How can we avoid Looking at Harams? What is the Sin of Watching Haram things?

The Details of the Question

-The summer is coming, women and girls started to dress immodestly and wander around. How can we protect our eyes? Because wherever we look, we see them. - Will you give information about the prohibited glance (looking at what one should not)?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Allah Almighty says, "Nor come nigh to adultery!" in verse 32 of the chapter al-Isra. Acting upon the phrase ‘nor come nigh (near)’, Islamic scholars stated that all of the acts that could lead a person to adultery were forbidden. Looking at obscene pictures or videos can be regarded in this category. Therefore, it is not permissible to look at those kinds of pictures.

As one of our scholars says, all of the sins and moral deteriorations start with the look at obscene things; it develops with the insistence on the looks and then it turns into actual sin. Besides, the eyes take the pictures of the things they look at and store them in the archives of images. No matter where man goes and where he is, those pictures are in front of his eyes in the realm of the imagination.

It is not permissible to look since lustful feelings arouse from such looking.

“Moreover, the Qur'an compassionately commands women to wear a veil of modesty, so that they will be treated with respect and those mines of compassion will not be abased beneath the feet of low desires, and will not become like worthless goods for the excitement of lust. However, civilization has drawn women out of their homes, rent their veils, and corrupted mankind.” (The Words, p. 381)

One of the reasons that cause the corruption of the society is, as it is expressed above, the women’s going out of their homes and being incorporated in the community immoderately and becoming unimportant things although they are beings deserving respect. Thus, the women lost their self-respect and caused the members of the community to corrupt.

The duty of the Muslim becomes heavier and he needs to act more meticulously in order to preserve his belief in a time when obscenity prevails and when modesty and chastity are not given any importance. In our community, there is almost no place that women have not entered today. They are abundant in the shops, markets, ships, state offices, etc. Under these circumstances, a Muslim cannot leave the community and live in seclusion. However, he has to obey some principles due to his belief.

The relationship of a man with a non-mahram woman and the relationship of a woman with a non-mahram man are limited and subject to certain criteria. Our Lord commands believing men and women as follows:

“Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty...”(Surah an Nur, 24/30-31)

In those verses, believing men are definitely ordered not to look at non-mahram women and believing women are ordered not to look at non-mahram men.

What is the limit and content of that forbidden look?

The phrase “lower their gaze” in the verse does not mean to shut their eyes, bend their heads and walk like that. Besides, it is not possible to walk like that. A person naturally sees a man and a woman and looks at him or her. However, what is meant here is to look at the opposite sex with lust and having sexual feelings. The criterion for the look of lust is to look continuously, several times. We find out about that criterion from the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). He said the following to Hazrat Ali regarding the issue:

“O Ali! Do not turn round to look! The first look is all right but you have no right for the second look.”(Abu Dawud, Nikah: 43; Tirmidhi, Adab: 28)

When one sees someone from the opposite sex, one must not look at continuously but turn his/her head. Thus, one does not approach the limit of the look of lust. Generally, the door to fornication is opened through looks. Then, the other doors open one another. Thus, by preventing the looks, the door to fornication can be closed.

Fakhruddin Razi, reports the following sentence from the Torah:

“The look at haram sows the seed of lust in the heart. And lust causes deep sorrow in man.”

Each seed of sin that falls into the heart endangers the spiritual life of man if it finds an appropriate ground and germinates. As Dhunnun Misri, a great spiritualist (sufist) says, “To close the eyes to sins is the best way of protection.”

Our Prophet explains the state of a Muslim who tries to protect himself from haram as follows:

“If the beauty of a woman catches the eyes of a Muslim and he turns his eyes away from her, Allah Almighty grants that Muslim a kind of worshipping whose pleasure he will feel in his heart.”(Musnad, V/264)

As it is known, the parts of the body of a man that is haram (forbidden) to show to other men and non-mahram women are the parts between his navel and knees according to the opinion of the most of the scholars. The parts of the body of a woman that is haram to show non-mahram men are all of her body except her hands and face.

Accordingly, it is permissible for a woman to look at the parts of the body of a man except the parts between his navel and knees without lust and repetition. It is also permissible for a man to look at the hands and face of a woman without lust. However, if a man or woman looks at the above-mentioned parts with sexual pleasure, then it becomes forbidden.

A man can look at non-mahram woman in business life and in some obligatory situations. Fakhruddin Razi, the writer of at-Tafsir al-Kabir, lists those obligatory situations as follows in the interpretation of above-mentioned verse:

*A man can look at the face and hands of a woman he wants to marry. As a matter of fact, once, a man went to the Prophet and said he wanted to marry an Ansar woman, while Abu Hurayra was with the Prophet. Our Prophet asked him, “Did you look at that woman?” The man said, “No!..” Then, our Prophet said, “Go and look at her because there is something in the eyes of Ansar.” (Muslim, Nikah: 74)

In this regard, it is also mentioned that even a look of lust is permissible.

* In the court, it is permissible for the judge and the witnesses to look at a woman in order to identify and recognize her. Here, to do away with injustice and to realize justice is in question. (at-Tafsir al-Kabir, XXIII: 203)

The following sentences are present in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya:

“It is permissible to look at the hands and face of a woman if a man feels free from sedition and lust.” (al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 5: 329)

In the book al-Muhadhdhab, the following is stated: “If it is obligatory, a tradesman can look at the open face of a woman. If he does not have a bad intention, he will not be responsible before Allah.” (al-Muhadhdhab, II: 34)

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