How to Practice Ḥayâ‘ with Allah
In explaining the implication of Ḥayâ‘ with AllahSWT, the Holy ProphetSAAW said:
“God is more deserving than are people, of shyness (modesty, hesitancy in self-assertion) .” (Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2794)
“Be shy of Allah (God) Most High as much as is His due. The Companions present said, ‘All praise to Allah, we are shy of Him.’ The Prophet said, ‘That is not the point. Whoever is shy of Allah as much as is His due, he should protect his head and that which it comprises (i. e. mind, mouth, ears), his stomach and that which is adjoining it (i. e. preserve it from unlawful wealth), and protect the private parts (from the unlawful), and he should remember death and that which is to come after it; and whoever desires the Hereafter should abandon the adornments of this world. Whoever fulfills these duties has been shy of Allah as much as is His due’.” (Jami‘ Al-Tirmidhi 2458)
In summary, the lesson from the above ahadith is:
AllahSWT is more deserving of shyness (Al–Ḥayâ‘) than are people.
Al–Ḥayâ‘ is Allah’s right. And to fulfill His rights, one must take the following steps steps in regard to one’s self: Protect his head and “what it contains,” Be careful of what he/she consumes, Protect his private parts from lewdness, Remember death and what comes after death. Furthermore, to achieve success in the Akhira, one must give up the hold which adornments of this world can easily take on us —meaning you can enjoy the world’s charm, use it to your benefit, but do not get attached to it.
For better insight, consider the following explanation from a neuro-scientific point of view:
- PROTECT HIS HEAD:
The head is the crown of the body. It is strengthened with a bony skull to protect the brain, the most important treasure of the body. It is naturally beautified externally by the Creator with ornaments like the ears, the organ of hearing and listening; with eyes, the organ of seeing and observing; with the nose, the organ of smell; with the mouth, the organ of chewing and tasting; with the lips, the organ of beauty and control of speech; with the tongue, the organ of articulation and speech. These ornaments are individualized, created in due proportions to fit into the head, to give the person his beauty and personality:
Who made everything He has created good and He began the creation of man from clay. …Then He fashioned him in due proportion, and breathed into him the Ruḥ (Spirit), and He gave you hearing (ears), sight (eyes), and hearts. Little is the thanks you give! [Surah Al-Sajdah, 32:7-9]
Above all, the head is the organ that protects the brain, and along with its appendages, it acts as the organ of humility and submission —OR as the opposite, as the organ of defiance and arrogance. Without the head, there is no existence. Therefore, one must protect his head.
A believer expresses his utmost degree of submission in the posture of prostration: his head face-down on the ground. Iblis was commanded to prostrate to AdamAS, but he refused out of arrogance, because he looked down upon AdamAS. The angels on the other hand followed the Command and prostrated before Adam. The “Command of Prostration” was to teach AdamAS how to submit his will to AllahSWT, and the progeny of Adam is asked to glorify AllahSWT in Prostration:
So, glorify the praises of your Lord and be of those who prostrate themselves (to Him). [Surah Al-Ḥijr, 15:98]
In prostration, we lower our heads to the ground as a sign of humility, and to glorify and exult AllahSWT in the way he has created us to respond to Him. At the same time, we acknowledge that our origin is nothing but the dirt of the earth, to which we will return. In prostration, the Holy ProphetSAW used to make the following supplication:
Oh Allah! For you I have prostrated, and in You I have faith, unto You I have submitted, and my forehead has prostrated in front of One Who created it, and gave shape to it, and made it perfectly. Then He gave the power of hearing and sight. Blessed is Allah’s Name Who is the Perfect Creator. (Sunan Ibn Majah 1054)
- PROTECT THAT WHICH HIS HEAD COMPRISES (mind, mouth, and ears):
The head is a bony skull, inside of which is protected a very delicate organ called the brain. The brain is the executive center of all actions: voluntary or involuntary. From the neuro-science point of view, the brain is the center of consciousness, and consciousness is the result of continuous stimulation of the brain by the sensory impulses. Different areas of the brain receive sensory electrical impulses, generated by sound, light, smell and touch, coming respectively through our sensory organs like ears, eyes, nose, and skin. Once these impulses reach their respective areas in the brain, they are processed and interpreted at different levels by specialized neurons, to form a perceptible image, an image that mimics the object in the environment, the object that stimulated the sensory organs to begin with.
Mind, on the other hand, is an abstract entity, without any physical dimension. It works with the brain to materialize abstract entities like our feelings, wishes, desires and thoughts. These entities appear spontaneously as AllahSWT wills, without any conscious effort on the part of the person. The Holy Qur’an refers to this phenomenon in the following verse:
But you cannot will, unless Allah wills. Verily, Allah is Ever Knowing, All-Wise. He will admit to His Mercy whom He wills, and as for the wrong-doers He has prepared a painful torment. [Surah Al-Insân, 76:30-31]
AllahSWT has given us a will, which we exercise so as to accept or discard some of our wishes, thoughts and desires when they appear in our mind. Those that we accept, when processed by the frontal cortex of the brain (forebrain), result in a ‘formed will,’ which is then communicated to the motor cortex for execution. And, when we exercise our formed will, we become accountable for our actions. The brain is the site of interpretation, understanding, remembrance, and contemplation. This is why, for the purpose of Ḥayâ‘ or modesty with AllahSWT, one must protect the brain and the mind, because communications (worship and deeds) with AllahSWT heavily depends on a clear mind and a healthy brain.
