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

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Question: assalamu alaikum
I use Facebook and I call a girl my sister and she calls me her brother, but we aren’t actually related.  We only talk about decent and moral things without crossing limits.  Moreover we never heard each others’ voices nor did we see each other.  What I want to ask n know is that if I could continue this interaction.

Answer: Dear Brother,

Assalamu alaikum.

We are all brothers and sisters in Islam; however, bonds of faith and humanity don’t erase social etiquette between unrelated males and females.

If you’re uncomfortable with the online chats, then it’s probably for good reason and you should listen to your instincts.

Unless there’s a clear purpose in these conversations, why continue them? If one of you marries, you’d have to move on anyway.

I pray this helps,

Zaynab Ansari

Related Answers:

A Reader on Gender Interaction

Should I Seek Forgiveness from a Girlfriend I Wronged Before I Was Muslim?

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Question: Assalamualikum,

Before converting to islam, i had a relationship with a girl. A few months before converting, I broke of all relationships all of a sudden.

Now that i am married, and am a muslim, I often feel guilt that i was unjust towards her.  Should I now approach that girl to seek her forgiveness?

I am reluctant because it might complicate things, but it is true that i was unfair to her, and that she might hold a grudge against me in her heart… and my fear is that she will accuse me on the day of judgment for breaking her heart, and being unfair to her.

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

Assalamu alaikum.

Dear Brother,

Thank you for your question.

While you may not have been a Muslim when this relationship occurred, you obviously had a sense of morality.

If your wife approves, I would suggest writing a note of apology after asking Allah’s forgiveness for whatever harm was done. Even if the woman does not accept your apology, you have done the ethical thing and can move on.

Regards,

Zaynab Ansari

The Hadith of Women Walking on the Sides of the Street

Answered by Ustadh Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: Is the hadith of women being commanded to walk on the side of the road applicable today?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate,

Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Thank you for your question. It is not a religious obligation for women to walk on the side of the road in Islamic law. This hadith was not applied literally in the books of Islamic jurisprudence, and its chain of narration is weak.

Rather, books of etiquette quoted this hadith to convey something about modesty and its implementation for both genders in the public sphere, such as not brushing past one another in a crowded walkway and respecting each other’s personal space.

The place of these hadiths in the Sacred Law, and how they should be understood

One such narration is found in the collection of Abu Dawud, where he narrates that:

“Abu Usayd al-Ansari narrated that his father heard the Messenger of Allah (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) [speaking], while the latter was outside of the mosque and the men had intermingled with the women on the street. So he said to the women,

‘Hang back [from between the men], for it is not appropriate for you all to be walking in the middle of street [while crowded by men around you]; [rather] you should stay on the sides of the street.’

And [thereafter] a woman would stick so close to the walls [on the sides of the street], that her clothes would be catching on the wall because of how close she walked to it.” [Abu Dawud]

While commenting on the hadith’s chain of narration, Shaykh Saharanpuri points out that two of the narrator’s statuses in the field of hadith are unknown [Saharanfuri, Badhl al-Majhud], which would make the hadith very weak and inadmissible as a legal proof.

Supporting narrations in Bayhaqi’s Shu’ab al-Iman, Ibn Hibban’s Sahih, and Tabarani’s Mu’jam al-Kabir are also weak in their chains.

When viewed as a whole, it was said they would gain some strength, though they still were never applied literally.

Perhaps this is why these hadiths are only mentioned in some books of etiquette, since weak hadiths can be acted upon to promote an established virtue or warn against a vice, even though they do not become binding legal rulings.

The Importance of Modesty in One’s Interactions with the Opposite Gender

Even as a non-obligatory etiquette though, the context and meaning must be understood. The context was the mixing of strange men and women in a busy street outside the mosque, such that it was feared that modesty and respectful distance wouldn’t be observed.

Each side was asked to give the other some space by adhering to different parts of the road, so they did not brush up against one another.

Ibn Hajr al Haythami clearly notes this is “when there is a realistic likelihood of immoral behavior resulting”; hence, it is not a blanket ruling for all times and places. [al-Haythami, Fatawa al-Kubra]

The lesson in this hadith is about observing modesty in all our affairs. Between strange men and women in a shared public space, this would mean not walking too close to one another, nor staring, joking, flirting with or brushing past one another. In our times, we have sidewalks for everyone to use, and giving people their personal space and minding one’s own business is already generally observed by people who are sensible.

The obligation of modesty and giving respectful space should be upheld by both genders [Sayed Ali Zada, Shir’atul Islam], even if the other does not observe it. This means that if a woman is walking in the middle of a narrow pathway, the man should cleave to the side, as doing so is more about one’s God-consciousness (taqwa) than one’s gender.

