Why Should Muslims Lower Their Gaze?

By Dr. Ali Al-Halawani

Glancing what is unlawful with lust and sexual desire is not only dangerous for man’s chastity and purification, but also for the stability of his thought and calmness of his heart

Glancing what is unlawful with lust and sexual desire is not only dangerous for man’s chastity and purification, but also for the stability of his thought and calmness of his heart

Lowering one’s gaze: Concept and legality

In his famous book, In the Shade of the Qur’an, Sayed Qutb says,

Islam wants to establish a clean society where desire is not aroused at every moment, and erotic scenes are not displayed everywhere. Continual excitement of the sexual urge leads to an insatiable desire that may become unstoppable. A stealthy look, a seductive move, flagrant make-up and thinly-dressed bodies are meant only to add to such insatiable and uncontrolled excitement. Thus, prudence and self control are heavily taxed. Hence, there remains one of two alternatives: either total permissiveness that disregards all checks and values, or psychological problems and disorders that result from having to suppress a desire that has been strongly aroused. This borders on unmitigated torture. One way Islam uses for achieving its goal of establishing a clean human society is to prevent such uncontrollable excitement of the sexual urge. It wants the natural sexual urge, of both men and women, to remain healthy, maintaining its natural strength and to satisfy it in the proper, clean manner.

As an attempt, on his part, to define lowering one’s gaze and show its significance as well as benefits, Qutb further says,

Lowering their gaze is an act of refining men’s manners. It represents an attempt to rise above the desire to look at women’s physical charms. As such, it is a practical step to ensure that the first window of temptation is shut. Minding their chastity is the natural result of lowering their gaze. It is indeed the second step that comes after strengthening one’s will and rising above the natural urge right at the beginning. Hence, the two are stated in the same verse as a cause and effect, or as two consecutive steps both in personal conscience and in reality.

It is well known that the fundamental source of prohibition as far as the unlawful vision of or gazing at non-mahram (i.e. marriageable) women is derived from the Qur’anic ayah that reads what may mean,

“Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what they do.” (Al-Nur 24: 31)

The evidence for this can be seen also in numerous Prophetic hadiths that were narrated after Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him); foremost among these hadiths are what follows:

Ubadah ibn Al-Samit (may Allah be pleased with him) relates that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Guarantee six things for me, and I will guarantee you Paradise: Be truthful when you speak; Fulfill when you promise; Uphold your trusts when you are trusted; Guard your private parts; Lower your gazes; Restrain your hands.” (Recorded by Ahmad, Ibn Hibban, and Hakim)

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Verily, Allah the Exalted has decreed for the Son of Adam his share of Zina (i.e. adultery or fornication) and he will certainly earn his share. The Zina of the eye is by looking, the Zina of the tongue is by talking and the heart wishes and lusts, but the sexual organ either substantiates all this or not.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

It was narrated that Jarir ibn `Abdullah said, “I asked the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) about an accidental glance, and he commanded me to avert my gaze.” (Narrated by Imam Muslim and At-Tirmidhi)

Ibn Mas`ud narrated from the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) that he said, “The glance is a poisoned arrow of Satan. Whoever lowers his gaze for Allah, He will bestow upon him a refreshing sweetness which he will find in his heart on the day that he meets Him.” (Narrated by At-Tabarani and Al-Hakim)

Why lowering the gaze?

To fulfill complete obedience to Allah and His Orders:

Allah the Almighty says in His Ever-Glorious Qur’an what may mean,

“Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what they do.” (Al-Nur 24: 31)

Indeed, this ayah contains three things: education, warning, and threatening:

As for the first meaning or thing, i.e. education, Allah the Almighty says “Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision,” and a faithful servant to Allah should obey his Lord and wear an encompassing cloak of morals and ethics and etiquette upon dealing with Him, Glorified by He. Otherwise, one will be ill-mannered and will have misconduct with his Lord and this will incur the worst of all outcomes.

As for the mild and soft warning, “That is purer for them,” as lowering one’s gaze is a sign and indication of the purity of the heart; the more one becomes committed to lower his gaze, the cleaner his heart will be and thus he will increase in doing good deeds which will benefit him in this present life as well as the hereafter.

As for the threatening, “Allah is Acquainted with what they do,” that is Allah the Almighty knows everything and sees everything and nothing will ever escape Him in the earth or the heaven. Once, a righteous man was asked: “How can I lower my gaze?” The righteous man answered: “To realize that Allah’s looking at you is faster than your looking at whom you want to look at.”

In response to the guidance by Prophet Muhammad:

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was reported to have said, “O Ali [ibn Abi Talib, his cousin], do not follow a glance with another, for you will be forgiven for the first, but not for the second.” (Ahmed, At-Tirmidhi, and Abu Dawud)

In as similar vein, it was narrated that Jarir ibn `Abdullah said, “I asked the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) about an accidental glance, and he commanded me to avert my gaze.” (Narrated by Imam Muslim and At-Tirmidhi)

To guarantee entering Paradise:

This is taken or understood from the aforementioned hadith by `Ubadah ibn Al-Samit.

To avoid committing adultery or fornication:

Allah the Almighty says in His Ever-Glorious Qur’an what may mean,

“And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is ever an immorality and is evil as a way.” (Al-Isra’ 17: 32)

And, the aforementioned hadith by Abu Hurairah serves that same purpose as well.

For man is weak by nature:

Allah the Almighty says in His Ever-Glorious Qur’an what may mean,

“… and mankind was created weak.” (Al-Nisa’ 4: 28)

Indeed, sexual lust or desire is one of the strongest and most demanding human desires that need great efforts to be combated and reduced.

Glancing what is unlawful is dangerous for stability of the thought:

Glancing what is unlawful with lust and sexual desire is not only dangerous for man’s chastity and purification, but also for the stability of his thought and calmness of his heart; when one does not guard his sight or avert his gaze, he may be afflicted with instability, restlessness, distraction and/or absentmindedness.

Therefore, one should seek Allah’s Help to maintain and enhance his own chastity and purification of the heart and clearness of the mind. The Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) gave us a short but tremendously effective prescription for this as follows:

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever seeks to be chaste, Allah will make him chaste, and whoever seeks to be independent of means, Allah will make him independent of means, and whoever strives to be patient, Allah will make him patient.” (Al-Bukhari).

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Dr. Ali Al-Halawani is Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Translation, Kulliyyah of Languages and Management (KLM), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was Assistant Professor and worked for a number of international universities in Malaysia and Egypt such as Al-Madinah International University, Shah Alam, Malaysia (Mediu) and Misr University for Science & Technology (MUST), Egypt; Former Editor-in-Chief of the Electronic Da`wah Committee (EDC), Kuwait; Former Deputy Chief Editor and Managing Editor of the Living Shari`ah Department, www.islamOnline.net; Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS); and member of the World Association of Arab Translators & Linguists (Wata). He is a published writer, translator and researcher. You can reach him at [email protected]

 

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