Our two eyes weigh less than 30 grams each, yet are made up of more than 200 million working parts, and serve a function that around half of the brain is dedicated to. According to the Discover Eye Foundation, our eyes process more than 36,000 pieces of information every hour. In fact, it is said that the eye is one of the only limbs that cannot be transplanted; since there are more than one million nerve fibres connecting it to the brain, it is impossible to reconstruct.
Sight is our most cherished sense without competition, and alone provides us with 80% of the information we grasp from the environment around us.
When something is loved like none other, such that nothing besides it is desired by the heart, it is “cherished like the apple of my eye” or, as in Arabic, Qurat ‘ayny . It commands your attention, it “captures your eye” and when it is surprising “you couldn’t believe your eyes”. Its endless idioms and figurative expressions point to the extent of our attachment to them.
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) says,
“Allāh said, ‘If I deprive my slave of his two beloved things (i.e., his eyes) and he remains patient, I will let him enter Paradise in compensation for them.”
We begin life in our mother’s wombs visionless, before we are gifted the indispensable tool only weeks into our embryonic development ‘free of charge’. Then they are wrapped with the toughest skin in our entire bodies, then programmed to blink instinctively more than four million times a year to keep them functional.
As if that were not enough, we are then promised Paradise should we be deprived of them later on in life.
SubhanAllah, no amount of gratitude can even begin recompensing such a gift. Allāh says:
“Allāh brought you out of your mothers’ wombs knowing nothing at all, and gave you hearing, sight and hearts so that perhaps you would show thanks.”
‘Showing thanks’ could never repay the gift of vision whilst showing no thanks does not come close to displaying the extent of such a person’s gracelessness. Imagine, then, the condition of those eyes intently committed to precisely what the Giver asked that they be protected from,
“Say to the believers that they should lower their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Allāh is aware of what they do.”
Imagine being gifted a phone with extraordinary software capabilities, a mirror-fine retina display and unrivalled processing power only to use it as a permanently fixed footstool to reach a corded, dysfunctional landline. We would rightly call this insanity.
Similarly, the command to restrict our eyes from immediate lusts and sin, the attractions of the opposite sex, beyond it being a display of obedience to the Giver, is not merely depravation. If it was simply about ‘restrictions’ and ‘prohibitions’ from what is desired to see around us, then why do our eyes have the power to see galaxies as far as two million light-years away?
An Opening to the Heart
As a matter of fact, our eyes are the most immediate entry point to our hearts, and have powerful influence over our thoughts, emotion and inner well-being. The instant availability of vision at the lifting of an eye-lid makes us overlook that an aperture to the heart has been opened. Apparently the eye is the only limb in the body that does not require a period of ‘warm up’ to become fully functional.
‘Love (in the heart) at first sight’ is often branded as a ‘cute’ concept, but if you think about it, it is rather frightening. One glance and your heart is potentially enchanted, your wealth, blood and sweat are committed to someone, and your future is completely tied up.
Shaykhul Islām Ibn Taymiyyah says:
“Vision is one of the ways in which the heart is corrupted, our predecessors used to say: ‘vision is an arrow of poison to the heart.’”
Our eyes are incomparably complex and, according to research, they come second only to the complexity of our brains. Such a sensitive and critical function could not have been given without due instruction on how to use it.
Let us reflect on the verse quoted above. It is an instruction to lower the gaze, then another to ‘guard the private parts’. The first restricts what is taken in and the second protects one’s physical faculties, an intuitively recognised association, encapsulated eloquently by the Arabic couplet,
“A look, then a smile, a nod of the head, then talk, a handshake, a promise, then the warmth of a bed.“
The glance need only be trivialised for a person to move on to step two, and likewise, until one begins pondering, wishing, and then aiming. His mind becomes clouded, while his heart becomes drenched and drunk. Before long, his destiny and bodily governance is transferred to the private parts.
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“The adultery of the eye is the lustful look and the adultery of the ears is listening and the adultery of the tongue is immodest speech and the adultery of the hand is the lustful grip and the adultery of the feet is to walk (to the place where he intends to commit adultery) and the heart yearns and desires, and the private parts put this into effect or reject it.”……Continue reading