In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy.
Al-Hāfidh Ibn Hajr said:
Hadeeth no. 967:
From Abdullāh b. Mas’ūd (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) who said: Allāh’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said:
“O Youth! Those of you who can support a wife should marry, for marriage controls the gaze and protects the private parts from lewd acts. And if one is unable to marry, he should fast for it is a shield.”
Hadeeth is agreed upon by Bukhāri (1905) and Muslim (1400).
Shaikh Sālih al-Fawzān’s comments:
This hadeeth is guidance from the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) directed towards the Muslim youth specifically due to the fact that desires and lusts in the youth are stronger and thus the need for them to marry is greater. For this reason, he (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) encouraged them with marriage.
His (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) saying: “O company of youth!” Then this is an address to the Muslim youth, “Whoever amongst you is able to support a wife,” meaning, able to provide for her, and have sexual relations with her. However, the intent here is the former: “Whoever is able to support a wife should get married.” This is a command that proves the obligation of marriage. And the ruling of marriage itself is covered by the five regulations of the Sharee`ah:
It can be obligatory (wājib) for the one who fears for himself being overcome – so the one who fears for himself fitnah, then marriage is an obligation.
Marriage can be harām in certain circumstances such as marrying a woman whilst she is in her waiting period [from a divorce, khula` or the death of her husband] – or to marry a woman who is listed amongst the forbidden categories:
“Forbidden in marriage to you are your mothers, your daughters and your sisters.” [an-Nisaa: 23]
And other such verses that contain a prohibition. Also, marriage is forbidden for the one who is not able to fulfil the responsibilities and obligations of marriage – and incapable of fulfilling the rights of marriage, or he intends to cause her injury. So marriage, in this case, is prohibited.
So the rulings of marriage differ in accordance with differing circumstances. So it can be obligatory in certain situations, recommended in other situations, or allowable (mubāh), or forbidden of disliked (makrooh) depending on prevailing circumstances.
Then the Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) mentioned a benefit in getting married: “It controls the gaze.” So when a person marries and Allaah suffices him, enriches him by way of his wife, he does not look at other women. And of course, looking at other women is haraam – and what leads to looking in most cases is because one is not married. If a person gets married, then Allaah (the Mighty and Majestic) suffices him and he will not look at other women. “It is a protection for the private parts” from falling into lewd acts.
So a person who has strong lusts, then he gets married, then those lusts are protected from immoral acts by him doing that which Allaah has permitted for him. So in marriage, there is a safeguard for the man and woman. And this in itself is a tremendous benefit, rather it is the greatest of benefits. It is for this reason the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “For indeed it controls the gaze and protects the private parts from immoral acts.”
“And whoever is not able.” So whilst being in a strong emotional state of desire, yet he is not able to support a wife – then how is he to remedy his lusts and desires? He cures that with fasting because it breaks the desire and weakens it. Desires can come from eating and drinking – so when a person fasts, and leaves food and drink, then that weakens the flow of blood and weakens that strong desire to do the impermissible and immoral acts. It weakens the desire to look at the haraam, and thus fasting becomes a shield.
The term used in the hadeeth for shield is al-Wijā which means in its origin castration, and that is because the castrated one does not have desires. So fasting has a similar effect because it weakens the lusts, and that is what the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) guided them to do it (i.e. to fast).
So this hadeeth has within it a command to marry, especially for the youth, and for one who has strong desires so that he does not fulfill his desires in a manner that Allaah has forbidden.
There is no doubt that looking at what is forbidden leads to that which will inevitably end in tears and regret! For this reason, Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, stated:
“Say [O Prophet] to the believing men to lower their gazes and to guard their chastity for that is purer for them. Indeed Allaah is all-aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gazes and to guard their chastity.” [An-Noor: 30-31]
So looking at the opposite sex has inherent dangers that a person cannot escape from except by three affairs:
1. To lower the gaze and not to dispatch glances.
2. Marriage for the one who is able to do so.
3. Fasting for the one who is not able to marry, for it is a shield.
Allaah, the Most High, stated:
“And let those who cannot find the financial means for marriage keep themselves chaste until Allaah enriches them from His Bounty.” [An-Noor: 33]
So He, the Most High, commanded them with chastity. And from being chaste is lowering the gaze and keeping away from the places of fitnah (tribulation), and avoiding mixing with the opposite sex as all of these are means to fitnah – and to keep away from these things is from chastity.
Adapted from volume 4, page 304, Kitābun-Nikāh (The Book of Marriage) from Shaikh Sālih al-Fawzān’s explanation of Bulūgh Al-Marām min Adillatil-Ahkām of Al-Hāfidh Ahmad Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Hajr Al-Asqalāni (born 773H, died 852H), entitled Tas-heel al-Ilmām bi-fiqhil-Ahādeeth min Bulūghil-Marām and is printed in seven volumes.