Whatever we look at or even see, enters our mind and soul, and sticks to them. Imam Ali (AS) said: “The eye is the reporter of heart and the messenger of mind.” . It means that every act of looking profoundly affects our heart and soul. The prophet (PBUH&HP) said: “Avoid unnecessary excess looks as they grow lust in your hearts and make you heedless.” .
In another saying from Imam Ali (AS), we read that: “The eyes are the snares of Satan” . That is why Islam has special guidelines and rules about at what or whom, one is allowed or not to look. And, this is more pressing in case of Muslims living in a non-Muslim society, where they are constantly exposed to both men and women freely and improperly dressed in the streets, TV, magazines, web pages, etc. Islam has regulated looking at the opposite gender according to the two categories: Mahrams and non-Mahrams .
A man is permitted to look at the body of a woman who is his Mahram, except her private parts (Awrah). And he must not look at her body from the navel down to the knee. This means that a woman should dress decently even in the presence of her Mahrams. One’s wife is an exception to this rule; married couples are allowed to look at the entire body of each other.
It is forbidden for a man to look at the body of any non-Mahram woman but he can look at her hands and face as long as they do not have any decoration. If the woman is Muslim, then he is not allowed to look at her hair. But if she is not Muslim, looking at her hair is not forbidden as long as it is not for pleasure.
Generally, there is no sin on a man for the first involuntary look at any non-Mahram woman, but the second look should be avoided . In any case, men should remember that: “Tell the faithful men to cast down their looks and to guard their private parts. That is more decent for them.” (24:30).
This rule also extends to adolescent boys and even younger ones, who understand women’s physical attributes and might be attracted to them. They should be taught to lower their gaze, too. Since children’s minds and souls are clear lands ready to be cultivated with several types of thoughts and ideas mostly captured by eyes, we need to teach them which seeds they should plant in their lands to attain Allah’s eternal satisfaction.
A man is not allowed to look at another man’s private parts, nor a woman at those of another woman; whether Muslim or not. Besides, looking at any parts of the body of another man, even the face and arms, will be forbidden for a man if done with the intention of having pleasure. The same ruling applies to a woman towards another woman. This also means that one should always cover his/her private parts in the presence of others, even of the same gender.
A woman is allowed to look at the body of a man who is her Mahram, except his private parts, if it is not for having pleasure. One’s husband is an exception to this rule as mentioned earlier.
A woman is not permitted to look at the body of a non-Mahram man, except for the face, hands, and that amount which men usually [i] do not cover and if it is not for pleasure.
One is permitted to look at the entire body of a child until he/she reaches the age when the child’s consciousness of sex has developed, or when evidence of sexual urge is noticed on him/her; even if it is before reaching puberty. However, it is better to accustom the child to always dress properly.
As a general rule, it is forbidden (Haram) to look at anyone (even at one’s own body) or anything (including people’s photos and films, statues, etc.) with the intention of having pleasure (with the exception of one’s spouse), even if one is looking at a Mahram.
In cases of “necessity” such as in administering first aid, medical treatment [ii] or during a trial testimony where the judge requests the witness to look at a non-Mahram to identify him/her , all the rules of the prohibition of looking become void. As an instance, if a doctor is compelled to look at a part of the body of a non-Mahram woman, he must only look at that part necessary for the treatment, but not more than that. Also, if possible, the examination or testing must be performed over the clothing. Other exceptions are looking at one’s spouse as explained above.
[i] This, although following a definite limit indicated in Islamic ruling that should be respected, is based on the normal condition of each society to some extent.
[ii] In the case that a doctor of the same skill and with the same gender is not available.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 104, p. 41, T. 52.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 72, p. 199.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 77, p. 294.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih”, vol.3, p.474, T. 4658.
- looking to others
One of the features of a believing Muslim is that he/she always wants to grow closer to Allah and constantly seeks His satisfaction. For this reason, there are numerous narrations from the infallible Imams (A.S) indicating the right time and place for seeking closeness to Allah.It is clear that God is the Most Gracious, and his Mercy is always bestowed upon humankind wherever they are. However, there are special times and places at which God’s benevolence towards His creatures becomes even greater. One of these occasions is the Day of Arafah.
The ninth day of Dhu al-Hijjah (the final month of the Islamic lunar calendar) is the day of Arafah when Hajj pilgrims stand on the plain of Arafat (a vast desert about 20 km southeast of Mecca) to pray. Arafah can be translated as knowing, understanding or theosophy .
According to historians, it was on the plain of Arafat where Adam and Eve met each other once again after their descent from heaven and long separation upon the Earth, and their sins were forgiven by Allah.
It also recalls how Gabriel taught the prophet Abraham (AS) all the Hajj rituals on the plain of Arafat.
