So you finally came to your senses. That girl or guy you’ve been talking to is not the best thing that’s ever happened to you, and definitely not helping you advance or get closer to Allah. You know it’s wrong, you want to get over it, you want to move on, but it’s just so hard and no one understands you!
InshaAllah, it’s all going to be alright. I’ve heard it all before, especially working with youth. It may be the single most difficult sin to convince someone to leave. I knew a brother who left Islam for a girl, because when all else fails, this is the last arrow Shaytan throws at the believer because it works. And that’s why we need real, practical ways to just get over it.
The fact that you’re here and reading this is a step in the right direction. You may not think so now, but you WILL get over it. After all, Allah tells us:
“As for the one who is conscious of Allah, He prepares for him a way out. And He provides for him from sources that he could never imagine.” (Quran 65:2-3)
The Prophet tells us in a hadith that Allah says: “When my servant comes to Me walking, I go to him running.” (Bukhari)
You’re probably thinking that getting over a relationship can’t be as easy as people make it sound. Especially since Shaytan spends his days and nights trying to make the forbidden so beloved to you. He convinces you that lust is love as he makes your heart skip a beat when you see that special person’s name – in your email, on your phone, or on your Facebook account.
But believe me when I tell you that you’re stronger than that. Move on, work on pleasing Allah, and you will have no regrets. But just to make things easy for you, here are 21 practical steps you can take to get over that haram relationship, divided up into seven categories:
Just Knock it Off
1. End the Relationship Cold Turkey
Enough with the games already. Stop dipping your toes in the water and jump in. If you think you’re going to try to “downgrade” the relationship a little bit, then forget it. Someone asking for advice once said that he thought it would be a good idea that instead of hanging out as often they would just talk on the phone and meet for coffee every once in a while. It simply doesn’t work. Stopping cold turkey is the first step. In fact, it’s the only real step that you have to take. The rest of what I’m going to share is simply how to manage yourself after you take that step.
2. Don’t Keep them Hanging On
This is not the time to make a deal. No putting thoughts in each others minds about “when the time is right”, or “let’s revisit this if neither of us are married by the time we’re 19.” They may try to do the same to you. Don’t let it happen. This will make you both miserable, will make things harder, and will make it impossible to move on.
3. Cut the Cord
Delete all the emails, texts, Facebook messages, phone number, voice mails, and anything else you have that reminds you of that person. Avoid situations where you will run into them as much as possible. Avoid talking to them in general, and definitely not without someone else present. Don’t try to find out what they’re up to, and stop cyber-stalking them. So quit looking them up on Facebook, don’t follow them on Twitter, and knock off whatever other sneaky ways you have to find out what’s going on in their lives.
4. Tell Them it’s Over… Like for Real
If you must have that last conversation to tell them you’re moving on, then do it. Do it over email and keep it short, sweet, and not open ended by any interpretation. Don’t leave things for them to respond to. End by telling them it’s something you have to do for the sake of Allah. And ask them not to contact you. The sooner you do this the better. If you’re in the early stages then it’s much easier to stop. Relationships progress and before you know it, you could be in over your head, and it’s not as easy to end it (though always doable).
Control Your Emotions
5. Turn the Radio Off
This is not a debate about the permissibility of music. One thing that’s for sure though is that music will spark certain emotions when you’re most vulnerable. Every song will be about you two. Just lay off of it for a bit and give yourself some time off.
6. Stop Wondering
Don’t keep wondering if they’re thinking about you, and don’t give them the opportunity to let you know that they are. Let other, more important things occupy your thoughts. Don’t allocate an hour to stare at your ceiling before going to bed. Read a book instead. Assume they’re doing fine without you, and hopefully they’ll assume the same about you. Keep your dignity.
7. Know They Were Never Right for You
If something starts off wrong it doesn’t just become right with time. Realize that you never really loved them for the sake of Allah, no matter how much you thought you did or what MSA event you met them at. You need something that started on the right foundation.
