ONE OF THE MOST OBVÝOUS realities of the world is that one cannot live without rules. First of all, life itself is the fruit of a rule. The universe we live in exists with a rule with all of its atoms. Everything, from the tiniest atom to the biggest galaxy, is subject to a system. All existing things and living beings whisper a universal reality called ‘rule’ with their existence.
On the other hand, man, unlike other creatures, is a living being whose feelings and ambitions have no limits. A lion which is full will not even look at a young gazelle that passes nearby. A tree receives the amount of water that it needs; it does not try to receive extra water. However, man always wants more with his unlimited feelings. Even if he swallowed the world, he would not feel full. If he is full, he keeps the food for tomorrow. If he has enough food for tomorrow, he keeps it for next week. He saves for months, years, his children and future generations; he stocks and saves continuously. He often has designs on other people’s rights since his feelings are unlimited. He even transgresses other beings’ rights.
Thus, along with the existence of a ‘rule’, there is another universal truth: the necessity of imposing certain rules that will limit man whose feelings are not limited naturally.
The attack of some people on others is an alternative for it. As the ecological and nuclear disasters seen in this century clearly indicate, man endangers the existence of all living things even the whole universe.
Since the necessity of imposing a ‘rule’ for man is obvious, we are faced with this question: Who will impose the rule?
It is perhaps the most crucial question of the history of humanity. Will man understand the existence of only one Creator and say, “The judgment belongs to Him”? Or will he associate partners with him and invent partners in imposing rules? For instance, will he attribute the valid rules in the whole universe to ‘nature’, ‘coincidence’, ‘time’, and ‘powers’? Will he set forth rule imposers in human life like ‘ego’, ‘society’, ‘era’ and ‘national interests’? Or, will he declare one of them, for instance himself as the rule imposer and worship `unique ego’? Or, will he give the role of rule imposing to the state through fascism, to the working class through socialism, to the capital owners through capitalism, to the nobles through aristocracy, to a race through nationality?
It is one of the most crucial issues that shapes the human history as a whole. The whole history of thought is in that axis. When we look at our own lives, we are faced with it as one of the most important issues in the short life.
On the other hand, that question is directly related to our understanding of man, the world and the universe.
It is an expected situation for someone who regards man as a being that occurred spontaneously to say ‘I impose the rule’. If it is the state that creates him, the state will impose the rule; if it is the society, the society will impose the rule.
Therefore, it is necessary for someone who says ‘I impose the rule’ to ground it, that is, to prove that he occurred spontaneously. Similarly, it is an unavoidable obligation for someone who says, ‘the society imposes the rule’ to show that his existence belongs to the society. If the one that creates and the one that imposes the rule are different beings, an obvious contradiction is in question.
First of all, the nature of man reveals such a contradiction openly. A woman may beat her child but she will not let anybody else even touch him/her. She will say, ‘You have no right to interfere in my child’s nurture.’ There is no husband that will not mind his wife’s not heeding him but her acting in accordance with what other people say. You cannot imagine a boss who will not object to the management of his factory by someone whom he has not appointed as he/she wished; you cannot imagine a director who will let the subordinates receive orders from other people instead of him/her.
The struggle for sovereignty and domination that marks the history of humanity and that we observe in our daily life underlines a reality: `whoever owns something dominates it.’ In other words, ‘the rule about something is imposed by its owner.’
Therefore, the owner of man is often reminded in the Quran. He is warned that he does not exist coincidentally and that there is One that has created him. For instance, the chapter ash-Shams starts by attracting attention to the sun, moon, day, night, sky and earth, then all of a sudden the creation of man is mentioned. In many other chapters, it is often emphasized that man was something that ‘was not worth mentioning’ and that he took the shape of man out of ‘some worthless liquid’ through various phases, that he was extremely weak after his birth but he was fed with the purest food and that he was bestowed unlimited bounties although he could not walk and feed himself.
Among all those things mentioned above, the following question is repeatedly asked: `Does man think that he will be left uncontrolled, (without purpose)? `
The answer is obvious. He who created even the tiniest fly with many reasons, will definitely not leave man uncontrolled. He who directs the universe without any partners will definitely not surrender man to others.
He is the Owner, the Lord of Majesty. He owns all of the land. Then, the judgment will belong to Him, too; he will impose certain rules for man, whom He did not create in vain and did not leave uncontrolled, in accordance with the reason for his creation.
