Six ways to lower the gaze
By: Aiman Azlan
Source: Productive Muslim
The eyes have desires that have a great tendency to want to be fulfilled, as if there is a gravity-like force that pulls the sight to the things we should not be looking at. Like gravity, those who resist will feel the force acting on them, while those who just go with the flow will feel little or nothing at all. Like gravity, it takes a lot of strength to escape it.
One of the desires of the eyes is the sexual desire. Some follow this desire willingly, some struggle to keep the gaze down, and others are somewhere in between. If this desire is not kept in check, it can affect our productivity. Looking at what we should not distracts us, and when we are distracted, we stray away from our focus and lose much of our precious time on useless things.
“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…” [Qur’an: Chapter 24, Verses 30-31].
Not only does the Qur’an make a connection between the gaze and sexual desires, it does so explicitly by specifying the physical area of the body associated with sexual desires: the private parts. The explicit nature of the verse should catch our attention. It should also make us realize the seriousness of the issue, considering that the ultimate sin of the private parts is zina (fornication).
It is incredible to realize that something as serious as zina can start from something as simple as a gaze! The path to zina can be short or long. For some, Shaytan may slowly whisper for years and years before the individual falls into the trap of zina. Shaytan is relentless and he is patient. Whatever small opportunity he sees, he will take it, as long as it leads us closer to zina.
The danger is that we might be oblivious to all the more reason why we should cultivate the awareness of Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) in ourselves. Those who are most aware of Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) (those who have more taqwa) are those who are hardest for Shaytan to lead astray. And in this context, it makes perfect sense that more taqwa leads to the protection from Shaytan. This is the reason why Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) prohibits not only zina itself, but anything that leads to it, as He subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:
“And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is ever an immorality and is evil as a way” [Qur’an: Chapter 17, Verse 32].
We have all heard that “prevention is better than cure”, and preventing zina starts from lowering the gaze. So, how can we fulfill this command?
1. Find Good Friends
As much as we are autonomous and in control, we cannot deny the power of the environment we are in. We are all directly or indirectly influenced (in a good way or bad way) by the people we hang out with. They shape a large part of who we are. If you want to know who you are, look at the people whom you spend most of your time with. We must be wise in choosing our friends. If we choose friends who are guarding their gaze, In sha Allah we will follow their footsteps. Good friends help each other in the struggle to lower the gaze by reminding each other when one forgets and succumbs to the gaze. Even being in the presence of people who lower their gaze is a form of reminder in and of itself. Allah’s Messenger ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:
“The example of a good companion in comparison with a bad one, is like that of the musk seller and the blacksmith’s furnace; from the first you would either buy mush or enjoy its good smell while the furnace would either burn your clothes or your house, or you get a bad nasty smell thereof.” [Bukhari]
Therefore, it is essential to surround yourself with friends who are unlike the obviously lustful and those who make quick comments on the appearance or attractiveness of the opposite gender. If you notice the people around you behaving as such, either remind them to lower their gaze, or surround yourself with those who do so and whose presence are constant reminders of Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) and His Messenger ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).
2. Carry a Book
This one is a personal tip from me. Sometimes I find myself in situations, for example when waiting for a bus, where my eyes tend to wander. To avoid that, I try to always carry a book with me. Whenever I am in such a situation, I take out my book and read. It is a good way to spend time and learn something. Reading off your phone or e-book reader is a good substitute as well.
3. Fight the Second Gaze
At times we find ourselves unintentionally looking at something we should not look at. For example, while we are walking in a mall, we might come upon an inappropriate sight. In such a situation, we should avert our gaze immediately and actively fight to avoid looking at it again (as tempting as it might be). We will not be held accountable for the first unintentional gaze, In sha Allah.
Ideally, we should strive to avoid the first gaze but that is not always under our control and is not always practical. But what we can do is try and avoid going to places where there will be sights we should not see, if we are able to. For example, if there is no need to go to the mall, it is best to avoid going there in the first place.
