Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
Lowering the gaze to prevent desire
"And warn them of the day that is drawing near (the Day of Resurrection), when the hearts will be choking the throats, and they can neither return them (hearts) to their chests nor can they throw them out. There will be no friend, nor an intercessor for the Oppressors, who could be given heed to. Allah (SWT) knows the treachery of the eyes and all that the hearts conceal." (Surah Ghaafir: Ayah 19)
One of the major poisons of the heart is the unrestrained glance towards the opposite sex. This results in the one who looks becoming attracted to what he sees, and in the imprinting of an image of what he sees in his heart. This can result in several kinds of corruption in the heart of the servant. Allah (SWT) commands:
"Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and protect their private parts. This is more purer for them. Indeed Allah is Well-Aware of what they do." (Surah Nur: 30)
"And those who guard their private parts save from their wives and those whom their right-hands own - so there is no blame upon them. Then whoever seeks beyond that (which is lawful), they are the transgressors." (Surah Al Mu'minoon : Verse 5 & 6)
Indeed the protection against carnal desires is in taqwaa (consciousness of Allah (SWT)) as was summarised by an Arab poet in the following couplet:
"Whenever you pass time any day do not say," I have passed time," but rather say, "Upon me is an observer," (i.e. Allah).
Never regard Allah to be unmindful for even a short while. That which is hidden never vanishes from His Sight."
Letting the gaze run loose also makes the heart blind to distinguishing between truth and falsehood, between the sunnah and innovation: while lowering it for Allah, the Mighty and Exalted, gives it a penetrating, true and distinguishing insight.
A righteous man once said: Whoever enriches his outward behaviour by following the sunnah, and makes his inward soul wealthy through contemplation, and averts his gaze away from looking at what is forbidden, and avoids anything of a doubtful nature, and feeds solely on what is halal- his inner sight will never falter.
Ibne Qayyim (rh) writes: "The gaze is the prowler and the messenger of desires. It's protection is, in reality, the protection of the private-parts. The person who does not control his gaze throws himself into the places of destruction. Allah (SWT) has made the eyes the mirror of the heart.
Benefits of lowering the gaze
Rasoolillah(SAW) said "The glance is a poisoned arrow of shaytaan. Whoever lowers his gaze for Allah, He will bestow upon him a refreshing sweetness, which he will find in his heart on the day he meets Him." [Mishkat]
Shaytan enters with the glance, for he travels with it, faster then the wind blowing through an empty place. He makes what is seen appear more beautiful then it really is, and transforms it in to an idol for the heart to worship. Then he promises it false rewards, lights the fire of desires within it, and fuels it with the wood of forbidden actions, which the servant would not have committed had it not been for this distorted image.
This distracts the heart and makes it forget its more important concerns. It stands between it and them; and so the heart loses it’s straight path and falls into the pit of desire and ignorance. Allah, Mighty and Glorious is He, says:
And do not obey anyone whose heart We have made forgetful in remembering Us – who follows his own desires, and whose affair has exceeded all bounds. [Surah al-Kahf: Ayah 28]
The unrestrained gaze causes all three afflictions. It has been said that between the eye and the heart is an immediate connection; if the eyes are corrupted, then the heart follows. It becomes like a rubbish heap where all the dirt and filth and rottenness collect, and so there is no room for love for Allah, relating all matters to Him, awareness of being in His presence, and feeling joy at His proximity - only the opposite of these things can inhabit such a heart.
Staring and gazing without restraint is disobedience to Allah:
Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that is more purifying for them. Surely Allah is aware of what they do. [Surah an-Nur: Ayah 30]
Rasoolillah(SAW) also said "Allah (SWT) has cursed the person who looks at a non-mahram woman and the woman who is looked upon." [Mishkat]. Only the one who obeys Allah’s commands is content in this world, and only the servant who obeys Allah will survive in the next world.
