The Unrestrained Gaze

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This refers to the prying eye that looks at what it is not allowed to, in clear opposition to what Allah The Almighty has ordered us of lowering the gaze, when He Says (what means): {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. And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts} [Quran 24:30-31]. Here, Allah The Almighty does not command us to restrict our vision entirely, but only partly, as is evident in the phrase (that means): {[some] of their vision}.

The prohibition of having an unrestrained gaze falls under precautionary measures: if it is likely to bring about benefit, it is permitted, but if it is feared that it may be the means to corruption and will not be beneficial, then it is forbidden. Hence, Allah The Almighty did not order us to reduce our vision wholly, but only partially, whereas, guarding the private parts is obligatory in all cases, because sexual intercourse is only lawful in marriage and with bondservants.

In the aforementioned verse, Allah The Almighty commanded us to lower our gaze and guard our private parts. He linked the two matters but mentioned the prying eye first, because the eye is the leader of the heart; whatever it becomes accustomed to, the heart follows suit.

Therefore, the most unfettered access to the heart is through the sight of the eyes, which is the only of the five senses that most impact it. Many wrongdoings are committed because of it, making it very important to be warned against.

For instance, lowering the gaze is a means of guarding and protecting the
private parts. In a Hadeeth on the authority of Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: "Allah has written for the son of Adam his inevitable share of adultery: the adultery of the eye is looking [at what is prohibited], the adultery of the ears is listening [to what is forbidden], the adultery of the tongue is uttering [what is unlawful to say], the adultery of the hand is doing [what is prohibited], the adultery of the legs is walking [to an evil place or deed]. And the heart is tempted and longs [for adultery], and the private parts realize that or refrain [from submitting to temptation]." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Further, Jarir, may Allah be pleased with him, related: “I asked the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, about the sudden glance [at a non-related woman]; he advised, ‘Turn your glance away immediately.’” [Muslim]

These are the many negative consequences of having an unrestrained gaze:

1. It is an act of disobedience and a violation of the command of Allah The Almighty, when nothing, in this life or the Hereafter, is more beneficial to a slave than obeying the directives of his or her Lord. People are in bliss only when they obey His orders and are wretched only because they go against Him.

2. It confuses the heart, and pushes it away from Allah The Almighty. This is the most detrimental thing a slave can ever face, since it alienates him or her from the Lord. Lowering the gaze, on the other hand, fills one’s heart with serenity and reassurance from Allah The Almighty.

3. It weakens and induces sorrow in the heart, whereas restricting one’s vision strengthens it and infuses it with happiness.

4. It engulfs the heart in darkness; when that happens, the clouds of affliction and evil, including all kinds of religious innovations, deviations and whims – that make one avoid guidance, shun the causes of happiness and pursue the causes of wretchedness – amass around it from every place. These evils are only eliminated by the light in one’s heart, so when that is lost, one becomes like a blind person wandering in darkness. In contrast, lowering the gaze for the sake of Allah The Almighty fills the heart with light, which is apparent in the eyes, on the face and other parts of the body. Hence, soon after commanding the believers to watch their eyes, in the verse cited above, Allah The Almighty talks about His light, Saying (what means): {Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche …} [Quran 24:35] This is to say that the likeness of His light is also in the heart of His believing slave, who obeys His commands and avoids His prohibitions. Thus, when the heart is filled with radiance, goodness surrounds it from all directions.

5. It hardens the heart and blocks the pathway to knowledge, whereas, checking one’s gaze opens the gates of knowledge and facilitates its means, due to the light in it by which the heart clarifies for itself the reality of things.

6. It allows the devil to enter the heart, for he enters with the look and penetrates into the heart quicker than air when there is no longer a vacuum. The devil then presents one with a beautified image of the object he or she perceived, so that it becomes idolized by the heart. After that, he stirs longing in the person and throws the fuel of disobedience on the sparks of desire that would never have arisen, if not for this image. This puts the heart amidst flames, surrounded from all directions. Ironically, such people’s punishment in the grave is similar, as they will be there in an oven of fire, where their souls will be placed until their bodies are resurrected. Conversely, lowering the gaze blocks the way for the devil, preventing him from entering the heart.

7. It breeds negligence and makes one follow his or her whims. Allah The Almighty Says (what means): {And do not obey one whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance and who follows his desire and whose affair is ever [in] neglect.} [Quran 18:28]; these three negative consequences occur according to the degree of gazing at what is prohibited. Whereas, lowering one’s eyes for the sake of Allah The Almighty makes the heart occupied only with its interests in the Hereafter.

8. A glance affects the heart in the same way an arrow does a prey; it at least causes injury, if it isn’t fatal. A passing look is like a spark that falls onto dry grass; if not entirely, it burns it partially. A poet once likened a glance to flares, saying they both ignite worse things, i.e., evil and fires, respectively. They are in great danger, who let themselves gaze at people, for what pleases the eye may harm the heart.

9. It brings about heartbreak, lament and suffering, when one sets his or her eye on what he or she is unable to get or forget. A poet once wrote verses on how looking at what is prohibited, will only cause a person to suffer, for he or she is neither able to obtain it nor to live with that fact.

10. It wounds the heart, over and over; and yet, the pain resulting from such wounds does not prevent one from looking again. As a poet once said, a person continues to follow up a glance with another, at every beautiful woman or handsome man, thinking this to be the remedy for the pain he or she is feeling, when in fact, it is no less than an additional wound. Thus, one slays his or her eyesight by forbidden glances and tears of sorrow, severely destroying the heart in the process.

11. It extinguishes the light of insight; conversely, lowering the gaze strengthens one’s insight and grants wisdom. Shah ibn Shuja‘ Al-Kirmani  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said, “He who adheres to the Sunnah, is always conscious of the fact that Allah The Almighty is watching him, lowers his gaze from what is prohibited, restrains himself from fulfilling his desires and is accustomed to what is lawful, his wisdom will never fail him”; and thus, the insight of the man who spoke these words never failed him.

12. It entraps the heart in the humiliation of slavery and weakens it, causing one to be despised and debased. In addition, it subjects one to the severe punishment that Allah The Almighty has prepared for the one who prefers his or her own desires to His pleasure. On the other hand, Allah The Almighty has made honor and power contingent on obeying Him and has made humiliation the result of disobeying Him. He Says (what means): {Whoever desires honor [through power] - then to Allah belongs all honor. To Him ascends good speech, and righteous work raises it} [Quran 35:10]. This means that if anyone wants honor, he or she must seek it in obedience to Allah The Almighty and in His remembrance, and with good speech and righteous deeds. Therefore, those who become the ally of Allah The Almighty through their worship, will be so to the degree that they obey Him; whereas, if a person disobeys Him, he or she becomes His enemy and will be humiliated as much as he or she deserves because of the disobedience.

13. It enslaves the heart to base desires, making him or her a captive of whims, though appearing to be free. When this happens, he or she becomes an easy prey for an enemy that toys with him or her, as a child tortures a small creature to death while playing.

14. It exacerbates one’s heedlessness of Allah The Almighty and of the Hereafter, and entraps him or her in the inebriation of love. Allah The Almighty Says about those who love illusions (what means): {By your life, [O Muhammad], indeed they were, in their intoxication, wandering blindly.} [Quran 15:72]. Allah The Almighty depicted them as being intoxicated, as a reference to the corruption of their minds; and as being blind wanderers, implying their insight was tainted. In our context, the glance is a cup of wine and ardent love is the intoxication it incurs. And so, the one who is drunk with love is only likely to regain consciousness after joining the dead and sharing in regret with the losers.

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