The following is from a lecture by Imam Safi Khan entitled, “Allah is Al-Hayyiy”.
Strengthening our Relationship with Allah
Allah has told us in the Qur’an, “إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ”: “Surely, Allah will not change the state, or the condition, of a people unless and until they change that which is in themselves” (Surah Ra’d, Ayah 11). Therefore, unless the Muslims change their way according to what Allah likes, Allah will not relieve them of the trials and troubles that they are going through.
The best place for us to begin to think of changing ourselves and in our lives is to get to know Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). As we get to know Allah, we can determine our relationship with Him. Is it positive, or is it negative? Is it a relationship of devotion or one of “take it, or leave it”? Is the relationship one of commitment, or is it one of those things that “when I feel good, I’m in with Allah, and when I don’t feel good, I’m in on my own”?
If we know Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), we will begin to respond in a different way in terms of our relationship with Him. Of course, if our relationship with Allah is strong and one of commitment, devotion, and zero tolerance when it comes to making excuses or justifying the way that we are living right now, then our situation will change very quickly by Allah’s will.
There is no place to know Allah better than through His Names and Attributes. Allah tells us in the Qur’an, “وَلِلَّهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا”: “Allah has many beautiful names, so call upon Him by using these names”. There is the famous Hadith of the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) wherein he said, “Surely Allah has ninety-nine names: one hundred minus one. Whoever counts them shall enter Paradise.” Counting here doesn’t mean to enumerate them and to just say 1,2,3,4, all the way up to 99. Rather, counting in this case means to know those names and meanings, to memorize them, and to practice them in our lives.
As we begin to practice the names of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) in our lives, we will become more and more beloved to Allah and we will begin to see the mercy of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) evermore. There are many names of Allah; much more than 99. There are so many names that we don’t even know how many and only Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) knows how many names He has. In our relationship with Allah, let us just take one name of Allah and see how it influences our life, or how it should influence our lives and what type of impact it should have in our lives.
Ar-Rasul (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) says in a Hadith, “Allah is very Modest, Shy, and is one who loves to cover and conceal. He is One that loves this quality of concealment and of modesty, of shyness.” Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), as Rasulullah (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) told us in another Hadith, “Allah is very Shy, and is Shy in relationship to His Servant. When he or she extends his/her hands in Du’a, Allah is Shy to return them without an answer or giving them nothing back in return. Of course, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is Shy to refuse to answer your Du’a. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is very Modest when it comes to sinning; when human beings sin, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) does not like that, and therefore, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) provides a lot of opportunity for us to seek forgiveness from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). It’s part of the Love of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) for us.
For us as Muslims, we have to emulate Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) so if Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is Shy and Modest, so we ourselves as believers, those who have submitted themselves to Allah, must also be shy. Our Hayaa’, our shyness, is, of course, different from Allah’s Shyness because we are humans while Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is our creator and as Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) says, “لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيُْ”: “There is nothing like Allah (Surah Shura, Ayah 11)). However, when we’re shy as Muslims are supposed to be, emulating and following the lead Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), it means for us to be shy to refuse to do the work of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). If Allah has asked us to do something, we must go ahead and do it, and we must feel shy if we refuse to do it. We must feel that something is wrong and a sense of shame. We should feel shy to refuse Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), to do what we’re supposed to do.
If Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has told us not to do a particular thing, we should stay away from that particular thing, and if we begin to approach that thing, we should shy away from that particular sin. This is the idea of us having Hayaa’ as believers.
Hayaa’ is so important for us, as Muslims, that it means the very life our faith. As a matter of fact, many scholars in the past used to say very clearly, “If a person does not have Hayaa’, they’re not alive”. If a person does not have shyness or this sense of shame of recoiling and shrinking from anything that is bad and displeasing to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), that that person is not alive; they are essentially dead and their hearts are dead. If a person is alive, they have a sense of Hayaa’. That means that it bothers them to know to no end if they do something that looks strange and weird in front of people (something bad, that is, not something good), and they know that people are not going to be happy about it.