Modesty is not solely learned through a set of rules, nor through clothing alone. Rather, it is a state of being which begins from the inward, and once it is present inwardly, it naturally permeates to the outward in a beautiful and graceful manner. And Allah knows best.

Wasalam,

Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Is it Bad Manners to Be “Cold” to Protect Yourself from Developing Feelings for Someone?

Answered by Ustadha Jameela Jafri

Question: Assalaamu alaykum,

I stopped talking to a Muslim guy I know from work because I developed feelings for him.  Now if I see him, I’ll only give greetings and nothing else.  I don’t behave like this towards anyone else. Am I being a bad person by ignoring him and minimizing the contact? Is it bad adab to be a bit “cold” when speaking with him?

ma’asalaam

Answer: Assalam alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh,

Dear Sister,

Assalam alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh. InshAllah this finds you in the best of states.

In itself, there is nothing inappropriate or wrong with speaking to a person of the opposite gender. In everyday situations, such as school, work, or business, men and women often have to interact with one another. As long as this is done with good manners, a sound heart, and respectful conduct, then one should not feel “bad.” In fact, when there is obvious need, then it is not disliked to speak to someone of the opposite gender.

It is normal that, at times, two people will be attracted to one another or that one person is attracted to another. There is nothing inherently wrong with this natural feeling. This feeling of attraction to a person of the opposite gender is a gift from Allah Most High and facilitates people getting married for the sake of pleasing Allah and following the sunnah of the Prophet ‘alay salatu wassalam. Again, one should not feel “bad” when one is not married and is attracted to someone and desires marriage. Like any situation, however, what matters is how we behave and conduct ourselves in these circumstances.

If one is attracted to someone but steps are not being taken to facilitate marriage, then it is important to safeguard one’s heart and soul. This caution is recommended in our deen and it is the reason why the Sharia has guidelines for the way that men and women should interact with one another. In your situation, there is romantic interest but it seems that steps are not being taken towards marriage. Given this, your inclination to avoid needless conversation is best for you. There is no need to be rude or harsh to the other individual, but if there is no obvious benefit in speaking with him and if conversing only causes more confusion or heightens romantic interest, then being cautious is best. In public spaces, it is fine to exchange salams and have minimal conversation to avoid being rude. Private conversations between the two of you should be avoided completely.

As we know, it is very difficult to remove memories and feelings from one’s heart. Allah Most High reminds us in the Qur’an, “Tell believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them for them. Verily, Allah is aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest.” (24:30-31). Avoiding needless conversation when one has romantic interest is a way to lower one’s gaze and be modest. It will inshAllah protect your heart.

Place your full reliance on Allah Most High that He will provide you with a caring and righteous spouse when the time is right. Although avoiding this person and protecting your heart may be difficult right now, find comfort in the promise of Allah Most High that “verily with hardship comes ease” (94:6).

I hope this helps,
Jameela

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

What Should a Sister Do When Her Male Qur’an Teacher is Too Informal?

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

Question: I was recommended to attend a madrasa taught by a young teacher.  I was happy because the young teacher had plenty of time in his hand, so I could recite more Qur’an, but then he said i should call him every night and recite it. Then everything become awkward because he asks questions about my family and school, and he laughs at almost everything I say.  Others tell me I am worrying about nothing, but it feels strange.  Should I be concerned?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah descend on the Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions, and all who follow them.

Dear Sister,

Assalamu alaikum,

Thank you for your question. I pray you are in good health and iman.

Trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

It was reported that Wabisa ibn Ma’bad, may Allah be pleased with him, said: I came to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and give him peace, and he said: “You have come to ask about righteousness?” I said: ” Yes.” He said: “Consult your heart. Righteousness is that about which the soul feels tranquil and the heart feels tranquil, and wrongdoing is that which wavers in the soul and moves to and from in the breast even though people again and again have given you their legal opinion [in its favor].”
[Ahmad & Darimi]

If I were you, I would politely discontinue the classes and find a female teacher. This is not to suggest that this teacher has done anything wrong, but this is about nipping any potential problems in the bud.

May Allah reward you,

Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq
June 10, 2011/Rajab 9, 1432

Should I Break Ties With My Friend Who I Fell in Love With?

Answered by Sidi Faraz A. Khan

Question: I’m a teenage girl and I have a guy friend of 2 years and I did fall in love with him without meaning to. We talked about marriage in the future but now we are just friends. I don’t have the same feelings for him ever since I turned towards Islam. I know it was wrong of me to become friends with him and to love him, but I’m really trying to become a better Muslim and I tried to end our friendship last year but I couldn’t. I am thinking about it again and I just want assurance that it’s the right thing to do.

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and faith.

