By Dr. Mateen Khan (Trenton, New Jersey)
We’ve all met that type of person before. Maybe even some of us are this type. That guy who’s constantly frustrated and wondering why the situation is what it is. Always angry with the women in the West, critically eyeing them as morally degraded. Longing for an era that isn’t likely to return soon. Assuming marriage as a cure-all for his problems…
Then, there are those of us who are calmer, trying to keep our nafs1 clean since “the one who purifies it is successful and the one who corrupts it has failed.”2 How does a Muslim man living in a non-Muslim land where clothing is sort of—um,optional—maintain this purity of heart?
While it’s true the Qur’an and Sunnah address the outlines of a woman’s dress, they are also rather explicit in what men should do when women aren’t properly covered. Allah subhānahu wa ta’āla advises us in Surah al-Nūr that if a woman doesn’t fulfill her responsibility, then a man fulfills his:
قُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ “O Prophet, tell the Believers to keep their eyes down.”
In fact, in this particular ayah, the men are advised to keep their eyes down before the women are advised to cover themselves properly. The Prophet (Allah bless and give him peace) provided a practical demonstration near the end of his life.
Once the Prophet (Allah bless and give him peace) was riding an animal with his younger cousin, Sayyiduna Al-Fadl bin al-‘Abbās (May Allah be pleased with him) sitting behind him. A young girl asked the Prophet for a verdict. After giving her the ruling, he then turned Al-Fadl’s face away because he was staring at her. Al-Fadl’s father asked, “O Messenger of Allah, why did you turn his face away?” He said, “I saw a young man and a young woman, and they were not safe from Shaytān.”3
In this situation, the Prophet (Allah bless and give him peace) didn’t direct any harsh words toward the young girl. Instead, he calmly demonstrated the proper etiquette for the men of his ummah.
The scholars too outlined a mindset to keep when in these situations. Every women is a slave of Allah (some willingly and others unwillingly), belonging to Him alone. Every time a man takes a glance, it’s best he remember the Master is always watching.
Finally, there are those that make comments such as, “How weak is your iman/heart/desire that you cannot control yourself if a woman isn’t dressed Islamically?” Among other things, they should ask themselves, “Do I consider myself to be above the advice of my Lord or greater than the level of my Prophet (Allah bless and give him peace)?”3
So when faced with this dilemma, there’s no need for frustration and anger. Follow the advice of our deen. Stay calm and keep your head down.
1 An Islamic term referring to the spiritual heart. 2 Qur’an 91:9-10. 3 اسْتَفْتَتْهُ جَارِيَةٌ شَابَّةٌ مِنْ خَثْعَمٍ فَقَالَتْ إِنَّ أَبِي شَيْخٌ كَبِيرٌ قَدْ أَدْرَكَتْهُ فَرِيضَةُ اللَّهِ فِي الْحَجِّ أَفَيُجْزِئُ أَنْ أَحُجَّ عَنْهُ قَالَ ”حُجِّي عَنْ أَبِيكِ”. قَالَ وَلَوَى عُنُقَ الْفَضْلِ فَقَالَ الْعَبَّاسُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ لِمَ لَوَيْتَ عُنُقَ ابْنِ عَمِّكَ قَالَ ”رَأَيْتُ شَابًّا وَشَابَّةً فَلَمْ آمَنِ الشَّيْطَانَ عَلَيْهِمَا” الترمذي 885 4 Perhaps a more relevant and humbling question would be, “What faults do I have that led me to think such a thought?”
Featured image (c) Maymona