Names of Allah Series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX | Part XX | Part XXI | Part XXII | Part XXIII | Part XXIV | Part XXV | Part XXVI | Part XXVII | Part XXVIII | Part XXIX | Part XXX
When was the last time you made an intense, heartfelt du`a’ (supplication) to Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala (exalted is He)? A du`a’ that was so full of conviction—a du`a’ that a drowning man would make as he struggles to keep afloat, knowing that no one can help him but God. A du`a’ that made you feel vulnerable because you are laying everything bare, and because you are allowing yourself to recognize that you are helpless without Allah (swt). But also, a du`a’ that is coupled with absolute trust that Allah (swt) does not ever disappoint.
When was the last time?
Allah is al-Hayyiy. This Name is not in the Qur’an, but it is found in the sayings of the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him). In the most famous example from the sunnah (traditions of the Prophet), Salman al-Farsi narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said:
“Verily your Lord is Generous (Kareem) and Hayyiy. If His servant raises his hands to Him (in supplication) He becomes shy to return them empty,” (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi).
Hayyiy is a little hard to translate into English. The best I have found is that it is the opposite of insolence and impertinence (الاستحياء الذي [هو] ضِدُّ الوقاحة). Hayaa is usually translated as shyness, but shyness can sometimes also denote timidity, and Allah (swt) is the Most Majestic. So I will use the term “demure” and “shy” interchangeably to describe Allah (swt), bearing in mind that this shyness comes from a place of honor, not meekness. I hope that from the examples, we can come to understand Allah’s Name al-Hayyiy (swt).
Many cultures have this tradition but in some it is more pronounced than others; it is considered rude to turn someone away. If someone merely compliments, for example, something you are wearing, you would feel obliged to give it to them. If you have a guest over at your house, you honor them by giving them food and hospitality. If their child asks you for something sweet, and you have strict rules in your house about food, then you will make something that satisfies that child but is also healthy. You would never turn someone away, not out of fear, but because of this characteristic. And the Prophet ﷺ tells us that Allah (swt) is so generous and demure, that when you ask Him something, He will never return your hands to you empty.
Imagine that Allah (swt) is shy to say no to you—when you ask Him, He gives; when you seek forgiveness, He forgives; and when you return, He accepts. The Prophet ﷺ tells us:
“The Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the night remains and says: ‘Who will call upon Me, that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness, that I may forgive him?’” (Bukhari and Muslim).
Allah (swt) didn’t say ‘maybe’ He will accept you. So ask Allah (swt) based on what He can give you. In the hadith, the Prophet ﷺ says that Allah (swt) will not return your hands to you sifran—meaning with zero, nothing. You will always get something. The most grateful of people are those that recognize that when they do not get exactly what they want, they know that Allah (swt) gave them something else for a wisdom. Because He is Hayyiy, He would not just say no and leave you without anything to work with or to lift you when you need it. In another hadith, the Prophet ﷺ tells us, “Any Muslim who supplicates to God in a du`a’ which contains no sin breaking of kinship, God will give him one of three things: either his du`a’ will be immediately answered or, it will be saved for him in the hereafter, or it will turn away an equivalent amount of evil (from him).” The companions said, “So we will ask for more.” He replied, “Allah is more [generous].”[Ahmad]
Hayaa:The Hallmark of a Muslim
The Prophet ﷺ told us: “Every religion has a distinguishing characteristic, and the distinguishing characteristic of Islam is hayaa,” (Muwatta).
Hayaa comes from the root that means life. It is said that the level of one’s hayaa correlates to how much life one has in his or her heart. Unfortunately, because we sometimes define hayaa as a kind of shy meekness, as opposed to a modesty that comes from a place of dignity and humbleness, this trait is not appreciated. Or even worse, it is seen to only apply to women, when the Prophet ﷺ told us that this is the characteristic of Islam. One of the companions with the most hayaa was ‘Uthman bin Affan, radi Allahu `anhu (may Allah be pleased with him), a male companion and one of the ten promised paradise. One beautiful story that I heard in a lecture by Sheikh Umar Suleiman is that there was once a poor child who came to ‘Uthman (ra) in the masjid. So what ‘Uthman (ra) did was he gave the child a garment and put a lot of money in the pocket. He told the child to show the garment to his parents and ask them what they thought of it. So the child went home to show his parents his new shirt, and they discovered the money that ‘Uthman put in the pocket. ‘Uthman was not seeking attention; he did it quietly. He was modest even in giving.
