Is It Permissible to Look at the Face of a Beautiful Woman without Desire?

Answered by Ustadh Sufyan Qufi


I know that looking at a woman with desire and lust is haram. However, I would like to know if it is permissible to look at a women’s face in the grocery store for example and think that she’s pretty without any lustful thoughts.


In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

I pray this finds you in the best of states.
Allah, Most High, says: “Tell the believing men that they must lower their gazes and guard their private parts; it is more decent for them. Surely Allah is All-Aware of what they do.” [ Quran, 24:30]

Lowering the Gaze: a Sunna of the Prophet

It is a sunna of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) to lower one’s gaze. The companions (Allah be pleased with them) describe the Prophet saying, “His gaze was to the ground longer than it was to the sky.” [Tirmidhi]


It is not permissible for a man to look at the face and hands of an unrelated woman, including a non-muslim woman, if there is fear (or even doubts) for this man to experience desire. Looking at it and merely finding it beautiful is not considered desire.

Desire is defined in this situation as having the inclination in the heart to experience the pleasure to get closer to this woman and touching her.

This is what will make the looking impermissible and sinful. Experiencing the desire to kiss this woman while looking is even more impermissible. But merely deeming this face beautiful, in the same way, that you would find a piece of furniture beautiful for example, is something that cannot be avoided and is excused. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; Abd al-Ghani an-Nabulsi, Al-Qawl al-Mu’tabar fi Ahkam an-Nazar]


The fear of experiencing desire while looking at the face of an unrelated woman is excused during a marriage proposal and does not make the looking impermissible. Testimonies in court, medical treatment and the like are all recognized needs that lift the impermissibility to the extent of fulfilling this need. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]


In our time, it is better for a man to not look at the face of a young woman without any needs even if there is no desire involved. The reason for this is to avoid any wrongdoing. This position is mentioned by Imam Haskafi (may Allah have mercy on him) in Ad-Durr al-Mukhtar and Imam Ibn Abidin (may Allah have mercy on him) does not object in his commentary.

What is Recommended

Praiseworthy caution entails avoiding for a man to look at the face of any unrelated woman even without desire. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

Pious Scholars of our time advise when one has no choice but to deal with an unrelated woman, to simply look at her forehead while talking to her. It is a good way to protect one’s heart while not hurting her feeling.

And Allah knows best.

[Ustadh] Sufyan Qufi

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani