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Ghayra or ghīra (Arabic: الغيرة) is a moral virtue leading men to protect their family and honor, religion, as well as their property and homeland. According to hadiths, having ghayra is a divine attribute. Mulla Ahmad Naraqi says in his book, Mi'raj al-sa'ada, that believers should not be oblivious to their family, and should not neglect things that would lead to indecency. Moreover, he considers resistance towards heresies in the religion as well as enforcement of enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong as cases of ghayra.

In Shiite hadiths, ghayra is said to have positive consequences, such as chastity, prevention of indecencies, and protection of families. Some causes of losing ghayra, as cited in hadiths, include: the mingling of mahram and non-mahram people, forbidden music, looking at non-mahram people, and drinking wine. According to a hadith from Imam 'Ali (a), an excessive practice of ghayra might backfire and lead to indecencies.

Contents

The Notion

In the Islamic culture, ghayra counts as a significant moral virtue, moving people to strongly defend their reputation, family honor, religion, property, and homeland.

The word, "ghayra," does not occur in the Qur'an. Notwithstanding this, Nasir Makarim Shirazi, a Shiite authority and an exegete of the Qur'an, maintains that verses sixty-sixty two of Qur'an 33 express the notion of ghayra, since it threatens rumor-mongering hypocrites—those who encroach the honor of Muslim women and spread rumors against faithful women—by severe punishment, exile, and murder. According to Shiite hadiths, having ghayra is a divine attribute, and God does not like lack of ghayra. In these hadiths, ghayra is accompanied by dignity and esteem. According to some hadiths, men without ghayra are cursed.

The Prophet (s) said: beware that God has forbidden the forbidden and determined hudud (punishments), and there is no one with stronger ghayra than God Who has forbidden indecencies in virtue of His ghayra.

Types and Instances

In his book, Mi'raj al-sa'ada, Mulla Ahmad Naraqi, a thirteenth/nineteenth century jurist, talks not only about ghayra over women, but also over the religion, reputation, and property. In his view, believers should not be oblivious to their families and should not neglect things that would lead to indecencies. Furthermore, he notes other cases in which ghayra is practiced, including resistance towards those who introduce a heresy in the religion or insult the religion. He also regards a full-fledged enforcement of enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong as an instance of ghayra.

Husayn Mazahiri, a contemporary Shiite scholar, cites certain hadiths to introduce cases of ghayra other than personal ghayra, including public and social ghayra which is a practice of ghayra by all men in the society with respect to all women, ghayra for one's homeland which amounts to a love for one's homeland and an attempt to develop it, and religious ghayra which is a tendency to defend the sanctity of Islam.

Causes of losing one's ghayra are mentioned in hadiths, including the mingling of mahram and non-mahram people[1], listening to forbidden music[2], looking at non-mahram people, drinking wine[3], and eating pork.[4]

Effects of Ghayra

Given hadiths from the Infallibles (a), ghayra has positive effects, including:

  • Chastity: it is said that if one respects and honors his family and practices ghayra towards them, then he will never have his eye on other people's family. This is grounded in a hadith from Imam 'Ali (a): "a man with ghayra never fornicates."
  • Prevention of indecencies: as much as lack of ghayra and negligence are said to pave the ground for indecencies, ghayra and a keen sense of wrong deeds can prevent indecencies.
  • Protection of the family: the practice of ghayra is said to protect and solidify one's family. For in a society in which men practice ghayra, lustful harassers feel no safety, and chaste girls and women feel secure.

Excessive Ghayra

According to hadiths from the Infallibles (a), misplaced ghayra and ungrounded suspicions about women are prohibited, because they will backfire and lead to indecencies. This is evidenced by part of Imam 'Ali's letter to his son, Imam al-Hasan (a), where he says: "avoid practicing ghayra where it is improper, because misplaced ghayra leads chaste women to lose their chastity, and non-sinful women to sins."

Moreover, according to a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a), one should not practice ghayra when it comes to permissible things.

Notes

  1. Imam 'Ali (a): I have been informed that your women jostle men on roads; have you no shame? May God curse those who do not practice ghayra.
  2. There is a devil called “Qafandar.” When he plays oud in a man’s for forty mornings and men enter his house … will have no ghayra thereafter.
  3. Mufaddal asked Imam al-Sadiq (a): “why did God forbid wine?” The Imam replied, “because one with addiction to wines will suffer from tremor, will lose his enlightenment and insight, will lose his honor and ghayra and chivalry, and will be encouraged to commit sins and to murder innocent people and commit adultery.
  4. A man asked Imam al-Sadiq (a), “why did God forbid pork?” The Imam said, “the Blessed and Exalted God has not permitted or forbidden anything except for people’s own benefits. He has forbidden pork, because it leads to loss of ghayra, loss of zeal, and moral corruption.”

References