Hayaa’ itself is derived from the word hayaat which means life. This term covers a large number of concepts. In English, it may be translated as modesty, shyness, self-respect, bashfulness, shame, honour, etc. The original meaning of Hayaa’ in accordance with a believer’s nature, refers to a bad and painful feeling accompanied by embarrassment, caused by one’s fear of being exposed or censured for some unworthy or indecent conduct.
Islamically Hayaa’ is an attribute which pushes the believers to avoid anything distasteful or abominable. It keeps them from being neglectful in giving everyone what is due upon them, and if for any reason they are not able to keep up with their commitment then they will feel extremely bad and ashamed about this. The reason being that they will have displeased Allah by breaking a commitment.
Hayaa’ plays a vital role in the lives of Muslims because it is a very important part of our eeman (faith/belief). If we do not have any form of Hayaa’ in us then it is most likely that our eeman is very weak. For as it states in the following hadeeth (Prophetic Narration), narrated by Abu Huraira (radhiallahu `anhu): The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said, “Faith (Belief) consists of more than sixty branches (i.e. parts). And Hayaa’ (this term “Hayaa’” covers a large number of concepts which are to be taken together; amongst them are self-respect, modesty, bashfulness, scruple, etc.) is a part of faith.” (Bukhari)