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Seclusion in the Office

Ustadh Tabraze Azam answers a question about what counts as seclusion if one works is a closed office anyone can access at any time.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I work in a small office whose main door is routinely closed, people can do routinely enter and exit but someone from the inside has to open the door for the strangers, we are in a manner that we expect anybody to knock the door or to open with keys at any time. Sometimes I stay alone with a “non-Mahram” woman for a period of time (30-60 minutes). I can not keep the main door open.

Does that count as seclusion, What should I do?

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

No, remaining alone with a person of the opposite gender in an enclosed space which people routinely enter and exit from would not constitute impermissible seclusion (khalwa).

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Let no man be alone with a woman except whilst she has her unmarriageable kin (mahram) with her.” (Bukhari)

Usually, the ruling of impermissible seclusion is lifted when there is

    1. 1. a barrier between you and the other person, such as separate offices for each,

 

    1. 2. a window and the like which allows anybody from the outside to look in,

 

    1. 3. a third party present (with some detail), or

 

    4. an absence of a permission requirement to enter the space.

Needless to say, during lunch breaks and the like, namely, occasions where staff are unlikely to come to and fro as normal, the ruling of impermissible seclusion would apply. In such cases, consider keeping the door open, if reasonably possible, or simply stepping away like others have.

Clearly, you would ensure that you’re not lowering your religious guard in all circumstances, and continue to ask Allah Most High to facilitate your matters for you. (Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar ‘ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar)

Please also see What Is the Meaning of Khalwa (Seclusion) with the opposite Gender? and Is It Permissible for Me to Stay in a Flat With My Brother’s Wife If a Child Is With Us?

And Allah Most High knows best.

Wassalam,

Tabraze Azam

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


Mixed Schools and Looking at the Opposite Sex

Ustadh Tabraze Azam is asked a series of questions about receiving an education in schools where and women attend and if it is permissible.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I’m a 17 year old girl who lives in a non-Muslim country. I am studying in a mixed school where men and women are mixed in a class. I can also can assure you that I can’t attend a school where there will be only girls, because such schools are far away from our city and there is no non-mixed school here in the city where I am in.

I want to quit that mixed school because it includes looking at non-mahram men which makes afraid to fall into sin, but I am afraid that I will be thrown out of the house by my parents. When I ask them to let me leave this school, they want me to finish my school and there are two more years left. Please guide me regarding this, what should I do?

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

You should complete your studies at school.

I’m not sure where you’re getting your religion from, but, normally, it is not sinful for a lady to merely look at an unrelated man. This is particularly the case when you are a student and he is the teacher and you’re trying to learn something from him in a classroom setting.

I’d suggest you focus your religious attention on fulfilling your devotional duties soundly, and learning what the impermissible is and then avoiding it. Otherwise, work and study hard with a praiseworthy intention and you can be hopeful of a reward from Allah Most High for it.

Please also see Basic Fiqh of Looking at the Opposite Sex and Guidelines for Interacting With the Opposite Sex.

Consider also taking this course: Essentials of Halal and Haram (Hanafi): Practical Guidelines for Godfearingness in Everyday Life.

And Allah Most High knows best.

Wassalam,

Tabraze Azam

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


Side Entrance: Why Mosques Are Still Getting It Wrong, by Mona Rahman

Mona Rahman on the consequences of entering mosques through a side entrance and disappearing from sight, especially if you’ve got boys in tow.

I’m going to just come out and say this. En route home from a soccer festival we stopped at a masjid. Alhamdulillah the masjid was open. We went to pray, my dad, my sons and I. I went through the Sisters’ side entrance and up the stairs to the prayer area.  My sons and father went ahead to the “main” entrance to the prayer area.  I could see them but they could not see me. I could not pray with them in jama’a (congregation) so prayed by myself. We like to pray in jama’a as a family.  I went out and waited a while for them to come.  The first thing my son said was, “Mommy, where were you?”
Let me tell you where I’m coming from. I grew up in a community without a masjid but with a strong community Alhamdulillah. When we were able to build a masjid I was 25 and my brother was 7. We were taught how the Prophet’s masjid was, what the Sunnah is and how brothers and sisters are partners to each other. Our community board has an official women’s representative to ensure that the sisters are always heard, and always had. However in addition to the women’s rep we have always had sisters in executive positions on the Board, Alhamdulillah.  We used to have youth and MSA reps until we became too large for it to be practical (and there were other issues) but we developed a forum so that they still have a voice. This was the mentality of our founding families. As such when the masjid was built it was done so with a common main entrance and with symmetry so that brothers and sisters had the same facilities. Yes there are alternate entrances but no one is designated as brothers only or sisters only. There are separate entrances to the musallah but they led to a simple open prayer area with sisters at the back and brothers at the front just as was described for the first masjid of the Prophet ﷺ.