Furthermore, letting the gaze roam free cloaks the heart with darkness,. Just as lowering the gaze for Allah clothes it in light. After the above ayah, Allah, the Glorious and Mighty, says in the same Surah of the Qur'an:
Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth; the likeness of His light is as if there were a niche, and in the niche is a lamp, and in the lamp is a glass, and the glass is as it were a brilliant star, lit from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil is well nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it. Light upon light. Allah guides whomsoever He wants to His light. Allah strikes metaphors for man: and Allah knows all things. [Surah an-Nur: Ayah 35]
When the heart is a light, countless good comes to it from all directions. If it is dark, then clouds of evil and afflictions come from all directions to cover it up.
Rasoolillah (SAW) said, “indeed you will not leave anything for the sake of Allaah except that Allaah will replace it with something better than it.” [Ahmad]
Seeds of desire planted by Shaytan
It is known that actions are originally thoughts which occur in the mind. These thoughts then turn into desires. Thereafter, these desires become firm intentions and, finally, these firm intentions are transformed into actions. From this you could conclude the importance of thoughts. If there is correctness of thoughts then desires and actions will be correct and, similarly, if there is corruption in thoughts then this will lead to evil desires and actions. According to a hadith, Allah (SWT) overlooks thoughts as long as these thoughts are not given practical expression.
There are five stages in thoughts viz.
- Haajis - This is a thought which in the beginning produces no reaction in the nafs.
- Khaatir - If one fails to eliminate the haajis thought and it establishes it's presence in the nafs but the nafs does not give it practical expression then this thought enters the Khaatir stage.
- Hadeethun nafs - In this stage the nafs ponders whether it should put into action or negate the thought which has established itself without giving preference to any side.
NB. The law regarding these three stages is that there is no punishment if the thought is evil and no reward if the thought is good.
- Hamm - In this stage the nafs partially inclines to one side (i.e. whether to commit or shun the act). In this stage reward is given if the thought is good and punishment if evil.
- 'Azm - In this stage a decision is made to give practical expression. Reward and punishment are applicable to this stage as well.
When the desires become uncontrollable they cause one to perpetuate some of the most heinous sins. It has been related by Hasan bin Arfah that Rasoolillah(SAW) said: "Seven persons are such that Allah will not look at them on the Day of Qiyaamah nor will He purify them nor will He include them amongst the learned and Allah will enter them into Jahannum. They will enter Jahannum first except for those who repent. As for those who repent Allah will accept their repentence.
A person who masturbates.
A person who performs the act of sodomy.
The person upon whom the act of sodomy is performed.
A perpetual drunkard
The person who hits his parents so much so that they appeal for help.
The person who harms his neighbours so much so that they curse him.
The person who commits adultery with his neighbour's wife." (Ibn Katheer: vol.5, pg.458)
How many people are there who know that their actions are forbidden yet they are too weak to abstain from it. For example, look at those who smoke cigarettes. In reality, we find most of them knowing the harms of smoking. Despite this if you address any smoker and remind him of its harms he will reply to you that he knows all this very well and desires to free himself of this "killer friend" but yet he is unable to do so. Why? Because he does not possess a firm intention by means of which he will be able to abandon this bad habit. For this reason if a person reads all the books on bad habits and comes to know of all the means which will free him from these bad habits but he does not possess a strong intention nor a firm will then he will not progress a step forward. Normally, the natural desire in man remains stable as long as it is not exposed to those scenes and sounds which incite it. When it finds a stimulating factor - whether sound or picture it is incited. At such an instance a person is forced to give practical expression to his desire. Therefore, it is necessary upon all of us to make an effort to develop our intentions, strengthen our resolutions and build our minds and souls by observing the following points:
To strive to acquire good character. Good character like knowledge, tolerance, patience are such that it is within a person's scope to acquire. Rasoolillah(SAW) has said:
"The person who seeks chastity, Allah (SWT) keeps him chaste. The person who seeks independence, Allah (SWT) makes him independent and the person who is patient Allah (SWT) grants him patience."
When a servant burdens himself with a firm intention and he strives to acquire it, it becomes his nature and character. Allah (SWT) says: "And those who strive in Our Way We will definitely guide them to Our Paths."
To inculcate good character gradually. Good character is not acquired all at once or by a little effort. To acquire good character it is necessary for a person to practice upon it gradually until it becomes his nature which he can do without any strain or inconvenience.