Fill That Void
8. Let it All Out
Talk to Allah and tell Him how you feel – in whatever language you know how. Cry to Him if you want to. Do whatever you can to get closer to Him. So if you weren’t already praying tahhajud every night, take some baby steps. Allah has an open door policy.
9. Do What You Love
Do things that you actually enjoy doing. Yes, it’s critical to do acts of worship, but also do things that you really love to do. Play sports, go hiking, head to the driving range, watch a movie. Fill your time with things that will engage and fulfill you – and keep your mind from being where it doesn’t need to be.
Rekindle Your Relationship with Allah
10. Quit Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
Let your love of Allah fill your heart. There is a fulfillment that you will never get from people that only the Most Merciful can fulfill. Know that He has always taken care of you when you had nowhere else to turn to. Ask for His forgiveness and put your trust in Him. He will not neglect you. And don’t be afraid to be alone sometimes… just you and your Creator.
11. Make Dua’ for Something Better
You know the story of Umm Salamah whose amazing sahabi husband passed away, she made dua’ for something better and ended up marrying the Prophet . So know that Allah is the best of planners. And ask that He grant you someone who will bring you closer to Him and make you happy. Just live your life so that you deserve it. After the Prophet died, Ibn Abbas [ra] was said to increase in fasting and prayer. When others asked him why, he said
“I want to get married, and I read the verse: ‘Pure women are for the pure men, and pure men are for the pure women.’” (Quran 24:26)
12. Follow Up with a Good Deed
“Verily the good deeds erase evil deeds.” (Quran 11:114)
So you feel like you slipped and messed up. Follow up with something good. Give charity. Pray at night while others are sleeping. Feed the hungry. Fast some extra days. Just be thankful that Allah saved you from something that could have gotten worse. He is the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful.
Let’s be Rational
13. Stop Dreaming about Marriage
People spend way too much of their youth thinking about marriage. It’s even a phenomenon with religious youth – actually, maybe even more so with them since they’d rather think of marriage than something haram. If you’re not ready, you’re not ready. Allah says:
“Let them who find not the means for marriage remain chaste until Allah gives them means by His grace.” (Quran 24:33)
Dream big about other things and accomplish something real. Your whole life, and especially your youth, is not about you being attached to someone else. You’re an individual. As the Prophet said: “take advantage of your youth before your old age. (Reported by Al-Hakim)”
14. Take Time to Evaluate
Evaluate what really makes sense in your life with regards to marriage. Is it really the right time for you? If not, is that time soon? Are there things you have to accomplish before you’re ready? Get the advice of good, righteous, and knowledgeable people to help evaluate. Use this time to develop your relationship with your parents. Get their take on things as well and talk to them about how you feel. You’ll get great insight and build a stronger relationship with them.
15. Know that This Too Shall Pass
One of my teachers once told me that all things in life start small and grow, except for the calamity, which starts big and only becomes smaller. You’ll get over this with time. You’ll look back and wonder what your problem was and why it was such a big deal at the time. And know that leaving what is haram will only make your marriage stronger when you do find the right one by the grace of Allah.
Be a Better You
16. Rediscover Yourself
Discover your talents. Get into things that you’ve always wanted to try but didn’t. Develop your skills in something you enjoy. Take time to do things that will be tough to do once you get married and have less time for yourself.
17. Do Things to Feel Good About Yourself
Take care of yourself in these tough times – your mind, body, and soul. Read a book, study hard for your classes, eat healthy, get exercise, drink a lot of water, dress nicely, listen and read more Quran, listen to a good lecture, volunteer at an Islamic function… basically, anything and everything that normally makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something good. Be kind to yourself.
18. Learn About True Love
Learn about what halal love really is. And yes, it exists. It’s not what you think and it’s not how Hollywood portrays it. Real, halal love is the Prophet crying when he saw the necklace of Khadijah long after her death. It’s when she supported him when the whole world turned its back on him. It’s wanting your spouse to do good so you can spend eternity in paradise together. It’s not meeting a girl at a party and killing yourself because you can’t be with her (sorry Shakespeare). Learn what true love really means and you’ll get over any haram relationship real quick.