The day of Arafah is so important that Imam Hussain (AS), the third infallible Shia Imam, recited the famous supplication of Arafah one year during his pilgrimage to Mecca on this day.
Arafah is one of the most blessed days in Islam that carries a lot of merits for the ones who are present on the plain of Arafat and other people elsewhere. This day in its blessedness and sacredness weighs the same as the Night of Qadr. It has been narrated, “People who were not able to achieve their purpose in the Night of Qadr or those who were not forgiven on that day, Arafah is the last opportunity for them” .
So, many Muslims occupy themselves with reciting the Holy Quran, prayer, and supplications hoping that there would be more opportunities for them to be forgiven by Allah on this special day. One of the best deeds performed by Shia Muslims is reciting Imam Hussain’s (AS) supplication of Arafah, which best represents the spirit of this day. Contemplation on this amazing supplication which encompasses facts about monotheism and its degrees will ultimately bring us closer to Allah.
In this supplication, we first praise God in a loving and friendly manner. Then we count the blessings God has bestowed upon us, and after confessing our misdeeds and sins, we ask Allah to forgive them. That is when we put forth our request to God. Now let’s recite and think about some of the most beautiful verses from this supplication (Dua): (You may also find the audio and the English subtitle of this supplication here.)
“Praise be to Allah Whose determination cannot be repelled by anything, whose gifts cannot be stopped by anything, and Whose making cannot be resembled by the making of anyone. He is the All-magnanimous, the All-liberal.”
“Even before that (before you showed me the right path), You had compassion on me, through Your excellent conferral and Your affluent bestowals. So, You fashioned my creation from semen that gushed forth and put me up in triple darkness among flesh, blood, and skin. You have not made me witness my creation, and You have not referred any part of my creation to me.”
“So, Exalted be You, O All-merciful, O All-beneficent. When I commenced (my life) by pronouncing words, You perfected for me the affluent bestowals and brought me up to an increase every year. When my creation was accomplished, and my power became straight, You put me under the obligation of Your Claim, which is that You inspired me with recognition of You and alarmed me by the wonders of Your wisdom.”
“As You created me from the best of soil, You, my God, have not wanted for me to have a certain favor (and to be deprived of another) and You, therefore, provided me with the various kinds of living and types of wealth, out of Your great and grand conferral upon me, and Your eternal kindness to me.”
“And I bear witness, O my God, with my true belief, and the fortitude of the determinations of my conviction and the purity of my open belief in Your Oneness and the essence of the secret of my conscience, and the ties of the canals of the light of my sight, and the lines of my forehead and the hallows of the courses of my breath, and the (nasal) cavities of my nose, and the courses of the meatus of my hearing, and whatever my two lips hide and cover up, …”
“I bear witness) that if I try my best and strive throughout all ages and at all times, if I live them, to thank properly only one of Your favors, I will not be able to do that, except through a favor of You, which also requires me to thank You for it, once again with new thanking and with praise that is newly acquired and newly prepared.”
“It is I who did wrong. It is I who had evil intention…I now acknowledge of my sins; so, (please) forgive them to me.”
Arafah is one of the best days to turn to God with sincere repentance. Allah, on this day, accepts the repentance of His servants and grant them forgiveness if they are truly regretful and determined to give up their sins.
“O Allah, (please) make me fear You as if I can see You. Make me happy by fearing You. Do not make me unhappy by disobeying You. Choose for me through Your decree. so that I will not long for hastening that which You have delayed or delaying that which You would hasten.”
Eventually, you will find yourself immersed in the ocean of Allah’s mercy, which is what a true believer always seeks.
“O Allah, Verily, You are the nearest of those who are prayed, You are the promptest of those who may respond, the most generous of those who may pardon, and the most responding of those who are asked. O All-beneficent of the world and the Hereafter, and All-merciful!”
Nowadays, we hear every day that our earth is becoming more and more polluted and that a day will come that our life on this planet will be no longer possible. This is undoubtedly the result of our negligence toward the blessing that God had granted us, the blessing of nature and a clean environment: “It is He who created for you all that is in the earth…” (2:29). We are responsible for whatever is going on in our surroundings and at the same time dependent upon it to be able to live.
It is important to note that at the time of the emergence of Islam, people did not face such complex environmental issues and thus this matter has not been dealt with in depth in Islam. Nevertheless, Islam has emphasized the significance of preserving the environment and provided us with guidelines that help us find solutions for such complexities through the narrations and actions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) as well as the twelve infallible leaders (AS). This article is an attempt to summarize these matters for you briefly.
The answer is quite simple, and it reveals the direct correlation between human beings and their surroundings. Preserving the environment equals our own physical and mental wellbeing. Our immediate surrounding is where we are always in touch with, and its quality will inevitably affect our mind and soul. Moreover, we are the ones who make use of the environment to fulfill our needs, and the way we use it will ultimately determine our condition of life.
