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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Social Etiquettes of Islam: Say (O Prophet) enjoin believing men to cast down their looks


In Islam, a great emphasis is laid on the establishment of a just and lewdness free society where honor of each man and woman is preferred over everything else. Unlike the western societies where men and women are above such things and freely interact with each other when it comes to intimate interactions, Islam strictly prohibits such interactions for it leads to many a social problems and illicit children which single mothers have to take care for the rest of the life, while men "move on."

Surah 24. An Noor "The Light" lays down very comprehensive guidelines for social etiquettes both for men and women so that they live a life honouring and respecting each other and their chastity. To start with, men are being cautioned in the 30th verse of the Surah an Noor to lower down their gaze, specially when it comes to women so that honour of the women is maintained. Lowering their gaze is an act of refining men’s manners. It represents an attempt to rise above the desire to look at women’s physical charms. It also cautions against guarding against their private parts for it leads to lewdness and other related harmful social problems:

قُلْ لِّـلۡمُؤۡمِنِيۡنَ يَغُـضُّوۡا مِنۡ اَبۡصَارِهِمۡ وَيَحۡفَظُوۡا فُرُوۡجَهُمۡ​ ؕ ذٰ لِكَ اَزۡكٰى لَهُمۡ​ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ خَبِيۡرٌۢ بِمَا يَصۡنَـعُوۡنَ‏ 
(24:30) (O Prophet), enjoin believing men to cast down their looks and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely Allah is well aware of all what they do.
The word ghedd means to reduce, shorten or lower down something. Accordingly, ghadd basar is generally translated as `lowering the gaze' or 'keeping it lowered'. But the Command of ghadd basar does not imply that the gaze should always be kept lowered. It only means to imply that one should restrain one's gaze and avoid casting of looks freely. That is, if it is not desirable to see a thing, one should turn the eyes away and avoid having a look at it. The restriction of a 'restrained gaz' is applicable only in a limited sphere. The context in which the words occur shows that this restriction applies to the men's gazing at women, or casting looks at the satar of the other persons, or fixing the eyes at indecent scenes.