Get Support from Others
19. Get a Role Model
Hang out with and talk to respectable young, religious, happily married people. Get their advice and use them as an example for yourself in your life. They will help put things in perspective for you. Ask about their stories of how they got married. Ask them for advice and learn from them.
20. Lean on Your Friends
That’s what friends are for. Now you finally have an opportunity to develop stronger bonds with your brothers and sisters (brothers with brothers and sisters with sisters of course, or you missed the whole point of the article). It will be much easier now to spend time with them and make each other better people. You won’t always have this luxury.
21. Be Among the Righteous
Be with people who you know would not want you to be in that haram relationship. The friend who tells you you’re a fool for cutting things off is the one you want to avoid for a while. If one or more of your righteous friends knew about the haram relationship you were in, then talk to them and let them know you’re moving on. It’s a good way to encourage yourself, and inshaAllah they will encourage you. If they didn’t know about it, no need to make confessions. Just enjoy your time with them because it will make you a better person.
I ask that Allah make us all strong. That He strengthens the marriages of those in our ummah, and keep us away from all that is displeasing to Him.
Ehab Hassan is a Muslim youth activist and Islamic worker. He has served on several councils and boards of various Islamic organizations while concentrating much of his efforts in youth work over the past 15 years. He strives to motivate and connect with Muslim youth and families by delivering sermons, leading discussions, and organizing creative community activities. His passions lie in Islamic manners, family development, and sharing heart-softening stories, as he tries to get the world to feel something – because people can be so numb sometimes. By day, Ehab is a Mechanical Engineer, and by night he is a family man trying to maintain his status as the world’s best dad. Ehab resides in Maryland with his wife and three young kids. Follow him on Twitter @ehababuayah.
Are You Prepared for Marriage and Building a Family?
High School is that time which is ideal for preparing yourself for the rest of your life. There is so much excitement and opportunity. Youth is a time of energy, growth, health, beauty, and adventure. Along with the thrill of being one of the best times of life, there is a definite lack of life experience. In your youth, you end up depending on your own judgments as well as the advice of others who are further along the path. Your own judgments usually come from your own knowledge, assumptions, likes, and dislikes. No matter how wise, mature, or well-intended a youth is compared to his or her peers, the inherent lack of life experience can also mislead that person to go down a path which is not serving them or their loved ones best. A youth may walk into mistakes without knowing, or get themselves into trouble resulting from naivety.
Salma and Yousef:
Salma and Yousef had grown up in the same community for many years. They had gone to the same masjid and attended youth group together during high school. After going off to college for a few years, both were back in town and found that they would make good prospects for marriage for each other. Yousef was moving along his career path, and Salma looked forward to her new relationship. Yousef was happy to settle down. The first few months after marriage were hectic: getting a new place, organizing, managing new jobs and extended family. After a few months, they began to wonder when things would settle down and be like the vision they had about married life.
Later with valuable life experience, we come to realize that the ideas we had in our youth about marriage and family are far from what are they are in reality. The things that we thought mattered in high school, may not matter as much, and the things that we took for granted really matter a lot more than we realized. In retrospect, we learn that marriage is not simply a door that we walk through which changes our life, but something that each young Muslim and Muslima should be preparing for individually through observation, introspection, and reflection. In order to prepare for marriage, each person must intend to want to be the best person he or she can be in that role. There is a conscious process that they must put themselves through.
This conscious process should begin in youth. Waiting until marriage to start this process is all too late. We must really start preparing for marriage as a conscious part of our growth, self-development, and character building from a young age. The more prepared we are internally, the better off we will be in the process of marriage. The best analogy would be the stronger the structure and foundation of a building, the better that building will be able to serve its purpose and withstand the environment. Another way to think of this process is like planting a seed. We plant a seed long before the harvest, but the more time, care, and attention, the more beautiful and beneficial the fruits will be.