A person should realize the Greatness, Loftiness, Oneness and Independence of Allah (SWT). He should not rely on his own strength and power. He should rely only on Allah (SWT). Allah (SWT) says:
"Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah. And Allah (SWT) loves those who put their trust (in Him)."
The person who recognizes Allah (SWT) more will fear Him more. A person should develop within himself the Fear of Allah because this is the strongest means whereby he could oppose his desire. Allah (SWT) says:
"And as for him who feared to stand before his Lord and restrained his soul from lust, verily Jannah will be his abode." (Surah Al Naazi'aat: verse 40 & 41)
When the Fear of the Exalted is found in the heart of a person, forbidden desires are burnt and the perpetration of sin is stopped.
A person should increase his firm determination by abandoning comfort in some permissible matters so that his nafs could be strengthened in abandoning the prohibited things. For example, to strengthen one's determination, abstain from excessive soft-drinks, tea, sleeping etc. In this manner a person will become strong enough to abandon that which is more difficult. With regards to this a poet says:The nafs is like an infant, if you leave it, it will grow up with the love of suckling and if you wean it (accustom it to food other than it's mother's milk) it will abstain. Can we ever imagine a sahaba renting the latest hit from Blockbuster Videos, or listening to music with alluring lyrics at high volume?
Consider the lofty examples of the Saaliheen and Anbiya, for example, the incident of the Nabi of Allah, Yousuf (AS). It is an amazing and strange incident. All the means and requirements of temptation which had not gathered for anyone before, gathered for Yousuf (AS). He was an extremely handsome young slave who was still a bachelor. She (Zuleikha) was a lady of beauty and dignity. Yousuf (AS) was living in her house, etc. Despite all this Yousuf (AS) preferred the Pleasure and Fear of Allah (SWT) over all these temptations. He chose the prison instead of fornication. Allah (SWT) says: "He (Yousuf 'AS) said: "The prison is more beloved to me than that towards which they call me."
Contemplation - A person drowned in desires should reflect upon his condition after he has fulfilled and satisfied his desire. He should ask himself: Have I found the pleasure and comfort I am searching for after fulfilling my desire? It is the Wisdom of Allah (SWT) that whenever a Muslim fulfils a forbidden desire he feels unhappy, distressed, depressed, miserable and ashamed to such an extent that these feelings compel him to repent. Thus a sinner is afflicted with an unending sadness, misery and disgrace. Ibne Mubarak (RA) has said: "I have seen sins deadening the heart. It's addiction causes disgrace. The abandoning of sins is life for the hearts. It is best for you to oppose your nafs."
Hence an intelligent person will sacrifice temporary pleasure which results in unending misery for eternal pleasure.
Verily du'aa is the most beneficial treatment and it has many benefits especially when a person earnestly makes those du'aas which have been narrated from Rasoolillah(SAW) by sincerely turning towards Allah (SWT) and considering the times of acceptance. Allah (SWT) says: "Call Me and I will answer you." (Surah Ghaafir: verse 80)
Rasoolillah(SAW) said: "Verily your Lord is Modest and Kind. When a slave lifts both his hands towards Allah then He (Allah) feels shy to return them empty-handed and disappointed." (Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi)
Ibne Qayyim (rh) presents to us the condition of this person in a unique style. He says: "Such a person personally experiences himself to be like that boy who is in the protection of his father. His father provides him with the best of food, drink and clothes. He gives him the best training and causes him to progress to the degree of perfection. One day his father sends him on an errand. An enemy confronts him on his way, kidnaps him and ties his hands behind his back. He then takes him to a foreign land. Here he is inflicted with injuries and tortured. He is treated unlike how his father treated him. Hence from time to time he recalls the kind treatment of his father. Whenever he reflects on his condition it stirs a burning anguish in his heart. He remembers all that which he enjoyed before. His enemy finally decides to kill him. Suddenly he sees his father near him. He runs, throws himself and falls in front of his father seeking his help: "O My Father! Help me! O My father! Help me! O My father! Help me! Look at my condition." His tears roll down his cheeks. He embraces his father and clings to him while his enemy pursues him until he reaches him. The boy still clings and holds his father firmly. Now would you say that the father will hand over his son in this condition to the enemy? Will the father allow the enemy to take his son? Definitely not. So then what is your thought about that Being who is more Merciful on His slave than a father to his son. Allah will most certainly help and protect that slave who advances towards Him, flees from the enemy towards Him, throws himself in sajdah before His Door, rubbing his forehead upon the ground beneath His Door, crying before Him saying: "O My Rabb! O My Rabb! O My Rabb! Have Mercy. None can give shelter except Thee. None can aid except Thee. I am in need of Thee. I asked Thee. I am hopeful of Thee. You are the Place of Refuge and the Protector."
