The Remedy for Excessive Love of Women
Chapter 2 of “Dealing With Lust and Greed according to Islam” © 1995 Dar Al Taqwa Ltd. – slightly modified for Internet.
Love of women originates in the sexual instinct which is one of the basic constituents of the human being. It is undoubtedly necessary for sexual intercourse, procreation and the populating of the world. It is the strongest of all instincts and the most dangerous if not contained within the unassailable stockade of the Sharî‘ah of Allâh which protects it, keeps it in check and directs it in a healthy direction for the well-being of Muslim society.
The word instinct (gharîza) comes from the verb gharaza, meaning that it is something implanted and imbedded in man. So the roots of the sexual instinct permeate right through man. He can never be completely free of it. Then the roots turn into trunk, boughs, branches and fruit. Islâm takes a wise position in relation to this tree of sexuality by watering it with the water of modesty, purity and chastity, and so training its branches and leaves that it produces fruit in a manner pleasing to Allâh and His Messenger.
That is why clear limits and precise rules have been laid down on how men and women should interact and how women should be treated so that there will be no confusion in Muslim society. Most of those who end up in the Fire do so because they made light of certain evils. Those who reflect on the âyâts of Allâh will find that Allâh concludes His prescription of most of His limits with His words: “These are the limits of Allâh, so do not overstep them” (2:229), except in the case of fornication when Allâh Almighty says: “And do not go near to fornication. It is an indecent act, an evil way” (17:32). Allâh singles it out in this way because of its seriousness and its consequences.
The mere fact of approaching the limits of fornication often causes a person to fall into it because it is connected to emotions and instincts that are an integral part of a man’s being. He cannot repel them. The lower self commands to evil and the urges of the sexual appetite are like the tumultuous waves of a sea which cannot be held back. He is surrounded by them on every side and they carry him along until he plunges into the abyss.
If that happens man will have only himself to blame because he did not hold to the teachings of his Lord which are there to guide him to circumspection and safety. He will see that he was driven by whims and desires, misleading deceptions and corrupting company until he deviated far from the way of truth and found himself on the brink of a pit of the Fire or a crumbling cliff-edge which was about to fall taking him with it:
“Allâh desires to turn towards you, but those who pursue their base appetites desire to make you deviate completely. Allâh desires to make things lighter for you. Man was created weak.” (4:27-28).
This is true statement from Him who is All-Wise, All-Aware. Man is weak because of the appetites imbedded in him. How could disdain for the limits of Allâh and indulgence in falsehood possibly lead to liberty, fraternity or equality? This means that such political slogans are in reality a hidden call to awaken the lower appetites and unleash them, causing people to wallow in error and misguidance. Why should we have disdain for the limits of Allâh when He has stipulated them for us to diminish the compulsion and vigour of our appetites that cause corruption and grief for us which we could well do without? Why should we want to take the path of shaytâns and follow them and leave the path of the Merciful and Compassionate who knew all about our weakness before He created us? He merely wants to spare us the evils of our lower selves and our bad actions.
The fact is that the All-Merciful did not give us a completely free rein so that a man might take his appetites for his god. Rather He cautions us and warns us and makes the punishment in this world and the Next so that it spells ruin to the life of any heedless, rebellious couple who commit it. There is sufficient warning to set alarm bells ringing in the ears of any couple who consider it and to awaken their consciences and show them that they are advancing towards terrors which would make children white-haired.
In explanation of the words of Allâh about Hell, “It has seven gates”, the commentator ‘Atâ’ said, “The worst of the gates in respect of grief, heat and torment and the one with the foulest stench is the gate of the fornicators who committed fornication knowing it to be wrong.” My brother Muslim, look at the âyâts of the Qur’ân which call on us to guard our private parts:
“It is the believers who are successful: those who are humble in their prayer; those who turn away from prattle; those who are active in paying zakât; those who guard their private parts – except from their wives or what their right hands own, in that case not being blameworthy; but any desiring anything more than that, they are the over steppers of the limits.” (23:1-7)
What overstepping could be worse than violating someone’s honour? It is unlawful for a Muslim to harm another Muslim, his property or his honour, as the Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said.
“Say to the believing men that they should lower their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Allâh is aware of what they do. Say to the believing women that they should lower their eyes and guard their private parts and not disclose their adornments, except for that which ordinarily appears, and should draw their head-coverings across their breasts. They must not disclose their adornments except to their husbands or their fathers or their husbands’ fathers, or their sons or their husbands’ sons or other women or what their right hands own or their male attendants who have no sexual desire or children who still have no consciousness of women’s private parts. Nor should they stamp their feet so that their hidden ornaments are known. Turn to Allâh, o believers, every one of you, so that perhaps you will have success.” (24:30-31)
My brother Muslim, just look at these fine lines and the clear path they delineate enabling each Muslim man and woman to achieve purity and chastity. They are predominantly directed at women because it is they who are the focus of men’s attraction and because the primary responsibility for shutting the openings of Shaytân which lead to sexual desire between the sexes lies in their hands. Without a doubt, this is an extremely important responsibility. Allâh’s instructions regarding this matter are concluded in Sûrat al-Ahzâb when He is addressing the wives of the Prophet and every Muslim woman who follows them in the path of belief:
“O wives of the Prophet! If any of you commit a clear act of indecency she will get double the punishment. That is an easy matter for Allâh. But each of you who is obedient to Allâh and His Messenger and acts rightly will be given her wage twice over and We have prepared generous provision for her. O wives of the Prophet! You are not like other women provided you are godfearing. Do not be soft in your speech in case someone with sickness in his heart becomes desirous. Speak correct and courteous words. Remain in your houses and do not display your beauty as it was displayed formerly in the Days of Ignorance. Establish the prayer and pay the zakât. Obey Allâh and His Messenger. Allâh desires to remove all impurities from you, o People of the House, and to purify you completely.” (33:30-33)
“O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters and the believing women to draw their outer garments closely round themselves. That makes it more likely they will be recognized and not be harmed. Allâh is Forgiving, Merciful.” (33:59)
The path of safeguarding the private parts
In these clear âyât Allâh has delineated a clearly marked path showing us how to safeguard our private parts. He has not left any loopholes. It is a firm path with a firm foundation which precludes the approach of wrongdoing from all directions. The milestones along that path are as follows:
1: Lowering the eyes
Allâh Almighty instructed His Prophet to order the believers to lower their eyes and guard their private parts and to inform them that He witnesses their actions and is aware of them. “He knows the surreptitious glances and the thoughts concealed in man’s breast.” Lewd behaviour generally starts with the eyes and so He gave the command to lower them before mentioning safeguarding the private parts. Sexual attraction begins with a mere glance in the same way that the starting point for the majority of the people of the Fire is some minor wrong action. First comes the glance, then the thought, then the step and then the offense. This is why it is said: “Anyone who is safe from four things preserves his deen: glances, thoughts, words and steps.” So people must guard themselves at these four gates in their defensive walls. They are a way for the enemy to enter and open breaches in order to destroy what is above them completely.
The Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘O ‘Alî, do not follow one glance with a second one. The first is all right but not the second.” The Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, also said, “The glance is a poisoned arrow from the quiver of Iblîs. If anyone restrains his glance from looking at the beauties of women, Allâh will transmit to his heart the sweetness of worship until the Day of Rising.” He further said, “Lower your eyes and protect your private parts.” Ahmad ibn Hanbal related this in the hadîth which starts: “Guarantee me six things from yourselves.” He said as well, “Beware of sitting at the roadside.” They said, “Messenger of Allâh, we have to sit there.” He said, “If you must do it, then give the roadway its due.” They said, “What is its due?” He said, “To lower the eyes, refrain from causing injury, and return greetings.”
The glance is at the root of most of the calamities which beset man. The glance engenders the thought which then becomes strong and turns into a definite resolve, making the action inevitable unless something occurs to prevent it. That is why it is said that steadfastness in respect of lowering the eyes is much easier than the steadfastness needed to endure the pain that results from not doing so. It is an aspect of Allâh’s kindness to us. He simply forbids us the first step in order to save us from the multitude of afflictions which would follow.
So guard your glance, my brother Muslim, and hold fast to the teachings of your deen, and you will save yourself many regrets and sighs and much pain. O Allâh, preserve us grant us Your good pleasure and let us follow Your path, being free from every ailment.
2: The prohibition of all that leads to temptation and enticement
Allâh Almighty made it obligatory for Muslim women to wear the hijâb to protect the virtue of men whose glances might fall on them and lessen the enticement and temptation they might feel which could stimulate their lower appetites and sexual instinct. As we have already said, it is the strongest of all the instincts and subduing it takes a lot of effort. This aim is helped when the windows onto temptation are closed and women adhere to the teachings of the Sharî‘ah. Islâm desires to direct human faculties to the service of Muslim society and bring it benefit and ease. Wasting these faculties in cycles of provocation and suppression, of desire and deprivation, of sighs and torments is what the wise Sharî‘ah precludes because human faculties are the most precious thing in existence and should be steered in the healthy direction which Allâh has ordained for the nurturing of society and establishing the principles of truth and justice.
This is why Islâm forbids women to do anything that will lead to temptation and enticement not only in respect of their manner of dressing but also in respect of their manner of speaking and walking. It also forbids their going out and being alone with unrelated men. It is related that ‘Â’ishah, may Allâh be pleased with her, said, “Once when the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, was sitting in the mosque, a woman of Muzaynah entered the mosque dolled-up in her finery. The Prophet said, ‘O people, forbid your women to wear adornments and strut in the mosque. The Children of Israel were not cursed until their women dolled themselves up and strutted in the synagogues.’” Ibn Mâjah related it.
‘Uqba ibn ‘Amîr, may Allâh be pleased with him, said that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “Beware of visiting women.” A man of the Ansâr said, “What about in-laws?” He said, “In-laws are death.” By this he meant that the danger in their case is even greater. The evil arising from visiting them and the temptation is greater because it is possible to visit such a woman and be alone with her without any objection being made.
Ibn ‘Abbâs, may Allâh be pleased with him, said that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “None of you should be alone with a woman unless there is a close relative of her’s present (dhu mahram).”
It is related from Abû Umâmah, may Allâh be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “Beware of being alone with women. By the One who has my soul in His hand, a man is never alone with a woman without Shaytân coming between them. It is better for a man to press up against a pig covered with filth than for his shoulder to press against the shoulder of a woman not lawful for him.”
For this reason Islâm forbids a woman to put on perfume and scent when leaving her house in case men smell her perfume. The Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “Every eye fornicates. When a woman puts on scent and walks past a gathering, she is like so-and-so,” meaning a fornicator.
Abû Hurayrah, may Allâh be pleased with him, related that he met a woman and smelt the fragrance of perfume coming from her and the hem of her dress was raising dust. He said, “Amâtu’l Jabbâr! Have you come from the mosque?” She said, “Yes.” He said to her, “Did you put on perfume?” She said, “Yes.” He said, “I heard Abû’l-Qâsim, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, say, ‘Allâh does not accept the prayer of a woman who puts on perfume before going to the mosque until she has returned and washed it off as she washes for sexual defilement.’”
It is possible to summarise this subject with the words of the Prophet related to us by Abû Sa‘îd, may Allâh be pleased with him. He said that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “Every morning two angles call out: ‘Woe to men from women. Woe to women from men.’”
Indeed in a life of a man, there is no more dangerous worldly test for a man than woman and the reverse is also true. That is because in almost every other case the sins which Allâh has forbidden to human beings have no natural affinity with them. Injustice in all its forms is unlawful and man is helped to avoid them because human nature is averse to them. Drinking wine is unlawful and it is an easy matter to forbid it as basic human nature is averse to it. The same applies to theft, fraud and slander and all the other forbidden things which are not in harmony with the laws of nature. However, the sexual instinct is there in every man and woman.
Even though it can drive a person to commit what is unlawful and is considered the pinnacle of dangers in the Sharî‘ah, it is nevertheless considered one of the most natural urges of human nature and the most important of its needs, so long as it is reined in by the bridle of the Sharî‘ah. there is no way for any healthy human being to separate himself from it or arise above it. This makes it clear to us that sexual appetite is the most dangerous test of man’s deen in his life. That is why the Islâmic remedy for all other acts of disobedience consists basically in distancing oneself from them and rising above them, whereas in the case of sexuality the remedy lies is satisfying it and enjoying it, but within specific prescribed limits which may not be overstepped.
Marriage is the basic remedy for the sexual appetite. Alternative solutions are merely to enable you to bide your time until the proper circumstances for marriage arrive: maturity, adequate financial resources, and a virtuous woman. The Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “O your men! Any of you who are able to marry should do so. It lowers the eyes and protects the private parts. Any of you who are unable to do so should fast. Fasting is a protection for you.” Young men are addressed because they have strength and youthful vigour. They are subject to sexual desire for women and are generally not free of it. An-Nawawî said, “My companions consider the term ‘young men’ to cover all those who are between the age of puberty and thirty years old.” The Prophet prescribed marriage for those who have the means for it and that those who do not have the means should fast and control their desires until the time Allâh opens the way for them. We find the source of this in the Noble Qur’ân where the Almighty says:
“Any of you who do not have the means to marry believing free women may marry believing slavegirls who are owned by those among you. Allâh knows best about your belief – you are all equally believers. Marry them with their owners’ permission and give them their dowries correctly and courteously as married women, not in fornication or taking them as lovers. When they are married, if them commit fornication, they should receive half the punishment of free women. This is for those of you who are afraid of committing fornication. But to be patient would be better for you. Allâh is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (4:25)
This is a dispensation from Allâh and a mercy for those Muslims who lack the financial resources to marry believing free women. He therefore unlocks another door for them, but He still concludes by saying, “But to be patient would be better for you,” since marriage to slave-girls entails risk in respect of the upbringing of the children which result from it. Islâm desires strong progeny who will grow up with dignity, honour and clear lineage and establish Muslim society on firm foundations. That is why the basis of all marriages must be thoroughly sound. Otherwise, it is better to be patient with your sexual desire and to remain abstinent, a policy endorsed by Allâh in Sûrat an-Nûr when He says:
“Those who cannot find the means to marry should be abstinent until Allâh enriches them from His unbounded favour.” (24:33)
This call for abstinence and purity is only demanded when man does not possess adequate financial means to marry. However, when he has the means, marriage becomes an obligatory duty in the Sharî‘ah. Listen to the guidance of the noble Prophet regarding the necessity and importance of marriage. It is related from Anas ibn Mâlik, may Allâh be pleased with him, that he heard the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, say, “Whoever wants to meet Allâh pure and purified should marry free women.”
Abû Ayyûb, may Allâh be pleased with him, said that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “Four things are part of the sunan of the Messengers: henna, perfume, siwâk, and marriage.”
‘Abdullâh ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Âs, may Allâh be pleased with both of them, said that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “This world is passing enjoyment. One of the best kinds of provision it contains is a woman who helps her husband regarding the Next World. A poor man is one who has no wife and a poor woman is one who has no husband.”
Abû Umâmah, may Allâh be pleased with him, said that the Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “There is nothing more beneficial to a believer after fear of Allâh Almighty than a virtuous wife. When he orders her to do something, she obeys. When he looks at her, she delights him. When he requests her to do something, she carries it out. When he is absent from her she is faithful to him both in respect of herself and his property.”
Anas, may Allâh be pleased with him, related that the Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “Any man whom Allâh provides with a virtuous wife has been helped to half his deen, so he should fear Allâh regarding the other half.”
Abû Hurayrah, may Allâh be pleased with him, related that the Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “There are three people whom it is mandatory for Allâh to help: someone who does jihad in the way of Allâh, a slave who has been given a contract to free himself and desires to fulfil it, and someone who marries out of the desire to preserve his chastity.”
Abû Buhayh, may Allâh be pleased with him, related that the Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “Whoever is affluent should marry. If he does not marry, he is not with me.”
Anas ibn Mâlik, may Allâh be pleased with him, said, “A group of people came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, to ask about the worship of the Prophet. When they were told, it seemed that they thought that the amount was not sufficient. They said, ‘Where are we in relation to the Prophet? Allâh has forgiven him his past and future errors.’ One of them declared, ‘As for myself, I will pray all night.’ Another said, ‘I will fast continually and never break it.’ Another said, ‘I will withdraw from women and never marry.’ The Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, came to them and said, ‘Are you the people who said such-and-such? By Allâh, I have more fear of Allâh than you and more awareness of Him, but I fast and break the fast, and sleep, and marry women. Anyone who is averse to my Sunnah is not with me.’”
The importance of marriage in Islâm
The reasons for the immense importance held by marriage in the life of the Muslims are summarized in the following points:
It is obedience to the command of Allâh, who says in the Qur’ân: “Marry those among you who are unmarried and your slaves and slavegirls who are righteous. If they are poor Allâh will enrich them from His overflowing favour.” (24:32)
It is following the guidance of our beloved Prophet and all the Messengers of Allâh since Allâh Almighty says in His description and praise of the Messengers: “We sent Messengers before you and gave them wives and children too” (13:38). An aspect of Allâh’s love for the human race lies in enabling them to have children to perpetuate the human species. The child is the goal of both the legal contract and the physical pleasure it sanctions. However, there is no pleasure in the life of the Muslim which does not entail subsequent responsibility, as is shown in this case by the upbringing of children.