Sarah and Hasan:
Hasan grew up on the East Coast. He had gone to boarding school all through high school, especially since his parents had died in an unfortunate accident. His next of kin was his aunt and uncle, who managed his finances, and cared for him when school was not in session. Hasan was safe and comfortable with his aunt and uncle, but he always felt there was something missing in his life. During his college years, Hasan was introduced to Sarah and eventually they decided to get married.
The first week of his new job, Hasan caught a really bad case of the flu that made it hard for him to get his projects done. Groggy in bed, he sees Sarah appear with a tray of soup and medicine every day until he felt better. Nobody had ever done that for him before. He remembered the “mawaddah and rahmah” that the Quran spoke of.
Knowledge, Skills, and Understanding:
The process of growing into that person who is ready to start a family is that we need to first to be aware of ourselves and be aware of others around us. We have to have knowledge of ourselves and our environment. With time, reflection and life experience, that knowledge activates into understanding and wisdom. This activity the ability to make choices between right and wrong, and predict how our actions will affect others related to us.
This series is made up of several parts which make up a unit about preparation for family life. Some of the topics covered include:
- The Family Unit In Islam
- Characteristics of an Individual Needed for Family Life
- The Nuclear Family
- The Extended Family
Hamza and Tamika
Tamika and Hamza got married six months ago. Tamika was getting her teacher certification in night school and started her first daytime teaching job at the local elementary school. She was shocked at the amount of energy it took to manage second graders. She thought teaching was about writing on a board and reading books to kids, but found out it had a lot more to do with discipline, speaking loudly, and chasing them around. This week she had state testing for the students and her finals at night school. She was not sure how to balance all this with her new home duties. One day feeling despair, she walked in her kitchen and found a surprise. Hamza had prepared a beautiful delicious dinner for them that would last a few days, and the home looked extra clean too. Tamika was pleasantly surprised and remembered the example of our Prophet Muhammad .
The Family Unit in Islam
We always have to start with the beginning. We have to ask, “What is the family unit in Islam?” To answer this we take a step further back, asking, “What is the world-wide definition of family? Is it the same for all people? Of course not. “Family” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people across the world. As Muslims, what family means to us, is affected by culture and values, as well as our own understanding of Islam.
The world-wide definition of family is a group of people who are related to each other through blood or marriage. Beyond this point, is where there are many differences in views. Some people vary on how distantly related to consider a family. In some cultures, family is assumed to be only the nuclear family, consisting of mom dad and kids only. Other cultures assume family includes an extended family. Another large discrepancy lies in defining family roles and responsibilities. Various cultures promote different behavioral norms for different genders or roles in the family. For example, some cultures promote women staying at home in a life of luxury, while others esteem women joining the workforce while raising their kids on the side. Living styles vary too, where some cultures prefer individual family homes, while in other parts of the world extended families live together in large buildings always interacting with each other.
Layla and Ibrahim
Layla and Ibrahim met at summer retreat where spirituality was the focus, and scholars were teaching them all day. Neither of them was seriously considering getting married, but one of the retreat teachers thought they might make a good match. It seemed like a fairytale, and the retreat gave them an extra spiritual high. Layla could not imagine anything going wrong. She was half Italian and half Egyptian, and Ibrahim came from a desi family. Soon after the nikah, Layla moved across the country into Ibrahim’s family home, where his parents, three siblings, and grandmother lived. Come Ramadan, Layla’s mother-in-law, Ruqayya, was buying her new clothes to wear to the masjid. It was out of love, but Sarah had never worn a shalwar kameez in all her life! Ruqayya Aunty started getting upset when Layla was not as excited about the clothes as she was.
As Eid approached, Layla had just picked a cute dress from the department store that she was looking forward to wearing. Yet again, her mother-in-law had other plans for her.
Layla was getting upset inside. It was the night before Eid and the last thing she wanted to do was fight with her new husband. She did not want that stress, especially because they all lived together. At this point, Layla started looking through her Islamic lecture notes. She wanted to know, was this request from her mother-in-law a part of the culture, or was it part of the religion?
