Answered by Shaykh Farid Dingle
Is it halal to look at women who don’t cover their hair?
Thank you for your important question.
First of all, looking at any one of the opposite sex with lust, whether or not they are wearing a hijab, is forbidden. If one saw a woman, or the image of a woman, and felt attracted to her, one would have to look away. There is no discussion here. (Minhaj al-Talibin, Nawawi)
As for looking at a woman’s face or hands without lust, it is permissible. If she is not covering her hair or exposing some other part of her body that should be covered, one may not actively look at that part. That said, seeing something unintentionally is not one’s fault. Furthermore, it would also be challenging to ask people to lower their gaze all the time because in Muslim and non-Muslim countries alike, we frequently have to work with women who do not cover properly.
Simultaneously, one should be honest with oneself regarding whether or not one is looking with lust and the difference between looking and seeing. Allah Most High says, ‘Allah knows the sly glances of the eyes and whatever the hearts conceal.’ (Qur’an, 40: 19)
It may often be the case that one has to change jobs, or work in a different sector, etc., if one feels that working with women who do not dress properly is too difficult for one. One has to know oneself, know one’s weaknesses, and have one’s finger on one’s own moral pulse. ‘Ask your heart. Ask your heart. Ask your heart … even if people say it is okay, even if they all say it is okay!’ (Ahmad and others)
Regarding television, we have to acknowledge that sex is one of the world’s biggest industries, and female (and male) actors and TV presenters are usually chosen for their looks. This means that most of the time, watching your average film or TV series is usually going to be sinful because you know very well there will be sexually enticing images throughout. Watching a documentary of genuine benefit in which there are no sexually attractive images of the opposite sex is okay. Again, on the proviso, one does not look at anything other than the face and hands of any women presented. One looks away from any other part of their body.
One practical tip might be to have one’s wife or female relative screen something before watching it oneself to make sure there are no sexually provocative images of the opposite sex in it. It would also be wise to keep one’s television viewing to an absolute minimum. One scholar in the West was asked about what kind of television he watches when there is a need with his family, and he replied that he only watches nature documentaries. Clearly, he chose something where sinful images would be infrequent, and the benefit is great.
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I pray this helps.
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years, he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language.