As a matter of fact, the Quran reminds man the Owner of the universe and his Owner; on the other hand, it imposes rules. It warns seriously that the rules are not imposed just for fun. For instance, it attracts attention to the fate of some previous nations that did not heed the commands given to them. Or, it warns by reminding the disappointment of the Nimrod, Croesus and Pharaoh, who all said, ‘I impose the rules.’
Each command that is received has a clear instruction regarding belief, too. For instance, man, whose feelings cannot be restricted, may attack others in order to fill his stomach. However, the Quran speaks on behalf of the Lord of his stomach and the bounties that enter it: `eat and drink: but waste not by excess.’ Man did not find his two feet in the street. Those feet are not some ordinary things given to him by others. The Quran speaks on behalf of the One that gives those feet: ` nor walk in insolence through the earth.` Women are endowed with a more graceful state. They should not use that state for their souls. For instance, they should not walk in a way that will seduce men. The Quran speaks on behalf of the One that gives that graceful state: `Do not walk like the women of Jahiliyyah (Ignorance) by making the outlines of your body apparent` The eye is a miracle of Allah’s power. It condenses the whole universe in a small point and puts it before the mind. However, man may forget about the owner of that eye and may attribute it to his own soul. The Quran reminds man that the eyes are not ownerless and that they do not belong to him by speaking on behalf of the One that gives those eyes: `Do not look at forbidden (haram) things.` `Keep your eyes away from forbidden things.`
All of the commands like those have a clear message: Sovereignty belongs to Him who owns. Judgment belongs to Him who owns all of the land.
Such verses invite us to eliminate the contradiction we have. The contradiction is attributing the land to someone and the rule to someone else. There is no contradiction in this: ‘if man is really the owner of the eye, he can use it however he wants.’ However, if the eye is entrusted to him temporarily and if the owner of it is someone else, he can only use it based on the permission and command of its Real Owner. He cannot use the eye that is entrusted to him and that does not belong to him; that is a contradiction. There is only one way to solve the contradiction: to use the eye in accordance with the purpose that the One who gave it meant.
Reminding that He is the One that created the whole universe, that created man in the universe and that gave man eyes to see with, the Quran gives the command: ` they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty.`
Those commands contain rage in a sense because it includes clear threats for those who do not heed the commands. The Quran informs us that the real owner of the eyes that gives the command is a Lord, who knows everything, who is glorious and who is swift in taking account, threatening those who do not heed His commands with the promised torture. It also warns them about the day they will taste the torture of fire.
On the other hand, those commands also contain beauty. For instance, they are the commands of a Lord, who presents the glorious sky as shivery scenery to our eyes and who embeds unmatched beauty and extremely vital benefits in the grandeur of mountains and in the waves like mountains. Therefore, all of the commands that seem difficult for the soul are actually for man. Although it breaks the sovereignty of the soul on all of the feelings, it is also beneficial for the soul. Does compassion necessitate overlooking a thief that transgresses or warning him saying, ‘Give it up; know your limits and avoid the punishment’?
All of the commands that are present in the Quran contain the aspects of both rage and beauty.
One of the commands of the Quran, in an environment in which women wear immodest dresses, naked legs allure men, and hearts are enslaved by souls due to the body outlines that are displayed indecently, especially has significant lessons for us, who make their eyes peeping toms in spite of our minds, hearts and spirits:
` 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 acquainted with all that they do. `
Following that verse comes a verse regarding women. In that verse, both commands are repeated.
The beginning parts of the both verses are significant: ` Say to the believing men...` ` Say to the believing women...`
Both verses have an emphasis on ‘belief’. It is an emphasis that makes the relation between obeying the command that follows and belief clear. Both verses insinuate that protecting the eyes from forbidden things is in question only for believers and that he can do it based on the degree of his belief. Someone who does not know his Creator and Owner will not know that his eyes are given to him as trusts by his Lord. Someone who does not accept that eyes are trusts will not realize the responsibility of using the eyes in compliance with the command and permission of their owner. Someone who does not realize it will not think that he will have betrayed otherwise. In conclusion, it is not in question for someone like that to protect his eyes from forbidden things.
Similarly, a heedless person who believes in a Creator but does not practice that belief and who uses that belief as a ‘relief valve’ or ‘spare tire’ when he feels he is in dire straits will not heed that command. He will not heed it even if he wants because a person who does not arrange his inner world in such a way to be always alive and alert with the consciousness of being in the presence of that Creator is like a car in the neutral gear or a boat with a loose rudder. He drifts with the inclination or current; he goes wherever his soul and desires take him. Even if his conscience warns him reminding the command of the Creator and the hereafter, it will not be of any use because when he is heedless, it seems to be far away. However, there is piquant scenery in front of his soul. The soul is near-sighted; it sees only what is in front of it; it cannot see what is far ahead; it does not think about the hereafter.
