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The Great Virtue Of Lowering the Gaze

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim

A beautiful article extracted from the words of Imām Ibn al-Qayyim showing how the soul tempts one to look at that which is unlawful.

Allāh, the Exalted said:

قُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَزْكَىٰ لَهُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ ‎﴿٣٠﴾

“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, Allāh is well acquainted with all that they do.”
[al-Nūr, 24:30]

So Allāh 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 (seeing) the prohibited things necessarily leads to three benefits that carry tremendous value and are of great significance.

1. 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 Allāh. Indeed, “whosoever leaves something for the sake of Allāh then Allāh, 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 (maḥabbah) the starting point of which is the heart being devoted and dependant upon that which it beholds. This then intensifies to become fervent longing (ṣabābah) whereby the heart becomes totally dependant and devoted to the (object of its desire). Then this further intensifies and becomes infatuation (gharāmah) 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 (ishk) and this is a love that transgresses all bounds. Then this further intensifies and becomes crazed passion (shaghafa) and this a love that encompasses every tiny part of the heart. Then this intensifies and becomes worshipful love (tatayyuma). Tatayyum means worship and it is said: tayyama Allāh, i.e. he worshipped Allāh.

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim

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 Allāh 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 Allāh Alone and does not take Him as its God then it must worship something else.

Allāh said concerning Yusuf as-Siddīq (عليه السلام):

وَلَقَدْ هَمَّتْ بِهِ ۖ وَهَمَّ بِهَا لَوْلَا أَن رَّأَىٰ بُرْهَانَ رَبِّهِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ لِنَصْرِفَ عَنْهُ السُّوءَ وَالْفَحْشَاءَ ۚ إِنَّهُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا الْمُخْلَصِينَ ‎﴿٢٤﴾

“Thus (did We order) so that We might turn away from him all evil and indecent actions for he was one of Our sincere servants.”
[Yūsuf 12:24]

It was because the wife of al-ʿAzīz was a polytheist that (the passionate love) entered her heart despite her being married. It was because Yusuf (AS) was sincere to Allāh that he was saved from it despite his being a young man, unmarried and a servant.

2. The Illumination Of The Heart, Clear Perception And Penetrating Insight

Ibn Shujaa` al-Kirmaanee said, “whosoever builds his outward form upon following the Sunnah, his internal form upon perpetual contemplation and awareness of Allāh, he restrains his soul from following desires, he lowers his gaze from the forbidden things and he always eats the lawful things then his perception and insight shall never be wrong.”

Allāh mentioned the people of Lut and what they were afflicted with and then He went on to say:

إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّلْمُتَوَسِّمِينَ ‎﴿٧٥﴾

“Indeed in this are signs for the Mutawassimeen.”
[al-Ḥijr, 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.

Allāh said after mentioning the verse concerning lowering the gaze:

اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ ‎﴿٣٥﴾

“Allāh is the Light of the heavens and the earth.”
[al-Nūr, 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 Allāh, 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, Allāh 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.

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 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.

3. The Heart Becoming Strong, Firm And Courageous

Allāh 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 comibne both of these factors and as a result, Shayṭān shall flee from it. It is mentioned in the narration, “whosoever opposes his base desires, the Shayṭān shall flee in terror from his shade.” 2

This is why the one who follows his base desires shall find in himself the ignominy of the soul, its being weak, fīble and contemptible. Indeed, Allāh places nobility for the one who obeys Him and disgrace for the one who disobeys Him,

وَلَا تَهِنُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا وَأَنتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ ‎﴿١٣٩﴾‏

“So do not lose heart nor fall into despair; for you must gain mastery if you are true in faith.”
[Ālī ʿImrān, 3:139]

مَن كَانَ يُرِيدُ الْعِزَّةَ فَلِلَّهِ الْعِزَّةُ جَمِيعًا ۚ ‎﴿١٠﴾

“If any do seek for nobility and power then to Allāh belongs all nobility and power.”
[Fāṭir, 35:10]

Meaning that whosoever seeks after disobedience and sin then Allāh, the Mighty and Magnificent, will humiliate the one who disobeys Him.

Some of the salaf said, “the people seek nobility and power at the door of the Kings and they will not find it except through the obedience of Allāh.”

This is because the one who obeys Allāh has taken Allāh as his friend and protector and Allāh will never humiliate the one who takes his Lord as friend and patron. In the Du`aa Qunut their occurs, “the one who You take as a friend is not humiliated and the one who You take as an enemy is not ennobled.” 3


  1. Reported by Aḥmad [5/363], al-Marwazī in ‘Zawaa`id al-Zuhd’ [no. 412], al-Nasāʿī in ‘al-Kubraa’ as mentioned in ‘Tuhfah al-Ashraaf’ [11/199] from one of the Companions that the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said, “indeed you will not leave anything for the sake of Allāh except that Allāh will replace it with something better than it.” The isnād is ṣaḥīḥ.
  2. This is not established as a ḥadīth of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam)
  3. Reported by Abū Dāwūd [Eng. Trans. 1/374 no. 1420], al-Nasāʿī [3/248], al-Tirmidhī [no. 464], ibn Mājah [no. 1178], al-Dārimī [1/311], Aḥmad [1/199], ibn Khuzaymah [2/151] from al-Ḥasan from ʿAlī (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhū). The ḥadīth is ṣaḥīḥ. The isnād has been criticized by many, however, none of the criticisms hold. Refer to: ‘Nasb ar-Rāyah’ [2/125] and ‘Talkhees al-Habeer’ [1/247]

Taken from ‘al-Muntaqaa min Ighaathatul Lufhaan fī Masaayid ash-Shayṭān’ [pp.’s 102-105] of Ibn al-Qayyim,  summarised by ʿAlī Ḥasan

Published: June 23, 2007
Edited: January 6, 2022

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