We all appreciate this characteristic when we see it in others; the important person who does not draw attention to him or herself; the rich person who does not boast of their wealth; the beautiful person who is unaware of their beauty. And this characteristic is beloved to Allah (swt). One of the companions, al-Ashaj ibn al-Qays (ra), said, “The Prophet ﷺ said to me, ‘You have two characteristics that God loves.’ So I said, ‘And what are they, O Messenger of Allah?’ The Prophet ﷺ replied, ‘They are forbearance and hayaa.’ And I responded, ‘Are these qualities part of my nature or did I acquire them?’ The Prophet ﷺ said, ‘They are part of your nature.’ So I said, ‘All praise is due to Allah that He put in me two characteristics that He loves,’” (Muslim)
Some people naturally have this characteristic. For those who don’t, Islam gives us the tools to build this attribute. In a khutba (sermon), Imam Zaid Shakir said that Islam provides for you the environment to enable you to have hayaa. As Muslims we should enable others to be modest. We should work with each other to foster the best characteristics in ourselves. After all, these characteristics will bind us together in this life and the next. The Prophet ﷺ said:
“Shyness (hayaa) is from faith, and the people of faith will be in Paradise. Disagreeable of nature is from crudeness, and crudeness is in the hellfire,” (Tirmidhi).
A distinction must be made though. Hayaa is not a shyness that prevents you from doing good things or the right thing. Shyness comes from a sense of dignity: ‘I cannot behave in a certain way because it is undignified. I should give people because that is the characteristic of a Muslim.’ As the Prophet ﷺ told us: “The best struggle is a word of truth in the face of an oppressive tyrant,” (Tirmidhi). ‘Shyness’ or hayaa does not prevent you from saying something because staying silent in the face of an injustice is not hayaa. Hayaa does not mean that you do not put yourself forward for a job that you know you can do well, with the help of Allah (swt). It is striking that balance between avoiding ostentation and completely retreating. Aisha (ra) said, “How great were the women of the Ansar; their modesty did not prevent them from seeking knowledge about their religion,”(Bukhari). They put themselves forward to learn, but with the best manners.
This is a beautiful article on modesty by Webbauthor Naiyerah Kolkailah. I recommend the read.
Witnessing a Miracle—Allah al-Hayyiy
So if you want to witness a miracle, then remember to ask Allah (swt) for ALL of your needs, big and small. Zachariah (as) asked Allah (swt) for an heir even though he was old and his wife infertile. But it was when he saw the amazing things Allah (swt) had given Mariam (as)—at that moment, at the height of his conviction, he makes the du`a’:
“At that, Zechariah called upon his Lord, saying, “My Lord, grant me from Yourself a good offspring. Indeed, You are the Hearer of supplication,” (Qur’an, 3:38)
And it was indeed miraculous—Allah (swt) gave him exactly what he asked for. Zachariah himself was shocked:
“He said, “My Lord, how will I have a boy when I have reached old age and my wife is barren?” The angel said, “Such is Allah; He does what He wills,” (Qur’an, 3:40).
Sometimes the reason why we don’t make du`a’—or an intense du`a’—is because we fear disappointment. Subconsciously, we feel that the odds are too great. But remember that Allahu Akbar. He is greater than any odds. The Prophet ﷺ says that Allah (swt) never turns away the hands that are stretched out to Him without giving them something. Allah (swt) will give. Just remember that He is the Most-Wise. All the waiting is a gentle lesson to you—in trust, in patience and in perseverance.
Du`a’ is the essence of worship, because through it we recognize that we truly need Him, that everything is in the Hands of Allah, and that with Him rests all power. Moreover, Allah (swt) does not disappoint your good opinion of Him. So do not be like the people that Allah (swt) describes in the verse:
“It is He who enables you to travel on land and sea until, when you are in ships and they sail with them by a good wind and they rejoice therein, there comes a storm wind and the waves come upon them from everywhere and they assume that they are surrounded, supplicating Allah, sincere to Him in religion, “If You should save us from this, we will surely be among the thankful.” But when He saves them, at once they commit injustice upon the earth without right. O mankind, your injustice is only against yourselves, [being merely] the enjoyment of worldly life. Then to Us is your return, and We will inform you of what you used to do,” (Qur’an, 10:22-23).