People Aren’t The Same Anymore

Do some people not like it? Every once in a while someone new will come and say this is haram. But you know what? This is closest to the Sunnah. Oh people are not as at the time of the Prophet ﷺ. Really? From my understanding, men used to go to the back rows at the time of the Prophet ﷺ and try to see the women through their legs when in prostration. That is when the Prophet ﷺ said that the best lines for men are at the front and the best lines for women are at the back. He didn’t say to build a wall or stick the women on another floor. The Quran says to lower your gaze and guard your modesty. Lower your gaze is stated first. You are responsible for your own actions. These are principles taught 1400+ years ago but which we have been practicing since, Insha Allah.
Are people uncomfortable with this? Of course there are women who are uncomfortable praying in there same room as men as it is foreign to them, so in order to make everyone comfortable and not infringe on the rights of any of the women, when we expanded the sisters area we expanded sideways in order to create a space with more privacy for those sisters who do not want to be in the same visible space as the men but still keeping the structure of the main prayer hall. Note, it wasn’t done in response to the men who complained. A mere bookshelf separates the area so there is free flow from the private part to the main sisters area. That is their preference and everyone is free to worship in the main area or in the more private areas, which is also very useful if nursing.

Communities and Families Partitioned

Let’s go back to today’s experience. I know what the Prophet ﷺ taught. I have also lived in a different community where there were areas partitioned by walls but they evolved with the community, with greater understanding. From my experience there though, I will say it is difficult to concentrate on prayer and it is sometimes difficult if one arrives late. However, I will pray in your masjid without making a fuss as that is the climate of your community.  I have prayed in the smelly closet by myself. I have prayed in the mezzanine unable to communicate with my sons.
As a mother of boys, who tends to be alone with the boys at the masjid, you have to understand the difficulty we are put in.  If I visit with my sons you are asking me to let them go alone without supervision into a place where they don’t know anyone. They can’t look back to ensure I’m there. They can’t find me if they need help.  They do not feel like I am part of the jama’a. They will not come with me to the women’s area as they are 7 and 10 and once they are 7, they were taught they should go to the brothers section as they are now big boys.
Is this the type of community our Prophet ﷺ built? He was the man who would shorten his prayers if he heard a child cry so as to not cause any more distress to the mother. He was the man who asked the men in his community to wait a bit so that the sisters could leave the masjid without discomfort. He was the one who gently turned the head of his young companion when he couldn’t help but stare at the beautiful woman. He taught haya so that we could be true partners in community. This is a haya which is independent of what others are wearing or how they act.

It’s not about “free mixing”

If I as a grown woman who is strong in my Muslim identity (Masha Allah) feel uncomfortable and uncertain when I go to a masjid, afraid of offending because of my gender or going through the wrong door, then how would one who may be wobbling, especially our young Muslim sisters, feel? How about the sister who goes for the first time? If you don’t teach your youth (or adults) how to behave with each other at the masjid with their brothers and sisters, how do you expect them to know how to behave when in the wider community with their peers? How do you think our sons feel when their mom has to go somewhere else?
It’s not about “free mixing”. That is not what I’m saying. It is possible to pray in a musallah without barriers and still be separate. It is possible to go to school and work without compromising your haya. It’s about proper manners. It’s about truly learning what the Sunnah is and practising it without crutches. It’s about separating the cultural norms of back home from what Allah Most High taught us through His Messenger ﷺ through the Qur’an and Sunnah. It requires us to not just accept what we grew up )especially if it was from a land where most are Muslim) but understanding the why. It’s about learning about our religion from reliable sources, not just relying on what our forefathers told us.
My mother argued with her grandfather who felt there was no need for girls to be educated past grade 6. Masha Allah he was a pious man and ensured an Islamic education and it was this which also taught her the importance of education. So she argued with truth in her words and continued her education, Masha Allah. Sometimes we need to question the status quo to ensure we are on the Straight Path.
Anything good is from Allah swt; all else is from my own deficiencies. I beg Allah’s forgiveness if I have erred or misled.

