All are translated from Mufti Taqi Usmani's oral lectures in Urdu.
"(O Prophet!) Tell the believers to lower their glances and protect their private parts. This is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is aware of what they do!"
Casting evil glances is a deadly disease
In this verse Almighty Allah has mentioned a deadly disease. This is a disease fraught with many vices. Many have become addicted to this sin from among those who sit in the company of Ulama and godly persons, also religious people regular in their prayers and fasting. Today the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that when you go out, you find it very difficult to protect your eyes from evil glances. Wherever you turn, you will find captivating scenes from which it is difficult to shield the eyes.
The reality of 'evil glances'
'Evil glances' means casting glances at those of the opposite sex who are not closely related to you, particularly when the glances are amorous and lustful or are intended for enjoyment. It is also a sin to cast such covetous glances even at the pictures and photos of those, gazing at whom falls within the definition of 'evil glances'. The sin of casting evil glances is a great hindrance in reforming the human soul. Of all the conceivable sins it is the most damaging to man's spiritual and inner soundness. The reform of the inner self of man is almost inconceivable, unless control on glancing is attained. The Holy Prophet (saw) has said in a hadith: 'The glance is one of the poisoned arrows of Iblis.' If anyone is hit by this poisonous arrow and fails to ward it off, it becomes very difficult for them to ameliorate their inner self. Of all the factors of destruction, the evil glances of the eye is the most destructive.
You shall have to take this bitter dose
I have heard my Sheikh Dr. Abdul Hai Sahib (ra) saying: An evil glance is a fatal poison. If anyone desires to reform their inner self they will have to protect their glances from being misdirected. This is, however, a very difficult task, as you cannot find refuge anywhere. Wherever you turn you find violation of modesty, hijab/purdah, nudity, lewdness, etc. It is very difficult for anyone to protect their eyes from forbidden glances. However, you have to take this bitter dose, if you want to taste the sweetness of Iman and establish nearness with Almighty Allah and win His love to purify your inner self. You can make no headway in this field without taking this bitter dose. The dose is bitter only in the beginning. When you get used to it, its bitterness turns into sweetness which you cannot afford to miss.
You will find it sweet and tasteful
Just like the coffee of the Arabs which tastes very bitter in the beginning, but becomes very tasteful when one has become used to its exhilirating effect.
In the same way, casting evil glances is also a very formidable task in the beginning, but when one gathers courage to protect himself, the task becomes easy and enjoyable. The taste of protecting the eyes from this sin becomes more enjoyable than that of polluting them by casting evil glances on forbidden scenes.
Right use of the eyes
If you put this blessing of the eyes to its right use, Allah has promised to reward you. For example, if you cast on your parents loving glances, you will, according to a Hadith, get recompense equal to that for performing one Hajj and one Umrah. It occurs in another Hadith that when a husband enters his house and he and his wife both cast on each other loving glances then Almighty Allah casts on both of them His glance of mercy. When the eyes are put to the right use then not only does Allah grant joy and happiness, but He also grants them reward and compensation in the Hereafter. On the other hand, if they use their eyes in looking at forbidden scenes and objects then the torment for this is also very severe. In addition, this evil act destroys the integrity of man internally.
Hazrat Maulana Thanawi (ra) has said: If a man comes across a woman and the 'self' incites him to cast a glance at her, because you will not go beyond this glancing, it should be understood well that this is a deception of the 'self'. Safety lies in the 'self' not being obeyed.
Remedy for lustful thinking
Once Hazrat Dr. Sahib (ra) advised us to banish from our minds lustful thoughts in this way. When a very strong urge is born to cast an evil glance on some forbidden scene or object, imagine that your father is watching you. Would you dare to commit this sin even then? Or would you commit this sin, if your Sheikh or your own children are watching you? Certainly you would not do that, despite your urge to commit the sin.
These persons whether watching or not watching you at that moment do not affect your life in this world or the life in the Hereafter. You should think that Allah, the King of all Kings, is certainly watching you Who has the power to punish you for this sin. By virtue of this trend of thinking, there is every hope that Almighty Allah will protect you from this sin.
