The Islamic religion does not disallow physical desire; rather, it suggests temperance as a proper method of conduct. Lust, then, ought be satisfied within the confines of marriage. The faith teaches that carnal desires can distract Muslims from their religious duties and, in turn, from understanding their proper place before God. In many cases, lust can overwhelm a Muslim, leading to poor decisions, which can negatively impact a believer's lifestyle.
Praying and Forgiveness
Islam defines lust as an act of heedlessness. As such, Muslims forget God and their duties when succumbing to such desires. The Quran, in fact, warns of such heedless behavior: “Be patient with those who worship their Lord in the mornings and evenings to seek His pleasure. Do not overlook them to seek the worldly pleasures. Do not obey those whom We have caused to neglect Us and instead follow their own desires beyond all limits" (Quran 18:28). In moments of lust, the Quran encourages Muslims to pray and seek forgiveness from God. Prayer reminds a Muslim of his proper place before God rather than at the mercy of desires. As well, forgiveness offers respite from the guilt that often follows such contrary impulses. More importantly, God’s forgiveness in relation to lust and desires absolves the Muslim from obsessing over his shortcomings.
Modesty is a hallmark of Islam. The Quran and hadith, the sayings and teachings of Muhammad, abound with prescriptions for modesty. For example, a well-known hadith states, “Every faith has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty" (Al-Muwatta, Volume 47, Hadith 9.) Modesty in Islam attempts to curb desire. As such, the Quran and hadith suggest modest dress and behavior to govern appetites such as lust. Islam does accept human sexuality and considers it good between husband and wife.
Though an incumbent duty for all healthy Muslims during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, fasting also serves to moderate a Muslim’s appetite and provide a necessary temperance to his behavior. Muslims fast from dawn till dusk. By denying the body of basic needs, secondary needs such as lust are also said to diminish. Another hadith illustrates the importance Muhammad gives to fasting in relation to lust: “Young men, those of you who can support a wife should marry, for it keeps you from looking at women (lowers your gaze) and preserves your chastity; but those who cannot should fast, for it is a means of cooling sexual passion."
Temperance as A Guiding Virtue
Islam encourages abstinence outside of marriage. Islam considers abstinence a proper method to guard Islamic virtue. However, Islam does not consider monasticism a healthy virtue. In fact, Islam disallows it. Islam considers sexual relationships necessary and sacred between husband and wife. Accordingly, lust in Islam ought to be channeled within the confines of marriage.
- Islam: A Concise Introduction; Huston Smith
- A Young Muslim's Guide to the Modern World; Seyyed Hossein Nasr
- Islamic Society of Rutgers University: Fasting in Islam
- The Wisdom of Muhammad; Abdullah Al-Mamun Al-Suhrawardy
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