If gives repose and delight to the soul since sitting with, looking at, and playing with one’s spouse allows the heart to relax and strengthens it for worship. Without this the soul would grow wearied and turn away from the truth. The Almighty says: “Among His signs is that He created for you spouses from yourselves so that you might find repose with them. And He has placed between you affection and mercy. In that there are certainly signs for people who reflect.” (30:21)
It fortifies the heart against the Shaytân by satisfying sexual desire and therefore averting the dangers of the unbridled sexual appetite. It is like an impregnable fortress which protects the Muslims from fornication and so saves them from falling into the abyss which plunges people into the lower levels of Hellfire in this world before the Next. There is no more effective way of dealing with sexual energy.
It frees the heart from the worldly preoccupations which result from the promptings of passion and sexual desire, leaving it free for other-worldly aspirations. The Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “There is nothing like marriage for two people who love one another.”
It provides an arena for combating and disciplining the lower self through taking care of the family and looking after their needs, putting up with their faults and failings, and striving to bring them up well and guide them to the right path. The Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “What a man spends on his family is sadaqah.” He said, “A man is rewarded for the mouthful he gives to his wife.”
Truly man should be amazed at the wisdom of the way of his Lord deals with the sexual instinct. It allows the sexual appetite to be satisfied, provides man with progeny and encourages him to strive on behalf of his family. Every aspect of the human self is taken into account and the result is a pure fruit whose fragrance permeates all parts of Muslim society. Muslims are encouraged to satisfy their sexual instinct and by doing so achieve good in this world and the Next. This made the leaders among the Companions and the Followers as eager to marry as they were to please Allâh and His Messenger. ‘Umar, may Allâh be pleased with him, said, “I force myself to have sexual intercourse hoping that Allâh will bring forth by means of it another human being to glorify and remember Him.”
Ibn Mas‘ûd, may Allâh be pleased with him, said, “Even if only ten days of my life remained, I would still get married because I would not like to meet Allâh unmarried.” He also said, “Seek wealth through marriage in conformity with the words of Allâh, ‘If they are poor Allâh will enrich them from His overflowing favour’ (24:32)”.
4. Treating the sexual organs through the stomach
Since food is the body’s basic fuel by which the movement of the various limbs and all the life functions of man are achieved, a little food is clearly necessary for the continuance of life. The Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “A human being does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. Enough for the son of Adam are a few morsels to keep his back straight. If it cannot be avoided, then a third is for food, a third for drink, and third for breath.” He also said, “We are a people who do not eat until we are hungry and when we do eat, do not eat our fill.”
This is the exemplary method which Islâm has prescribed with admirable succinctness to obtain the best result: we should not eat until we are hungry and when we do eat, we should not eat our fill: a third for food, a third for drink, and a third for breath.
Why is Islâm concerned with encouraging Muslims to eat only a little? The answer shows the greatness of Islâm in fashioning the human mind and soul. More food entails an increase in the blood which flows through the body and this, in turn, entails greater opportunities for Shaytân, allowing him to attack and move in his field of action, awakening the appetites from their dormant state and unleashing the desires of the lower self. This cause man to gravitate to the earth, indulging his lower appetites and nurturing his body with material thing of life. This deadens the intelligence and causes the spirit to sink to its lowest possibility. This a clear state of loss.
That is why the natural Sharî‘ah prescribes curbing the appetite for food because it is the widest path to stimulating the desires of the sexual organs. That is why the Prophet instructed young men to fast when they are unable to marry. The description of the believer is linked to little food. Gluttony, greed and large quantities of food are attributes of the unbeliever as the Almighty says:
“Those who reject will have their enjoyment, eating as cattle eat, but the Fire will be their residence.” (47:12)
The Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “A Muslim eats in one intestine and an unbeliever in seven intestines.” An-Nawawî explained this hadîth by saying, “The seven attributes of the unbeliever are avarice, gluttony, excessive expectation, bad nature, envy and love of obesity.” Al-Qurtubî said, “There are seven appetites for food: the appetite of nature, the appetite of the lower self, the appetite of the eye, the appetite of the mouth, the appetite of the ear, the appetite of the nose and the appetite of hunger. The last is the necessary one by which the believer eats.”
If you give your stomach everything it wants,
Your genitals will incur the utmost reprimand.
Listen, my Muslim brother, to the words of Allâh Almighty:
“You dissipated the good things you had in your worldly life and enjoyed yourself in it. Therefore today you are being repaid with the punishment of humiliation.” (46:20)
This admonished those who are engrossed in permitted good things, because whoever accustoms himself to that becomes predisposed to this world. He is not safe from being in thrall to his appetites and to sensual pleasures. Whenever he indulges in one of them, his lower self calls him to another. This continues until he cannot control the rebelliousness of his lower self at all and the door of worship becomes closed to him. He must not allow his lower self to become so accustomed to gluttony that it becomes difficult to correct it. The stomach is the root of all sickness.
That is why the guidance of the Prophet involved giving clear directions leading to balance in respect of food and urging restraint of that appetite which provides fuel for the more dangerous sexual appetite.
Anas ibn Mâlik, may Allâh be pleased with him, related that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “One aspect of profligacy is eating everything you desire.”
‘Â’ishah, may Allâh be pleased with her, said, “One day the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, saw me eat twice. He said, ‘ ‘Â’ishah, do you make filling your stomach your sole occupation? Eating twice a day is one aspect of profligacy. Allâh does not love the profligate.’”
It is related that ‘Â’ishah said, “The first disaster which occurred to this community after its Prophet died was satiety. When people fill their stomachs, their bodies become fat, their hearts weak and their appetites ingrained.”
It is related that ‘Atiyyah ibn ‘Amîr al-Juhanî said that he heard Salmân say when he was forced to eat some food, “It is enough for me that I heard the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, say, ‘The people who fill themselves the most in this world will be the hungriest on the Day of Rising.’”
It is related from Abû Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “On the Day of Rising, a huge tall man who ate and drank to excess will come and in Allâh’s sight he will weigh no more than a gnat’s wing. If you wish, recite: ‘We will not give them any weight on the Day of Resurrection’ (18:105).”
