Author: a young Muslim
Reprinted from Young Muslims, ymonline.org, edited slightly by Zawaj.com for readability
Have you ever notice the magazines staring at you from one side of the checkout lane of every supermarket? I have. So one day I decided to take action. I turned the first magazine in every row to its backside. Not surprisingly, when I returned the next day they were turned back. Why did I turn them over? Because they were pornographic. Why were they turned back? Because they sell.
Perhaps most Muslims think that pornography is only that uncensored filth that is accessible through XXX movies and certain Internet sites, but in fact, by Islamic standards, much of what is considered normal in American advertising is actually pornographic. The purpose of flailing these seductive images is to arouse the lower desires of people and to weaken their self-restrain and taint their thoughts. It bombards the Muslim, especially the youth, with indecent and suggestively seductive images. Unfortunately, most Muslims are so oblivious of the presence and influence of these Shaytanic (Satanic) images, that they regularly view them through various types of media.
Pornography is defined in the English language as an indecent form of art or literature. Islam also views it as indecent and terms it as faahisha in the Quran.
Allah says (what means):
“Say: The things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are: shameful deeds whether open or secret…”
Faahishah is translated as “shameful deeds” because it refers to every bad deed that is noticeably ugly to human beings. In many places in the Quran, Allah (swt) refers to zinaa, adultery and fornication as a faahishah. In another verse, Allah (swt) refers to the marrying of one’s father’s wife also as being a faahishah because, like adultery, anyone with a pure nature will clearly see it as hideous. Allah (swt) also calls the crime of the people of Lut (as), homosexuality, a faahishah. Likewise to view pictures of nudity, sexual suggestion, intimacy between two people, or a person of the opposite gender who is improperly covered (Islamically) is also an ugly sin to anyone who wishes to adhere to piety.
One of the most pervasive tools of pornography is the television. Shows like “Dawson’s Creek” and “Baywatch” have no other purpose except to display blatant degrees of nakedness and indecent scenes of intimacy. Movies also succeed in conveying lewd imagery by almost always including a love/lust story in the story line. However there are other forms of pornography on TV that are much more subtle. For example, most Muslims would not realize that the viewing of several sports events includes pornographic images. The swimsuits that are worn by both men and woman during the Olympics are iniquitously revealing. They expose the ‘awrah of a woman and a man for their respective genders and the opposite gender.
The word ‘awrah refers to those parts of the body which are Islamically prohibited to expose in front of another (either the opposite gender or the same gender). For example, it is a must for a woman to cover all of her body except for her face and hands in front of men who are permissible for her to marry – that is her ‘awrah. Likewise the man’s ‘awrah is everything between his navel and knees while in front of a woman or a man. The skimpy swimsuits worn by these athletes just don’t meet the Islamic dress code.
Another subtle example regards women who view advertisements that contain pictures of other women modeling bras and underwear. The ‘awrah of Muslim women in front of other Muslim women doesn’t allow these areas of the body to be exposed and hence it is haram for even a woman to view them.
It is also important to keep in mind that a person could be “clothed but naked” as Rasoolullah (saws) said. For example, competitors in races usually wear some sort of bodysuit that adheres very tightly to their skin and the exact shape of their body parts is apparent. This is almost equivalent to being naked, since it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what is under such type of clothing.
Lowering the Gaze
When such images become prevalent in a society, what is deemed pornographic changes drastically. The very standard of modesty, which should be a defining characteristic of Muslim dress and behavior, will become degraded. The Islamic standard must be upheld. The true believer fears Allah’s judgement and knows that no act will go unaccounted for and that even his own eyes will bear witness against him on the Day of Judgement. Allah (swt) says: “Until, when they reach it (Hell-Fire) their hearing and eyes and skin will testify against them as to what they used to do.” Rasoolullah (saws) warned us that there is a zinaa of the eyes just as there is a zinaa of the private parts.
The Islamic solution to living in a society where pornographic images are so visible is to lower one’s gaze.
Allah (swt) says:
“Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: and Allah is well aquainted with all they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof… ”
The scholars of tafseer say that this means that both men and woman are obliged to direct their sight away from that which is haram and that there is no harm in looking at that which is halal (such as viewing one’s spouse while they are uncovered).
In regard to these verses Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullah) says:
“So He (Allah) put purity after lowering of the gaze and protecting of the private parts. For this reason lowering the gaze away from the prohibited things warrants three great benefits. The first of them is the sweetness of Imaan and the pleasure that comes from it, which is more sweet and pleasing than that which he diverted his eyes away from for Allah’s sake. Verily, whoever abandons a thing for Allah’s sake, He (swt) compensates him with better than it…The second benefit is a light in the heart and quality of intuition… and the third benefit is the strength of the heart and steadfastness and courage. So Allah (swt) would give him, by His strength, the ability of wisdom and substantiation, and the devil would flee from him as it has been mentioned in the saying, “Whoever fears his whims, the devil would race out of his shadow.”
Indeed, the opposite is also true. This is because the eyes are the most direct path to the heart. One who allows his whims to overwhelm him and indulges his eyes in the viewing of haram things has weakened his heart, corrupted his soul, and invited shaytan to control him.