The true Muslim has the characteristic of shyness (haya’), following the example of the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam). The great Saahbi Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri (RadiyAllahu Anhu) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more shy than the virgin hiding away in her own room. If he saw something that he disliked, we would know it only from his facial expression.”
[Bukhari and Muslim]

Shyness (haya’), as defined by the‘ulama’, is a noble attitude which always motivates a person to avoid bad deeds and prevents him from failing in his duties towards those who have rights over him. The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) encouraged this attitude, as is seen in a number of ahadith, and counted it as pure goodness both for the one who possesses this virtue and for the society in which he lives.

‘Imran ibn husayn (RadhiAllahu Anhu) said:

‘The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:

“shyness brings nothing but good”‘
[Bukhari and Muslim]

According to a report given by Muslim, he (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:
“Shyness is all good.”

Abu Hurayrah (RadiyAllahu Anhu) said:

‘The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:

“Faith has seventy-odd branches. The greatest of them is saying la ilaha illa-Allah, and the least of them is removing something harmful from the road. Shyness is one of the branches of faith.”
[Bukhari and Muslim]

The true Muslim is shy, polite, gentle and sensitive to the feelings of others. He never does any bad deed that may harm others, and he does not fail in his duty towards anyone who has a right over him.

This attitude of shyness will protect him from all these errors, not only because he feels shy in front of people, but because he also feels shy before Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala), and is afraid to [confuse his beliefs with wrong] (Qur’an 6:82). Shyness is described as being a branch of faith, which is the most effective way of encouraging this virtue.

This connection between moral motives and belief in Allah (S.W.T.) and the Last Day makes the Muslim stand out from others by virtue of the deep sincerity of his attitudes and the lasting quality and consistency of his morals, no matter how much the times and circumstances change. That is because they stem from a sensitive, living conscience that fears committing betrayal. He feels more shy before Allah (S.W.T.), Who knows all hidden secrets, than he does before people, who see only his outward appearance, and it is this shyness that marks the parting of the ways between the morals of the Muslim and the rest of the world.


The true Muslim is gentle and kind towards people when it is appropriate. Kindness and gentleness are qualities which Allah (S.W.T.) loves in His believing servants, because they make a person mild and soft in a way that endears him to others:

“Nor can Goodness and Evil be equal. Repel [Evil] with what is better: then will he between whom and you was hatred become as it were your friend and intimate! And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint none but persons of the greatest good fortune.”
(Qur’an 41:34-35)

Many ayat and ahadith reinforce the message that kindness is a noble attitude, one that should prevail in a Muslim community and in each member of that community who understands the guidance and teachings of Islam. It suffices the Muslim to know that kindness is one of the attributes of Allah (S.W.T.) that He loves to see in His servants:

“Verily Allah (S.W.T.) is Kind and loves kindness in all affairs.”
[Bukhari and Muslim]

It is a tremendous virtue which Allah (S.W.T.) rewards in a way unlike any other:

“Allah (S.W.T.) is Kind and loves kindness, and He rewards it in a way that He does not reward harshness, and in a way unlike any other.”

The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) encouraged kindness and viewed it as something beautiful and endearing, the absence of which is repulsive:

“There is no kindness in a thing but it makes it beautiful, and there is no absence of kindness in a thing but it makes it repugnant.”

The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) taught the Muslims to be kind in their dealings with people, and to behave in an exemplary manner as befits the Muslim who is calling people to the religion of Allah (S.W.T.), the Kind and Merciful, no matter how provocative the situation.

Abu Hurayrah (RadiyAllahu Anhu) said:

‘A Bedouin urinated in the mosque, and the people got up to sort him out. But the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:

“Leave him alone and throw a bucket of water over his urine, for you have been raised to be easy on the people, not hard on them.”‘

Kindness, gentleness and tolerance, not harshness, aggression and rebukes, are what open people’s hearts to the message of truth. The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) used to advise the Muslims:

“Make things easy, not difficult, and be cheerful, not threatening.”
[Bukhari and Muslim]

People are naturally put off by rudeness and harshness, but they are attracted to kindness and gentleness. Hence Allah (S.W.T.) said to His Prophet (s.a.w.s.):

“…were you severe or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you.”
(Qur’an 3:159)

This is an eternal declaration, that applies to every da‘i who seeks to call people to Islam, so that he may find a way to their hearts and follow a path of kindness and gentleness, even if the person being called is an oppressor or wrongdoer. This is what Allah (S.W.T.) told His Prophet Musa (Alaihis Salam) and his brother Harun (Alaihis Salam) when He sent them to Pharaoh:

“Go, both of you, to Pharaoh, for he has indeed transgressed all bounds; but speak to him mildly; perchance he may take warning or fear (Allah).”
(Qur’an 20:43-44)

Not surprisingly, kindness, according to Islam, is all goodness. Whoever attains it has been given all goodness and whoever does not attain it is truly a loser, as is reflected in the hadith narrated by Jarir ibn ‘Abdullah (RadiyAllahu Anhu), who said:

“I heard the Messenger of Allah (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) say:

“Whoever has been denied kindness has been denied all goodness”‘

The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) explained that this goodness will be bestowed upon individuals, households and peoples when kindness prevails in their lives and is one of their foremost characteristics. We find this in the hadith of ‘A’ishah (RadiyAllahu Anha) in which the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) told her:

“O ‘A’ishah, be kind, for if Allah (S.W.T.) wills some good to a household, He guides them to kindness.”

According to another report, he (s.a.w.s.) said:

“If Allah (S.W.T.) wills some good to a household, He instils kindness in them.”[1]

Jabir (RadiyAllahu Anhu) said:

‘The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:

“If Allah (S.W.T.) wills some good to a people, He instils kindness in them.”‘[2]

What greater goodness can there be than a characteristic that will protect a man from Hell? As the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said in another hadith:

“Shall I not tell you who will be forbidden from the Fire, or from whom the Fire will be forbidden? It will be forbidden for every gentle, soft-hearted and kind person.” [3]

The teachings of the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) take man a step further, by instilling in him the attitude of kindness and requiring him to be kind even to the animals he slaughters. This is counted as one of the highest levels that the pious and righteous may reach:

“Allah (S.W.T.) has prescribed proficiency[4] in all things. Thus, if you kill, kill well, and if you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters.”

Kindness to dumb animals that are to be slaughtered is indicative of the kindness of the man who slaughters them, and of his mercy towards all living creatures. The more a person understands this and treats all living creatures well, the more kind and gentle a person he is. This is the ultimate goal towards which Islam is guiding the Muslim, so that he is kind even to animals.

* ——— **

[1] Reported by Ahmad; the men of the second report are rijal al-sahih.

[2] Reported by al-Bazar; its men are rijal al-sahih.

[3] Reported by al-Tirmidhi, who said it is a hasan hadith.

[4] The word translated here as “proficiency” is ihsan, which also has connotations of doing well, decency, etc. [Translator]

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