Lowering the gaze – “Do you serve halal movies?”
Muslims in the west today have some peculiar priorities (in this faqir’s opinion anyway), one example being the approach to halal food, something I’ve discussed previously. One particular example is how some Muslims having the tendency to judge what is permissible to eat by the certificate issued by a certain ‘Halal Committee’.
But this post isn’t about such said committees (I personally have very little idea what each of them represent so I wouldn’t be able to discuss them even if I wanted to). But the one thing Muslims don’t seem to take much scrupulousness over, I think, is the images we look at on our tv screens and at the cinema. Looking at nudity whether “in the flesh” or an image of it is not permissible in our tradition which is very obvious: “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze…” and “Tell the believing women to lower their gaze…” (24:30 & 24:31). Before we go out to eat at a restaurant some of us will take the liberty of calling the restaurant to ask if they serve halal food, or ask a waiter or the manager when we get there. But to this day I’ve never heard of a Muslim saying they don’t want to see a film at the cinema because it contains nudity, sex or gratuitous violence. We usually judge whether we want to go eat at a particular restaurant based on 1) The positive things we’ve heard about it, and 2) Whether we as Muslims can eat the food they serve. With regards to films or tv shows the former criteria is only what we seem to be judging by.
Now it can be argued that they are two completely different things, which is fair enough. But I would say that what we look at and view, has the potential to have more an effect on us than what we eat. If we eat something impermissible or bad for us, we can force it out of our bodies, or eventually it will pass through and leave us anyway. But if we have looked at something and taken it into our sights it’s stamped on our minds forever, and no matter what we do we will never be able to get rid of it. I argue that the images we are exposed to have a more profound effect on us than the food we eat. The advertising industry and its negative effects being testimony to this assertion.
Myself personally I will try to avoid watching things that contain some of what I mentioned previously. And I can personally say that by avoiding them it has had a positive effect on me spiritually. The mind and the heart feel cleansed from things that you will eventually come to see as pollutants. Looking back on when I had no concern for such things it felt like a time when the heart was being bogged down by this negative exposure to the visceral, and the mind was being constantly being clogged by random clutter.
I suppose this is an effect of we as simple humans being more inclined to judge ourselves by what we do on the outward, and forget to realise it’s things on the inward that have the greater effect on us as people.