Sex in Islam
How to Lower Our Gazes
by Sabeel Ahmed
"If I were not a Muslim, I would have contracted AIDS," proclaimed my friend.
"The ayats in Sura Nur about lowering our gazes doesn't affect me anymore," expressed another youth, talking about the intense temptations felt by today's young. Difficulty in lowering the gaze by both the young and old is readily perceived on the street, weddings, parties and even in the mosques.
What has gone wrong? How can Muslims, called by Allah, our Creator the model community, the custodians of Truth and the upholders of morality behave this way? Why are we adopting the attitudes and routes of the kuffar? How can we rectify ourselves? What follows is a series of practical, though graphic advises which can work for us and set us free from Satan's stronghold, Insha`Allah.
Prophet Muhamad (pbuh), by way of warning and as a reminder said, "There is nothing left after I go more dangerous to men than the temptations of women." Being optimistic, a ray of hope was also wisely provided during the prophet's Last Sermon: "If the Ummah holds on to the Qur`an and Sunnah, it will never go astray."
When Allah created humans with all our desires and urges, he also revealed to us sufficient and complete guidance to properly channel these desires, both in the midst of Dar-ul-Kufr or Dar-ul-Islam. All we need to do is seek it, contemplate on it and pursue it. "This day I have perfected your deen for you, completed my favors upon you and chosen Islam as your deen." (Maida 3)
We should realize that the fact the great sahabas were human beings also. Biologically there were no different from us. They had desires and temptations but yet, they controlled themselves in the best of ways. We can do the same, Insha`Allah. To possess sensual passions is human, to control them is Muslim.
When confronted with an alluring situation like passing by a non-mahram on the street, office or school, Satan is constantly tempting us to glare at her/him with evil thoughts. Satan is probably excitingly saying, with a big smile, 'yes, yes, yes,' when we steer into the bait he is setting. During these situations, immediately and consciously realize that when we give a second or following glances, we are obeying Satan. "O you who believe, follow not the footsteps of the devil " (24:21). By immediately averting our gazes and disobeying Satan, we are giving him a one-two punch in the face and leaving him frustrated and accursed.
Satan rebelled and was expelled by Allah, so let's all rebel against Satan and expel him from our hearts. Satan intends to fight a war against Muslims, so let's gather our forces behind the Qur`an and the Sunnah and defeat him. Remember that even if no human eye is watching us, the Ever-Watchful Allah is constantly monitoring the innermost regions of our hearts. Our eyes, limbs, tongue and private parts will be witnesses on the Judgment Day and not an atom's worth of deed will remain unexamined.
Our minds are conditioned to associate thoughts of stealing clothes from a store to being in handcuffs and hauled into a police van. Likewise we should condition our minds to bring the verses of Surah Nur in front of our eyes during any tempting situations and imagine that Allah is speaking to us directly "Say to the believing, men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty .O you believers! Turn you all together towards Allah that you may attain success" (24:30-31) If the Qur`an contained only these two ayats, it would be enough to convince me that it is the book of Allah.
With practice, these associations and the remembrance of Allah during tempting situations will prevent us from getting stuck by devilish arrows. Successfully controlling our gazes also deadens our avoidance of sinful situations. An Islamic idiom says, "Anything that leads to haram is haram in itself." To do a pious deed is a reward; to avoid a sin is a reward too.
One of the biggest culprits in this class is movies. In the name of entertainment, to please our peers and children and an excuse to do something together as a family, we astonishingly allow un-Islamic pictures and dialogues in front of our eyes and ears. Can we ever imagine (aozubillah) any sahaba renting the latest hit from Blockbuster Videos, or listening to music with alluring lyrics at high volume?
Likewise we watch news on TV and stare at the anchor women, adorned in heavy make-up, scanty clothing and seductive smile. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), was once approached by a woman with a proposal for marriage. He took a single glance at her face and turned his face away. Jabir bin Abdullah reported: "I asked Allah's messenger about the sudden glance on the face of a non-mahram. He commanded me that I should turn away my eyes." (Muslim) Thus, we are not supposed to stare at faces of non-mahrams, be they are our fellow students, our elders, saleswomen or someone on TV.
Pious ladies of the prophet's household were ordered to observe purdah (separation) in front of a blind sahabah. Asking the curious questions as to why cover/separate when the blind sahabah could not see them, the prophet (pbuh) wisely answered, "But you could see him."
In our wedding ceremonies and parties and even in many Islamic fundraising dinners, there is heavy free-mixing between brothers and sisters. Often the chairs of males and females are arranged facing each other, knowing that about 90 percent of our sisters do no wear hijab. It is often noticeable to see males and females peeking glances at each other from the opposite ends of the hall. A big curtain is not my intention, but a big iman and befitting Islamic manners is.
"A woman who applies perfumes and goes to a gathering is like an adulteress" the Prophet Muhammad said. Compare this with our sisters who clad themselves with expensive perfume, one kilogram of makeup, and then come to mixed gatherings. Will this not attract the attention of males? Let's be real. We have lowered our moral guards so low that a humble word of truth often seems so awfully strange.
Let us contemplate the above humble advices and constantly make the supplication, "O Allah help us control our sensual desires until we get married, and even after we marry, let our desires be only towards our spouses."