a “magic word” that can save you from a million sins. You are humbly advised to memorize this word and keep reminding yourself about it every day, as it can help you achieve the above mentioned objectives. Presenting to you, a part of your faith, the magic word—“HAYA”.

Haya 101:

Let’s quickly take an overview of what Haya is all about. Understanding its basic meanings can help us become more conscious of this concept in our daily lives.

Literal meaning:

The word Haya is derived from the Arabic word Al-Hayat, meaning ‘Life’.

General meaning:

It is a conscious feeling whereby a person (usually with some good morals) experiences discomfort and uneasiness (accompanied by a sense of embarrassment), caused by ones fear of being exposed or censured by some indecent, shameful or an unworthy conduct.

Contextual meaning:

In different contexts the term Haya is often used to describe attributes such as modesty, chastity, shyness, humility, shame, honor, dignity, integrity and self-respect.

The concept of Haya in Islamic parlance:

Islamic teachings advocate a high sense of morality and modesty at all levels. The concept of Haya in the light of Islam has always been quite distinct. The most conspicuous evidence of it is that Haya has been made an indispensible part of faith. It other words: ‘where there is Haya, there is Faith and vice versa’. It is narrated by Abu Huraira that the Prophet (sallalahu ‘alaihi wasallam) declared:

“Faith consists of more than sixty branches. And Haya is a part of Faith”

[Bukhari and Muslim]

Islam demands Haya to be a core value in every believer. Every Muslim must strive to improve his/her personality according to the attributes that please Allah Almighty the most. Thus, in order to restore maximum purity in the soul, to overcome and eliminate any negativity in our characters and to refrain from all kinds of illicit temptations, one must train his/her mind and body and cautiously practice getting their Haya On. Every believer must train themselves to live in the fundamental state of Haya i.e. to remain modest and choose for themselves aloofness from temptations.

The intangible attributes of Haya:

It is often thought that Haya is only confined to how a person chooses to dress up. Modesty in dressing is just one element of being in the state of Haya. Quintessentially, Haya is a pure psychological state in which a person operates and performs his/her tasks. It helps a person to choose good over bad, to be attracted towards purity and repulse all that is impure, and to be mindful of their decisions. Haya is the drive that motivates a believer and at every step of their lives provides them with the opportunity to please Allah by shying away from bad conduct, feeling embarrassed, uncomfortable and awkward in performing or partnering indecent acts. Thus, Haya shapes up the character and personality of a believer with all that is good. As Prophet Muhammad (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) is recorded to have said:

“Haya does not bring anything except good.”

[Bukhari and Muslim]

Haya and Social Norms:

From a sociological perspective, Haya and societal norms are interlinked. Even the secular societies have some form of Haya being practiced in their daily lives. There are numerous socio-cultural factors which affect the level of Haya being practiced in the society. For example, the rural Pakhtun culture follows its strict policy over enabling maximized Haya as part of their daily dress code. Their women wear a complete head to toe covering often mocked as “shuttle cock” burqas. To their disposition it is what describes their dignity, honor and a sense of Haya. However, on the other hand a working class woman from an urban metropolis may opt for skin tight clothing along with a shawl/dupatta as a covering, and still be considered well equipped with Haya by her colleagues and the society at large.

The point of the above discussion is to prove that the concept of Haya may vary from society to society. Different countries, regions and cultures oblige by different set of social rules and norms according to their own ideals, aspirations and values. However, for the people all across the globe who proclaim to be Muslims (the ones who submit their will to Allah), Haya should not be something to be played around. Rather than looking for what level of Haya is acceptable in your culture/society, one should try to find what level of Haya our religion demands from us? After all, it is our GOD we want to please and not the people, right?

Haya for men:

Over the years, much ink has been used to elaborate the concept of Haya with reference to women folk only. We hear too much discussion about women’s Hijab. What about men’s Hijab? Well, let’s make one thing clear: Haya is as significant for men as it is for women. There could be many reasons why a lot of men these days try to aloof their selves from being known as a person with great Haya. A few common reasons are mentioned below:

1) The society has painted a person with great morals, modesty and shyness as a “sissy”! No, man likes to be called soft, sensitive or weak.

2) Shyness and modesty are often considered to be a trait of an introvert person. It is pictured as a sign of weakness.

3) Who care about Haya these days anyways? Since, we don’t even mind taking our children to watch Bollywood movies with titles such as ‘Kameenay’ and listening to songs with titles such as ‘Gandi baat’.

4) A person with good morals, modesty, chastity and shyness is considered to be ‘boring’ and ‘not a fun company’.

We must understand that Islam is not here to create difficulties for us, but it is a divine gift to humans from their Creator, to help us live our temporary lives in the best possible manner. Also, we must realize that Islam is perfect, its teachings are perfect and so whatever it gives us, we should take it happily. A Muslim without a strong sense of Haya puts his Emaan (faith) into doubt. Because how can a Muslim (the one who submits his will to God) perform an act of sin comfortably, without feeling any guilt, shame or embarrassment? It is the sense of Haya which serves as a self-accountability mechanism for every believing man or woman.

Action Plan:

We need to realize the fact that our thinking affects our attitudes; our attitudes shape up behaviors and our behaviors guide our actions, which in turn forms our personalities over a period of time. If we do not change our thinking regarding the importance of Haya in our lives today, tomorrow we should not expect our children to be highly modest and having a strong sense of Haya in them. Being Muslims; we should strive to become the epitome of Haya, so that others in our society can follow us as role models and improve their lives too. It is highly recommended to take out a notepad and list down the strengths & weaknesses in your personality. Let’s not just plan as always to improve our selves, let’s act for a change. Let’s make 2014, the year of getting our Haya On!

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