The basis of all families, undoubtedly, is the institution of marriage. In the Islamic model, the marriage consists of a husband and a wife. In broad terms, marriage is the commitment of two individuals towards each other and their children to live and work together to meet and support each other’s needs in the way that they see fit. What needs they meet vary as well, from person to person, and family to family. The marriage bond must sustain the weight of fulfilling first their own obligations toward each other. This is the priority. The marriage must also be strong enough to hold the responsibility of raising the kids, and then the extended family.
How are we as Muslims unique and what makes us different from other family models? We are responsible to Allah. The end goals are what makes us different, and the method in which we work. In other family systems, beliefs are different, goals are different, and the motives are different. Methods can especially be different. In the end, it is quite a different system. What makes us better? Not because we say we are better or because we automatically feel better about ourselves due to a misplaced feeling of superiority. But instead it is because we are adhering to the system put in place by the most perfect God, Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds, the One Who knows best what it is we need.
Each person in the family has a role which Allah has meant for them to have, and which ethics and common sense tell us to follow. However, our nafs and ego can easily misguide us to live our family life in the wrong way, which is harmful and keeps us suffering. Suffering can take place in many ways. It can take place in the form of neglect or abuse. In the spectrum of right and wrong, Allah tells us that we are a nation meant for the middle path. So we should not go to any extreme in neglect or abuse.
What are the consequences of mishandling our family roles? Allah calls this type of wrongdoing “transgression” or “oppression”. There are definitely consequences of oppression, abuse, and neglect. There are worldly consequences which we feel in this life, and there are long term consequences in the Akhirah.
Razan and Farhaan
Razan and Farhan had gotten married two years ago. Since they were from different towns, Razan would have to move to Farhaan’s hometown. On top of the change of married life, Razan felt pangs of homesickness and did not know many people in the new town. However, Farhaan did not realize what she was going through. He still had the same friends he grew up with for years. They had a die-hard routine to go to football games on Friday night and play basketball on Saturday at the rec center.
Razan was losing her patience. How could he think it was okay to go out with his friends twice on the weekend? Yet he expected her to keep the home together? Her blood started to boil. What does Islam say about this?
Mawaddah and Rahma
The starting point of a family is a healthy relationship between the husband and wife. Allah SWT prescribed in Surah 25: verse 74, that the marriage relationship is supposed to be built on Mawaddah (compassion) and Rahma (mercy). A loving family environment responds to both the needs of the children and the needs of parents. Good parenting prepares children to become responsible adults.
Aliyaah and Irwan
Aliyaah and Irwan had homeschooled their twin children, Jannah and Omar, for four years. They were cautious about where to admit their children for the next school year. Aliyaah felt that she wanted to homeschool her children for another few years. There were no Islamic Schools in their town. Irwan wanted to let his kids go to public schools. He felt that was nothing wrong with knowing how things in the real world are. However, every conversation they started about this issue ended up into a conflict or fight. This was beginning to affect their relationship.
Two significant roles that adults in a family play are that they are married and they are parents. It is important that parents work to preserve and protect their marital relationship since it is really the pillar which supports the parenting role. Parenting is a role which Allah directly addresses in our religion. We will be asked very thoroughly about this most important role which we will all play in our lives.
There is a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad reminds us,
“All of you are shepherds and responsible for your wards under you care. The imam is the shepherd of his subjects and is responsible for them, and a man is a shepherd of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and is responsible for it. A servant is the shepherd of his master’s belongings and is responsible for them. A man is the shepherd of his father’s property and is responsible for them”. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Islam has placed a lot of importance on the family unit. A family is the basic building block of Islam. A strong family can facilitate positive social change within itself and the society as a whole. The Quran asserts that human beings are entrusted by their Creator to be his trustees on Earth, thus they need to be trained and prepared for the task of trusteeship (isthiklaf).
Asa youth, it is important to make a concerted effort to develop our family skills so that we grow into that role smoothly. Proper development will prepare a person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically for marriage and family life.
