Sālim bin ‘Abdillāh narrated from his father, ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar (radiyallāhu ‘anhumā), who said: “Once Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) passed by an Ansārī man who was admonishing his brother for being too modest and shy. On that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said:
دَعْهُ فَإِنَّ الْحَيَاءَ مِنَ الإِيمَانِ
“Leave him, for indeed modesty and shyness is a part of faith.” (Bukhari no. 24, Kitāb al-Imān)
Al-Hayā’ (having a sense of shame, and being modest and shy) is from the seventy-six, or sixty and odd, or seventy and odd branches of Imān. Al-Hayā’ is from the good character of the heart and from the actions of the heart. Shame, shyness and modesty prevent a person from that which is unbefitting and wrong. The one whom Allah has blessed and nourished with Hayā’ is prevented from vile behaviour and evil conduct― and he is distinguished with fine attributes and feels shy to commit indiscretions against His Lord. Al-Hayā’, therefore, is good and its absence is a deficiency and shortcoming. The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
إِنَّ مِمَّا أَدْرَكَ النَّاسُ مِنْ كَلاَمِ النُّبُوَّةِ الأُولَى إِذَا لَمْ تَسْتَحِي فَاصْنَعْ مَا شِئْتَ
“From the sayings of the early Prophets which has reached the people is: ‘If you have no sense of shame or modesty, then do as you please!'” (Bukhāri, 3483 and 6120).
This proves that the one who loses his sense of shame and modesty will end up doing whatever he wants of evil, lowly, shameless and reprehensible deeds. So the narration shows that actions are from Imān because of the fact that Al-Hayā’ is an action of the heart, and it is a branch from the branches of Imān. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) stated:
الإِيمَانُ بِضْعٌ وَسِتُّونَ شُعْبَةً، وَالْحَيَاءُ شُعْبَةٌ مِنَ الإِيمَانِ
“Imān is sixty and odd branches―and having a sense of shame and modesty (Al-Hayā’) is from Imān.” (Bukhāri, no. 9)
So one who has little shame and little modesty also has little Imān―and the one who has no shame whatsoever, then his (or her) Imān is hugely deficient.
So this is what is meant by Al-Hayā’, and it prevents one from evil and it beauties the deeds and the fine character. So this is the praiseworthy Hayā’. As for that shyness that stops a person from seeking out what is good and from seeking knowledge, then that is not referred to as Hayā’―rather it is referred to as Al-Khajal in Arabic, which means to be unjustifiably embarrassed and timid―and that is a shortcoming. Such a person may miss out on learning or asking a reasonable question to a person of knowledge and thus deprive themselves of goodness. So, do not be shy to the point that you deprive yourself of goodness.
The narration states:
عَنْ سَالِمِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم مَرَّ عَلَى رَجُلٍ مِنَ الأَنْصَارِ وَهُوَ يَعِظُ أَخَاهُ فِي الْحَيَاءِ
Sālim bin ‘Abdillāh narrated from his father, ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar (radiyallāhu ‘anhumā), who said: “Once Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) passed by an Ansārī (man) who was admonishing his brother for being too modest and shy...“ Meaning that he was blaming him due to his shyness. So the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Leave him alone for indeed shyness is from Imān.” So this proves that Al-Hayā’ is a branch of Imān and that it is an action of the heart, and it is evidence that the actions of the heart enter into [the definition of] Imān.
Advice on how to attain Al-Hayā’: Be humble, don’t put yourself forward, don’t seek position, fame or notoriety―dress and behave modestly (males and females), don’t look down upon others, help the weak, aid the oppressed, don’t show-off, avoid the desire to be the centre of conversations and attention―don’t desire to have the most followers on social media, and don’t put out images of yourself for the world to see―don’t seek to embarrass and shame others, and especially the people of Sunnah, rather, learn to love them and aid them―and if you are unknown, praise Allah, and thank Him! The Messenger (ﷺ) said: “There is not a person who humbles himself for Allah except that Allah raises him.” (Muslim, no. 2588)
(Based on and adapted from Sharh Kitāb Al-Imān min Sahīh Al-Bukhāri of Ash-Shaikh Al-‘Allāmah Sālih Al-Fawzān, pp. 84-85)