Resources for seekers

Is a Henna Event Permissible?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: I am getting married soon and had two questions:

1. Is a Henna event permissible? It will be an only women’s gathering in which girls will put henna on their hands and there will be food.

2. There is a tradition in which the sisters of the bride hide the groom’s shoe until he gives them a mutually agreed on sum of money. Is this ok to do?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

1. There’s no harm in specifying a day to have a Henna event for your upcoming wedding as long as what is taking place during the event is permissible (applying henna and serving food is).

Similarly, there is nothing wrong in calling this event a Mehndi.

2. The groom may, of course, give a monetary gift to his in-laws. As for the practice of ‘stealing’/hiding the groom’s shoes, this is primarily a cultural practice that occurs in Indian and Pakistani weddings. As long as there is (a) no shariah contraventions (such as physical touching between non-mahrams or the groom’s male relatives chasing the women etc.) or (b) specific imitation of others’ religious ceremonies, the act itself would be permitted.

I would add that a wedding in Islam is an important event connected to the completion of our religion. While expressions of joy and entertainment are permitted, also try to make it an event that demonstrates your thankfulness to God for all of His blessings.

May you have a blessed wedding.

Salman

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

How Should I Interact With My Male Cousin?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: I used to like my cousin, but don’t anymore. He got my number and is texting me, and I feel guilty when I respond to him. He isn’t religious so it doesn’t bother him. He likes to ask my advice and doesn’t say anything inappropriate. Am I doing something wrong?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. Dear sister, may Allah reward you for wanting to do what is pleasing to Him.

Boundaries

Listen to your conscience. If you are feeling guilty, then this is an indication that it would be better for you to stop responding to his texts. You don’t need to be awkward about it; when he comes to visit you in your family home, just explain that you don’t feel comfortable texting him, and you’d appreciate it if he would stop.

Be polite and kind, but don’t go out of your way to give him advice via text message. InshaAllah he will respect your decision and find advice from elsewhere. Use this as a lesson in setting boundaries with non-mahram men. This is a useful skill which you’ll get better at with practice.

Liking someone

It’s normal to like boys as you grow up. What’s important to remember is that for Muslims, the only acceptable romantic relationship is between a husband and a wife. Pre-marital relationships are impermissible, so anything that can lead to that is also impermissible (e.g. being in seclusion, flirtation etc).

If you like someone enough to want to marry him, then let your parents know, and inshaAllah they can help you arrange chaperoned talks with the young man in question. This course is also very helpful for you to learn more about marriage: Islamic Marriage: Guidance for Successful Marriage and Married Life

Please refer to the following links:

How Should I Interact With Non-Mahram (Marriageable) Males?
Limits of Relationship between Males and Females

Wassalam,
Raidah

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

What Is the Ruling Regarding Sharing Food or Water With Non-Mahrams?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: Could you share the ruling regarding sharing food or water with non-mahrams? I study at a co-educational university and my friends and I face instances where boys ask for water.

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

This would be permitted although it would be better to avoid when possible.

It goes without saying that our religion has particular guidelines when it comes to interacting with the opposite gender the details of which can be found in the links below:

A Reader On Gender Interaction

Salman

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

How Should I Deal with a Husband Who Gets Emotionally Involved with Other Women?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: How do you deal with your husband who when dealing with women (when I am not there) is free, and takes their problems as his own? He just feels when women tell their situations to him, that he needs to solve them. I am very uncomfortable with this.

Please give me some advice on how to go about this. Should I mention this to him?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.

Spouses talking to the opposite sex without need or restraint can have damaging effects on relationships.

Seek out ways to strengthen your relationship, and ways to bond and spend more time together. Be tactful and see if you can indirectly get your point across.

If the problem persists, you need to have a frank discussion with him, and if need be, get some professional or religious assistance.

Pray the Prayer of Need (salat al-hajah), and ask Allah to facilitate that which is best. [see: How Does One Perform The Prayer Of Need (salat al-haja)? and: Struggling to Have Children: Ten Key Etiquettes of Du’a

Please also see: What Are the Principles of Gender Interaction in Islam? and: A Reader On Gender Interaction

And Allah alone gives success.

wassalam,

Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Can I Call Others of the opposite Gender to Islam?