Mona Islam is a youth worker, community builder, motivational speaker, writer, and author. For the past 25 years, Sr. Mona has been on the forefront of her passion both locally and nationally, which is inculcating character development in youth (tarbiyah). Sr. Mona has extensive knowledge of Islamic sciences through the privilege of studying under many scholars and traveling worldwide. An educator by profession, she is a published author, completed her masters in Educational Admin and currently doing her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Sr. Mona is married with five children and lives in Houston, TX.
Thoughts on Gillette: The Best Men Can Be
Some people love it, some people hate it, but Gillette’s short film (ad) has people talking about masculinity in culture, media, and all things #MeToo.
So how does this relate to the Muslim community, and how does the lens of religion change the angle we view this with? Also, how do all those people taking photos of Gillette razors down their toilets plan to take them out without fishing around by hand? (ew.)
We asked our writers to share. Tell us what you think of the ad in the comments below.
“I found the Gillette ad a powerful statement challenging bullying, rape culture and sexual harassment. For me those are the Islamic ideals that actually drew me to Islam. The first Muslim men came from the family I knew. I felt respected and even safe being around them. And respect for women was a key teachings in the Islamic literature I read as I learned about the faith before embracing it. There was so much on honoring women, raising women’s status beyond objectification.
But at the same time it makes me very sad having lived in three Muslim majority countries where sexual-harassment was common place. And seeing it here in the United States a where lot of problematic behavior is condoned by our communities. I’ve even seen some pushback against the term toxic masculinity.
So at first I wondered how would this commercial relate to our community. Then, I was encouraged when I saw the footage of ibn Ali Miller intervening and interrupting street violence. He reminded those teens that they were men. A Muslim man was being held up in this viral ad as being among the “some” who were pushing for change. His courage provided a remedy to the toxic masculinity that leads to the vulnerability of Black life through street violence. It reminded me of the upstanding behavior of the Muslim men who embody our values of honor and respect, and make a difference in our neighborhoods. They are the peace keepers like the ones I worked with at United Muslim Masjid in Philly who stopped a feud, like the young men at Islah LA who escort the sisters to our cars after a function, like my wali, Salah Lashin, the father of three daughters, they are the allies of Muslim women and we look out for each other to make sure that we are not oppressing each other. They create safety. That is what Muslims are supposed to do.
I met ibn Ali Miller this past fall at the MAS LA Convention where he gave an inspiring speech, so that’s pretty awesome. So for me the biggest Takeaway is that by living the prophetic example, the sunnah, ibn Ali Miller did the best dawah. May Allah reward him.”
“The polarization of our times does not allow calm coherent conversations on gender identity. Long story short, without the authority and nuance of revelation, our frame of reference will always be so biased and so shallow. This discussion is just one small example of that. Toxic masculinity cannot be combated with demasculinization – reactions are expected to be imbalanced though.
Only wahy (relevation) can tell us what acceptable spectrum of masculinity is not toxic, and what aspects of compassion and gentleness are not unmasculine. And in the end, only sincere devotion to God can break the egotism and groupthink at the core of these debates. Allahul Musta’an. Perhaps we should take these opportunities to remind of that in general, the necessity of an authentic God-centric, God-informed personality to escape the pendulum effect of moral debates that rage on.
“We knew 1400 years ago that beating on each other and disrespecting women was haram, so maybe we roll our eyes a little when this stuff is seen as groundbreaking or woke or revolutionary, but we shouldn’t. Maybe we’re taking too much for granted. The gentility, honor, and refinement that the Prophet brought to men was groundbreaking and revolutionary in pre-Islamic Arabia too, back when girls were buried alive and women were inherited as property.
Religiously speaking, boys don’t just “get to be boys” because the Sunnah of the Prophet demands they grow up and become non-bullying, gaze-lowering, chastity-guarding, men. Our religion demands better of all of us, and when we fail to do better, we can’t blame Islam for it.
Cultural speaking though, “Boys will be boys” is a deeply entrenched social norm in this as well as cultures in some Muslim-majority countries, and challenging it is a commendable attempt on Gillette’s part even if it seems like old news as Islam is concerned.