- PROTECT HIS INSIDE:
AllahSWT has created us pure and clean, and given us Ruḥ and Soul, and admonished us to eat what is permissible, pure and clean:
O mankind! Eat of that which is lawful and good on the earth, and follow not the footsteps of Shaitan. Verily he is to you an open enemy. [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:168]
AllahSWT is Pure and accepts only pure things. If we eat unlawful and impure things, or eat things from forbidden earnings (like usury), it pollutes our physical and mental health. Eating unlawful things will prevent us from getting close to Allah:
O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), and gambling, and Al–Ansab [altars for sacrifice to idols], and Al–Azlam [divination by casting arrows] are an abomination of Shaitan’s handiwork. So, avoid them, in order that you may be successful. [Surah Al-Mâ’idah, 5:90)
The Holy ProphetSAAW said: “Every new born is a believer; it is his parents that make a Jew, a Christian or a Zoroastrian.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2658b)
A believer by nature is pure and clean. It is the parents and/or the environmental factors that make him physically and spiritually unclean. Therefore, one must not only do the right things, but also abstain from the wrong things, for his deeds to be acceptable.
- PROTECT HIS PRIVATE PARTS from unlawful relationships:
Ḥayâ‘ regarding private parts is an ingrained instinct in human nature. AdamAS and HawwaAS became aware of their “shame” after they ate of the “Forbidden Tree.” The Forbidden Tree was the symbol of all prohibitions. The Command “not to eat from the tree or get near it” was a test for them and for their resolve to obey Allah’s Command. They failed in their resolve, because they momentarily forgot the Command, and Iblis took advantage of it:
And indeed! We made a covenant with Adam before, but he forgot, and We found on his part no firm will-power. [Surah Ta-Ha, 20:115]
And when they felt naked, they instantly and instinctively started to cover themselves with tree leaves of Paradise:
So, [Iblis] misled them with deception. Then when they tasted of the tree, that which was hidden from them of their shame [private parts] became manifest to them, and they began to cover themselves with the leaves of Paradise [in order to cover their shame]…. [Surah Al-A’raf, 7:22]
AllahSWT forgave them, and asked them to descend to the earth for AdamAS to start his mission as Khalifah (God’s Vice-Regent on Earth). When AdamAS descended to the earth, he was prescribed raiment (garments) to cover himself and to shun Iblis; the earthly raiment was not the leaves of Paradise, but instead garments made out of the fibers of plant.
We inherited Adam and Hawwa’s Ḥayâ‘ and naturally we like to “cover our shame” with clothes, and keep our awrah covered, away from the sight of others. In addition to this external covering, AllahSWT has bestowed a raiment of piety (Taqwa) to protect our inner purity and our soul:
O children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover yourselves (screen your private parts) and as an adornment; yet the raiment of righteousness (taqwa), that is better…. [Surah Al-A’raf, 7:26]
Unfortunately, today’s society has defined dress and adornment differently. In some societies and cultures, clothing is designed more to expose or emphasize than to hide the body parts. Clothing fashion has become largely a rivalry in lewdness: Faḥisha!
- REMEMBER DEATH, and that which is to come after it; so then, whoever desires the Hereafter, should abandon the adornments of this world:
Death is inevitable, whether we admit it or not, and we cannot run away from it; and even if we try to run away, death will find us wherever we are: be it on earth, or under the ocean, or on a tall tower:
Wheresoever you may be, death will overtake you, even if you are in a fortress built up strong and high…”. [Surah Al-Nisâ’, 4:78]
On the other hand, admitting this august inevitability will remind us about the temporary nature of this ephemeral life. In admitting our transitory life on earth, we move one step closer to the understanding that in death we close the chapter of our short journey on this earth, and we begin an unending eternal journey, the journey of the Hereafter (Al–Akhirah). We also get closer to the understanding that, in death, no wealth/family of this life will accompany us. It is only our deeds —that have already been sent forward and recorded in the Book of Accountability, which will be given to us.
Death is followed by a ‘short stay’ in Barzakh, followed by Revival on the Day of Akhirah (the Resurrection), which will bring us back to the point in time, from where we started our life-journey to begin with. That Point in time is AllahSWT, the Primal Source of all creations.
In our everyday life, we may visit a sick person, or attend a funeral prayer, or visit a grave site. Imperceptibly, more often than not, we pass over these experiences as mundane social or religious rites. But, in Islamic Shari‘ah, a high degree of importance has been placed on these rites because these are reminders for us to think that today it is So and So that has passed away, but tomorrow it could be me, or someone close to me.
If we follow the lesson from these experiences, it will soften the heart, and help us in modifying or redirecting our routine away from the material world, and open the door to a different world, a world of spirituality, a world of spiritual cleansing and purity: a necessary criteria to properly meet AllahSWT, the Point of Final Return.
In brief, these are our duties referred to in the Hadith of the ProphetSAAW; and whoever fulfills these duties, has been shy of Allah, as much as is His due. Someone who has reached this level of modesty is being watched over by the Almighty and His angels, therefore, he/she abstains from any wrong doing, even in the absence of other people.
…To be continued in Part 3