Salam Dear Brother,
Thank you for contacting us with your question.
Indeed, one of the difficult trials of the modern day for any practicing Muslim man is the challenge of lowering his gaze whenever he has to interact with or behold women who are not dressed in hijab according to Islamic Shari’ah.
This is even more challenging for those men who work at jobs in which they have to regularly talk to women who are not modestly dressed, or sufficiently covered up.
You will have to learn to maneuver your gaze whilst women are talking to you, and while you are talking to them. This is the only tool that a Muslim man has at his disposal, which he can effectively put between himself and all non-mahrum women, because unfortunately, the majority of the women in the world today do not observe adequate Shari` hijab.
You stated in your question, “No one can talk to someone without looking at them”, which if I might suggest, is not entirely true.
Many practicing Muslim men, especially those in leadership positions such as shuyookh and imams, talk to women, but they do so in such a manner that even though the lady is standing right in front of them, they do not look at her directly.
Or at the very least, they only look at her intermittently during the conversation, in order to make her feel respectfully engaged, but they do so whilst regularly breaking off eye contact with her and averting their gaze.
The way to do that is to direct your eyes towards the woman’s side, the floor, or behind her in the distance, so that even though she is right in front of you and addressing you, you do not look at her face or any body part directly or intently.
With practice, men can get better at talking to women normally and with dignity, but with their gaze averted away from the women’s physical form entirely.
Even though the lack of eye contact might seem to be a barrier to your communication with women in the beginning, over time, insha’Allah, you will get the hang of it and master the skill, with Allah’s help.
Just imagine this: blind people talk to others too, don’t they? They are able to verbally get their point across without needing to look at their addressee whilst talking.
Their addressees also interprets what they are saying without the need to have direct eye contact.
Similarly, imagine if your doctor told you that looking at something colored blue would cause you to progressively go blind, how would you – from that point onwards – avoid looking at the color?
You would immediately turn your gaze away from anything colored blue the second you spotted it, isn’t that correct?
Well, this is exactly how you should train yourself to avert your gaze from a woman (either towards the side or downwards) with whom you are talking to face-to-face, or who is passing by in front of you, either in person or on a screen.
You could also communicate with female colleagues more in writing than in person, and attend meetings whilst avoiding sitting face-to-face with women.
The believer who takes one step towards Allah, Allah takes 10 steps towards them. Lowering the gaze is one of the greater challenges and fitnahs that all Muslim men face in today’s world.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like things will get any easier with time, rather, they might just get worse, because even up until a hundred years ago, it was the accepted social norm for women all around the world to dress quite modestly, no matter which religion they followed (or not).
Sadly, today, modesty is not the norm in many parts of the worlds.
May Allah make it easy for you to learn how to acquire the skill of averting your gaze from that which Allah has made haram for you to look at. Ameen.
I hope that this answers your question.
Salam and please keep in touch.
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