Similarly, a person who believes in a Creator but does not know Him by His beautiful names (asma al-husna) will have difficulty in carrying out His command. For instance, someone who does not know Him by His name al-Hakim ( perfectly wise) and who does not know that He creates every being with many reasons and wisdom, for instance, that He makes a hand or a tree do thousands of tasks will not see a reason or wisdom in that command. He will not fulfill that command since he does not see any reasons or wisdom in doing it.
Similarly, someone who does not know the names ar-Rahim (all-compassionate) and al-Hannan (compassionate) will have difficulty in carrying out that command. The universe whispers the reality of a universal mercy and compassion with every being in it. Every weak being is fed through a unique mercy and compassion due to their weakness. He is Rahman(all-merciful) and Rahim (all-compassionate), who gives everybody and everything the most appropriate sustenance that they need. The weaker a being is, the more the mercy and compassion it gets. Babies and young animals are the most obvious examples to it. Such a compassionate being will definitely warn someone who tries to sell a brilliant at the price of junk in the market because of His mercy and compassion. He informs man that the eyes He gave him are so valuable that looking at haram things with them will mean regarding a unique diamond as a piece of glass and a unique jewel as junk. However, if those eyes are kept away from haram things, they will look at endless beauties and halal women or men on behalf of their Lord. However, in the balance of haram-halal and command-prohibition, the Maker and Owner of the eyes will always be kept in mind. When he looks at a flower or his spouse, he will look remembering Him, on behalf of Him, and contemplating and appreciating His art as long as the divine command determines his looking. Those eyes will have a unique value when attributed to a Lord that created the whole universe with innumerable beauties and wisdom; they will not be simple pieces of meat that will start to fade in thirty years. As a matter of fact, a Qadir (all-powerful) and Rahim Lord will give eyes that deserve eternal Gardens to His slave, who uses the beauty He has given on behalf of Him, to watch the innumerable beauties in His artistic creation. He is able to do it.
On the other hand, someone who does not know the owner of that command with His names ar-Rahman, ar-Rahim and al-Hannan will be away from those meanings. He will try to obey that command unwillingly, or, to be frank, he will not obey it since he cannot see the mercy and compassion it contains.
Therefore, both verses unlock the key to the problem at the beginning by the definitions ‘believing men` and ` believing women`. However, we usually miss that key point. Therefore, we try to open the door by force. The feelings of both guilt and hopelessness prevail in us since we cannot manage to fully obey the command that we cannot understand. As a matter of fact, if we give the key of belief what it deserves at the beginning, the rest will be easier; just like the Companions that obeyed without hesitation whenever a command was sent as revelation. It is a known reality that there was not a long time between the moment the Companions heard a command and the moment they obeyed that command unlike us because they fully digested the lesson of belief given by the Quran and the teaching of knowledge and love of Allah presented by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). They did not show any hesitation, half-heartedness or difficulty in accepting them since they knew that each command that came through revelation was from the all-Compassionate Lord, who created all of the realms and human beings, who has endless wisdom, mercy, compassion and power and who has all of the beautiful names.
The One that gives that command is the One that created man. Who else can know better than the Wise Creator what is the most natural and appropriate for man? Who can speak after the One who created man like that?
The Wise Creator invites us to a state that is necessary for our nature. Not keeping away from haram and looking at whatever one sees is something that contradicts our nature because, by doing so, we put the unlimited feelings of ours under the control of only one feeling. There appear personalities resembling human beings that associate all of their lives, worlds and thoughts with their lust as we can see many examples of them in this century. As a matter of fact, so many eyes look at haram things and so many hands, tongues, minds, feet and memories accompany them today. There are so many people who spend their time by talking about the haram images that they have seen when they come together and by imagining those visions when they are alone. So many eyes, minds and lives are wasted like that. There appear ill personalities that reduce every man they see to material figures and look at only some parts of those material figures. There are ill personalities that infer sexual associations from words that are uttered for some other purposes.
It is the result of a weakness in belief that eyes look at haram things; keeping on looking at haram things develops that weakness and it also has a dimension that degrades man from humanity. It is a dimension that makes man, who is equipped with feelings and abilities that can cover and surround the whole universe, the slave of his lust, that reduces people of opposite gender to certain organs and that vulgarizes the definition of man like that. The negative effects this state brings about in the life of family and society is another aspect of the issue.
Why does the Quran address only believers about the issue that interests all of the human beings when it is seen in this light?