Some Advice

Without a doubt, the right thing to do is to completely cut off all ties with him and end the friendship. This will be better for both of you, as adherence to the Sacred Law (shari’a) is the means for all blessing and success in any endeavor, especially marriage.

If he is interested in marrying you, have him go through his family and your family. This way, proper steps can be taken to ensure all etiquette and manners are upheld in the process.

In terms of your heart, turn it to Allah and the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). Right now is a special time, in which we commemorate his blessed birth and express our gratitude to Allah for sending him to us for our guidance and salvation. The Prophet Muhammad is the very best of creation, and he is the only means to draw near to Allah.

Read about the Prophet’s life, character, and special traits. Allah will fill your heart with love for him, and adherence to the Shari’a will become easy, to the extent that not adhering to it will become heavy and difficult.

The more we fill our hearts with love of the Prophet, the less room in our hearts for the haram.

May Allah continuously send blessings and peace upon him, his family and folk, and all followers until the Last Day. Amin.

Some Useful Links

For a detailed examination of the life and character of the Prophet Muhammad, I would highly recommend the book “Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources” by Martin Lings.

“Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources” by Martin Lings

And for a more summarized presentation of his exalted character, I would recommend the following article:

Why Is the Prophet’s Character Described as Being Tremendous? – Faraz Rabbani

And Allah alone gives success.

wassalam

Faraz A. Khan

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

A Reader On Gender Interaction

gender-interaction

General Guidance

Guidelines for Interacting With the Opposite Sex

A Detailed Exposition of the Fiqh of Covering One’s Nakedness (awra)

Hadith About Seclusion (khalwa) and Unmarriageable Kin (mahram)

Breaking Family Relations Due To Adulterous Acts

Limits of Relationship between Males and Females

How Do We Bring About An Islamic Environment To Our MSA?

Lower Your Gaze – Shaykh AbdulKarim Yahya

Guidance for Men (Relevant for women also)

I Like a Girl: Controlling One’s Interactions & Feelings

Approaching a Potential Spouse

Guidance for Women
(Relevant for men also)

How Should I Interact With Non-Mahram (Marriageable) Males?

What do I do if I Develop Strong Feelings For a Brother I am Friends With?

Women, Unlawful Gazes, and Leaving the House

Women & the Workplace: Is it Impermissible for Me to Work Even If I Observe Proper Limits?

Love for a Non-Muslim Man & Inviting Him to Islam

What do I do if I Develop Strong Feelings For a Brother I am Friends With?

Answered by Ustadha Sulma Badradduja

Question: Assalamu alaikum,

I’m a teenage sister.

I have been friends with a guy. He is a great person and a good believer, but we have fallen into the trap of shaitan and got a little carried away with our friendship. I fell in love with him. it just happened. i had no control over it. and he loves me too. since we don’t want to disappoint Allah and gain a part of his anger, we promised each other that when we grow up and are in the age for marriage, we will come back for each other and marry. since then we ended our phone contacts and even our friendship. though from heart we still do consider each other best friends.

We all realize how big a sin we have committed since a boy and a girl are not permitted to have any sort of relation ship. I want to ask you, if we have anything important to talk about, can we talk? and all the promises that we made to each other, are those valid? and can we still keep love for each other in our heart?

Please help me out.

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I hope you are well. Thank you for your question.

Alhamdulillah you have done the right thing by ending your relationship and communication with the brother. InshaAllah you will find that Allah will place baraka (blessings and increase) in your life and your endeavors because you are striving to follow His command.

Can you talk if you have something important to discuss? You should not continue communication, especially since you know that there is an attraction between you. If you allow yourselves to get in touch, it could likely become a regular allowance you give yourselves and it will be harder to discontinue communication. If something is extremely important, consult a learned and God-conscious person for their advice on how to get the message across to the brother without unnecessary interaction.

Are the promises you made valid? There is nothing that invalidates your promises to each other to get married in the future. But there is also nothing that makes them binding upon you if your future situation calls for another line of action. You are still young and many things can happen in the future which could make marrying each other an unsuitable, or even undesirable, event. If things change in the future and you have other marriage prospects, you could consider having him be notified in an appropriate manner in order to avoid ambiguity in the issue.

Can you continue to love him? You cannot necessarily control the feelings you have towards the brother. You need to however control how you act upon them. Feeling inclined towards him because of his praiseworthy traits is fine and natural. But do not dwell on your feelings toward him too much until you are in a position to get married because it will make it difficult for you to keep your distance. When you think both of you are ready, be sure to involve your parents.

May Allah grant you success.

Wassalam,
Sulma

Checked and Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Guidelines for Interacting With the Opposite Sex

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Question: Being put in situations with women leaves me confused with no idea about how to interact with them.  I know the issues of khalwa and modesty are important, but I don’t really understand what they practically mean or how to put everything together.  Could  you provide some detailed guidelines on how brothers should interact with sisters in a way that is completely in line with the shariah?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

Praise be to Allah. May His peace and blessings shower upon our beloved Messenger. May Allah reward you for seeking knowledge of His deen.