On the other hand, Allah has made this world in perfect equilibrium and human’s excessive exploitation of natural resources will result in damaging this balance: “And We spread out the earth and cast in it firm mountains, and We grew in it every kind of balanced thing” (15:19). When the balance is disturbed, the result will be the many environmental crises that we are faced with nowadays. These include pollution, global warming, natural resource depletion, waste disposal, climate change, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, ocean acidification, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, water pollution, etc. .
The problems mentioned above are the result of our irresponsibility toward the blessing of the environment, and this is we that should compensate for it. What follows are some Islamic guidelines for us to observe in our treatment of the environment:
When you make excessive use of natural resources such as water or what is produced by water such as electricity, the paper that is made through cutting trees, fossil fuels, etc., you put the environment in danger and threaten its durability. Quran also emphasizes the necessity to be moderate in using God’s blessings in this world: “… Eat and drink, but do not waste; indeed, He does not like the wasteful” (7:31).
Moreover, our environment is not restricted to our use only but is a public possession from which every human being has the right to benefit. Therefore, we should be careful not to violate other people’s rights in having a share in the environment through our extravagant exploitation of its resources.
There is a general rule in Islam that bids Muslims not to “cause harm or return harm” , meaning that they should act in a way that neither brings inconvenience for others nor undermines their situation. Through wastefulness we bring injustice to both ourselves and other human beings; we consume their share in the environment and damage God’s blessing that was given to us to sustain our livelihood. So, respect yourself as well as your fellow human beings through respecting your surroundings.
Think about the environment as your home and keep it clean as you like your home to be neat and tidy. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) says in a narration that: “Allah is pure and likes purity and cleanliness… therefore, keep where you live in clean” . As it was mentioned above, pollution is one of the most pervasive environmental issues in today’s world; this includes air pollution, water pollution, as well as the excessive amount of waste produced on a daily basis.
Those who have faith in Allah and consider His satisfaction in every instance of their lives must be much more cautious regarding their own or their environment’s cleanliness since as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) puts: “Cleanliness roots in one’s faith” .
Air, water, and soil are the three elements that are the source of life on the earth, which has been mentioned in the Quran as well as narrations [i]&[ii]. It is all the matter of your choice. Keep the air you breathe in clean by choosing to take a walk or public transportation instead of using your car. Preserve the water fresh and pure by avoiding throwing waste in the water, urinating in it, and producing waste water excessively; Imam Ali (AS) emphasizes that water has some inhabitants, so we should not harm them through polluting it .
Even at the time of war, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) forbade his soldiers to pollute or poison their adversary’s city . So, let the soil from which your food is provided remain unpolluted by not throwing waste, especially those that do not dissolve in the environment such as plastic waste, etc.
Plant a tree or bring awareness to people about the environment and the natural crisis that is threatening the earth and its inhabitants. There are many narrations from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) that highlight the necessity of planting trees. For instance, he says: “If a Muslim plants a tree and a bird, human or another creature eats its fruit, it will be considered as an act of charity from him [by Allah]” .
Also, Imam Sadiq (AS) considers planting trees and agriculture as the occupations which bring lawful (Halal) earning for the person performing them . When your surrounding is green, your life will become lively and energetic [iii], and you will become more efficient in your performance.
Finally, it all depends on you and how you want your future to be like. A green and lively environment is the result of our endeavors to preserve it and to give our posterity the opportunity to enjoy the blessing of God. The message of Islam in this matter is again that of moderation and responsibility which guides human beings to live in perfect equilibrium with the environment.
[i] (25:54), (23:12), (24:45), (30:24), (21:30)
[ii] Imam Sadeq (AS) said: “life in a land where is devoid of these three essential factors is highly difficult and challenging: clean air, fresh and plentiful water, as well as fertile ground” .
[iii] Imam Ali (AS) said: “looking at the green nature causes freshness, liveliness and vitality” .
- Shaikh al-Hur al-Aamili , Wasail Al-shia , vol. 18, p.32
- Muhammad ibn Hassan Sheibani, Al-Jame Al-Saghir, vol.1, p.267
- Muhammad Baqir Majlisi ,Bihar al-Anvar, vol.59, p. 291
- Ibn Shu'ba al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-Ughul, p.320
- Muhammad ibn Ali Al-Ehsaei, Avali al-Leali, vol.2, p. 187.
- Mirza Hussain Tabarsi , Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol. 13, p.26.
- Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni al-Razi , Usul al-Kafi, vol.5, p.260
- Shaykh as-Saduq,Uyun Akhbar ar-Reza (AS), vol.2, p. 40