“Yes, we need strong men who raise dignified boys that know how to respect women…nothing new there. Our culture just doesn’t have a way for producing that systematically. We don’t teach ethics and good character to children in school or even in the house, so unless we come up with a way of addressing these problems, all this hype is not all that productive.
I heard the furore over the ad from both sides – one that felt that this was overdue recalibration of toxic masculinity and another that felt that this was an unjust and generalised caricature of men.
“An external sign of marū’ah (manliness) : A beard.
The Prophet said there are ten things which are part of fitra (divine order)… which includes growing the beard. Every Prophet of Allah had a lihya. From its inception Gillette has been redefining manliness. Of course they will continue to push the limits.”
The Male Lust, The Female Form And The Forbidden Gaze
Allah ﷻ informs in the Holy Qur’an: Made beautiful for mankind is the love of desires for women and offspring, of hoarded heaps of gold and silver, of branded horses, cattle and plantations. [3:14] Although such things are elsewhere spoken of positively in the Qur’an, as blessings for which people should be thankful, here they are spoken of seductively in terms of objects which men lust over, crave and covet. Unsurprisingly, women top the list. This fact rings loudly in a hadith in which the Prophet ﷺ informed: ‘I have not left after me a fitnah more harmful for men than women.’1 It’s a warning that only a fool or a fasiq would be keen to overlook or take lightly. Another hadith states: ‘The world is green and sweet and Allah has placed you in it as custodians to see how you behave. So be mindful of the world and be wary of women; the first fitnah of the Children of Israel was to do with women.’2
If alcohol breaks inhibitions such that people will sexually behave in ways they usually wouldn’t when they are sober, then the devil is even more potent in removing modesty, boundaries and inhibitions between the sexes. The Prophet ﷺ said: ‘A woman is ‘awrah;whenever she goes out, the devil beautifies her.’3
The word ‘awrah, often translated into English as ‘nakedness’, can also mean weakness, vulnerability or something that is unseemly and indecent.4 Women are considered to be ‘awrah because of their desirability. In Islam, the feminine form – desirable, alluring and sensuous in the privacy of the marital home – should not be made to appear so in the public sphere. It’s not just the objectifying male gaze that demeans or threatens women; sometimes some women need saving from their own intemperate selves.
Of course, in our e-world awash with sin, porn and the sexualisation of even children, such revealed wisdom is unlikely to be received with the openness it would have done in a not so long ago age. Notions of modesty, decency or respectability with regard to how the sexes should interact are utterly alien to our consumer-driven, sexually-charged culture. To even suggest, as Islam does, that there could be a modest or dignified way of being a ‘lady’ (and, of course, a ‘gentleman’) is to court ridicule or scorn from an often uncritical public: some may even shout misogyny. I’ve previously written on contemporary gender interactions in Beards, Hijabs & Body Language: Gender Relations, so I’ll confine myself to these few remarks:
The principles of modesty, restraint and respectability have long been written out of our social norms and mores, and this was bound to impact Muslim attitudes too. One hadith says: ‘Modesty and faith are two close companions; if one of them is removed, the other follows.’5 Indeed, as Muslims themselves begin to relax these principles, or compromise them in the hope of being welcomed to the table of liberal sensibilities, can we perhaps see in where it has led others, where we too could be heading?
It’s not just the hijab or niqab we’re talking about. It runs far deeper than that. It’s about much more than just the externals. It’s about how one behaves; it’s about how one carries themselves; of how one disposes their soul towards the opposite gender. Ultimately, it’s about the heart’s purity and its attachment to its Lord.