The details of this Divine Commandment as explained in the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet are given below:
  • (1) It is not lawful for a tnan to cast a full gaze at the other women except at his own wife or the mahram women of his family. The chance look is pardonable but not the second look which one casts when one feels the lure of the object. The Holy Prophet has termed such gazing and glancing as wickedness of the eyes. He has said that man commits adultery with all his sensory organs. The evil look at the other woman is the adultery of the eyes; lustful talk is the adultery of the tongue; relishing the other woman's voice is adultery of the ears; and touching her body with the hand or walking for an unlawful purpose is adultery of the hands and feet. After these preliminaries the sexual organs either bring the act of adultery to completion or leave it incomplete. (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Da'ud).
According to a Tradition related by Hadrat Buraidah, the Holy Prophet instructed Hadrat 'Ali: "O 'Ali, do not cast a second look after the first look. The first look is pardonable but not the second one." (Tirmizi;, Ahmad, Abu Da'ud). Hadrat Jarir bin 'Abdullah Bajali says that he asked the Holy Prophet, "What should I do if I happen to cast a chance look?" The Holy Prophet replied, "Turn your eyes away or lower your gaze."(Muslim, Ahmad, Tirmizi, Abu Da'ud, Nasa'i). Hadrat 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud quotes the Holy Prophet as having said: "Allah says that the gaze is one of the poisonous arrows of Satan. Whoever forsakes it, out of His fear, he will be rewarded with a faith whose sweetness he will relish in his own heart." (Tabarani). According to a Tradition related by Abu Umamah, the Holy Prophet said: "If a Muslim happens to glance at the charms of a woman and then turns his eyes away, Allah will bless his worship and devotion and will make it all the more sweet. ''. (Musnad Ahmad). Imam Ja'far Sadiq has quoted from his father, Imam Muhammad Baqir, who has quoted Hadrat Jabir bin 'Abdullah Ansari as saying: "On the occasion of the Farewell Pilgrimage, Fadal bin'Abbas, who was a young cousin of the Holy Prophet, was riding with him on the camelback during the return journey from Mash`ar al-Haram. When they came to a few women passing on the way, Fadal started looking at them. Thereupon the Holy Prophet put his hand on his face and turned it to the other side." (Abu Da'ud). On another occasion during the same Pilgrimage, a woman of the clan of Khath'am stopped the Holy Prophet on the way and sought clarification about a certain matter pertaining to Hajj. Fadal bin `Abbas fixed his gaze at her, but the Holy Prophet turned his face to the other side. (Bukhari, Abu Da'ud, Tirmizi).
  • (2) Nobody should have the misunderstanding that the Command to restrain the 'gaze was enjoined because the women were allowed to move about freely with open faces, for if veiling of the face had already been enjoined, the question of restraining or not restraining the gaze would not have arisen. This argument is incorrect rationally as well as factually. It is incorrect rationally because even when veiling of the face is the usual custom, occasions can arise where a man and a woman come face to face with each other suddenly, or when a veiled woman has to uncover her face under necessity. Then even if the Muslim women observe purdah, there will be non-Muslim women who will continue to move about unveiled. Thus, the Commandment to lower the gaze or restrain the eyes, does not necessarily presume existence of a custom allowing the women to move about with unveiled faces. It is incorrect factually because the custom of purdah which was introduced after the revelation of the Commandments in Surah Al-Ahzab included veiling of the face, and this is supported by a number of Traditions relating to the time of the Holy Prophet himself. Hadrat `A'ishah in her statement relating to the incident of the "slander", which has been narrated on the authority of reliable reporters, has said: "When I came back to the camp, and found that the caravan had left, I lay down and was ' overpowered by sleep. In the morning when Safwan bin Mu`attal passed that way he recognised me because he had seen me before the Commandment of purdah had been sent down. On recognising me he exclaimed: Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji`un: `To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return'; and I awoke and covered my face with my sheet." (Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Ibn Jarir, Ibn Hisham). Abu Da'ud contains an incident that when the son of Umm Khallad was killed in a battle, she came to the Holy Prophet to enquire about him and was wearing the veil as usual. It was natural to presume that on such a sad occasion one is liable to lose one's balance and ignore the restrictions of purdah. But when questioned she said, "I have certainly lost my son but not my modesty." Another Tradition in Abu Da'ud quoted on the authority of Hadrat `A'ishah relates that a woman handed an application to the Holy Prophet from behind a curtain. The Holy Prophet enquired: "Is it a man's hand or a woman's?" She replied that it was a woman's. Thereupon the Holy Prophet said: "If it is a woman's hand, the nails at least should have been coloured with henna!" As regards the two incidents relating to the occasion of Hajj, which we have mentioned above, they cannot be used as an argument to prove that the veil was not in vogue in the time of the Holy Prophet. This is because wearing of the veil is prohibited in the state of ihram. However, even in that state pious women did not like to uncover their faces before the other men. Hadrat `A'ishah has stated that during the Farewell Pilgrimage when they were moving towards Makkah in the state of ihram, the women would lower down their head sheets over their faces whenever the travellers passed by them, and would uncover their faces as soon as they had passed by. (Abu Da'ud).
  • (3) There are certain exceptions to the Command of lowering the gaze or restraining the look. These exceptions relate to occasions when it is really necessary to see a woman, for instance, when a man intends to marry her. It is not only permissible to see the woman in such a case but even commendable. Mughirah bin Shu'bah has stated,. "I wanted to marry in a certain family. The Holy Prophet asked me whether I had seen the girl or not. When 1 replied in the negative, he said: `Have a look at her; this will enhance harmonious relationship between you two'." (Ahmad, Tirmizi, Nasa'i, Ibn Majah, Darimi). According to a Tradition related by Abu Hurairah, a man wanted to marry in a family of the Ansar. The Holy Prophet asked him to have a look at the girl, for the Ansar usually had a defect in their eyes. (Muslim, Nasa'i, Ahmad). According to Jabir bin 'Abdullah, the Holy Prophet said: "When a person from among you wants to marry a woman, he should have a look at her to satisfy himself that there is some quality in the woman which induces him to marry her. " (Ahmad, Abu Da'ud). According to another Tradition emanating from Abu Humaidah and quoted in Musnad Ahmad, the Holy Prophet said that there was no harm in such a procedure. He also permitted that the girl may be seen without her being aware of it. From this the jurists have concluded that there is no harm in looking at a woman when it is really necessary. For instance, there is no harm in looking at a suspect woman when investigating a crime, or in the judge's looking at a female witness, who appears in the court, or in the physician's looking at a female patient, etc.
  • (4) The intention of the Command to restrain the gaze also implies that no man or woman should look at the private parts of the other man or woman. The Holy Prophet has said: "No man should look at the satar of another man nor a woman at the sater of another woman." (Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Da'ud, Tirmizi). Hadrat 'Ali has quoted the Holy Prophet as saying: "Do not look at the thigh of another person, living or dead". (Abu Da'ud, Ibn Majah).  
"Guard their private parts": Abstain from illicit sexual gratification and from exposing their satar before others. For males, the satar is the part of the body from the navel to the knee, and it is not permissible to expose that pan of the body intentionally before anybody except one's own wife. (Daraqutni, Baihaqi). Hadrat Jarhad Aslami states that once he was sitting in the company of the Holy Prophet with his thigh exposed. The Holy Prophet said: "Do you not know that the thigh has to be kept concealed." (Tirmizi, Abu Da'ud, Mu'atta). Hadrat 'AIi reports that the Holy Prophet said: "Do not expose your thigh." (Abu Da'ud, Ibn Majah). Not only is the satar to be kept concealed before others but even when alone. The Holy Prophet has warned: "Beware, never remain naked, for with you are those (that is, the angels of goodness and mercy), who never leave you alone except when you ease yourself or you go to your wives. So feel shy of them and give them due respect. " (Tirmizi). According to another Tradition, the Holy Prophet said: "Guard your satar from everybody except from your wife and your slave-girl." The questioner asked, "Even when we are alone?" The Holy Prophet replied, "Yes, even when alone, for Allah has a greater right that you should feel shy of Him." (Abu Da'ud, Tirmizi, Ibn Majah).

