Zamakhshari wrote: Hayaa’ has been declared as a part of Imaan. It can be naturally endowed or something attained through various good deeds, or simply instinctive. But when used in context of the Shari`ah, it needs to be earned with proper intention, for it encourages good deeds and prevents sins. (Fayd al-Qadir)
Imaan is like a tree: the word tree is applicable to the root and the stem. In the like manner, the two are related to the offshoots, branches, leaves, flowers and fruits. Imaan is related to the testimony within the heart with good deeds. Just as a tree does not yield its fruit nor is its benefit complete except on the strength of its root and stem, so also Imaan will not afford security from the Fire, without what it declares obligatory of the good deeds. (Fathul Mun`im)
Just like a tree branches out into different elements, some of which are stronger than others; some are supports for others; some are more important and more beneficial than others, so is the firm faith. It starts with the testimony, ‘there is no deity save Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.’ Thereafter, it shoots out its requirements and commands from the important to the more important, from the more important to something beyond it until it ends with the removal of the thorns from public paths and removal of everything that does harm to the passers-by.
On the importance of ‘hayaa’’ (modesty): Tirmidhi has recorded another statement of the Prophet. He said, “Seek to observe hayaa’ from Allah in its true sense.” They said, “We do observe hayaa’, Allah be praised.” He said, “That’s not what is meant. True hayaa’ from Allah (swt) is that you protect the head and that which it retains, the stomach and what it contains, and remind yourself of death and the trial. He who desired the Next world, will give up the ornaments of this world, and give preference to the Later, over the present. He who accomplished these things, observed true hayaa’ vouched for Allah (swt).”
Another authentic report says: “Hayaa’ is wholly good.”
Ibn Hibban wrote: “I contemplated over the meaning of the hadith for a good while, counting the deeds of obedience. I found them exceeding ‘seventy and some’ by a large count. Then I took up the Sunan, counting every deed of obedience that the Prophet (saws) mentioned as part and parcel of Imaan but it fell short. Then I put the figures of the Qur’an and Sunnah together, then the figure that emerged was seventy-seven. I realized that this was the figure intended (when another hadith said they are ‘seventy and some’).”
“Some people, such as Baydawi, Kirmani and others, have taken the trouble to count (the branches of Imaan as ‘seventy and some’), but the closest (at the guess) has been Ibn Hibban who mentioned every characteristic that has been mentioned in the Book or Sunnah as Imaan. Sheikh al-Islam Abu al-Fadl ibn Hajr followed them in his commentary on Bukhari. We have also referred to the two – the Book and the Sunnah, and find them as: Imaan in Allah, His Attributes, in createdness of all that is apart from Him, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, Divine Destiny, the Last Day, and, love of Allah, loving others for the sake of Him, and hatred because of Him, the love of the Prophet on whom be peace, and belief in honor and respect owed to him.
“The list includes prayer of peace for him and following of his ways, in complete sincerity, abandoning self-projection and hypocrisy, repentance, Allah’s fear, hope, gratitude, true to promise, patience, satisfaction with the destined, modesty, trust in Allah, compassion, humbleness, respect for the elderly and compassion for the young, abandoning pride, egotism, dispensing with envy and hatred, giving up anger; and, proclamation of Tawheed, recitation of the Qur’an, obtaining knowledge and its explanations, supplications and remembrance. It includes repentance, avoidance of vain talk, and attaining purity: both physical and spiritual.
“It includes avoidance of the unclean, exposure of the concealed, Prayers: obligatory and non-obligatory, as also Zakah, freeing of the necks, generosity, feeding the poor, honoring the guests, Fasts: obligatory and non-obligatory, seclusion in the mosques, seeking the night of Qadr, mandatory Pilgrimage, the lesser pilgrimage, circumambulation of the Ka`bah, escape away with the religion, migration, keeping of the vows, introspection of the faith, fulfilling the expiations, seeking chastity through marriage, fulfilling the rights of the family, service to the parents, upbringing the offspring, obedience to the authorities, lenience with the slaves, establishing governance of the just, obedience of the head of the government and maintaining public order and setting right public relations.
“The list includes battling the rebels and transgressors, co-operation over the good, including ordering the virtue and preventing the wrong, executing the capital punishment, Jihad, patrolling the border posts; keeping the word of promise, payment of the fifth of the booty, returning of the loans, honoring the neighbor, good conduct, saving wealth earned out of the lawful, expending the wealth among the deserving, avoiding parsimony and extravaganza, seeking Allah’s blessing for the sneezer, holding back all evils from the people, avoiding the vain, removal of the harmful from the path..” etc.
We have described the above in brief, in order for you to ponder over their details. Therefore, whatever you find yourself as could be marked by one or more of them, thank Allah (swt), and whatever you find lacking in you or against it, then, seek divine inducement towards obtaining it. Whoever finds all of these branches in his personality, is a true believer, while he who lacks them all, or some of them is an incomplete believer.
However, it is somewhat strange of Nawawi that he said: This hadith is the textual basis for applying the term Imaan to deeds. But Ibn Hajr disagreed with him saying: “Some people have held this hadith in support of the opinion that Imaan is the name of compliance to all the deeds commanded. They also define Imaan as composed of testimony (in the heart), verbal attestation, and, deeds (agreeing with the testimony). But that’s not correct. That is because the discussion is over ‘branches of faith,’ no about ‘faith’ itself. The affair is about the branches, and that there are seventy braches meaning to say that the branches are ‘so and so.’ But ‘branches’ of a thing are apart from the thing itself.”