Ibn Bujayr, one of the Companions, said, “The Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, felt hungry one day. He took a stone and tied it against his stomach and then said, ‘Those who eat well and are comfortable in this world will be hungry and naked on the Day of Rising. Anyone who is generous to his lower self will be humbles before it. Anyone who humbles his lower self is being generous to it.”
Mu‘âdh ibn Jabal, may Allâh be pleased with him, related that when the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, sent him to Yemen, he said to him, “Beware of comfort. The slaves of Allâh do not make themselves comfortable.”
It is related from Abû Umâmah that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “There will be men of my community who consume diverse kinds of food and diverse kinds of drink, wear diverse kinds of clothing and speak in an affected way. They are worst of my community.”
Ad-Dahhak ibn Sufyân related that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said to him, “Dahhak, what does your food consist of?” He said, “Meat and milk, Messenger of Allâh.” He said, “Then what does it turn into?” He said, “You know what it turns into.” He said, “Allâh Almighty has made what is excreted by the son of Adam a metaphor for this world.”
From these illuminating hadîths of the Prophet it should be clear to us that hunger is a river from which the angels drink and satiety is an ocean from which Shaytân drinks. Whoever guards his stomach also guards his genitals. There must first be control over the appetite of the stomach in order for there to be control over the sexual appetite. Base matter is the fuel of Hellfire but the origin of the spirit is pure light. Islâm is concerned firstly with the spirit and giving it its provision from the luminosity of the Qur’ân and worship and righteous actions. In the case of the body, the commands of Islâm make sure it is confined within the firm stockade of contentment, chastity, and purity. One righteous man said, “Do not be led astray by the words of the Almighty, ‘Eat and drink.’ The outward meaning of the âyât is honouring and giving enjoyment. But inwardly it is a test and a trial so that He can see who is with Him and who is simply self-indulgent.”
Allâh Almighty revealed to Dâ’ûd, peace be upon him: “I created the lower appetites for the weak of my creation. Beware of letting your heart become attached to any of your appetites. Anything you might suffer by heeding this warning is far easier than having the sweetness of My love stripped from your heart. O Dâ’ûd, cling to My words and take from yourself for yourself. Do not ignore them so that I veil My love from you. Deny your appetite for My sake. I allow appetites to the weak of my creation. I ask the strong to disparage their appetites. They diminish the sweetness of conversation with Me. I am not content with this world for those I love, and I strip it from them. O Dâ’ûd, do not put between Me and you a drunken sage whose love will veil you from My love by his intoxication. Such people block the path for the weak among My slaves. Seek help in abandoning your appetites by devotion to fasting. O Dâ’ûd, you should prefer to oppose your lower self and deny it its appetites. If you do you will see the veils between Me and you lifted.”
O Allâh! Provide us with contentment and help us to fast and oppose our lower selves. Let us avoid gluttony, coarseness, and greediness! Make our food enough for us as You did for the Master of the Creation and the Beloved of the Truth!
5. The correct behaviour to be observed when entering people’s homes
Homes are secure places and protected fortresses where a woman is permitted to remove her outer covering because, as the Prophet said, “Any woman who removes her garment outside her house has sundered what is between her and Allâh.” Women should be able to carry out their household tasks safe from the prying eyes of uninvited guests without needing to veil themselves. Islâm strongly encourages that freedom in which a woman lives inside the house and protects her purity, chastity and modesty from being disturbed by the unexpected glance; it therefore establishes regulations and limits with regard to entering private houses. This is to ensure that no temptation occurs between men and women the results of which may be blameworthy. It is so easy for the urges of appetite to be provoked, leading to the ensuing desires against which the Sharî‘ah so strongly cautions. This is why the places of ambush should be shut off and the entrances by which Shaytân travels to man blocked up. The Almighty says in His Noble Book:
“O you who believe! Do not enter houses other than your own until you have asked permission and greeted their inhabitants. That is better for you – so that perhaps you will remember. And if you find no one at home do not go in until permission has been granted you. And if you are told to go away then go away. That is far purer for you. Allâh knows what you do. There is no blame on you for entering houses where no one lives and where there is an advantage for you. Allâh knows what you make known and all that you conceal.” (24:27-28)
From the explanation of these âyâts and the hadîths of the Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, we can deduce that the correct behaviour regarding entering private houses has the following clear principles:
A believer must ask permission to enter other people’s homes. This precaution is even more important if the house belongs to someone who is not one of his relatives. He should say, “Peace be upon you” three times. If he is given permission to go in, he may enter. Otherwise he should go away – in fact it obligatory for him to go away.
Lack of permission to enter can be explicit or implicit, like silence. A believer must not be angry at being refused permission.
When a believer asks permission to enter, he should not stand directly in front of the door but to one side of it. He must clearly state his name or the name by which he is known and not just say, “It’s me.”
A believer should also ask permission from his mother and sister, because he does not want to see them naked. In the case of his wife, he is not obliged to ask permission but it is recommended for him to do so since she might well be in a state in which she would not like her husband to see her.
As for houses which are not private homes, such as hotels, inns and similar places, there is no harm in entering them without permission.
The âyâts which were quoted above are a protection and safeguard for all believers. So every believer should find that others guard his inviolable things as he guards theirs. The Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, spoke the truth when he said, “Every eye will weep on the Day of Rising except an eye which has been restrained from looking at things Allâh has prohibited, and eye which has been sleepless in the way of Allâh, and an eye which has wept itself dry out of fear of Allâh Almighty.”
O Messenger of Allâh, you spoke the truth. Restraining the eyes from looking at the things Allâh has prohibited protects Muslims from slipping into disobedience to Allâh. If that happens all the tears in this world and a whole lifetime will not be sufficient regret for what has been neglected in respect of Allâh.
O Allâh, protect our eyes, ears, and limbs from disobedience to You and connect our hearts to You and confine our aspirations to You! You are the Merciful, the Compassionate, the Generous, the Noble.
