Lowering your Gaze-Practical steps
Sometimes, as a Muslim youth in America, going through high school and college while keeping your emaan can be really difficult. I want you to recall back to the last time you were in one of the following situations:
You were walking on campus (or in the hallway) on a hot summer day and as you looked ahead to see where you were going, your eyes fell upon a half-naked beautiful woman (or man).
Or when you were reading an Islamic article or just browsing the Internet at night and a nasty popup appeared right in front of your eyes.
At that very moment, did you immediately lower your gaze and say “astagfirullah” / “audhobillahi minnash shaytaanir rajeem”? If you did, then alhumdulillah! But if at that very moment you struggled to lower your gaze and/or didn’t feel anything in your heart telling you that you shouldn’t be looking at what you’re looking at, then you should continue reading this article…
Wallahi, lowering your gaze as a young Muslim is very difficult, especially since you have immodesty, pornography, and such lewdness running rampant in this society. We have cable television (channels such as MTV, E!, and even the Disney channel!) openly promoting this type of behavior. Even the most popular video game out right now (GTA 4) is all about money, girls, cussing, and boosting (stealing) cars! (Ya Allah…) When our hearts aren’t affected by this type of behavior, and we wonder why it’s so hard to lower our gaze, we should realize that the root of the problem isn’t our gaze, that’s just a symptom, but the root of our problem is that our hearts aren’t lowered in front of Allah (swt). And the way to lower your heart in front of Allah (swt) is by developing a strong connection with him through some of the suggestions that will be discussed below. When we develop a connection with Allah (swt), we will find that our limbs (including eyes) will automatically reject anything that displeases Allah (swt).
Let us now take a look at some of the things we can do to get closer to Allah (swt). Here is a list of some practical suggestions, which will later be expounded upon individually:
Work on performing (and perfecting) all of the obligatory acts of worship (praying 5 times a day, etc.).
Develop a relationship with the Qur’an.
Increase in the voluntary acts of worship.
Hang out and spend time with good brothers/sisters!
Aboo Hurayrah (Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anho) narrated that the Prophet (sw), said, “Allaah said: My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties [obligatory acts] I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask (something) of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it.” (Bukhari; hadith qudsi)
Allah is telling us, straight up, that the best way to get close to Him is by doing what He has ordered us to do. Let’s set some practical goals for ourselves with regards to our salah (prayer). Working towards praying five times a day is the best thing we can do for ourselves (if we don’t already do it). Allah (swt) has told us that he is with us if we pray!
Relationship with the Qur’an
I want us to ask ourselves this question: When was the last time we actually sat down with the Qur’an, read it in a language we understand, and pondered over the meaning? For many of us, we feel that the Qur’an is too good for us to read and that we won’t be able to understand it, so we keep it off on top of our bookshelves and let it catch dust. Or, when we do decide to read it, we only recite the Arabic and have no clue about the meaning. The Qur’an was sent down for people to think about and follow (the orders in it). How can we do that if we have no idea what it’s actually telling us to do (since we don’t understand the language)?
I can safely say that the Qur’an has had the biggest impact on my life in going back to Allah. If we don’t already read the Qur’an daily, we would be doing ourselves the biggest favor by buying an English translation of the Qur’an and getting in the habit of reading it daily. One of the best (easiest to read) translations I’ve found is the Saheeh International translation of the Qur’an. For less than $10, you can have it shipped to your house.
After you get your copy of the Qur’an, you can simply read it cover-to-cover, fifteen minutes a day. However, something that really helped me get in the habit of reading the Qur’an was that the first time around when you read the translation of the Qur’an, start from Surah 49 (second half of the Qur’an) and read it till the end. The reason is that the first half of the Qur’an (Medinan Surahs) is heavy in verses relating to law and sometimes it gets hard to read. When you start from Surah 49, the surahs are relatively short (2-3 pages long), and they are an amazing emaan booster, so you can set a goal to read one surah a day.
Increasing in voluntary acts of worship
The most important goal that we need to set for ourselves right now is to start praying (and yes, fajr is part of the five daily prayers too!). But after we are consistently praying five times a day, we should increase the voluntary acts. If you recall back to the aforementioned hadith, after Allah (swt) mentions that the most important step in going back to Allah is by performing the obligatory acts, He says: “…and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory (extra) works so that I shall love him.”
We can start off by performing the sunnah prayers before/after each of the five daily prayers. (See Sunnah (Optional) Prayers). We should also make an effort to remember Allah (swt) throughout the day, by making the du’as that the Prophet (sw) would make daily. A must-have pocket-sized book, which has the English translations of the du’as, along with the Arabic, is Fortification of the Muslim. You can order it online or buy it at your local Islamic bookstore (it’s only $3.00!).
Spending time with good brothers/sisters
If you feel like you’re having a really hard time trying to strengthen your emaan, look at the three closest people that you hang out with. I read an interesting article a while ago, which said that your habits are the same as the culmination of 3 or 5 of your closest friends’ habits. Seriously though, how do you plan on getting close to Allah (swt) when you’re hanging out with Mo(hammed) or Fatty(Fatima) who has a boyfriend/girlfriend and is constantly influencing you towards things that displease Allah? Find a good group of friends who will keep you in check when you start slipping.
Some ahadith (sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him)) relating to the company one keeps:
“You will be with those you love.” (Bukhari)
“A man’s religion is that of his friends, so let each of you consider whom you befriend.” (Abu Dawud)
And one of my favorite ahadith: “A virtuous companion is like the merchant of musk (perfume). Either he will offer you some, you will buy it from him, or you will find him pleasant to smell. But an evil companion is like the bellows-blower, either he will scorch your clothes or you will receive a rotten smell from him.” (Bukari and Muslim)
Start praying five times a day!
Read one page (or one short surah) a day of Qur’an in the language that you understand. If you don’t have an English translation, order it online.
Stop hanging out with friends who are a bad influence on you (and don’t lie to yourself and pretend like they’re not!). Wallahi, I know it’s very hard to stop hanging out with people you have become close friends with, but remember, “All friends will be enemies of one another on that Day (Day of Judgment) except those of the virtuous.” (al-Qur’an 43:67)
Finally, beg Allah, make dua, and ask him to allow you to get close to Him and to guide you to the straight path.
Ya Allah, please forgive us of our sins, guide us to the straight path, and allow us to lower our heart (and our gaze) in modesty. O Allah, please save us from the punishment of the grave and the Hell-Fire. Ameen.