What will happen if the film depicting your life is shown?
I also remember a speech of Hazrat Dr. Sahib (ra) in which he asked us to imagine Allah making this proposal:
'Alright, I shall save you from Hell on one condition. I shall run a film depicting the details of your entire life, of your childhood, your youth, your old age till death which will be shown to people including your parents, your spouses, your brothers, sisters, your own sons and daughters, your pupils, your teachers and your relatives, friends and acquaintances. If you approve this proposal I shall spare you from Hell.'
In such an awkward and humiliating situation said the Sheikh, a man will probably tolerate the punishment of Hell instead of the disclosure of the secrets of his life before all his near and dear ones.
The Heart's insistence on, and inclination to sin, is not a sin
In another speech, Hazrat Dr. Sahib (ra) has said:
'Casting an evil glance is a matter of inclination which is an unintentional act and is not accountable. The next stage is to act upon the demand of this inclination and it is accountable.' (Anfas-e-Eesa)
If a person's glance falls on a forbidden object or scene unintentionally, but they intentionally let their gaze remain fixed on this sight, this becomes a sin and they are accountable for it.
It is forbidden to seek pleasure through imagination
To seek pleasure, in imagination, from a forbidden member of the opposite sex is as unlawful as to cast a glance at that person with sinful intention. To get rid of this evil it is suggested to control your 'self' and keep looking downwards. Do not look all around [as it becomes easy to glance again] rather keep your eyes low towards the ground.
This distress is less severe than the distress of Hell
Hazrat Thanawi (ra) has further said:
One should pluck the courage to act upon these injunctions, though they may prove very distressing. This distress will, however, be less severe than the Distress of Hell.
The severity of the distress of Hell cannot be imagined which is endless and eternal, but the trials and tribulations of this world, however severe, are shortlived.
People wrongly think that some Shaykh shall prescribe for them some formula of secret words or blow over the patient after rehearsing something that will bring cure to them of this disease. You should all know that firm resolution accompanied with unyielding courage while turning to Allah for assistance is the only solution to this problem.
Adopt the character of Hazrat Yusuf (as)
We are well aware of the story of Hazrat Yusuf (as) as related in the Holy Qur'an. When he (as) was caught in the severe trial, he (as) too took resort to the formula of using his courage and resolution. When Zulaikha, the King's wife, locked all the doors and invited Yusuf (as) to sin, he (as) saw that there was no way out. However, he (as) ran towards the doors which had been locked. He did whatever he was able to do and become entitled to pray to Allah to help him out of his difficulty and distress, as he himself could do no more. Allah then did His part of the job by breaking the locks and opening the doors.
Maulana Rumi (ra) has expressed this incident beautifully in his Persian couplet: [You are not getting a way out of the vices of the world, nor a refuge from them. You should try to the best of your ability to save yourself from them, just as Hazrat Yusuf (as) had done to save himself].
Take the course of Hazrat Yunus (as)
When Hazrat Yunus (as) was in the belly of the fish he besought Allah in the following words: Qur'an 21:87 (memorize this). When you pray to Allah in these words, He shall rescue you from whatever darkness you may have fallen into.
So when you are surrounded by the darkness of the demands of your 'self', and of the environments, etc. Then call Allah for help against these darknesses and for rescue from their evils. If you make such a supplication with sincerity and from the core of your heart, your supplication is sure to be accepted by All Compassionate Allah.
What to do if a sin is committed after prayer?
[paraphrased]If someone prays for something and doesn't get it, it is because Allah knows what's best for them and shall give them something better. If you pray for protection from sin and wind up committing it anyway, don't forget you have the opportunity for sincere and true repentence which sometimes raises a servant's rank to hardly conceivable heights. The poetry of Rumi (ra) and many others is filled with couplets about servants turning to Allah with broken hearts and tears asking for forgiveness. That initial remorse is very valuable, don't let it slip away without acting on it.[/paraphrased]