Allah, the Almighty, said:

{Does he not know that Allah sees?} [al-‘Alaq 96:14]

قَالَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: "أَلَمْ يَعْلَم بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ يَرَىٰ"

Ḥayâ’ is one of the first steps on the stairway for the elite. It arises from glorification that rests on a foundation of love.
It is of three levels:

الْحَيَاءُ مِنْ أَوَّلِ مَدَارِجِ أَهْلِ الْخُصُوصِ، يَتَوَلَّدُ مِنْ تَعْظِيمٍ مَنُوطٍ بِوُدٍّ. وَهُوَ عَلَى ثَلَاثِ دَرَجَاتٍ:

The first level is a type of ḥayâ’ that results from the servant’s realization of the Lord’s beholding of him/her. This entices him/her to endure the struggle, causes him/her to see the ugliness of his/her crimes, and keeps him/her from complaining.

الدَّرَجَةُ الْأُولَى حَيَاءٌ يَتَوَلَّدُ مِنْ عِلْمِ الْعَبْدِ بِنَظَرِ الْحَقِّ إِلَيْهِ، فَيَجْذِبُهُ إِلَى تَحَمُّلِ هَذِهِ الْمُجَاهَدَةِ، وَيَحْمِلُهُ عَلَى اسْتِقْبَاحِ الْجِنَايَةِ، وَيُسْكِتُهُ عَنِ الشَّكْوَى.

The second level is ḥayâ’ that results from beholding the flags of nearness, thus inviting one to ride the mount of love, connecting him/her through the breeze of uns (comforting intimacy with Allah), and making him/her resent mixing with the creations.302

الدَّرَجَةُ الثَّانِيَةُ حَيَاءٌ يَتَوَلَّدُ مِنَ النَّظَرِ فِي عَلَمِ الْقُرْبِ، فَيَدْعُوهُ إِلَى رُكُوبِ الْمَحَبَّةِ، وَيَرْبُطُهُ بِرُوحِ الْأُنْسِ، وَيُكَرِّهُ إِلَيْهِ مُلَابَسَةَ الْخَلْقِ.

The third level is ḥayâ’ that arises from attending the Divine presence; a level that is mixed with awe, void of tafriqah (dispersion),303 and with no finite end.304

الدَّرَجَةُ الثَّالِثَةُ حَيَاءٌ يَتَوَلَّدُ مِنْ شُهُودِ الْحَضْرَةِ، وَهِيَ الَّتِي تَشُوبُهَا هَيْبَةٌ وَلَا تُقَارِنُهَا تَفْرِقَةٌ وَلَا يُوقَفُ لَهَا عَلَى غَايَةٍ.

301 Ḥayâ’ is firstly about your shyness from Allah to be seen by Him in a position or state He disapproves. At-Tirmidhi reported from ‘Abdullâh ibn Mas‘ood that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

"اسْتَحْيُوا مِنَ اللَّهِ حَقَّ الْحَيَاءِ."

“Have ḥayâ’ for Allah as is His due.”
[He said:] “We said:
" إِنَّا لَنَسْتَحْيِي وَالْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ"

‘We have ḥayâ’, and all praise is due to Allah.’”
He said:
”لَيْسَ ذَاكَ وَلَكِنَّ الاِسْتِحْيَاءَ مِنَ اللَّهِ حَقَّ الْحَيَاءِ أَنْ تَحْفَظَ" الرَّأْسَ وَمَا وَعَى وَتَحْفَظَ الْبَطْنَ وَمَا حَوَى وَتَتَذَكَّرَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْبِلَى وَمَنْ أَرَادَ الآخِرَةَ تَرَكَ زِينَةَ الدُّنْيَا فَمَنْ فَعَلَ ذَلِكَ فَقَدِ اسْتَحْيَا مِنَ اللَّهِ حَقَّ الْحَيَاءِ“

“Not that, but having the ḥayâ’ for Allah which He is due is to protect the head and what it contains and the guts and what they hold, and to remember death and the trials, and whoever intends the hereafter, he leaves the adornments of the world. So whoever does that, then he has indeed fulfilled ḥayâ’, meaning the ḥayâ’ which Allah is due.” (at-Tirmidhi, who graded it ghareeb)
302 Except mixing that is for Allah and through Him.
303 Noticing the farq (variances, differences, distinctions, multiplicity) in your circumstances and Allah’s wants of you, while acknowledging the unity of the Origin, Maker, Owner, and Controller, and enjoying your jam‘ (togetherness) with Him, will keep you away from tafriqah (dispersion) of thoughts and fragmentation of resolve.
304 When you reach Him, you reach infinity; it is bliss without end, without cessation, constantly increasing, and forever gratifying.

Manâzil as-Sâirin


Shaykhul-Islam Abu Isma‘il Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Ansari al-Harawi (396-481H)

Translation and Footnotes


Hatem al-Haj