The answer is this: man can understand the content of that command based on the degree of his belief. He can realize the responsibility of using his eyes in accordance with the permission of his Lord to watch the beauties that his Lord created only based on the degree of his belief. Only with his belief can he know that every attitude that makes his eye a mean peeping tom in the hands of his soul means betraying the trust.
Man can have the determination of keeping his eyes away from haram things based on the degree of his belief only.
Otherwise, almost every man has observed some incidents that show how even the most strong-willed, chivalrous and eminent men become ordinary and vulgar when they see something haram.
Another significant aspect of the command of protecting the eyes from haram mentioned in both verses is that it commands an inner effort. The first sentence that both believing men and women are addressed is not ‘Eliminate the haram things that you see’ but: ‘Protect your eyes’.
It is a significant reflection of the general style of the Quran that gives the priority to man and that solves the problem in individuals because the root of the problem is not in the outside but inside us. A person whose inner world is steadfast and whose castle of belief is sound will not be affected and will not go astray even if the world is full of haram paintings. He will not go after the base people that market themselves even if there are so many haram things in the world thanks to the state of modesty, consciousness and awareness since he is in the presence of his Lord. His modesty, good manners, patience and perseverance will not let him do it.
As a matter of fact, the story of Yusuf (Joseph) (pbuh) is a good example of it. The attitude of Yusuf to the extremely beautiful woman who presented herself with all her jewelry and beauty was to keep his eyes away from her and to turn his back to her. Prophet Yusuf, whose attitude is mentioned with praise in the Quran, teaches the humanity this lesson: If man knows the owner of the eye and knows His command fully and truly, even the most seductive scenery will not seduce him.
The stories of the prophets, among which the story of Yusuf is an example, shows clearly that the prophets who made whole nations follow them started alone in the way of prophethood. Prophets emerged in the times when the nature of man deteriorated, when Allah and the hereafter were forgotten and when human beings behaved as their souls wished. They did not change the environment they found but remained steadfast like the monuments of belief in the deteriorated environment; they changed the environment with the consciousness and will of belief they displayed.
If there is a haram somewhere, the way to keep away from it is not eliminating that haram but first protecting oneself from that haram. There is no evil that was eliminated suddenly and by force. In that case, the evil disappears seemingly but goes underground and its existence continues secretly. What is important is not eliminating the obscene scenery from the streets but being equipped with belief that will protect our eyes from those haram things. That way seems longer and harder than the other one but actually it is the short and easy way. In the other way, only the appearance is improved but the illness remains under the surface. If a person is equipped with belief like the Prophet Yusuf and uses his eyes, which are entrusted to him, in accordance with the consent of his Lord and tries hard to protect his eyes, his eyes will keep away from haram things even if the world is full of haram.
Besides, haram things are displayed in an environment where eyes are willing to look. Was it not the avoidance of Yusuf from the haram displayed by Zulaykha that made Zulaykha find the true path? For instance, let us deal with the immodesty of women: If men have a full conscience of belief and protect their eyes from haram, no women will go out with immodest clothes. The motive that makes women go out like that is the gaze of men who do not protect their eyes from haram things. Thus, if believing men protect their eyes from haram, the most important step for women not to wear immodest clothes will be taken.
Therefore, it is significant that the command of covering for women was sent down after the verse that commands men to protect their eyes.
The 30th verse of the chapter an-Nur gives a second command after the command of protecting their eyes from haram: protecting their private parts. It is also a significant issue because the first step of fornication is the looking by the eyes. When the eyes look at haram, the will becomes off and the mind is affected by the soul. The soul that makes the eyes look at haram will not be calm until it goes all lengths. The state that makes man go away from the fact that the eye is entrusted to him by his Lord will also make him forget the fact that the private parts are also entrusted to him by his Lord and reduce them to tools of fornication. As the phrase ‘or come nigh to fornication’ attracts attention, the most critical thing in issues regarding lust is approaching. There is a threshold regarding the issues that the soul likes and that arouses lust; if that threshold is passed, the rest takes place very easily. For instance, the eyes that look at naked legs will not be contented with it; it will seek more. The more it obtains, the more it will go wild instead of being calm. Then, with the incitement of the feelings like imagination and desire, he rushes to fornication because in the thresholds like not protecting the eyes from haram, there is a devilish attraction that bypasses will and drifts man to the last stage of the sin even if the man does not wish. In conclusion, he who does not protect his eyes from haram today will not protect his private parts tomorrow. As a matter of fact, this century and the society we live in are full of obvious examples of it. On the other hand, when the eyes are protected from haram, the private parts will be protected, too.
