How to Interact with the Opposite Gender?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Farid Dingle


Is it haram to listen to a woman singing? What is the ruling on mixed gatherings? When is it permissible to look a woman in the face?

Answer [Short]

By default, it is offensive to listen to a woman singing, and it would be sinful if the voice inspires lustful thoughts. [Ibn Hajar, Tuhfat al-Muhtaj]

Mixed gatherings for formal purposes like work are permissible, but not for social purposes because they usually lead to the haram.

A man can look at the face and hands of a woman if there is a need for work, trade, and the like. [Ramli, Niyahat al-Muhtaj]

Kindly check the detailed answer below:

A Woman’s Voice 

The ulema tells us that the general trend in Allah’s law is that He has based rulings on women such that they are not seen and heard by all. Rulings of dress, travel, marriage, and court are all testimony to this.

Allah Most High addressed the wives of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), saying, “Wives of the Prophet! You are not like other women. If you fear God, do not be too complaisant in your speech, lest the lecherous-hearted should lust after you. Show discretion in what you say.” [Quran, 33:32]

Imam al Qurtubi explains this saying, “Allah commanded them to make the words direct and to the point and not to leave any sense of attachment or softness towards those who are addressed, in contradistinction to the way of the Arab women when they speak to men with affected and softened voices.” [Qurtubi, Tafsir al-Qurtubi]

That said, a woman’s voice is not forbidden to hear, and indeed her singing is not out and out forbidden either. The Prophet heard women singing on Eid and didn’t forbid them. [Bukhari]

That said, the scholars of the Shafi’i school tell us that as a default, it is nevertheless offensive to listen to women singing. [Bashin, Bushra al-Karim] “And it is obvious that this is only permissible when there is no fear of temptation.” (Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Fath al-Bari]

Mixed Gatherings

As mentioned above, mixed gatherings are necessary sometimes, such as in malls, marketplaces, and for formal purposes like work, and are therefore permissible. But when it comes to purely social occasions, they are not permitted because they frequently lead to the haram.

For more details, please see:
Mixed Gatherings: A Detailed Response Regarding Gender Interaction
Mixed Gender Classes
Mixed Schools and Talking to Other Students
Mixed Schools and Looking at the Opposite Sex

Looking at the Opposite Sex

In the Shafii school, it is permissible for a man to look at a woman’s face when there is a need for work, trade, and the like. If there is a fear, temptation, or sexual stimulation, one could only look for absolute dire necessity, such as when doing an operation. [Ramli, Niyahat al-Muhtaj]

There is a strong position in the Shafi’i school that one can look at the face and hands without a need, as long as there is no lust or temptation. (Minhaj al-Talibin, Nawawi) “There wouldn’t be any harm in following this second position, especially in our times [19th century Egypt], where women are so commonly seen in the streets and market places.” [Bajuri, Hashiyat al-Bajuri]

One should still be very careful and not tricked into sin. For general advice on the following dispensations, please see: Purity and Judging Pigskin

I pray this helps.

[Shaykh] Farid Dingle
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language