Part 15 – Series on the Shamaa’il (the noble character and sublime conduct) of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)

Chapter on the Hayaa of Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)

In this chapter of Shamaail Tirmizi, some of the mubaarak habits and sublime qualities of Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) are also discussed, as was discussed in the previous chapter. Hence, these Ahaadith could have been included in the previous chapter, but on account of the extreme importance and great significance which is shown to the topic of hayaa, Imaam Tirmizi has dedicated a separate chapter to these Ahaadith.

Hayaa is generally translated as modesty or shame. However, it is not confined to these two qualities, but refers to an inner quality that motivates one to fulfil the rights he owes to the Creator and the creation at all times. This quality at times displays itself in the form of saving oneself from sin, showing good character in words or actions, expressing endurance in the face of trying situations, or dealing with the creation with nobility and respect despite them conducting ignorantly towards you.

It is reported in the hadith that once Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) had seen a person advising someone to adopt moderation in hayaa, and not adopt a high level of hayaa. The person perhaps felt that adopting a high level of hayaa in society could cause one to incur some loss. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) immediately corrected the person and stopped him from advising the next person in such a manner saying, “Hayaa in its entirety is beneficial and good.”

The Importance of Hayaa in Deen

Hayaa (modesty, respect and shame) plays a vital role in one’s deeni and worldly life, especially when dealing with the Creator and the creation. In one Hadith, Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) has said, “Imaan has more than seventy branches (according to some narrations, seventy seven branches), of which the most important branch is the recitation of ‘Laa ilaaha illallaah’, and the least is to remove some obstacle (stone, wood, thorn, etc.) from the path; and hayaa also is a special requisite of Imaan.”

Hazrat Sheikh Moulana Muhammed Zakariyya (rahimahullah) has mentioned:

“Modesty has been specially mentioned (i.e. in the above Hadith) because it serves as a safeguard against many sins such as adultery, theft, vulgar speech, nakedness, abusive language, etc. Similarly, the fear of bad reputation urges one to carry out virtuous actions. In fact, fear of getting a bad name in this life as well as the next motivates a man towards all good deeds, including salaah, haj, zakaah, etc. and to remain obedient to Allah Ta‘ala in all aspects.

“Thus, there is the well-known proverb, “Be shameless and do whatever you like.” There is also one hadith to this effect, “When you lose your hayaa (modesty, respect and shame), then do as you please.” The fact is that we abstain from sins for fear of disgrace and shame. A sense of modesty and shame makes one think, “If I do not offer salaah, I will face disgrace in the Hereafter,” but if one has lost all sense of shame, he will say, “What does it matter if others call me low?” (Fazaa’il-e-A’maal pg. 160)

Ahaadith in regard to the Importance of Hayaa

The importance of hayaa in deen can never be overemphasized. There are many Ahaadith reported in regard to the importance of hayaa. Some of these Ahaadith are:

Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) has declared in his Mubaarak Hadith, “Imaan and hayaa are companions. When one leaves, the other follows.” (Bayhaqi #7331)

Similarly, in another Hadith, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “Every religion has a distinguishing characteristic, and the distinguishing characteristic of Islam is hayaa.” (Muwatta Imaam Maalik #3359)

Hazrat Abdullah bin Mas‘ood (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) reports that on one occasion, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) addressed the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) and said, “Adopt hayaa before Allah, as hayaa ought to be adopted.” The Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) replied, “O Rasul of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)! Alhamdulillah, we do have hayaa before Allah Ta‘ala.” Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) responded, “Adopting hayaa before Allah, as hayaa ought to be adopted, is not what you understand it to be. Rather, adopting hayaa before Allah, as hayaa ought to be adopted, is for you to safeguard your head and all that it includes (i.e. you safeguard all the faculties of your head from disobeying Allah Ta‘ala), and your belly and all that it encompasses (e.g. you should fulfil the command of Allah Ta‘ala and consume halaal and refrain from haraam), and (at all times) you should remember death and the disintegration of the body (in the grave as this will keep you on the straight path and safeguard you from falling into sins), and whoever intends acquiring the Aakhirah, he should shun the adornment of the world. The one who holds firmly to these qualities has adopted hayaa before Allah Ta‘ala as hayaa ought to be adopted.” (Sunan Tirmizi #2458)

