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The Great Virtue of Lowering the Gaze (Ibn al-Qayyim) March 27, 2006

Posted by Rasheed Eldin in Advice, Islam, Shari'ah.

I've (slightly) adapted this from Khutbahbank, which says it was: "Taken from Al-Muntaqaa min Ighaathatul Lufhaan fee Masaayid ash-Shaytaan  [pp. 102-105] of ibn al-Qayyim, summarised by Alee Hasan."

Allah the Exalted said:

 “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their private parts; that will make for greater purity for them. Indeed, Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.” [24:30]

So Allah made purification and spiritual growth to be the outcome of lowering the gaze and guarding the private parts. It is for this reason that lowering one's gaze from the prohibited things necessarily leads to three benefits that carry tremendous value and are of great significance.

The First: experiencing the delight and sweetness of faith.

This delight and sweetness is far greater and more desirable that which might have been attained from the object that one lowered his gaze from for the sake of Allah. Indeed, “Whosoever leaves something for the sake of Allah, then Allah, the Mighty and Magnificent, will replace it with something better than it.” {1} The soul is a temptress and loves to look at beautiful forms, and the eye is the guide of the heart. The heart commissions its guide to go and look to see what is there and, when the eye informs it of a beautiful image, it shudders out of love and desire for it. Frequently such inter-relations tire and wear down both the heart and the eye as is said: 

When you sent your eye as a guide
For your heart one day, the object of sight fatigued you
For you saw one over whom you had no power
Neither a portion or in totality, instead you had to be patient.

Therefore, when the sight is prevented from looking and investigating, the heart finds relief from having to go through the arduous task of (vainly) seeking and desiring.

Whosoever lets his sight roam free will find that he is in a perpetual state of loss and anguish, for sight gives birth to love (mahabbah), the starting point of which is the heart being devoted and dependent upon that which it beholds. This then intensifies to become fervent longing (sabaabah), whereby the heart becomes totally dependent and devoted to the [object of its desire]. Then this further intensifies and becomes infatuation (gharaamah) which clings to the heart like the one seeking repayment of a debt clings firmly to the one who has to pay the debt. Then this intensifies and becomes passionate love ('ishq), and this is a love that transgresses all bounds. Then this further intensifies and becomes crazed passion (shaghafah), and this a love that encompasses every tiny part of the heart. Then this intensifies and becomes worshipful love (tatayyum). Tatayyum means worship and it is said: "tayyama Allaha, i.e. he worshipped Allah".

Hence the heart begins to worship that which is not correct for it to worship, and the reason behind all of this was an illegal glance. The heart is now bound in chains whereas before it used to be the master, it is now imprisoned whereas before it was free. It has been oppressed by the eye and it complains to it, upon which the eye replies: "I am your guide and messenger and it was you who sent me in the first place!"

All that has been mentioned applies to the heart that has relinquished the love of Allah and being sincere to Him, for indeed the heart must have an object of love that it devotes itself to. Therefore when the heart does not love Allah alone, and does not take Him as its God, then it must worship something else.

Allah said concerning Yusuf/Joseph the Truthful (peace be on him): “Thus (did We order) so that We might turn away from him all evil, for he was one of Our sincere servants.” [12:24]  It was because the wife of the 'Azeez was a polytheist that [the passionate love]entered her heart despite her being married. It was because Yusuf (peace be on him) was sincere to Allah that he was saved from it despite his being a young man, unmarried and [considered] a slave.

The Second: the illumination of the heart, clear perception and penetrating insight.

Ibn Shuja' al-Kirmani said, "Whosoever builds his outward form upon following the Sunnah and his internal form upon perpetual contemplation and awareness of Allah, and restrains his soul from following desires, lowers his gaze from the forbidden things and always eats the lawful things, then his perception and insight shall never be wrong.” Allah mentioned the people of Lut and what they were afflicted with, and then He went on to say: “Indeed in this are signs for the Mutawassimeen.” [15:75] The Mutwassimeen are those who have clear perception and penetrating insight; those who are secure from looking at the unlawful and performing indecent acts.

