This is just a collection of some anecdotes found from various corners of the Internet that I feel relay the essence or principles behind the Islamic philosophy of living. Words in grayed out font are from me.
Mus'ab ibn Sa'd (ra) narrated that his father asked, "O Messenger of Allah (saw), who is subjected to the severest trial?" He said, "The Prophets, then the righteous, then the likes of them, then the likes of them among the people. A man is tried in relation to his religion. If he is firmly rooted to his religion then his trial will increase but if he is weak on his religion then his trial will be light. Trial does not cease to fall on a person as long as he walks on the surface of the earth until no sin remains on him."This is an unbelievably important principle. It helps explain Qadr, or the Divine Destiny in store for us. So many people have their Iman (faith) weakened or tried by hardships because they do not take heed of this principle of how things work in Islam, in this world in relation to the next, and with believers in relation to the non-believers. Shaitan and the Nafs mislead a believer into assuming that a sin is worth doing, that they can repent for it later, and that it will bring them pleasure since they look around them at all the other people (non-believers or Muslims whose hearts have been sealed away by Allah) indulging in the sins without ill effect. The truth is that the consequences for sins of believers are felt right here, and often right now. The sins you commit today will be what makes your life miserable tomorrow in a sense. As one can see, they (Shaitan and the Nafs) mislead you even as to what will bring you pleasure in this world or not. As the Qur'an says about Shaitan: "'I will mislead them, and I will create in them false desires; I will order them to slit the ears of cattle, and to deface the (fair) nature created by Allah.' Whoever, forsaking Allah, takes satan for a patron, hath of a surety suffered a loss that is manifest." (4:119)... The true path to contentment in this world as well as the next is Islam. Those who live while indulging in all the sins they like are not happy, nor content. People who have achieved higher stations of spirituality through mujahadah (striving) can develop a more instinctive feel for this, such as illustrated in the following saying of Maulana Rumi (ra):
(Tirmidhi #2398) (Ibn Majah #4023) (Ahmed 1/172)
"If thou wilt be observant and vigilant, thou wilt see at every moment the response to thy action. Be observant if thou wouldst have a pure heart, for something is born to thee in consequence of every action."And when one can start picking out the pattern instinctively and through reflection, then this also becomes something which will reaffirm and strengthen Iman (faith), and increase Taqwa (righteousness or God-consciousness).
Someone told Imam Abu Hanifah (ra), "In the mosque there is a circle (Halaqah) in which the people are looking at fiqh." He asked, "Do they have a head (i.e. a teacher)?" The man replied, "No." The Imam said, "These will never gain knowledge of fiqh."
[Reported by al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi, through his isnad, in 'al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih']
Imam Malik (ra) was asked, "Can knowledge be taken from a man who has not ([to his credit any) seeking (of knowledge) nor sitting (with scholars)?" He said, "No."
[Reported by as-Suyuti in 'Is'af al-Mubatta']
Imam al-Shafi' (ra) said, "Whoever takes knowledge from books loses the regulations."
(man akhadha al-'ilma min al-kutubi Dayya'a al-aHkaama).
[Reported by al-Nawawi in the introduction to 'al-Majmu']
'Abdullah, the son of Imam Ahmad, said, "My father said : 'Knowledge is only that in which one says : So-and-so told us . . . . And, al-Mansur asked my father to discuss [something] with Ibn Abi Du'ad, but he turned his face away, saying, 'How can I discuss with someone whom I have not seen at the door of a single scholar?!'"
[Reported by Qadi 'Iyad in 'al-Ilma']
Loss of Knowledge
Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Amr bin Al' As:
I heard Allah's Apostle saying, "Allah does not take away the knowledge, by taking it away from (the hearts of) the people, but takes it away by the death of the religious learned men till when none of the (religious learned men) remains, people will take as their leaders ignorant persons who when consulted will give their verdict without knowledge. So they will go astray and will lead the people astray."
[Bukhari: Volume 1, Book 3, Number 100]
“Know that Sufism is compliance with Allah’s command and avoidance of His prohibitions, externally and internally, with regard to what pleases Him, not what pleases you.”
-Qutb al-Maktum Sayyid Abu Abbas Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Tijani
"Firstly, a husband must overcome his shyness enough to actually look at his wife, and pay attention to her. If he cannot bring himself to follow this sunna, it is an insult to her, and extremely hurtful. Personal intimacy is a minefield of opportunities to hurt each other--glancing at the watch, a yawn at the wrong moment, appearing bored, and so on."Regarding men having multiple wives (I don't know the authenticity of this, nor do I have reason to question it, but the principle is sound):
"Women shall have rights similar to the rights upon them; according to what is equitable and just; and men have a degree of advantage over them."