6. The prohibition against pursuing desires
Appetite is the impulse of the self to follow the paths of desire and pursuit of desire is a path that leads to Hellfire. Its danger is such that Allâh cautioned His worshipping servant Dâ‘ûd:
“O Dâ’ûd! We made you a khalîf in the earth. So judge between people with truth and do not pursue whims and desires and let them lead you astray from Allâh’s way. Those who go astray from Allâh’s way will receive harsh punishment for their forgetting the Day of Reckoning.” (38:26)
Dâ’ûd used to fast every other day. The Master of the Prophets, Muhammad, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said about him, “The best of fasts is the fast of Dâ’ûd. He used to fast one day and break the fast one day. The best night prayers are those of Dâ’ûd. He used to sleep half the night and then pray a third and then sleep a sixth.” This is a statement issuing from the trustworthy truthful one to whom his Lord said:
“Be steadfast in the face of what they say, and remember Our slave Dâ’ûd, possessor of strength. He truly turned towards his Lord.” (38:17)
Moreover Allâh cautioned him as well against pursuing desire because it leads one away from the Path of Allâh:
“And who could be further astray than someone who follows his own whims and desires without any guidance from Allâh? Allâh does not guide the wrongdoers.” (28:50)
Desire means gravitating to the earth and inclining to the lower appetites and neglecting Allâh’s remembrance. That is misguidance itself – we seek refuge with Allâh! – and destruction in the lowest levels of Hellfire. For this reason a believer is asked to strive against the desires of his lower self because it is the precursor of fornication. Allâh made the repayment for that striving the Garden of Refuge:
“But as for him who fears the Station of his Lord and forbids the self its appetites, the Garden is his refuge.” (79:39-40)
Resistance to the impulses of the desire is the result of fear of Allâh. It is said that the only way for appetite to leave the heart is through an unsettling fear or restless yearning. So fear of Allâh’s punishment and yearning to meet Him are the two things which cleanse the heart of the indulgence of appetites. In view of the tremendous value of fear of Allâh which only arises from great knowledge and an awakened heart and an illuminated reproachful self, Allâh has made the repayment commensurably enormous:
“He who feared the Station of his Lord will have two Gardens.” (55:46)
O Allâh, we praise You and thank You for Your bounty and generosity. You summon us to free ourselves from slavehood to our appetites and then are generous to us and give us for doing it the generous gift of two Gardens.
My brother Muslim, you must oppose the stirrings of desires when they are first aroused because they foreshadow the release of the sexual appetite from its leash, your entry into the thralldom of slavehood to material existence, and your being stripped of Allâh’s veil with which He veils you when you are in the arena of belief:
Many a veiled one, captive to by his appetite,
is stripped of his veil and disgraced.
He who is possessed by desire is a slave.
He who masters his desires becomes a king.
7. The use of intellect as a means to subdue the appetites
It is related that when the husband of Rabi‘a al-‘Adawiyyah died, al-Hasan al-Basrî and his companions asked for permission to visit her. She gave them permission to come in and let down a curtain and sat behind it. Al-Hasan and his companions said,
“Your husband has died. You should have someone to replace him.”
“All right,” she said, “but which of you has the most knowledge, so that I may marry him?”
“Al-Hasan al-Basrî,” they replied.
“If you can answer me four questions, I am yours,” she said to al-Hasan.
“What do you say to this,” she asked, “when I die and leave this world, will leave with belief or not?”
“That is a matter of the Unseen and none knows the Unseen except Allâh.”
“What about this, then? When I am put into the grave and Munkar and Nakîr question me, will I be able to answer them or not?”
“That is a matter of the Unseen and none knows the Unseen except Allâh,” replied al-Hasan a second time.
“When people are gathered together on the Day of Rising and the books are distributed, will I be given my book in my right hand or my left hand?”
“That too is a matter of the Unseen and none knows the Unseen except Allâh,” came the reply again.
“When people are called: ‘One group in the Garden and one group in Blaze!’ which of the two groups will I be in?”
“That is a matter of the Unseen and none knows the Unseen except Allâh,” responded al-Hasan for the fourth and last time.
“How is it possible,” she retorted, “for someone who is suffering the grief of ignorance about these four things to think of marriage?”
“O Hasan,” she continued, “in how many parts did Allâh create the intellect?”
“In ten parts,” he replied, “nine for men and one for women.”
“O Hasan, in how many parts did Allâh create appetite?”
“In ten parts: nine for women and one for men.”
“O Hasan,” she concluded, “I am able to contain nine part of appetite with one part of intellect whereas you cannot even guard one part of appetite with nine parts of intellect!” Thereupon al-Hasan wept and left her.
Because of its ability to keep the appetites in check, Islâm is very much concerned with the intellect, nurturing it, developing it and giving it the greatest scope to evaluate things and their results with precise criteria. It should be used to distinguish the positive and negative sides of appetite using the criterion of the Sharî‘ah and to understand what its consequences will be in this world and the Next. It should know how to encourage the lower self to gain the pleasure of Allâh and how to make it wary of anger of Allâh so that it does not collapse under the pressure of impulses, appetites and desires and become lost in the oceans of this world. Out of His endless generosity the Almighty has prescribed various measures to safeguard the intellect and promote the development and expansion of its faculties.
Among these measures is Revelation itself. One of the functions of Revelation and the Message is to act as Allâh’s evidence against mankind. Left to itself, the intellect can misguide. Natural form (fitrah) on its own is also capable of deviation. The only safeguard for the intellect and natural form is to adopt the Revelation as their directing guide:
“We never punish until We have sent a Messenger.” (17:15)
Therefore the intellect needs the Revelation to guide it and direct it and make it sound so that it can distinguish the bad from the good. Revelation protects the intellect from becoming lost in materialistic philosophies.
Another of the safeguards of the intellect is the prohibition of intoxicants. Many a man fritters away his intellectual abilities in satisfying his lower appetites and passing whims and this opens him up to misguidance, deviation and bad habits of all kinds which will disrupt first his own life, then the life of his family, and finally that of society as a whole. This is the root cause of Islâm’s prohibition of intoxicants of all sorts – alcohol, drugs, or any substance that has an effect on the brain, leading to altered states of consciousness or hallucinations. The Almighty says in His Noble Book:
“O you who believe! Wine and gambling and stone altars and divining arrows are disgusting things, part of the handiwork of Shaytân. Avoid them completely, so that perhaps you will be successful.” (5:90)
Could there be any greater accomplishment than being awake and alert and perceiving where your steps are taking you and being able to truly evaluate their prospective benefit or harm for yourself in the world and the Next?
Another thing which Allâh does in this respect is to invite the intellect to reflect deeply on existence. The purpose of this invitation is to free the intellect of the chains that shackle it and make it stumble under the pressure of all the needs and demands which hem it in. when man contemplates the universe, he is inevitably aware of the immensity of its Creator and His strength and this impels him to seek help and strength from Him to under take the task for which he was created. Such contemplation awakens him from the sleep of heedlessness and opens all his receptive senses and cognitive faculties:
“Truly in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day there are signs for people of intelligence.” (3:190)
“Have they not traveled in the land? Do they not have hearts with which to understand or ears with which to hear?” (22:46)
In all created existence there is nothing more noble than the human intellect and for this reason Allâh honours it as it deserves. There is no deen which fulfils all the aspirations of the intellect and answers its questions as Islâm does. This is only to be expected since the intellect is the supreme instrument of human perception and whenever it is polished, perception is increased and the results derived from its use are greater. A Bedouin possessing an unspoiled natural response to existence articulated this when people asked him, “Why do you believe in Muhammad?” His reply was: “Because what his deen orders leaves no scope for the intellect to say, ‘If only he had ordered this.’ Nor does what it forbids leave the intellect any scope to say, ‘If only he had not forbidden that.’ ”
8. Fear of Allâh
Fear of Allâh (taqwâ) is the focal point, buttress and summit of the entire affair. When Allâh addresses the wives of the Prophet in Sûrat al-Ahzâb, and hence all believing women who have a good model in the Mothers of the Believers, He says: “…provided you are godfearing. Do not be soft in your speech in case someone with sickness in his heart becomes desirous. Speak correct and courteous words” (33:32), and the rest of the instructions which encourage purity and chastity.
This shows that fear of Allâh is the firm foundation on which all idea of noble character in Muslim society is based. It is the comprehensive principle which upholds the edifice of Islâm once its foundations have been established: its obligations and usages. Sayyiduna ‘Alî, may Allâh be pleased with him, defined it in this way: “It is acting according to the Revelation, fear of the Majestic, contentment with little and making preparation for the Day of Departure.” Fear of Allâh is therefore the strongest of all weapons.
Sayyiduna ‘Umar, may Allâh be pleased with him, said, “Fear of Allâh means avoidance of everything Allâh has forbidden.”
One of the righteous said, “Directing oneself to Allâh Almighty alone, abandoning the occupations of the body, exercising scrupulousness in all one’s actions, and being freed from bondage to the visible world are all results of fear of Allâh, as Allâh promises when He says: ‘Fear Allâh and Allâh will teach you’ (2:282) and ‘Take provision, but the best provision is fear of Allâh. Therefore fear Me, people of intelligence!’ (2:197)”
Shah ibn Shujâ‘ al-Kirmânî used to say, “Whoever occupies his outward with following the Sunnah and his inward with constant watchfulness and withholding his eyes from looking at unlawful things and restraining himself from appetites will not have his understanding err. Allâh Almighty will repay him for his actions in kind. Whoever abandons something for the sake of Allâh, He will give him something better in return. If he restrains his eyes from the things Allâh has forbidden him to see, Allâh will, in return for his self-restraint, liberate the light of his inner insight. He will open for him the door of knowledge, belief, gnosis, and the true understanding that is only experienced through the heart. The converse of this is the blind wandering that is the opposite of insight and by which Allâh characterized the people of Lût: ‘By your life, they were wandering blindly in their drunken state!’ (15:72). He describes them as drunk, indicating derangement of the intellect, and blind indicating complete lack of insight. Attachment to created forms causes derangement of the intellect. Lack of insight intoxicates the heart.”
O Allâh! make it easy for us to follow those You love and make their openings extend to us! Join us to them and gather us in their company and guide us as they were guided and let us travel on their path! Our God and Master! We ask you to put our affairs in order and the destinies of our relatives and those we love. Pour out mercy on us from the sea of Your ihsân and mend us with Your forgiveness and slake the thirst of our hearts with Your pleasure. Prescribe Your protection for us, O Lord of the worlds!
The penalty of not safeguarding the private parts
This has been a selection of the luminous indications which the All-Wise Lawgiver has been given us to enable us to safeguard our private parts and thereby protect the purity and cohesion of Muslim society so that it may avoid the numerous perils which might otherwise dissipate its energy. What then is the position of Islâm vis-à-vis the limits which it has prescribed to protect the community? Allâh and His Messenger warned all who are tempted to break those limits in the strongest possible fashion and then imposed severe punishments in this world before the Next for any who commit the crime of fornication. This is because most people are only deterred by immediate force and do not give any real weight to the punishments of the Next World. That fact has given rise to the saying: “Allâh will curb by the hand of the ruler what is not curbed by the words of the Qur’ân.”
