As temperatures soar and sweat pours down our faces this summer, it is essential to remember this: protect your eyes, and I am not talking about wearing sunglasses.
I’m talking about lowering our gazes.
In our culture today, as the temperature increases, so does the amount of exposed skin on people’s bodies. Although this is very distressing and disturbing, it has become a fact of life.
In fact, those of us, especially our sisters wearing Hijab, who cover to guard our modesty are seen as strange!
Yet, covering, not exposing the skin, is an advice currently being given by the United States Department of Health And Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They have sponsored a campaign called "Choose Your Cover”, encouraging people to protect themselves from skin cancer.
One of the recommended methods is wearing clothing that covers skin and protects against the sun’s UV rays.
The campaign’s section on clothing notes that "a long-sleeved shirt and long pants with a thick weave provide the best protection.”
And lest we forget, before global warming and skin cancer warnings were ever issued, most of the Muslim and non-Muslim men and women living in the scorching deserts or cities and villages of Africa and Asia, which experience tremendous heat in the summers (if not most of the year) did not emerge from their homes virtually naked.
In fact, they covered themselves more to protect themselves from the sun.
Some advice from the Quran and Sunnah
It is in this instance, surrounded by half-naked people, that we must have the courage to follow the command of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) and His Prophet, Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) and lower our gazes.
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says:
وَلَا تَقۡرَبُواْ ٱلزِّنَىٰٓۖ إِنَّهُۥ كَانَ فَٰحِشَةٗ وَسَآءَ سَبِيلٗا (32)
“Do not even go close to fornication. It is indeed a shameful act, and an evil way to follow.” (Al-Israa 17:32).
This sin is so hateful in the sight of Our Lord, that He commanded us to not even go near it.
Despite what anyone may say, looking upon that which one is not supposed to is going near adultery. For an illicit affair begins with a lustful glance.
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) wants for us not to commit this ugly sin, and thus He commands us to lower our gazes:
قُل لِّلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ يَغُضُّواْ مِنۡ أَبۡصَٰرِهِمۡ وَيَحۡفَظُواْ فُرُوجَهُمۡۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَزۡكَىٰ لَهُمۡۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ خَبِيرُۢ بِمَا يَصۡنَعُونَ (30) وَقُل لِّلۡمُؤۡمِنَٰتِ يَغۡضُضۡنَ مِنۡ أَبۡصَٰرِهِنَّ وَيَحۡفَظۡنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ (31)
“Tell the believing men that they must lower their gazes and guard their private parts; it is more decent for them. Surely Allah is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women that they must lower their gazes and guard their private parts ……..” (An-Noor 24:30-31).
Lowering the gaze does not mean keeping our eyes constantly on the ground and not looking up at all.
It is turning our faces away when we see a less-than-decently-dressed woman or man walking on the street or somewhere else.
The adultery of the eyes
The Prophet further explained to us Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s command. Hadhrat Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: "…the adultery of the eyes is looking (at [that] which is not allowed)…” (Bukhari, Muslim).
One of the Sahaabah (Companions) of the Prophet, Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam), Hadhrat Jurayr reported that he asked Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) about accidentally looking at something that is not allowed. So he said: “Turn your eyes away.” (Muslim)
In another Hadeeth, Hadhrat Abu Sa’eed reprted that the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: "A man should not look at the ‘Awrah of another man, and the woman should not look at the Awrah of another woman…” (Muslim).
Thus, our Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) even instructed us to lower our gaze when looking at members of the same gender in some cases.
Lowering for the "other” nakedness
One common mistake is to think that lowering your gaze is only required upon encountering nakedness and indecency "in the flesh” or in person.
Lowering, rather turning away, our gaze must also be practiced when looking towards a bill-board or going through a magazine or newspaper and finds a photograph of non-Mahram, what to talk about watching games and matches, taking the leverage of direct telecast.
Shaitaan (Satan) and Nafs (the animal instincts) comforts us when watching the News or Talk Show, though these activities fall in the same category of looking towards prohibited.
Don’t go to the beach
Or anywhere else you’ll find a plethora of bikini- and swimming-trunk clad men and women.
Lowering your gaze there is virtually impossible. You may turn in one direction, thinking you’re home-free, but soon enough you can’t even look there.
The same holds true for parks. While this doesn’t mean never taking the kids out to enjoy the slides and see-saws or arranging some ‘outings’, it does mean perhaps having activities on days that are cooler, or at times when the sun is not as hot and intense and obviously selecting places where less probabilities of exposure to Haraam. Just think what you do if there is some epidemic and you arrange your children’s activities keeping in view all risks and sensitivities.
Make Du’aa (Supplication)
"Never underestimate the power of Du’aa. This is the most true of all the Universal facts. Practice it in all situations.
Sometimes, despite avoiding certain places where you are more likely to encounter an improperly dressed person, you may find someone walking on the street going to the beach or the park who decided to get ready for sun-tanning or swimming beforehand.
In these cases, lowering the gaze may be even harder. You weren’t expecting it, so you didn’t mentally prepare yourself.
If you feel overwhelmed, one suggested Du’aa to read is:
أعُوذُبِاللهِ السَّمِيع العَلِيمِ مِنَ الشيطَانِ الرَّجِيم
(A’ouzo billaahis Sami’il ‘Aleemi minash-Shaitaanir Rajeem)
“I seek the refuge of Allah who is the Hearer and Who is the Knower from the Shaitaan the accursed.”
In general, seek refuge in Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). It has also been suggested to say:
لا حَوْلَ وَلا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِاللهِ
(Laa hawla wa laa Quwwata illaa billaah)
“There is no power and force (strength) except Allah.”
If we sincerely make Du’aa, In Shaa Allah, we will succeed in turning our eyes away.
The gaze is part of a Muslim’s character
A Muslim is decent and pure. This means all of his or her body must be decent and pure. A natural consequence of this is lowering the gaze.
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) tells us:
يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لَا تَتَّبِعُواْ خُطُوَٰتِ ٱلشَّيۡطَٰنِۚ وَمَن يَتَّبِعۡ خُطُوَٰتِ ٱلشَّيۡطَٰنِ فَإِنَّهُۥ يَأۡمُرُ بِٱلۡفَحۡشَآءِ وَٱلۡمُنكَرِۚ (21)
“O you who believe! Do not follow the footsteps of Shaitaan. Whoever follows the footsteps of Shaitaan, (should know that) he orders (one to commit) shameful acts and evil deeds…….. ” (An-Noor 24:21).
Looking at another man or woman in an indecent manner is following in Shaitaan’s footsteps.
It all begins with a lustful glance. Such a glance leads to lustful talk and flirting, then meeting…and we are all aware of what comes next.
Let us stop Shaitaan in his tracks and lower our gaze. It becomes easy if we have company of practicing Muslims.
Let us start today, during these hot summer months. Yes, it is very difficult and it takes discipline and faith.
Yet, whenever we struggle to please Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), He will reward us several times over in this life and the next.
It is truly a Jihad. But, it is a Jihad worth undertaking, and we will be all the better for it.