Lowering the Gaze

In the summer heat, when many will strip, and clothes are sparsely worn, the issue of lowering the gaze should be given extra attention. Allah says (the translation of which is),

“And tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and to protect their private parts. That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at prohibited things) and protect their private parts…”

Allah has commanded both men and women, who believe in Him to restrain their glances from looking at that which is prohibited. This does not just apply when one is out in the malls or streets, but also in regards to magazines, books, television, and online.  And also if a non-mahram woman is in your home.

One should be aware that the eyes can commit sin, as the prophet peace be upon him said, “The adultery of the eye is the look,” (Muslim)

Moreover, one will be held accountable in regards to it, as Allah says, “Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.” (Surah Al-Israa, 17:36)

Hence we should be cautious regarding our gazes, and remember that Allah the All-Seeing is well-aware of what we do.

Whilst men should lower their gaze, our sisters should also be mindful that they too have a responsibility of covering up. Allah has commanded us in no uncertain terms to hide our adornments, because Allah knows the nature of men, He created them and created the women also. As such He gave each their obligation.

The First Look:

Many, give the excuse that the first look is permissible, and hence will intentionally look at the opposite gender. Others will hold the first look, believing that as long as they do not blink or turn away, it is permissible. However, this is not permissible as the following hadith explains,

Jareer ibn ‘Abdullah said: “I asked the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon Him) about a sudden, accidental glance at a woman. He commanded me to turn my gaze away.” (Tirmidhi, saheeh hasan)

Commenting on this hadeeth, Al-Mubaarakpoori said: ” ‘Accidental’ means that his gaze fell on a non-mahram woman unintentionally. ‘He commanded me to turn my gaze away’ means that he was not to look a second time, because the first glance was not by choice and would be forgiven, but any further glances would be counted as sin.

Hence, an accidental look is not blameworthy, but if one continues looking it now becomes sinful. Allah knows the nature of people, and hence He pardons the unintentional glance.

Imam An-Nawawi said:

What is meant by a “sudden glance” is when a person’s glance unintentionally falls upon a non-mahram woman. There is no sin on him for the first glance, but he must avert his gaze immediately. If he averts his gaze immediately there is no sin on him, but if he continues looking, then he will be a sinner, because of this hadith, for the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) commanded him.

In another hadith, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon Him) said: “O Ali, do not follow a glance with another, for you will be forgiven for the first, but not for the second.” (Tirmidhi; Saheeh al-Jaami’)

In al-Tuhfah, he said: “The words ‘do not follow a glance with another’ means do not look again after the first glance. ‘You will be forgiven for the first’ means that you will be forgiven if the first glance was unintentional, and ‘but not for the second’ means that because the second glance was by choice, it will be counted against you.”

It is forbidden to look whether it provokes desires or not, because the rule is according to the majority of cases and not the exceptions.  And the same rule applies to a woman looking at a man.

Marriage:

Some, may Allah rectify them, will look at women in the street, and provide the excuse that their intention is for the purpose of marriage. However, this is not permissible. This only opens the door to further evil, as there will come a time, when one will look out of habit, and not for the purpose of marriage. Furthermore, one glance may lead to further harm.

However, to look at a specific woman for the purpose of marriage is permissible. Jabir reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “When any one of you proposes marriage to a woman, if he can look at that which will encourage him to go ahead and marry her, let him do so.” (Abu Dawood and al-Haakim. Hasan, and there is corroborating evidence in the hadeeth of Muhammad ibn Muslimah)

Similarly, Al-Mugheerah ibn Shu’bah said, “I proposed marriage to a woman, and the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘Have you seen her?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Look at her, because it is more fitting that love and compatibility be established between you.’” According to another report: “So he did that, and he married her and mentioned that they got along.” (Ad-Daaraqutni, and Ibn Majah)

However, when looking at a woman for the purpose of marriage, it impermissible to look at her lustfully, or to touch her or to be alone with her, because she is still not a mahram to him.

Imam Ahmad said: “He should look at the face, and he should not look in a lustful manner.”

So, what is the solution to this problem?

  • Know that Allah is watching you
  • Make duaa that Allah helps you
  • Striving to lower the gaze, being persistent and patient no matter how difficult it becomes,

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah 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…” (Bukhari 1400)

  • Avoid the places where these sins are prevalent. Beaches especially should be avoided. he Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Beware of sitting in the street.” They said, “We have no alternative; that is where we sit and talk.”  He said, “If you insist on sitting there, then give the street its rights.” They said, “What are the rights of the street?” He said, “Lowering the gaze and refraining from causing offence…” (Bukhari 2333 and Muslim 2121)
  • Marriage: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever can afford it, let him get married, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and in guarding one’s chastity. And whoever cannot afford it, let him fast, for it will be a shield for him.” (Narrated by Bukhari 1806 and Muslim 1400)
  • Fasting, as mentioned in the hadith above
  • Contemplate the magnitude of the sin and the consequences of it. This should be sufficient to put you off.

May Allah aid us in fulfilling His Commands.

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