By Amina Atwel
Battling Temptation: Part I | Part II
You might think only men suffer from Ahmed’s problem (Part I). But let me tell you about Mona.
She was a very bright, energetic sister in her mid-20s—a graduate student working part-time and volunteering regularly at the local masjid and several Islamic organizations. She led halaqahs (gatherings), helped organize da`wah (outreach) events, and facilitated youth group gatherings and discussions. The brothers respected her and jokingly called her ‘shaykha’ (scholar) because she wouldn’t mingle and flirt with men. The girls looked up to her and wanted to be just like her. She was all around a top-notch Muslimah.
Mona had her head on straight, but just too much on her plate. She felt stressed and overwhelmed sometimes, and it showed on her. One of her Muslim classmates noticed, and would often ask her if she’s ok. Initially, she was guarded and told him not to worry. But he kept prodding her day after day until she finally opened up—and actually broke down. He stayed with her and comforted her.
She liked that he cared and showed a lot of concern. When she expressed her feelings, he would listen without judging or telling her what to do or change. He made her smile, and cheered her up. Every time she talked to him, she felt a load lift off her shoulders.
Now, she started looking forward to seeing him every day. She liked his optimism and positive attitude. He became her energy fix. The way he looked at her made her feel wanted. The way he spoke to her made her feel loved. He had something else on his mind, but she had no idea.
He was a married man. She never imagined that she’d fall in love before marriage, let alone with someone who was taken. She felt guilty and torn, but was already too attached to him—to how he made her feel.
Her heart soaked him up, and swelled with love, and lust. She wanted him near her. She wanted to smell him and feel his touch. No, no, no. She knew that she shouldn’t have these feelings and impure thoughts. She knew so well that Allah was closer to her than her own jugular vein, and that he was well aware of her secrets. Yet, every time she was with him, she’d forget all that. She’d actually forget Allah momentarily, because desire consumed her senses.
Mona had become enslaved to her lover, and that was when she lost all self-control.
This is just one way it happens. It takes different catalysts for other single, divorced or even married women, and it plays out in a myriad other ways. The truth is that even the most apparently religious sisters deal with temptation and lust for men—Muslim and non-Muslim.
For some women, it’s the man’s physique that might turn her on. Those defined, shirtless bodies, alluring poses, and seductive glances are not flaunted in magazines, stores, and ads for nothing. If these images didn’t entice women, then Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (glorified is He) would not have commanded women to lower their gaze just like He commanded men.
But for many other women, it doesn’t begin with physical appeal. It could be a man’s confidence, sense of humor, or intelligence that draws her to him. Some women might find his affection and generosity very attractive. It could be his eloquence or how he compliments her, or goes out of his way to help her—or just his charisma and position of authority. Many women fall for their teachers, professors, or shuyukh (scholars) and even try to seduce them when they’re married (the reverse is also true, but that’s another topic).
The Qur’an tells of a group of women who fell head over heels for the most pious, modest and handsome bachelor of his time—Yusuf (peace be upon him). The ‘wife of al-`Aziz’ was married, obviously, but that didn’t stop her. She went all out to entrap him and force him into the unthinkable. Her heart, like Mona’s, had already been inflamed with love.
That is why you don’t find Allah (swt) telling us not to commit adultery. He says do not come near adultery (Qur’an, 17:32). Because before you fall off the cliff, your heart, thoughts and limbs have to venture into dangerous places that are off-limits.
The issue is not whether or not women can be tempted. It’s how much they allow their hearts to be consumed with lust before they realize they’re in trouble. For some women, it might only be fleeting thoughts and feelings. For others, it’s the constant exposure to the same triggers that drives them to act upon their urges. If they’re feeling bored, neglected or rejected at home, they will be tempted to find fulfillment, excitement and acceptance outside the home. If they see a couple hugging and kissing affectionately, or hear a love song that churns their emotions, they will want affection from a loving man. If they keep admiring that same handsome co-worker at work, they will get a little too up-close and personal. It’s a slippery slope when we choose to keep following our desires—and Satan’s footsteps.
What begins as an innocent look or friendly email or text message can escalate into an intimate relationship that leaves one leading a tormenting life of secrecy and shamefulness. There might be some momentary pleasures and satisfaction, but they pass so quickly, and leave you with long-lasting pain and guilt. Seeking forgiveness might alleviate your pain, but it’s still hard to forget—especially when you’ve hurt loved ones and lost their trust.
Aside from the tips mentioned in Part I (which are applicable to women too), I would add for women the dire necessity of a solid support system of female friends. Not only should they be trusted friends whom you can confide in and open up to when you have personal problems, but they should support you in strengthening, not destroying, your marriage, finding you a good husband if you’re not married, and keeping you away from tempting situations and environments. If the time with your girlfriends is spent drooling over hot actors, watching romantic comedies, and stalking cute men at work or school, it’s time to make new friends who can raise the bar for your emotional and spiritual growth.
It is truly by Allah’s mercy that a woman can guard her chastity and not fall into temptation these days. May all the struggling women be blessed with righteous husbands who can be sources of love, mercy, and tranquility, as well as fun, excitement, and emotional and physical fulfillment.
I leave you with a supplication of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him) on that beautiful feeling of love:
“Allahumma inni as’aluka hubbaaka wa hubba man yanfa`uni hubbuhu `indak.
Allahumma ma razaqtani mimma uhibb, faj`alhu li quwwatan fi ma tuhibb.
Allaahumma ma zawayta `anni mimma uhibb, faj`alhu li faraaghan fi ma tuhibb.”
“O Allah, I ask you for Your love, and the love of the one whose love benefits me with You.
O Allah, whatever You have bestowed upon me of what I love, let it be a strength for me in what You love.
O Allah, whatever You withhold from me of what I love, let it be a void (to be filled) with what You love.”