There is another dimension in the commanding of our Lord ‘protecting the eyes from haram’ that is actually observed in this century and society.
In the last century, there has been a relation between the pages of newspapers and magazines, movies and TV programs and the clothing and living styles of people: All of the debauchery, scandals and obscenity appeared in a marginal section of the community. That section is either the ‘high society’ or the group of ‘artists’ or both of them. Even in that marginal section, not everybody commits the same immodesty at the same time. A woman of high society that comes to a ball in an immodest dress that nobody has ever worn before may be found strange at first; however, a threshold is passed. Those who have such an inclination in their nature see that it may be worn and have the courage or boldness to wear it. The excessiveness that is displayed in the marginal section is presented to the public through newspapers. On the other hand, it is broadcast in films. The community that sees it in the mass media starts to regard it as normal. What the community regards as immoral at first becomes normal as they see it in mass media. When it is regarded normal, people start to wear it too. Meanwhile, a new kind of excessiveness is displayed in the marginal section and people react to it. However, in a few years’ time, they will regard it as normal and start to do it themselves.
As a matter of fact, it is possible to foresee how people who do not protect their eyes from haram and who regard the age, community and themselves as the rule imposers will dress in a few years’ time by looking at the films of today, high society pages in the newspapers, the clothes of artists and TV presenters. He who looks at something regards it normal; he who regards it normal starts to do it.
When theater was introduced in the Islamic countries one hundred years ago, actresses acted on the stage with turbans that left only their necks uncovered. People found it normal by seeing it continually; although leaving the neck uncovered was contrary to the command of tasattur (covering), the sensitivity threshold regarding the issue was passed because the command of protecting the eyes was violated. Then, the turban was taken off and all of the hair was left uncovered. Similarly, dresses that covered the arm including the wrist were replaced by half sleeve dresses; the next step was sleeveless dresses. The way to mini-skirts started with the dresses that were a few inches above the heel. Then knee-length dresses followed; after that came dresses a few inches above the knee. The shortening is continuing step by step.
To sum up, the generalization of a special immodesty is realized through looking. As the eyes see it, what is contrary to the rule becomes regular; what is abnormal becomes normal. The command of protecting the eyes from haram addressing both believing men and women prevents that general corruption at the beginning.
Protecting the eyes from haram is valid because it is the command of Allah. Allah, who commands it, is a Lord, who is wise and generous. There exists wisdom, mercy, generosity and training in that command like all of His other commands.
Alcohol is haram because Allah made it haram. It is seen that there are a lot of reasons and mercy present in that prohibition. Alcohol is something that annuls our will, numbs our feelings, atrophies our thoughts and invalidates our minds. It degrades us from the state of being a shy observer of the divine art displayed in the whole universe to the state of inattentive people who have lost their minds and consciousness. The same thing is valid when the eyes look at haram things. When a person who is in deep contemplation sees something haram and stares at it cannot continue the state of contemplation. When we glorify Allah or supplicate while walking on the road, it suddenly goes out of our minds if we cannot protect our eyes from haram things.
Looking at haram is no different from alcohol or drugs in numbing our feelings and preventing us from contemplating the art and names of Allah. Looking at haram puts our clean feelings under the command of the soul and its dirty aims like alcohol and drugs. Man, who is created in an ability to be addressed by his Lord, wastes a wonderful organ like the eye, which is entrusted to him, while pursuing illegitimate satisfaction.
In the following sentence, the verse states that protecting the eyes from haram and protecting the private parts is the real clean act. That clean act is actually spiritual cleaning; it is a cleaning in the state of thought and feeling. If that clean act is not preferred, the eye, which is a unique device enabling man to contemplate and travel the universe, is rendered worthless and dirty by being thrown into the pit of mean desires.
The verse ends with a final warning: `and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do’. Generally, the word ‘ya’maluna’ or ‘yaf’aluna’ is used to express the verb to do. However, in that verse the word ‘yasna’una’ is used. A careful student of the Quran infers the following meaning from that usage: the word ‘yasna’una’ indicates that what is done by the eyes regarding looking at haram things are related to things that are done related to art and that it will turn to a kind of industry. (In Arabic, the words art and industry are derived from the same word ‘sana’a’, which means to do)
Indeed, the immodesty, which is contrary to the divine command and human nature, is always used to make it legitimate under the name of art. Besides, they have found a guise called ‘eroticism’, which is seductive but untouchable, for it. Today, the world is full of artists that have turned their bodies to commodities and that determine their price in accordance with the rate of the uncovered parts of their bodies!
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