Answered by Ustadh Shuaib Ally

Question: As-salāmu ‘aleykum,

Can I call others of the opposite gender to Islam?

Answer: Yes, you can call others of the opposite gender to Islam.
You should at the same time keep in mind general guidelines related to what is considered appropriate interaction between the genders.

Please see this: A Reader On Gender Interaction

With that in mind, do what is good, and stay away from anything that falls outside the scope of your work, or does not sit well with you.
May Allah reward you for your effort and bless your work.

Shuaib Ally

Intermingling With the Opposite Sex During Hajj and Work

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas
Question: 1. When is a female transgressing in haram when she is performing hajj in the presence of other men. For example considering that there is over a million people during hajj, is it haram if a female accidentally touched a male during tawaf? What if she wants to get close to the kabah or touch it knowing that she will touch non mahram men as they are all over the place and hard to avoid? When is it ever permissible during hajj?
2. Is it haram to teach a class of only high school boys who have reached puberty? And is it ok to teach them while the door is open and I never look into their eyes? What are the rules regarding this?
Answer: assalamu `alaykum
1. Accidentally touching men, being in the vicinity of unrelated men, and the like, which you describe is potentially common during Hajj is not sinful. In terms of accidental physical contact, one can only try their best to avoid it in such a situation, and that is all that is expected from an individual. Of course, if you are reasonably sure that certain actions, such as attempting to kiss the black stone, will lead to such physical contact, you should avoid it.
Also, please note that there is nothing intrinsically wrong in being in the vicinity of the opposite gender. What is prohibited is khalwa, which is best understood as impermissible isolation, and this may or may not be the same as what many now refer to as “intermixing”.
For more on khalwa please see: Khalwa Answers 
2. No, it is not impermissible. You may leave the door open and this would be optimal, but even if you do not there are strong opinions that would not deem it to be impermissible isolation as there is more than one male.
Finally, it would be highly unprofessional not to mention ineffective and strange for you as a teacher to not make eye contact with your students. Our religion does not shun normalized gender interaction within the guidelines of proper etiquettes. Simply be normal, respectful, and kind in your interactions with your students and you will not have much to worry about.
Salman
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani
Related Answers:
A Reader On Gender Interaction

Can a Young Man and Woman be Platonic Friends?

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Question: Is it prohibited for a Muslim girl and a Muslim boy to be best friends while studying in a co-educational institute when they have no interest in each other?To the extent that they can exchange text messages after school hours one of which is quoted below.

‘A very very Happy Birthday to my dearest, most awesome friend!
I wish you all the happiness in the world and that you may never ever have any reason to be sad and that you may always have that cute smile on your face all the time.

I feel very lucky to have the best ‘best friend’ anyone could have, who’s always there in times of sadness and gladness. who makes me feel better when everything seems to fall apart and most importantly who cares what goes on in my life and what I’m going through. You should know that you’re one of the most sweetest and most honest and good people that I have ever met and I hope that we stay best friends till the end! Stay happy, always! :)’ 

Answer: Assalamu alaikum,

Thank you for your question.

While the message exchanged appears innocent enough, one has to be realistic about human nature and the natural attraction Allah has created between the male and the female. One must also keep in mind that if the young people have reached adolescence, they are experiencing a life stage where the pull towards members of the opposite sex is quite strong, but the ability to critically judge the impact of their actions and anticipate consequences is diminished.

Islamic gender etiquette is strict, yes, but it is strict for a reason. Unfettered access to members of the opposite sex, including casual friendships, can lead to emotional dependency, infatuation, and the physical behaviors that are associated with falling in love.

Unchecked, these developments can have a devastating impact on young people, particularly if the relationship is broken off by one of the parties, or, in the worst case scenario, a physical relationship happens outside of marriage.

My husband teaches young people in a co-educational institution and he can attest to the many seemingly-innocent exchanges he’s witnessed that often result in life-changing consequences for the young people involved.

My advice is to err on the side of Islamic manners and limit unnecessary interaction with your friend. If you’re old enough, however, and you genuinely enjoy each other’s company, why not pursue marriage? After all, the strongest marriages often begin as friendships.

May Allah bless you,

Zaynab Ansari

Related Answers:

Can I Chat With the Opposite Sex Online About Decent and Moral Subjects?

A Reader On Gender Interaction

Guidelines for Interacting With the Opposite Sex