Allah ﷻ commands: Tell believing men to lower their gaze and guard their modesty. That will be purer for them. For Allah is aware of what they do.[24:30]. On citing this verse, Ibn al-Qayyim noted:
‘Allah put purification after lowering one’s gaze and guarding the private parts. This is why restraining the gaze from the forbidden necessitates three benefits of great worth and tremendous significance. Firstly, [experiencing] the sweetness and delight of faith that is far sweeter, pleasant or delightful than that which the gaze was left, or averted from, for Allah’s sake. Indeed, whoever leaves a thing for Allah’s sake, He shall replace it with what is better than it.6 The soul is deeply enamoured with gazing at beautiful forms. The eye is the scout for the heart, and it sends its scout out to see what’s there. If the eye informs it of something it finds visually attractive and beautiful, it is moved to desire it … Whoever allows their gaze to roam free will constantly be in regret. For the gaze gives rise to love, which begins with the heart having an attachment (‘alaqah) to what it is beholden too. As it strengthens, it becomes an ardent longing (sababah); the heart now hopelessly besotted with it. Growing more, it becomes an infatuation (gharam); it sticks to the heart as a creditor (gharim) sticks to his debtor (gharimah) from whom he doesn’t part. Growing stronger, still, it becomes passionate love (‘ishq); an excessive love. Then it becomes a burning love (shaghaf); a love which reaches to the very lining of the heart and enters it. Intensifying further, it becomes worshipful love (tatayyum) … the heart becoming a slave [worshipper] of that which it isn’t worthy of being enslaved to. And all of this is because of the harmful gaze.’7
Leave aside the debate on whether the greater onus is on women dressing modestly, or men lowering their gaze. There’s no doubt that in today’s ambiance it falls upon men to lower their gaze and to refrain from the lustful, illicit and harmful glance. Shaykh Jaleel Akhoon recently remarked that sins usually leave a black stain on the heart, that can be cleansed through the act of contrition and repentance. But if the heart is captive to the object of its love; enslaved to it by its ‘ishq, then this is worse than the ‘usual’ sin. For the heart isn’t just stained or darkened, he stressed; it is inverted. This has certain echoes of Ibn al-Qayyim when he said: ‘Many a passionate lover will admit they have no place at all in their heart for other than their passionate love. Instead, they let their passionate love completely conquer their heart, thereby becoming an avid worshipper of it … There is no comparison between the harm of this dire matter and the harm wrought by sexual misconduct (fahishah). For this sin is a major one for the one who commits it, but the evil of this ‘ishq is that of idolatry (shirk). A shaykh from the knowers of Allah (‘arifun) said: “That I be tested with sexual misconduct by this beautiful form is more preffered to me than to be tested with it through ‘ishq, by which my heart worships it and is diverted from Allah by it.”‘8
The cure, Shaykh Jaleel says, is that as soon as the heart is tempted by what it must not gaze at, one reins in the gaze and diverts it from the haram or harmful. No effort can be spared in doing so, lest the forbidden glance secretes its poison into the heart, causing it irreparable injury, anguish and torment.
We Ask Allah for safety, sensibility and success.
1. Al-Bukhari, no.5096; Muslim, nos.3740-41.
2. Muslim, no.2742.
3. Al-Bazzar, no.2061; at-Tirmidhi, no.1173, who said it is hasan gharib.
4. Cf. Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 2003), 2:2193-4.
5. Al-Bukhari, al-Adab al-Mufrad, no.1313; al-Hakim, Mustadrak, 1:22, who declared: ‘It is sahih as per the conditions of the two shaykhs.’
6. Possibly paraphrasing the hadith: ‘Indeed, you will not leave anything for the sake of Allah, except that Allah will replace it with something better.’ Ahmad, no.22565, and its chain is sahih. See: al-Albani, Silsilat al-Ahadith al-Da‘ifah (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Ma‘arif, 1992), 1:62; no.5
7. Ighathat al-Lahfan fi Masayid al-Shaytan (Makkah: Dar ‘Alam al-Fawa’id, 2011), 75. The other two benefits he discusses are: Secondly, the heart being illumined and given to see with spiritual clarity and insight; thirdly, the heart is given strength, courage, firmness and honour.
8. Al-Da’ wa’l-Dawa’ (Saudi Arabia: Imam Dar al-Hijrah, 2014), 514-5.