Shaitan (Satan) wants us to doubt—‘Was that really an answer to my du`a’? It must be a coincidence,’ or even worse ‘Yay for ME! I’M the one who did this!’ Don’t be that person. If you prayed to God that you get to travel first class at least once in your life, and then somehow you get upgraded to business class— that was Allah (swt) giving you ‘something.’ The real test is will you be grateful, or will you say, “Well, I really wanted first class”? God gave you a business class ticket when you would never have gotten it yourself. Be grateful, and be patient. And make every du`a’ an intense one.
How to Internalize these Meanings
1- Allah is Hayyiy, so be shy in front of Him
Imagine a Lord who does not want to turn you away. A Lord who is there for your every need. A Lord who does not need you, yet loves to give you even though it brings no benefit to Him. That is Allah (swt). So have a shyness that comes from your awe at the grace of Your Lord. Do not reject His commandments. Give Him from the best of what you have, and that means giving your best in your prayers, in your interactions with people, and in your charity. Because after all, Allah (swt) has given you—the best of the best—how can you not give from the best of what He gave you?
2- Have hayaa with people
Let your modesty come from the dignity that Islam gives. Do not be ostentatious, crude or lewd. Do not seek attention. Because ultimately, you don’t need it. Immodest people usually seek their sense of worth from people around them. They love the praise or the shock from people for their behavior. But you know where your sense of worth comes from. You don’t need to shock people or receive their praise.
3- Try not to turn people away
The Prophet ﷺ said “Allah will aid a servant (of His) so long as the servant aids his brother” (Muslim). Just like you love for God to give you something when you ask, even if you cannot fulfill people’s needs, at least try to direct them to where their needs can be fulfilled. When the homeless person asks you for money and you do not have cash, go to the supermarket and buy sandwich with your debit card. If someone asks you for a ride and you really cannot take them, try to find someone who can or give them alternatives. Here you are emulating the beautiful attributes of the Most-Beautiful.
4- Ask Allah for all of your needs
Ask Allah (swt) without fearing any disappointment. Know He will give you something. Know He won’t turn you away empty-handed.
5- Work hard, and have a good opinion of Him
One of the evidences of your conviction in God and His promise is that you work hard. What prevents us from doing things? It is usually one of two things: fear—of rejection or of failure—or laziness. But you just asked Allah (swt). There is nothing to fear anymore because your prayer was taken to the heavens. Start on the journey and see where you end up.
As for laziness, then remember that Allah is Shakoor (Most-Appreciative). Your faith is like a muscle- you need to exercise it, and it will grow stronger, by the will of God. Push yourself, and you won’t regret it. Do good, and you will be given more good in return.
6- Avoid the things that prevent your du`a’ being answered
The Prophet ﷺ described a man who travelled on a long journey and is disheveled and covered with dust. This person stretches his hands to Allah (swt) saying, “O my Lord, O my Lord.” One would assume that his du`a’ would be responded to—he is a traveler and he seems to be calling to Allah (swt) from his heart. But the Prophet ﷺ said: “But his food is haram (forbidden), his drink is haraam, all his nourishment is haraam, so how can his du`a’ be accepted?” (Muslim). All of his earnings are from impermissible means. So we must be very careful with this and try to ensure that our earnings are halaal (permissible), and that our food is pure.
7- Know Him
You may have noticed that I mentioned Allah’s (swt) other attributes in this article and linked to those articles. It is so important to be reminded of what we have previously learned. The purpose of this series is to know Allah (swt). By knowing Him, we cannot help but love Him. And when we love Him, we want what He wants for us. Islam is beautified to us. We start to love prayer; to love doing good; to love modesty; and to love learning more and doing more. We are comforted, because we recognize how Allah (swt) is with us every step of the way and how everything has meaning. And we start to see the manifestations of His attributes in our everyday life. And that is truly when we connect.
May Allah (swt) beautify our character with the characteristic of beneficial hayaa that He loves, like the hayaa of ‘Uthman, the women of the Ansaar, and al-Ashaj (ra). And may He give us the internalizing of His Beautiful Names and the conviction to ask Him without fear of being turned away. Ameen.