Tafsir Ibn-Kathir
The Command to lower the Gaze This is a command from Allah to His believing servants, to lower their gaze from looking at things that have been prohibited for them. They should look only at what is permissible for them to look at, and lower their gaze from forbidden things. If it so happens that a person's gaze unintentionally falls upon something forbidden, he should quickly look away. Muslim recorded in his Sahih that Jarir bin `Abdullah Al-Bajali, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "I asked the Prophet about the sudden glance, and he commanded me to turn my gaze away. 

In the Sahih it is narrated that Abu Sa`id said that the Messenger of Allah said: (Beware of sitting in the streets.) They said, "O Messenger of Allah, we have no alternative but to sit in the streets to converse with one another.'' 
The Messenger of Allah said: (If you insist, then give the street its rights.) They asked, "What are the rights of the street, O Messenger of Allah'' He said, (Lower your gaze, return the greeting of Salam, enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil.) 
Abu Al-Qasim Al-Baghawi recorded that Abu Umamah said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah say: (Guarantee me six things and I will guarantee you Paradise: when any one of you speaks, he should not lie; if he is entrusted with something, he should not betray that trust; if he makes a promise, he should not break promise; lower your gaze; restrain your hands; and protect your private parts.) Since looking provokes the heart to evil, Allah commanded (the believers) to protect their private parts just as he commanded them to protect their gaze which can lead to that. 

So he said: (Tell the believing men to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts.) Sometimes protecting the private parts may involve keeping them from committing Zina, as Allah says: (And those who guard their chastity) [23:5] 

Sometimes it may involve not looking at certain things, as in the Hadith in Musnad Ahmad and the Sunan: (Guard your private parts except from your wife and those whom your right hands possess.)

(That is purer for them.) means, it is purer for their hearts and better for their commitment to religion, as it was said: Whoever protects his gaze, Allah will illuminate his understanding, or his heart.

(Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do.) This is like the Ayah : (Allah knows the fraud of the eyes and all that the breasts conceal.) [40:19] 

In the Sahih it is recorded that Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, said that the Messenger of Allah said: (The son of Adam has his share of Zina decreed for him, and he will commit that which has been decreed. The Zina of the eyes is looking; the Zina of the tongue is speaking; the Zina of the ears is listening; the Zina of the hands is striking; and the Zina of the feet is walking. The soul wishes and desires, and the private parts confirm or deny that.) It was recorded by Al-Bukhari without a complete chain. Muslim recorded a similar report with a different chain of narration. Many of the Salaf said, "They used to forbid men from staring at beardless handsome boys. 

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
Lit., "to restrain [something] of their gaze and to guard their private parts". The latter expression may be understood both in the literal sense of "covering one's private parts" - i.e., modesty in dress - as well as in the metonymical sense of "restraining one's sexual urges", i.e., restricting them to what is lawful, namely, marital intercourse (cf. {23:5-6}). The rendering adopted by me in this instance allows for both interpretations. The "lowering of one's gaze", too, relates both to physical and to emotional modesty (Razi).

Yusuf Ali  Explanation
The rule of modesty applies to men as well as women. A brazen stare by a man at a woman (or even at a man) is a breach of refined manners. Where sex is concerned, modesty is not only "good form": it is not only to guard the weaker sex, but also to guard the spiritual good of the stronger sex.

Qur'an Wiki:
The sūrah moves on to prevent desire from running loose. It simply prevents looking at what is bound to excite desire, and it prohibits action that encourages sin. Tell believing men to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity. This is most conducive to their purity. God is certainly aware of all that they do. And tell believing women to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity, and not to display their charms except what may ordinarily appear thereof.  Islam wants to establish a clean society where desire is not aroused at every moment, and erotic scenes are not displayed everywhere. Continual excitement of the sexual urge leads to an insatiable desire that may become unstoppable. A stealthy look, a seductive move, flagrant make-up and thinly-dressed bodies are meant only to add to such insatiable and uncontrolled excitement. Thus, prudence and self control are heavily taxed. Hence, there remains one of two alternatives: either total permissiveness that disregards all checks and values, or psychological problems and disorders that result from having to suppress a desire that has been strongly aroused. This borders on unmitigated torture.

One way Islam uses for achieving its goal of establishing a clean human society is to prevent such uncontrollable excitement of the sexual urge. It wants the natural sexual urge, of both men and women, to remain healthy, maintaining its natural strength and to satisfy it in the proper, clean manner.

The two verses we are now discussing give us some examples of how Islam helps to reduce the chances of excitement and sin: “Tell believing men to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity. This is most conducive to their purity. God is certainly aware of all that they do.”

Lowering their gaze is an act of refining men’s manners. It represents an attempt to rise above the desire to look at women’s physical charms. As such, it is a practical step to ensure that the first window of temptation is shut. Minding their chastity is the natural result of lowering their gaze. It is indeed the second step that comes after strengthening one’s will and rising above the natural urge right at the beginning. Hence, the two are stated in the same verse as a cause and effect, or as two consecutive steps both in personal conscience and in reality.

“This is most conducive to their purity.” It ensures that their feelings remain pure, unaffected by licentious desire and promiscuous action. Thus, feelings retain their noble human standards, and do not sink to animal levels. This protects honour, integrity and sanctities within the community. Besides, it is God who lays down such preventive measures, fully aware as He certainly is of people’s psychology, natural instincts thoughts and motives: “God is certainly aware of all that they do.”

Please listen to explanation of the ayat by eminent Muslim scholar Nouman Ali Khan:
May Allah help us understand Qur'ān and help us to act upon the commandments of Allah contained therein. Aameen.

For more Selected Verses, please refer to our reference page: Selected Verses from the Qur'anYou may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Qur'ān.
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Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Qur'ān from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that the exegesis of the chapters of the Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi.  
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided, additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
  • Towards Understanding the Quran
  • Tafsir Ibn Khatir
  • Muhammad Asad Translation
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • Al-Quran, Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Verse by Verse Qur'an Study Circle
In addition the references of other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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