Imagine that you are given a test and told you should write an essay on topic X, and if you are unable to do so then write on topic Y. Yet, you then choose to go down a completely different path, or try nothing at all. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Yet this is parallel to what we do when the Prophet ﷺ (peace and blessings of God be upon him) gave us an answer to a problem yet we choose to ignore it.
I think young Muslims—whether in the West or not—can largely attest to the fitna (trials) they face at school/university, workplace, or elsewhere. Even if the brother/sister manages to lower their gaze, thoughts are bombarding them and it can seem like an on-going struggle of ups and downs to discipline your nafs (self) and kick out the whispers of Shaytan (Satan).
So what can we do? While marriage is not so ‘happily-ever-after’ as widely believed by many youth, it is a beautiful solution to the problem. But then there are the many youth, for whatever reasons and circumstances, who cannot get married at the moment.
So then what are we to do? Perhaps some of us don’t even bother trying, some gave up on the struggle, and maybe others turn to complaining about the fitna to each other. Although we should turn to our brothers or sisters for support or advice, there is a piece of advice the Prophet ﷺ gave us and it is exactly what we need to implement. The Prophet ﷺ did give us an answer, but perhaps we have simply overlooked it.
“O young men, those among you who can support a wife should marry, for it restrains eyes (from casting evil glances) and preserves one from immorality; but he who cannot afford it should observe fast, for it is a means of controlling the sexual desire.” (Muslim)
The solution: lowering our gaze and fasting. Yes, both remedies involve effort, a lot of effort at times, but it is truly a means to purify the soul and really taste the sweetness of iman (faith), a means of protection in this life and the next insha’Allah (if Allah wills)! I heard of a brother who endeavoured to fast every other day until he could get married (so this went on for years and years!)—subhan’Allah (glory be to Allah)!
I know many of us have heard the virtues of fasting, but reminder benefits the believer and knowledge has a different sweetness when it manifests itself through actions:
Virtues of Fasting
- It is reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said what means: “You should fast, for there is nothing like it.” (al-Nasaa’i)
- A hadith qudsi (narration that reports the words of God): Allah Ta’ala (Most High) says what means: ‘Fasting is Mine and it is I who give reward for it. [A man] gives up his sexual passion, his food and his drink for My sake. Fasting is like a shield, and he who fasts has two joys: a joy when he breaks his fast and a joy when he meets his Lord. The change in the breath of the mouth of him who fasts is better in Allah’s estimation than the smell of musk.’ (Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i and Ibn Majah).
- Imaam Ibn Rajab said: “All deeds are multiplied ten multiples up to seven hundred multiples, except for fasting as its reward does not have a designated limit. Allah will multiply its reward abundantly without count. Fasting requires great patience and Allah says about patient people that which means: “Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account [i.e. limit],” (Qur’an 39:10).
- It is reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said what means: “Fasting is a protection.” (Al-Bukhaari & Muslim)
- It is reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said what means: “Every slave of Allah who observes fasting for one day for the sake of Allah, Allah will draw his face farther from Hell-fire to the extent of a distance to be covered in seventy years.” (Al-Bukhaari & Muslim)
Subhan’Allah! Truly Islam is the path to success in this life and in the Hereafter, and Allah is The Most Wise (Al-Hakeem) and Most Generous (Al-Kareem).
So let’s try it out—three days a month (3 days x 10 reward = like you fasted the whole month bi’ithnillah, with Allah’s permission!), once or twice a week (Monday and Thursday are recommended as per the sunnah, prophetic tradition), or over time you may grow to love it so much that you want to increase it even more (Dawud `alayhi salaam, peace be upon him, fasted every other day masha’Allah!). But for now, one step at a time.
When we increase our love for Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) in our heart, and race to do good deeds, our iman and attachment to the Hereafter will increase. It will become easier to face our daily challenges, ad face them in such a way that will bring us goodness in this life and the next. By the Permission of Allah (swt), we will have protected ourselves in this life and have accumulated many good deeds for our eternal life.
A few final tips to protecting our hayaa’ (modesty) in the face of temptations/desires:
Be Honest with Yourself
I know a sister who, despite trying to be modest in covering and in other respects, found it difficult to maintain modesty in her speech with brothers. She usually would end up in regret after reflecting upon how she had conducted herself. She recognized that the best thing for her was to just stay clear entirely and not get involved in situations that would necessitate that interaction (MSA, etc). She made this decision according to what was right for her. And while Islamic work at schools/universities can be beneficial, know yourself and know that it might not be beneficial at the expense of your iman. The message is not to abandon Islamic work, but to reflect on situations that you feel become problematic for you. Be honest with yourself and take protective measures (internally and externally) accordingly.
The stories in the Qur’an, the Prophets and pious predecessors, have a purpose. They are like soldiers to support us, role models to learn and follow. Modesty was not prescribed solely for the Mothers of the Believers (may God be pleased with them) or only for women. Recall (or research) the story of Yusuf ‘alayhi salaam (peace be upon hjm) in the face of temptation. Recall (or research) the modesty of Maryam, the examples of the Mothers of the Believers and other Sahaabiyaat (Companions) (may God be pleased with them all).
Aim to keep your mind and heart busy with the remembrance of Allah (swt), and/or put in your earphones and listen to Qur’an or a lecture while on campus. Find productive ways to spend your time as idle time can be a cause for people to stray—use your time to volunteer, fundraise, learn a new skill, memorize Qur’an, read books, help around the house, connect with your siblings, etc.
Ask Allah for Help
If you’ve fallen into this fitna, and are still breathing (which I assume so!), then it’s not too late to return to Allah (swt), to feel remorse, to repent to Him (Al-Tawwaab, Al-Haleem, Al-Ghafoor) and make amends.
If you are finding it hard, then let us admit our weakness to our Rabb (Lord) and ask Allah Ta’ala for help. We can ask in our own words, and in addition here is a du`a’ found in Sahih Muslim:
Allaahumma innee as’alukal-hudaa wat-tuqaa, wal-‘afaafa wal-ghinaa
O Allah, I ask You for guidance, piety, chastity, and self-sufficiency.
And know that if we slip up, we just need to turn back and repent to Allah (swt), and keep striving for His sake; insha’Allah you will be told in the Hereafter that your effort was indeed appreciated (Qur’an 76:22).
But as for he who feared the position of his Lord and prevented the soul from [unlawful] inclination, Then indeed, Paradise will be [his] refuge. (Qur’an 79:40-41)
I pray that Allah Ta’ala protects us from fitna in which ever form it takes, and that we are amongst those who are under the Shade of Ar-Rahman (the Beneficient) on the Day on which there is no shade but His, and I pray that we are called to enter the highest levels of Jannah (Paradise) through the gates of Ar-Rayyaan (for those who fasted).