Allah said after mentioning the verse concerning lowering the gaze: “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.” [24:35]  The reason behind this is that the reward is of the same type as the action. So whosoever lowers his gaze from the unlawful for the sake of Allah, the Mighty and Magnificent, He will replace it with something better than it of the same type. So just as the servant restrained the light of his eye from falling upon the unlawful, Allah blesses the light of his sight and heart thereby making him perceive what he would not have seen and understood had he not lowered his gaze.  [Rasheed's comment: perhaps with our modern understanding of how sight depends on external light entering our eyes, our appreciation of this subtle point mentioned by the great Shaykh could be even greater!] 

This is a matter that the person can physically sense in himself, for the heart is like a mirror and the base desires are like rust upon it. When the mirror is polished and cleaned of the rust then it will reflect the realities (haqaa'iq) as they actually are. However if it remains rusty then it will not reflect properly and therefore its knowledge and speech will arise from conjecture and doubt.

The Third: the heart becoming strong, firm and courageous. Allah will give it the might of aid for its strength, just as He gave it the might of clear proofs for its light. Hence the heart shall combine both of these factors and as a result, Satan will flee from it. It is mentioned in a saying: "Whosoever opposes his base desires, the Shaytaan shall flee in terror from his shade."

This is why the one who follows his base desires will find in himself the ignominy of the soul, its being weak, feeble and contemptible. Indeed, Allah places nobilty for the one who obeys Him and disgrace for the one who disobeys Him: “So do not lose heart nor fall into despair; for you must gain mastery if you are true in faith.” [3:139] “If any do seek for nobilty and power, then to Allah belong all nobility and power.” [35:10]  Meaning that whosoever seeks after disobedience and sin, then Allah, Mighty and Magnificent, will humiliate the one who disobeys Him. 

Some of the early Muslims said: “The people seek nobility and power at the door of the Kings and they will not find it except through the obedience of Allah.”  This is because the one who who obeys Allah has taken Allah as his Friend and Protector, and Allah will never humiliate the one who takes his Lord as friend and patron. In the Du`aa Qunut there occur these words: The one whom You take as a friend is not humiliated, and the one whom You take as an enemy is not ennobled.”  {2}


 {1} Reported by Ahmad [5/363], al-Marwazee in ‘Zawaa`id az-Zuhd’ [no. 412], an-Nasaa`ee in ‘al-Kubraa’ as mentioned in ‘Tuhfah al-Ashraaf’ [11/199] from one of the Companions that the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) said, “indeed you will not leave anything for the sake of Allaah except that Allaah will replace it with something better than it.” The isnaad is saheeh.     {2} Reported by Abu Daawood [Eng. Trans. 1/374 no. 1420], an-Nasaa`ee [3/248], at-Tirmidhee [no. 464], ibn Maajah [no. 1178], ad-Daarimee [1/311], Ahmad [1/199], ibn Khuzaymah [2/151] from al-Hasan from Alee (RA). The hadeeth is saheeh. The isnaad has been criticised by many, however none of the criticisms hold. Refer to: ‘Nasb ar-Raayah’ [2/125] and ‘Talkhees al-Habeer’ [1/247] 



1. Yousef - March 27, 2006

Thank you for the post. Amazing masha’Allah. I must say it is amazing the scholarship that the scholars have made on such issues, especially, in this article, the classificatin o the different stages of ‘love’. Sheikh Abdullah Adhami (www.sakeenah.org) in a recent 3 part lecture talked about “Love in Islam”…It is a definite eye-opener for everyone, whethe struggling with SSA or not. It is available under the “Lectures” section of the website.
All the best.

2. Rasheed Eldin - March 27, 2006

I agree: people do have a tendency to underestimate the scholarship that exists within Islamic tradition, and there are those who imply that the jurists have no idea about subtle issues, or matters of the heart. In fact, there are scholars (and not just among the Sufis as such) who are specialised in understanding such matters and offering guidance on the heart and all its affairs. Sadly some people will claim that they can do whatever they want with the excuse of “following my heart”.

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