Every sublime quality which Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) possessed reached the pinnacle of excellence and perfection

It should be borne in mind that every sublime quality which Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) possessed reached the pinnacle of excellence and perfection. Whichever department of the mubaarak life of Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) is discussed, there are no words that can fully describe and do justice in explaining the excellence and greatness of his blessed qualities. There are not merely a few incidents that can be related in each chapter, but in fact, there are countless incidents reported which bear testimony to the high, esteemed being of Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and his exemplary standard of character which he displayed before the Creator and the creation.

One such example reported in the Hadith of Hazrat ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhuma) is that Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), on account of his exceeding hayaa (modesty and respect), never looked continuously at anyone in the eye when addressing him. Imaam Tirmizi (rahimahullah) has also mentioned two such Ahaadith in this chapter (of hayaa) by way of illustration.

The ‘Ulamaa have written that there are various types of hayaa.

The first type of hayaa is referred to as hayaa in displaying nobility and showing kindness to the creation despite one undergoing inconvenience.

An example of this type of hayaa can be found in the mubaarak conduct of Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) at the waleemah of Hazrat Zainab (radhiyallahu ‘anha). On that occasion, after most of the guests had partaken of meals and left, a few individuals remained seated in the home of Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and were engaged in conversation. Their remaining in conversation and not leaving the home caused Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) to feel uncomfortable, as he wished to remain in seclusion with his respected family. However, these few individuals did not realize that through them remaining engaged in conversation, they were causing inconvenience to Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam).

During that time, Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) would leave the home, and after a short while, he would return to see whether they had left. After some while, they realized that Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was waiting for them to leave and thus they left the home.

Nevertheless, on account of his great level of hayaa (his magnanimous nature in displaying nobility and showing kindness to the creation), Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) did not ask them to leave. However, on this occasion, Allah Ta‘ala revealed verses of the Qur’aan Majeed, teaching the ummah the etiquettes which they need to adopt when dealing with Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), in order that they do not cause him inconvenience. These verses are mentioned in the last portion of Surah Ahzaab.

The second type of hayaa is where the lover is overcome by a great sense of modesty, love and respect before the beloved, to the extent that even speaking in his presence becomes difficult. Many examples of this can be seen in the books of Hadith where the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) conducted with the highest levels of hayaa and respect before the Master (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam).

The third type of hayaa is where the servant expresses a level of modesty in his Ibaadah and acts of worship. At the time where the servant presents himself before the Creator in worship, he feels a deep sense of inability in him being able to fulfil the rights he owes to his Creator in his Ibaadah. This feeling thereafter increases to the extent where at no point does the servant feel that he has fulfilled the rights of Ibaadah which he owes to Allah Ta‘ala. He is then overcome by hayaa (a deep feeling of shame within himself).

In the Qur’aan Majeed, the example of the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) has been explained, where despite them worshipping Allah Ta‘ala throughout the night, they would not regard their Ibaadah to be worthy of being presented before Allah Ta‘ala and thus they would seek forgiveness at the time of Tahajjud.

The fourth type of hayaa is where one experiences modesty within one’s soul. An example of this type is where one commences some action with zeal and enthusiasm, but thereafter perceives the deficiency in the action he has carried out. This causes one to feel ashamed of oneself and he begins to feel to himself, “I am unable to complete such a small action without deficiency.” This type of hayaa is considered to be the highest form of hayaa, on account of one regarding himself as unworthy and his actions as incomplete at all times. The one who has this level of hayaa and thinks nothing of himself and his actions will surely express a greater level of hayaa when dealing with others. (Some of this explanation regarding the different types of hayaa has been extracted from Khasaa’il-e-Nabawi of Hazrat Sheikh Moulana Muhammed Zakariyya (rahimahullah)).

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