What is Meant by Lowering the Gaze?

Praise be to Allah

Lowering the gaze (ghadd al-basr) means restraining the gaze and not allowing it to wander or dwell upon anything. 

In Islamic terminology it refers to a number of things: 

1. Refraining From Looking At People’s ‘Awrahs, Which Includes The Beauty Of A Non-Mahram Woman (Or Man) 

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (15/414): 

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has enjoined us in His Book to lower the gaze, which is of two types:

  • refraining from looking at ‘awrahs and
  • refraining from looking at the site of desire

The former refers to a man refraining from looking at the ‘awrah of another person. 

The second refers to looking at uncovered parts of a non-mahram woman. This is more serious than the former, just as alcohol is more serious than dead meat and blood and pork, and the hadd punishment should be carried out on the one who drinks it because these haraam things are not as desirable as alcohol may be. End quote. 

2. Refraining From Looking Into People’s Houses And Things That Are Behind Closed Doors 

Ibn Taimiyyah says in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (15/379): 

Just as lowering the gaze includes not looking at the ‘awrahs of other people and other haraam things, it also includes refraining from looking into people’s houses. A man’s house conceals his body just as his garments conceal him. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has mentioned lowering the gaze and guarding one’s private parts after the ayah about asking for permission to enter because the house covers a person just as the clothes on his body do. End quote. 

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Madaarij al-Saalikeen (1/117): 

Haraam kinds of looking include looking at awrahs, which is of two types: the ‘awrah behind a garment and the ‘awrah behind doors. End quote. 

3. Refraining from looking at what people have of wealth, wives, children, worldly goods and so on. 

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says (interpretation of the meaning): 

“Do not extend your eyes toward that by which We have given enjoyment to [certain] categories of the disbelievers, and do not grieve over them. And lower your wing to the believers.”

[al-Hijr 15:88] 

Ibn Sa’di said in his Tafseer: Do not admire them in such a way that you will be distracted with desire for the worldly pleasures enjoyed by those who live in luxury and by which the ignorant are deceived. You should be content with that which Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala  has given you of the seven oft-repeated ayaat and the Qur’an (cf. al-Hijr 15:87). End quote. 

He also said: Di.e., do not be impressed and do not look repeatedly admiring worldly pleasures and those who are enjoying them, such as delicious food and drink, fine clothing, beautiful houses and adorned women, for all of that is the adornment of this world in which those who are deceived rejoice. And those who do wrong enjoy it by ignoring the Hereafter. But it will all soon end and cease to be, and those who love it will die, then they will regret when regret will be to no avail, and they will realize the state they are in when the Resurrection begins. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala  has made it a test and a trial, so that it may be known who will be deceived by it and who will be better in deeds. End quote. 

The Benefits of Lowering the Gaze

The scholars have mentioned many benefits of lowering the gaze, including the following: 

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said in al-Jawaab al-Kaafi (125): 

There are a number of benefits in lowering the gaze: 

1.It is obedience to the command of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala , which brings happiness to man in this world and in the next

There is nothing more beneficial to a person in this world and in the next than obeying the commands of his Lord. Those who are happy in this world and the next can only attain that happiness by obeying His commands, and those who are doomed in this world and in the next are only doomed because they ignore His commands.

2. It prevents the poisoned arrows (of the Shaytan), which may lead to his doom, from reaching his heart

3. It creates a heart that is devoted to and focused on Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala

Letting the gaze wander distracts the heart and keeps it far from Allah. There is nothing more harmful to a person than letting his gaze wander, as it creates alienation between a person and his Lord. 

4. It strengthens the heart and brings it peace, just as letting the gaze wander weakens it and makes it sad

5. It brings light to the heart, just as letting the gaze wander brings darkness to it

Hence Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala  mentioned the ayah of light immediately after the command to lower the gaze, as He says: 

“Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts…”

[an-Noor 24:30] 

Then straight after that, He says: 

“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp…”

[an-Noor 24:35] 

i.e., the likeness of His light in the heart of His believing slave who obeys His commands and heeds His prohibitions. If the heart is enlightened blessings will come to it from all sides, but if it is darkened, calamity and evil will come to it from all places. Whatever exists of innovation, misguidance, following whims and desires, avoiding true guidance and turning away from the means of happiness and focusing on the means that lead to doom, that will be recognizable by means of the light that is in the heart. If that light is lost then one will be left like a blind man stumbling in the darkness. 

