Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad
I’ve been away from my family for over 20 years and recently returned home to my siblings after my divorce and lacking financial support. My young daughter and I were treated as outsiders. My sister’s baby passed away today, and I was shocked at the free mingling and interaction of family and learned people at the Janaza.
When I told my brother to make separate sections for the men and women, my nephew said, “we don’t do it like that; we do it the right way.” I kept quiet as he was pretty hostile. Am I missing something? Is it permissible in any madhab? Is it not clear, according to Quran and authentic ahadith, that free mixing is not ok? I’m lost and seek Allah’s guidance for myself and my family.
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Coming Back Home
Sister, I am so sorry to hear that you have had a divorce and have ended up with your family again. It can be challenging to live as an outsider with your blood relations and realize that over the 20 years, you have grown apart in spirit and worldview.
I recommend that you develop financial independence and live with your daughter on your own. Although it is not requested of a Muslim female to support herself in Islam, you will have more peace and can live according to what you feel is healthy and Islamic for you and your daughter. Living with siblings permanently can cause a lot of disdain and insecurity and will not give you the peace you deserve. It may be difficult at first, but with Allah’s help, you can study, secure a job, rent a small place, get a car, and begin living on your terms. Or talk to your siblings about helping you secure a different place to live or at least help you plan for it.
Advising the Family
Please don’t advise the family at all right now. They are not ready to hear it from you while supporting you. Give them time to bond with you again, and let them know they can rely on you for help, service, and a smile. Keep your opinions to yourself for at least a year. Generally, the family does not change by being told, but they change by example and seeing fruits in the lives of others. Ask Allah always to guide you and to make it easy to get through this situation without compromising your religion.
Please read the following links for information on your question:
A Reader On Gender Interaction
Mixed Gatherings: A Detailed Response Regarding Gender Interaction
What Are the Principles of Gender Interaction in Islam?
Also, note that gender interaction contains fundamental principles that have to follow universally, such as not shaking the hand of the opposite gender; the general application can vary from person to person. Some people are more outgoing than others, and some would need to interact more based on their work or study with the opposite gender. No two situations can be exactly alike.
You should apply the principles according to your needs and how you see fit for yourself and your daughter. May Allah Most High reward you for doing so. Give your siblings the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps those learned people are very close to them? Maybe they have sought advice from them many times and feel comfortable with them. Perhaps they were discussing religious benefits?
When you feel overwhelmed, remember this hadith. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “There is nothing (in the form of trouble) that comes to a believer even if it is the pricking of a thorn that there is decreed for him by Allah good or his sins are obliterated.” [Muslim]
May Allah make it easy for you and your daughter and make your future confident, stable, healthy, and happy with success in this world and the next.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqida, fiqh, tajweed, tafsir, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She later moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.