So if they curse, and they know that cursing is not right, and they still go ahead and curse: if they Hayaa’, first of all, they won’t do it. And if they happen to slip, then they’re going to hit themselves constantly. They’re going to be so ashamed and it’s going to bother them to such a degree that they’re going to be thinking about it over and over, telling themselves that “I shouldn’t have done it”. You see, they have that Nafsal Lawwamah. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) tells us in the Qur’an as He swears, “وَلَا أُقْسِمُ بِالنَّفْسِ اللَّوَّامَةِ”: “And nay, but I swear with the self-reproaching soul.” This is the state of the soul that all of us can have, in which our soul gets upset, irritated, and bothered when we do something wrong. It’ll constantly keep on telling us, “I shouldn’t have done it. That was wrong. I shouldn’t have done it.”
That feeling only comes when you have Hayaa’. When you have Hayaa’, your soul begins to eat at you. You curse someone and you know you weren’t supposed to, then you keep on telling yourself, “I knew I shouldn’t have done it.” If you backbite, again knowing that you shouldn’t have done it (if your heart is alive, that is), if you go on the Internet and you know that you’re not supposed to be going on certain websites or that you know that you shouldn’t be putting your profile on MySpace.com: if your heart is alive, and have Hayaa’, you’re going to eat away at yourself. Your heart is going to bother you. Your soul is going to bother you. The Nafsul Lawwamah is going to keep on hitting you that, “I shouldn’t have done it. That was wrong. I should have Hayaa’ and I should be shy before Allah because Allah is watching me. Allah is noticing every little thing that I’m doing, so I should be watching every little thing I’m doing. I cannot escape Allah. I’m under Allah’s watch: ‘إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيبًا”: “Surely Allah is Ever-Watchful and is very Vigilant” (Surah Nisa, Ayah 1). He can see anything that you are doing and everything that you are doing at any moment in time. “اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّومُ”: “Allah, the One that nobody deserves to be worshipped but Him, and the One that is Ever-Alive” (Surah Aali Imran, Ayah 1). He doesn’t ever go to sleep, so no matter when you are doing something, Allah knows. The believer is shy and does not want to disappoint Allah. He knows that Allah is watching, so he/she has a shame of doing the wrong thing.
For those that are going to put their hand in the donation box to steal some money: if they have Hayaa’ and their heart is still alive, then they’re not going to be able to put their hands in there and steal some money.. If they have Hayaa’, they will not call up another brother/sister, and talk to that brother/sister, because they know they’re not supposed to since they don’t have a Wali’. If that brother or sister is not married, they know they will not meet in the back of the building, in the parking lot, or in the park, all alone without a Mahram or Wali’, that is if they have Hayaa’. If they don’t have Hayaa’, forget about Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), and their hearts are dead, they will go ahead and have a girlfriend/boyfriend and even if the girl has Hijab, they’ll keep on talking to each other without a Wali’..
Hayaa’ is what separates us from animals. You see, animals go ahead and do stuff; they don’t have a sense of shame, of what’s right and what’s wrong. They just do whatever they want to do and follow their desires and their lusts. But we are humans, and as humans, we have Hayaa’. We’re supposed to, at least.
Hayaa’ is one thing that you learn in an Islamic environment, in an Islamic school. You don’t learn that if the school is not Islamic. And by the way, Hayaa’ is what many refer to today in the West as your moral conscience. What they’re really talking about is Hayaa’. You can’t have a moral conscience, you can’t have Hayaa’, unless you know where it’s coming from and how to do it. You can only do it if you know the names of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).
There’s a certain way we’re supposed to behave with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), and a certain way that we’re supposed to be shy before Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). One time, the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) came to the Sahabah and he’s telling them, “Have the Hayaa’ from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) in the proper manner that you’re supposed to have Hayaa’.” So the Sahabah said to Rasulullah, “Oh Messenger of Allah, we are shy in front of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), and Alhamdulillah, all praise be to Allah, that He gave us that quality to be shy in front of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).” Rasulullah (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) tells them, “That’s not what I mean. That’s not what is meant by having the true Hayaa’ from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). The right way to be modest from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is…” and Rasulullah mentions four things:
1. To be mindful of what is in your head, and what you understand. In other words, all the thoughts in your head should be thoughts that are pleasing to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). There should not be any thoughts like, “Well, let me choose another way outside of the Qur’an and Sunnah”. Your head should not have anything such as, “Well, this person is this and that person is that” and to have bad thoughts about another person, or to try to hurt someone, or to try to think negatively, or to always be pessimistic. Your mind should not have those types of thoughts in them. Your mind should not be, “Nobody’s watching, so let me go onto MySpace.com. Nobody is watching, so let me take a dollar out of the donation box. I might as well go to a website that I’m not supposed to if my parents were watching. Nobody’s listening in, so let me turn on the music and let me listen to my favorite group”. Your head should not have those thoughts.
2. Your stomach and the other parts of your body, like your hands, your legs, your hearts your eyes, and so on: also watch what they do. In other words, they should Hayaa’ and not to do anything that’s displeasing to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).
3. You should remember death.
4. You should also remember the trials that will come after death.
That is having Hayaa’, the real Hayaa’: Watch what your mind has in it, watch your heart and the rest of the body has and is doing, think about death, and what will come after it. He (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) says after this, “Whoever wants to make it successfully to the Hereafter, should leave pleasures of this world, the glitter and glamour of this world. Whoever does this, they are the ones who have the real Hayaa’ from Allah. They are the ones that are really shy in their relationship with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).
Hayaa’ is a quality that we must have in our lives. These days, you tell many people not to go on MySpace.com, don’t listen to music, not to talk to this certain person because they don’t have a Wali’ there. I don’t care if it’s on a bench in the parking lot, or wherever, you’re not supposed to talk to another brother/sister: that is the rule of Islam. But if you go ahead and do it anyway, that means you do not have Hayaa’. If a brother goes ahead and looks at a sister, knowing that he’s not supposed to look at a sister unless it’s for marriage and there’s a Wali’, that means that person does not have Hayaa’. Each of us knows that we’re not supposed to curse, use bad words, or any foul language, but when we get upset, we still use it and justify it by saying, “Well I had to get it off my chest” or “You know, I had to give him a piece of my mind.” Well, you just missed out on your Hayaa’.
A lot of us ask the question, “Is it Haraam to watch television? Is the internet Haraam?” But the question is, “What are you doing with that television or what are you doing on that Internet?” If you’re doing Haraam stuff, then yes, it is Haraam. If you’re watching television that will take your Hayaa’ away, then it’s Haraam. If you’re on the Internet and doing stuff that will weaken your Hayaa’, then it’s Haraam. If you’re on the television to watch a show, or on the Internet, to increase your Iman and Hayaa, then it’s ok. But most of us know that we don’t go on the internet or watch TV to increase our Hayaa’. Most of the programs that are there destroy our Hayaa’. That why you have brothers and sisters who seem to be practicing, but they have boyfriends and girlfriends, or they’re listening to music or rap artists that have nothing to do with Islam, or sisters who are wearing the Niqaab and they’re sitting with brothers, talking to them while they know they are not supposed to. Why? Because the Hayaa’ is missing. Because they forgot that Allah is watching.
Brothers and sisters, if we want to change our situation, we got to know Allah. We took just one name of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and you can see its tremendous impact on our lives, if we reflect on it on our lives. So critical is this Hayaa’, this sense of shyness, that if we see that a sister sees that a brother wants to talk to her and they’re not married or related by blood, then they shouldn’t be talking to each other and if the sister lets herself get into that situation, that means she’s not being shy of Allah and is not maintaining her shyness. If the brother, doing the same thing and talking to a sister that he shouldn’t be talking to, whether on the phone, Internet, back parking lot, restaurant, or wherever, that means that brother does not have Hayaa’ and is not being shy of Allah.