Listen, my Muslim brother, to Allâh’s warnings and the punishment for fornication as prescribed in the Noble Qur’ân:
“Anyone who disobeys Allâh and His Messenger and goes beyond His limits, We will admit him into a Fire, remaining in it timelessly, forever. He will have a humiliating punishment.” (4:14)
“Do not go near to fornication. It is an indecent act, an evil way.” (17:32)
“Those who do not call on another god together with Allâh and do not kill any person Allâh has made inviolate – except with a right – and do not fornicate. Anyone who does that will receive an evil punishment.” (25:68)
“Your Lord has made it unlawful for you … to approach indecency – outward or inward.” (6:151)
“Allâh commands justice and doing good and giving to relatives. And He forbids indecency and doing wrong and tyranny. He warns you so that perhaps you will remember.” (16:95)
“If any of your women commit fornication, four of you must appear as witnesses against them. And if witnesses against them come forward, shut them up in their homes until death comes to them or Allâh ordains some other way for them. If two among you do it, castigate both of them. Then if they repent and reform, leave them alone. Allâh is Ever-returning, Most Merciful.” (4:15-16)
“A woman who fornicates and a man who fornicators, flog each of them one hundred lashes. And do not let compassion for either of them take hold of you where Allâh’s deen is concerned, if you believe in Allâh and the Last Day. And a group of the believers should witness their punishment. A man who fornicates may only marry a woman who fornicates or an idolater. A woman who fornicates may only marry a man who fornicates or an idolater. Such have been forbidden to the believers.” (24:2-3)
When we go to the Sunnah we find nine further aspects of the punishments to be meted out to those who commit the abhorrent crime of fornication or adultery.
1: The removal of the light of belief from the heart
Abû Hurayrah, may Allâh be pleased with him, said that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “A fornicator does not fornicate while a believer, a thief does not steal while a believer, and a man does not drink alcohol while a believer. When someone does that, the halter of Islâm slips from his neck. If he repents, Allâh returns to him.”
2: The death penalty for adulterers
‘Abdullâh ibn Mas‘ûd, may Allâh be pleased with him, said that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “The blood of a Muslim man who testifies that there is no god but Allâh and that I am the Messenger of Allâh is not lawful except in three cases: that of a previously married person who fornicates, in the case of a life for a life, and that of someone who abandons his deen and leaves the community.”
3: The arrival of poverty and anxiety
Ibn ‘Umar, may Allâh be pleased with him, said that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “Fornication bequeaths poverty.”
‘Abdullâh ibn Zayd, may Allâh be pleased with him, said, “I head the Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, say, “O fornicatresses of the Arabs! O fornicatresses of Arabs! The thing I fear most for you is fornication and hidden lust.”
4: Allâh’s refusal to respond
‘Uthmân ibn Abi’l-‘Âs said that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “The gates of heaven are opened in the middle of the night and a caller calls out: ‘Is there any one who calls, that he may be answered? Is there anyone who asks, that he may be given? Is there anyone with a grief, that it may be relieved?’ There is no Muslim who makes a supplication without Allâh Almighty answering him – except for a fornicator or tax-collector.”
5: Burnt faces of the Day of Rising
‘Abdullâh ibn Busr said that the Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “The faces of fornicators will be burned with fire.”
6: Being thrown into an oven
Samûrah ibn Jundub said that the Prophet, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “In the night I dreamt that two men came to me and took me to a holy land…” In the course of this long hadîth, he says, “They took me to a hole like a oven whose top was narrow and its bottom wide, under which a fire was burning. When the fire rose, the people in it rose as well until they almost came out; and when it died down, they went back down into it. It contained naked men and women.”
7: Erasure from the register of the pious and being expelled from their company
Abû Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “There are three to whom Allâh will not speak on the Day of Rising nor will He declare them innocent or look at them, and they will have a painful punishment: an adulterous old man, a lying king, and an arrogant poor man.”
Buraydah said that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “The seven heavens and the seven earths curse an adulterous old man. The smell of the genitals of fornicators is disgusting even to the people of the Fire.”
Nâfi‘ said that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “Neither an arrogant poor man, nor an adulterous old man, nor a person who thinks that Allâh owes something to him on account of his actions will enter the Garden.”
8: Ruined, dissolute and degraded offspring
Maymûnah, may Allâh be pleased with her, said: “I heard the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, say, ‘My community will remain sound as long as illegitimate children do not abound among them. When illegitimate children abound, Allâh will soon envelop them in punishment.’”
9: Allâh’s punishment for society as a whole
Ibn ‘Abbâs said that the Messenger of Allâh, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, said, “When fornication and usury appear in a place, the people there have legitimised Allâh’s punishment for themselves.”
Having examined the punishment for fornication in the Noble Qur’ân and Prophetic Sunnah, it is clear that the Muslim should tremble before that outrage because of the immense woes it entails in this world and the Next. What we have outlined in this section should be more than sufficient to ensure the development of every Muslim’s conscience, feelings and behaviour and to keep him on the wise path of Allâh and the upright Sharî‘ah. This will enable the Muslims to create an Islâmic society built on the firm foundations of Truth and not on diverse desires and impulses which will only serve to drag them down into the depths of Hellfire.
We bear witness to Your Greatness, O Lord, and Your wisdom. You created the illness and prescribed the cure. You created instincts in man and along with them You created laws and rules which provide a strong bulwark against the unleashing of their destructive power. In fact, You refined them, polished them and directed them by means of the sound Sharî‘ah so as to achieve life and success for Islâmic society.
We bear witness, O Lord, to the greatness of Your Messenger in conveying Your message and taking the hands of the Muslims with mercy and compassion to lead them to the pathways of light so that they are able to strive against the urges of their lower selves and base appetites. The nourishment of the spirit and intellect is belief in Allâh and His Angels and His Books and His Messengers and the Decree of good and evil. This belief will refine them and given them control over the appetites in a manner that is pleasing to Allâh and His Messenger.
When one of the Muslims came to Allâh’s Messenger asking him to permit him to commit fornication, he did not attack him directly and slam the doors of mercy in his face. Rather he strengthened his heart for him and dealt gently with him. He asked him if he would be pleased for his wife or his mother or his sister to do such a thing. In each case the man said no and found it reprehensible in the case of his family. In this way the Messenger, may Allâh bless him and grant him peace, made him understand and prayed to Allâh to remove the intensity of desire for women from his breast. The man got up and found that Allâh has cured him by the guidance of belief and the alertness of his intellect.
O Allâh, guide us by Your noble guidance and illuminate our insight and intellects with the light of faith and certainty so that we are able to see the Truth as truth and follow it and see the false as false and avoid it.