Question: With regards to khalwa, is it okay to ride with the opposite gender in a car? Not as in chauffeuring but riding with them in the front seat because you know them and you are going to a common destination?
The definition of seclusion (khalwa) that jurists provided was for a man being alone with one woman who is not of unmarriageable kin (mahram) within an enclosed area in such a way that a third party is unable to see or enter upon them.
Such seclusion with the opposite gender has been prohibited in sound prophetic traditions. Ibn `Abbas stated, “I heard the Prophet (God bless him and grant him peace) give a sermon. He said, ‘A man should not seclude himself with a woman except that there be with her someone who is of unmarriageable kin (mahram).'” (Bukhari, Muslim)
Situations not deemed as impermissible seclusion
The following scenarios would not be considered impermissible seclusion:
(a) a man and a woman being outside in public, such as a street or sidewalk.
(b) a man and a woman being in an enclosed area that people can and do routinely enter and exit without requiring permission, such as a mosque.
(c) a man and a woman being in an enclosed area that people cannot easily and routinely enter without permission but where they are visible to outsiders, such as a glass office whose door is closed.
(d) a man and a woman being in an enclosed area that people cannot easily and routinely enter without permission but where there is a barrier separating the two.
(e) a man and a woman being in an enclosed area that people cannot easily and routinely enter without permission but with another person present who is either (i) a mahram or spouse, (ii) an upright non-mahram man, (iii) an upright non-mahram woman, or (iv) a group of non-mahram woman.
(Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar (6:368) but interpreting category (e(iii)) as relating to a very elderly woman; Nawawi, al-Majmu` (4:173-74); Mawsu`a al-Fiqhiya (19:267-68))
Sharing a car ride with the opposite gender
In regards to sharing a ride with a member of the opposite gender who is not a mahram with no other party inside the car and no clear barrier between the occupants, this would not constitute seclusion when it is in a place (such as a town, city) where there are people around who would able to see them. Otherwise, it would constitute seclusion, such as during the night in an isolated place.
Even in cases where it would not technically constitute seclusion, it may be disliked and superior to avoid unless there is some need.
[Ustadh] Salman Younas
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Salman Younas was born and raised in New York and graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in Political Science and Religious Studies. After studying the Islamic sciences online and with local scholars in New York, Ustadh Salman moved to Amman. There he studies Islamic law, legal methodology, belief, hadith methodology, logic, Arabic, and tafsir. Ustadh Salman’s personal interests include research into the fields of law/legal methodology, hadith, theology, as well as political theory, government, media, and ethics. He is also an avid traveler and book collector. He currently resides in Amman with his wife.