A lot of us are careful on how we appear in front of others. You know that we spend a lot of time in front of the mirror, making sure everything is in place; we wear clean clothes, and we’re very careful on the way that we talk in front of other human beings. We’re shy in front of other human beings and we don’t want anybody to know our faults and don’t want to be exposed. How about Allah? What happened to Allah? “َمَا قَدَرُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِ”: “They didn’t care or value Allah the way that they were supposed to” (Surah An’aam, Ayah 91).
Hayaa’ is so critical that it goes hand in hand with our Iman. Ar-Rasul (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) says in a Hadith, “Iman and Hayaa’ go hand in hand; they go together”. In other words, if you don’t have Iman, you don’t have Hayaa’. If you don’t have Hayaa’, then you don’t have Iman. That’s how closely linked they are. “If one of them is taken away, then the other is taken away”. So if you lose your Iman, you’re going to lose your Hayaa’. If you lose your Hayaa’, you’re going to lose your Iman. That’s how important this is. It’s not something to be taken lightly. It’s not something like, “Oh, it’s recommended, it’s something Mustahab and we’ll do it if we can and if we can’t, we can’t”. No; if you want our situation and condition to change as an Ummah, we have got to go back to Allah, and we have to follow Allah the way that he wants us to be. That’s when our situation will change, if Allah wills it to be.
This is why Rasulullah (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) says, “Hayaa’ comes from Iman”. It’s part of Iman. So if you see someone who does not have hayaa’, that means that their iman is deficient. I don’t care how much you know about the Aqeedah of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah; if you’re not practicing and you don’t have Hayaa’, then your Iman is deficient. A lot of people say that we have to have the right ‘aqeedah – okay fine, you have to have the right Aqeedah. But part of that Aqeedah is to believe in the names and attributes of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala); Tawheed al-asmaa’ was-sifaat. So if you believe in the names of attributes of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), one of His names is Al-Hayyiy: The One who is greatly Modest and Shy. Therefore, that’s what we have to practice in our lives. So if you lie to someone, that means that you’re not being shy of Allah and could care less if Allah is watching or not. If you cheat another brother and you’re selling him a car, knowing that it has problems, you’re not being shy of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). You could care less if Allah is watching or not. If your parents ask you not to do something, and when they’re gone or they’re not watching, and you go ahead and do it, then you don’t care about what Allah thinks and you’re not being shy of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). You don’t have Hayaa’, and if you don’t have Hayaa’, then you don’t have Iman.
I’m sure that many of you know the famous Hadith wherin Ar-Rasul (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) defines Iman and says that, “Iman has seventy-some or sixty-some branches. The most prestigious of all those branches is the statement of La Ilaha IllAllah, and the slightest and least of it is to remove something harmful from peoples’ paths and the road”.
He comes at the end of the Hadith and what does he say? “…and Hayaa’ is a branch of Iman.” Why did he mention Hayaa’ all by itself? Out of the seventy-some branches of Iman, he mentions this particular one at the end. It’s because Hayaa’ is the basis for all of those other things. If you have Hayaa’, all those seventy other things are going to fall into place because you want to serve Allah as if you see Him. So if you are aware of Allah, you want to make sure that everything is right because Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is watching and it’s all for him. This is why we say Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahman, In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful, because everything we do and say is for Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) (or it’s supposed to be anyway). That’s why we say, “إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ”: “You are the only One we worship” (Surah Al-Fatiha, Ayah 4); we don’t worship ourselves. We don’t worship our desires: we worship you, Oh Allah. So Hayaa’ is the basis for all of the things that we do in Islam. This is why that’s it’s so critical because it has a relationship to whether we’re going it make it to Paradise or not.
Ar-Rasul (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) says, “Hayaa’ is part of Iman, and Iman will land you in Paradise. Lewdness, or indecency (doing shameless things), comes from the hardness of the heart (Al-Jafaa’)”. When your heart becomes hard, you become shameless and you begin to do stuff that is very shameful, and you could care less if other people are watching or not or if Allah is watching or not. You could care less about yourself and how you look in front of other people. That’s a person without Hayaa’, with a heart that’s become very hard, and very lewd. The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) continues the Hadith, “Lewdness is from Al-Jafaa’ (hardness of the heart), and Al-Jafaa’ will land you in the Hell-Fire”.