6. It generates true insight which can distinguish between truth and falsehood, sincerity and lies

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala rewards His slave for his good deeds with something similar and if he gives up something for the sake of Allah, He will compensate him with something better than it. So if he lowers his gaze and refrains from looking at things that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has forbidden, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will compensate him with enlightenment; He will compensate him for restraining his gaze for the sake of Allah, and will open to him the doors of knowledge, faith and true insight which he only attained by means of the light in his heart. The opposite of that is the blindness which Allah attributed to the homosexuals, which is the opposite of insight. Allah  subhanahu wa ta’ala says:  

“By your life, [O Muhammad], indeed they were, in their intoxication, wandering blindly.”

[al-Hijr 15:72] 

7. It creates a heart that is steadfast, brave and strong

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will give him both insight and power and strength, as it says in the report: “The one who goes against his whims and desires, the Shaytan flees from his shadow.”  

On the other hand, the one who follows his whims and desires will feel a sense of humiliation, indignity, worthlessness and insignificance, which is the punishment which Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has decreed for those who disobey Him as al-Hasan said, “Even if they ride the finest of mounts, the effect of sin will never depart from them. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala insists that the one who disobeys Him will be humiliated.”

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has connected strength to obedience to Him, and humiliation to disobedience to Him. He says: 

“And to Allah belongs [all] honor, and to His Messenger, and to the believers, but the hypocrites do not know.”

[al-Munaafiqoon 63:8] 

“So do not weaken and do not grieve, and you will be superior if you are [true] believers.”

[Aal-Imran 3:139]

[Tafseer Surah Aal-Imran Ayah 139]

Faith is both words and deeds, inward and outward. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says: 

“Whoever desires honor [through power] – then to Allah belongs all honor. To Him ascends good speech, and righteous work raises it. But they who plot evil deeds will have a severe punishment, and the plotting of those – it will perish.”

[Faatir 35:10] 

i.e., whoever desires power, let him seek it by means of obedience to Allah and remembrance of Him, by speaking good words and doing good deeds. In Du’a al-Qunoot it says: “he is not humiliated whom You have befriended, nor is he honored who You take as an enemy.” Whoever obeys Allah is His friend in as much as he obeys Him, and he will have support and honor from Him commensurate with his obedience towards Him. Whoever disobeys Him is His enemy in as much as he disobeys Him, and he will have humiliation from Him commensurate with his disobedience towards Him. 

8. It blocks the Shaytan from a means of entering his heart

For he may enter with looking, and penetrate the heart faster than the wind blowing through an empty space, and he may present to him the image that he looked at and make it attractive, like an idol to which his heart becomes devoted. Then he encourages him and gives him hopes, and fans the flames of desire in his heart, adding the fuel of sin which could not have reached his heart without looking at that image. So his heart becomes inflamed and surrounded by fire on all sides, resulting in infatuation and frustration, and he is in the midst of it like a lamb in the oven. Hence the punishment for those whose desires were fuelled by haraam looking is that in al-Barzakh they are placed in an oven of fire. 

9. It distracts one from thinking of what is in one’s best interests, so his affairs become neglected and he follows his whims and desires and neglects to remember his Lord

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says: 

“And let not your eyes pass beyond them, desiring adornments of the worldly life, 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.”

[al-Kahf 18:28] 

10. Between the eyes and the heart there is a connection which means that the one is affected by the other

If one of them becomes good, the other will also become good, and if one becomes corrupt the other will become corrupt. If the heart becomes corrupt the gaze will become corrupt, and if the gaze becomes corrupt the heart will become corrupt, and similarly, if one is sound the other will also be sound. End quote. 

And Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala knows best. 

Originally posted here. Slightly modified. 

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