A bachelor once asked Imam al-Ghazali (ra): "Which should I choose: marriage, or total devotion to God?" "Both", he replied.
Bishr al-Hafi, a pious bachelor and teacher of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (rahimahullah), appeared to someone in a dream, and was asked, “How has God treated you?” He responded, “I have been given a high rank in the Gardens of Paradise. And I was allowed to look upon the stations of the prophets (alayhum salam); yet I never attained to the ranks of the married.” When asked what had become of Abu Nasr al-Tammar, he replied, “He has been raised seventy degrees above me.” People were surprised, and asked how this could be, and he answered, “He earned that by his patience with his little daughters and his family burdens.”
A dispute having arisen between the Caliph Mansur and his wife Harrah over an accusation made by the latter that the former was not a just ruler, Abu Hanifah was called in to arbitrate between them. The queen sat behind a veil in order to hear the Imam's verdict with her own ears. Mansur began by asking how many wives a Muslim was permitted to have at a time according to the Shari'ah. The Imam replied, "Four." "Do you hear?" shouted Mansur to the queen. "Yes, I've heard it," replied the queen. At that point the Imam addressed himself to the Caliph and added, "But this permission is for a man who is capable of doing justice. No other man can have more than one wife. God Himself says: 'If you doubt your ability to do justice (between your wives), have only one wife.' " Mansur remained silent. A little while after the Imam returned home, a servant came to him with a gift of fifty thousand dinars. "The queen," he said, "sends you her respectful salutations and says that she is grateful to you for your truthful verdict." The Imam returned the money with a message for the queen that he had expressed the opinion he had expressed not in the expectation of a reward but because it was his duty as an arbitrator to express it.Now consider what state the man must be in, being that most people, men and women alike, cannot even fairly deal with their sole mother to say nothing of their sole spouse.
Lowering of the Gaze
The way a man will come to look at it:
At first you tend to only lower the gaze for other Muslims, for those who make it clear that they'd like you to do so (for which donning hijab/niqab is the most effective way to indicate). You do it for their sake, out of a need to respect the boundaries and limits they have errected because you respect their principles, you feel the love for them that all Muslims share as brothers and sisters in Islam and this is only furthered by a feeling of guilt if one does not normally observe the practice of guarding their gaze. But that doesn't apply for all the women who WANT you to look. In their case, you lower the gaze for yourself, your own sake (which is the most difficult).
Another reason that one finds to keep up the practice of lowering the gaze indiscriminately is not for fear of finding others attractive, but for fear of finding them NOT attractive. That's not something anyone deserves, to be unjustly objectified for comparison to others, whether only in someone's head or not.
"O ye wives of the Prophet! Ye are not like any other women. If ye keep your duty (to Allah; i.e, Taqwa), then be not soft of speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease aspire (to you), but utter customary speech."This means don't be nice in speech towards men, revealing their femininity, because they could be attracted to that. The condition or given explanation is the mere chance that a man of Iman might waver (let alone those men who are non-believers or those who are known to be of weak Iman towards whom there should be no doubt). This applies for tone of voice ("be not soft of speech") as well as actual words used ("utter customary speech"). This applies to all women just as many of the other rules of Hijab were also derived from the verses in this section addressed towards the wives (ra) of the Prophet (saw). This is the view of all Sunni and Shi'ite scholars.
In addition to all of the above it should also be noted that the system of interaction between the sexes, the institution of Hijab, the principles of modesty, and the institution of marriage in Islam serve to endow the relationship between man and woman (romantic relationship) with the best that such relationships have to offer in this world, and remove the pitfalls (since positive potential is matched by negative potential in this world). In the next 'Quotes' update, I'll include some quotes about romantic love from non-Islamic cultures, and the idea there is that the essence of these is not only present within Islamic culture, but it is at its best since what they only hint at (romantic love tapping into the greater True Love of spirituality) is what Islam is designed to foster for everyone who would take its path. In fact, those quotes (and indeed, all the non-Muslim traditions of romantic love in any medium) are representing the vast minority of cases since for most in non-Islamic cultures today, romantic love does not exist at all and they have been left with caricatures of the caricatures their forefathers inherited.