In another Hadith, Ar-Rasul (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) says, “Hayaa’ will bring nothing but good in your life.” In another Hadith, the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) says, “Whenever lewdness is in anything, it disgraces and blemishes it. It makes it look bad. And whenever anything has hayaa’, it beautifies, embellishes, and adorns it. It makes it look nice.” So if you have Hayaa’ in all of your affairs, you’re going to look good not only in front of Allah, but in front of other people too.
As a matter of fact, believe it or not, this is the hallmark quality of the believer. As Muslims, one of our hallmark qualities is that we have Hayaa’. Ar-Rasul (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) says, “Every way of life, every religion, has a special characteristic. And the special characteristic, the special quality, and the hallmark quality of the believer in Islam, is Hayaa’.” Hayaa’. Hayaa’.
Many of us today, when we tell each other, “Sister, you’re not supposed to be talking to that brother because there was no Wali’” or “Brother, you’re not supposed to be looking at that sister walking across the parking lot because you’re supposed to keep your gaze away” or “Sister, you’re not supposed to put your profile on MySpace.com without Hijaab so everybody else, Muslim or Non-Muslim, can look at your profile”, and they still come back and goes ahead and does it anyway, that means that they don’t have Hayaa’, don’t care, and will sin openly. You know what the danger of that is? If you’re told what is the right thing and you still do the wrong thing, and you could care less: you’re told not to curse, but you do it anyways. You’re told not to backbite, but you do it anyways. You’re told not to have a boyfriend/girlfriend, but you still have it and you think that your parents are not watching but Allah is watching and the angels are recording and your body will bear witness against you on the Day of Judgment: you’re told all of that but you still don’t care? That means…that you don’t have any Hayaa’. The danger of that is that Allah may never forgive you and may not accept your Tawbah. This is for those who commit their sins openly and don’t care even if you tell them and just tell you, “Leave me alone and let me lead my own life”. If that’s your attitude and you could care less if Allah is watching or not, then your repentance may not be accepted.
Rasulullah (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam), “My entire nation is apt to be forgiven, except those people who are Mujaa7ideen, those people who commit sins openly. And included in those people who commit sins openly despite the fact they’re told not to, are those people such as a man, who will do something at night and then Allah concealed their sin, but they will get up in the morning and they tell someone, ‘You know, last night, I did such-and-such and such-and-such’. Allah had already concealed their sin, but they get up in the morning and they expose themselves to the people”. These are the people that know they are not supposed to do certain things, but in the morning, they brag about the fact that, “You know, I talked to this sister or I talked to that brother. You know, I smoked last night and my parents didn’t know. You know, last night I went on such-and-such website, and you should go on it also. You know, we were totally shot last night. You know, I missed my Fajr”. There are people that brag like that. “…Those are the people that Allah will not forgive.”
How can you increase your Hayaa’? Very simple: just remember ABC:
1. Be aware of Allah’s presence at all times. Know that He watches every little thing that you do and say, so be aware.
2. Think about the blessings that Allah has blessed you with. Respond to Allah with these blessings in a way that He will be happy with you, and don’t use them in a way that will make Him displeased with you.
You see, Allah has blessed you with eyes so you don’t want to use your eyes to look at the opposite gender or to look on the Internet at things that you’re not supposed to.
Allah has blessed you with hands, so you don’t want to use them to hit someone, to steal something, or to punch a code online to go on a certain website.
Allah has blessed you with feet, so you don’t want to go to the mall or to the store when you know you’re supposed to be at the Masjid. You think that your parents are not watching and you may tell others that you’re just going to the store, but you know that you’re going there to meet some guys. You know that you’re going there to check out the opposite gender.
Who are you fooling? No one but yourself.
3. Good company: Be around those people who practice Hayaa’ and are ashamed to do those things that Allah would be unhappy with. In a Hadith of Rasulullah (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam), “Each person is affected by the way of the people that they keep company with. So each one of you should choose your friend carefully.