However, there are instances where that is impractical, like being in a workplace with non-Muslims, for example. Some of them might be wearing clothes that are not particularly modest. You cannot avoid the place you work in. So, what do you do? In such a situation, we should avoid their unnecessary company whenever possible (e.g. during lunch breaks).
A place where avoiding the second gaze is very challenging is the internet. Even when we surf through innocent parts of the web, we are never entirely free from inappropriate images, for example, in pop-up ads or banner ads. Alhamdulillah, there are ways to go around it like installing an adblocker on our browsers. However, cutting out unnecessary and time-wasting web pages is essential.
4. Get Married
One a related note, the Prophet ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) recommended two sure-fire solutions for fighting the urge to look again: marriage for those who can afford it, and fasting for those who cannot.
He ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “O young men, whoever among you can afford it, let him get married, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and guarding one’s chastity. And whoever cannot afford it should fast, for it will be a shield for him.” [An-Nasai]
Without a doubt, being married protects you from fulfilling your natural desires in unlawful ways as you have a spouse whose company and comfort you can enjoy day and night. As for those whose circumstances do not permit them to commit to marriage yet (such as financial reasons, bad temper, or those who are not mentally fully committed to all aspects of marriage), fasting gives them time to build themselves up, and particularly helps diminish their sexual urge and their inclination to look at what is unlawful.
On the other hand, if one is already married yet having trouble with their wandering gaze, they should make some time in their day to bond more with their spouse. Discuss what pleases you/them and what else you/they can do to be more attractive and pleasing, such as smelling good, wearing nice clothing, giving proper attention, listening, conversing etc. Also, if you wear glasses/contact lenses and are not incredibly vision-impaired, keep them off whenever you can and your spouse will appear more beautiful to you and other people less relevant.
5. Remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He)
When our parents are around, would we feast our eyes on things we should not see (out of shame and respect for them)? Hopefully we would not. Of course, they are not with us all the time. However, Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) is. We should be more ashamed and more respectful towards Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) than we are towards our parents. Constantly remind yourself that Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) is All-Aware of every gaze, every glimpse, and every peek we take. Making it a habit to constantly remember Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) presence will help us be careful about our every move, including the movements of our eyes. Most importantly, the reward for constantly remembering Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) and trying our best to avoid shameful deeds is nothing but Paradise, as Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:
“But as for he who feared the position of his Lord and prevented the soul from [unlawful] inclination, Then indeed, Paradise will be [his] refuge” [Qur’an: Chapter 79, Verses 40-41].
By creating a habit of constant dhikr throughout the day it can help you trigger the thoughts of your Creator, in front of whom you should have utmost humility.
6. Ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) for Help
Lowering the gaze is not easy. It is a constant struggle, especially if we are in a society where inappropriate sights are almost everywhere. No matter where we look, it is there. It goes without saying that we will slip up once in a while.
However, know that Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He)’s Mercy is bigger than our sins. Therefore, as long as we are still breathing, we should always be in a state of asking for Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He)’s forgiveness and help. Since lowering the gaze is not an easy thing to do, we need all the help that we can get. What better help to have than Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He)’s Help? Ask Him and ask abundantly!
In an effort to avoid committing the same sin repeatedly, we should pinpoint the source of the sin and cut it at the source. For example, if we find that we are more likely to indulge in corrupting our gaze when we are with certain friends, then it might be a good idea to distance ourselves from those friends.
We are not alone in our struggle and we are in need of help, so we should build a positive and healthy support system for ourselves. Surrounding ourselves with good company and frequenting spiritually rejuvenating gatherings and places like the masjid and iman-building courses and conferences boost our remembrance and awareness of Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He).
I ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) to give us the strength to lower our gaze, to protect us from inappropriate sights, and to purify our eyes so that they may be crystal clear when we set our ultimate gaze at the most beautiful sight of all, His Face subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He). Ameen.
What other tips or words of advice can you offer to someone who is struggling with lowering their gaze? Please share your thoughts below!