Remember the final abode
Ibne Jawzee (rh) has said: "How excellent is the condition of he who remembers death, prepares for his salvation before he dies, occupies himself in the service of his Master, advances from his worldly possession that which will aid him in the hereafter and inclines towards that house wherein there are eternal bounties and where the honoured are not disgraced.
O You whose life comprises of limited breaths and upon whom there is a recording supervisor! Do not forget death, for death will not forget you. Remember your condition, O Neglectful person! The day you will be turned on the wash stand between the hands of those giving you ghusl. On that day your strength will disappear and your wealth will be snatched away from you. You will be taken away from your friends, prepared for your grave, handed over to the worms and deposited between the graves. Thereafter, a few tears will be shed upon you and you will be forgotten. O Neglectful person! If it were known to us that none will die from amongst us except an unspecified person then too it is incumbent upon us not to allow our tears from ceasing to flow out of fear for death. So how should we behave when we are convinced that none will remain alive from amongst us.
Hence, fear Allah, fear Allah, O Servants of Allah! Prepare for death as if it has come upon you and your wives have become widows, your children orphans and you have been separated from your family and friends."
One Sahaabi was advised by Rasoolillah(SAW): "Remember death excessively, this will remove your inclination for other things." In another Hadeeth it is reported: "Remember death excessively. Whoever remembers death excessively his heart becomes alive and death becomes easy for him."
Rasoolillah(SAW) has said: "Excessively remember the destroyer of pleasures." (Tirmidhi, Nasa'i, Ibn Majah)
Ibrahim Taimi (rh) says: "Two things caused the termination of all worldly pleasures in me. Firstly death and secondly the concern of standing in front of Allah (SWT) on the Day of Qiyaamah." (Maut ki Yaad)
Rasulillah (SAW) has explained to us the importance of good, pious, sincere friends. Rasoolillah(SAW) said: "A person is on the religion of his friend. Hence, you should see who you befriend." (Abu Dawood, Tuirmidhi, Ahmad) In another Hadeeth it is reported that a pious companion is better than solitude. (Baihaqi)
Ibn Shujaa` al-Kirmaanee said, “whosoever builds his outward form upon following the Sunnah, his internal form upon perpetual contemplation and awareness of Allaah, he restrains his soul from following desires, he lowers his gaze from the forbidden things and he always eats the lawful things then his perception and insight shall never be wrong.”
The need for Tawbah (Repentance)
No sin should be magnified so much that it creates despair and loss of hope in the forgiveness of Allah (SWT) nor should it be treated so lightly that there is no tawbah nor any regret. Look at the Mercy of the Being Who is most Merciful of those who show mercy. A person continuously commits a sin and as soon as he repents he is forgiven and he becomes the beloved of Allah (SWT). It is reported in the Hadeeth that Rasulillah (SAW) said: "The person who repents from sin is the beloved of Allah and he becomes like those who have not committed any sin." (Ibne Majah)
However, it is necessary that the tawbah be a sincere one. Sincere tawbah consists of three essential parts.
Firstly, a person should feel ashamed of the sin he committed. It has been mentioned in the hadeeth: "To feel ashamed is tawbah."
Secondly, to immediately discard the sin committed and to resolve on abstaining from it in future.
Thirdly, to make amends, to compensate for the sin. If a person makes tawbah in this manner he becomes a favourite of Allah (SWT) despite the type or number of sins he committed.
Ibne Jauzi (rh) says: "By the Oath of Allah, a person's thirst to commit a sin will only be quenched when, despite having the ardent desire and capability to do it, realises that Allah (SWT) is looking at him, feels ashamed and, consequently, discards the sin."