In Islam, interactions between the sexes are permitted within certain limits specified by the Quran and the Sunna. To some, these limits might appear to be very strict. However, there is a divine wisdom underpinning the limits set down by the Shariah. In adhering to the boundaries set by the Sharia, we can uphold the Quranic command to the believing men and women to be awliya of one another, or protecting friends, while at the same time maintaining the modesty and purity of heart that come from obeying Allah and His Messenger in this regard.

In brief, when interacting with a woman who is not a member of your unmarriageable kin or your wife, you must avoid khalwa, or seclusion; guard your gaze; and obviously, avoid any physical contact.

In more detail:

Khalwa

Khalwa takes place when one man or more than one man are alone with one woman in a place where no one can see them or enter. If there are two women and a man, for example, this is not khalwa. However, when there is only one woman, this situation is considered as seclusion, and becomes unlawful. Obviously, this is for the protection of the woman and the man (or men) so that a situation will not arise where the male becomes tempted and the woman possibly harmed.

If you are in a situation where you are in a room with two or more women, this is not khalwa and there is no need for you to be uncomfortable.

Guard Your Gaze

Guarding your gaze is a good practice that fosters modest interaction between the sexes. The Quran commands both believing men and women to guard their gaze. Unfortunately, many Muslims have lost this practice. What guarding the gaze means is that you should refrain from staring at a woman’s face (if she’s not a member of your unmarriageable kin or your wife). It does not mean keeping one’s eyes glued to the ground. In Western societies, guarding one’s gaze can sometimes be interpreted as a lack of assertiveness or respect for the other person.

However, with Muslims, guarding one’s gaze indicates respect for the other person’s space and modesty of intention. Our scholars have said that looking at a woman’s face is permitted in certain occasions. For example, if you are seeking a woman in marriage, it is permitted to look at her face. If you work in any type of job that requires you to look at people and interact with them, looking is permitted as long as you don’t look with desire. If you are a teacher, looking at your female students is permitted as long as you don’t look more than necessary or with desire. In short, be modest and respectful.

If You Can’t Look, You Can’t Touch

According to the Shariah, where looking is not permitted, then touching is also unlawful. This can be a sensitive topic for Muslims living in the West where handshaking is commonplace and is considered a polite thing to do. Shaking the hand of someone from the opposite sex is unlawful.

According to our scholars, the Prophet, peace be upon him, never shook the hand of a woman who was not a member of his unmarriageable kin or his wife. So you should do your utmost to avoid shaking hands. But try to do it in a way that does not offend the other person. For many non-Muslims, if you simply explain to them that your religion (or culture) does not permit shaking hands and that you mean no offense, then usually people are okay with that.

Covering the Awrah (Nakedness)

Covering the awrah or one’s nakedness. Another requirement of interaction between the sexes is that everyone should observe Islamic modesty or covering the awrah. For men, this means covering what’s between the navel and the knee. For women, this means covering the whole body except the face and hands. Obviously, this is possible in a Muslim gathering. But there are very few places in this world where you will encounter women who are always covered. Obviously, if you live and work in the West, everyday you will see women who are not properly covered. What you need to do here is to simply be modest, behave respectfully, and avoid looking at women without need.

Conclusion

In conclusion, when you find yourself in a situation with women, Muslim or otherwise, simply be modest and respectful. There is no problem with talking to a member of the opposite sex or working with that person when there is a need. As long as we adhere to these boundaries, inshallah everything should be fine.

There is no need to be uncomfortable when there are women around. I have seen some Muslim brothers who when they sight a woman or hear her voice, immediately start scowling or act very tense. This is unnecessary. I have also seen Muslim brothers who feel very comfortable chatting with non-Muslim women, but as soon as a Muslim woman comes around, they ignore her and won’t even give salaams. This too is unnecessary and looks very strange to the non-Muslim observers.

What’s important to remember here is the example of our Prophet, peace be upon him. He was modest, respectful, and kind to everyone. He also interacted with women when there was a need to do so. He is the best example for us.

I hope this is helpful to you.

And Allah alone gives success. And Allah knows best.

(Umm Salah) Zaynab Ansari

How Should I Interact With Non-Mahram (Marriageable) Males?

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Question: I would like to know how in this day and age, a woman can observe modest behavior and be seen as a normal person. I don’t like sitting with and talking to na-mahram men.  Because I don’t smile at men and talk to them openly I am often told that I lack social skills or that I am austere. Lately, I have been questioning my own acts. Perhaps they are right. I think because I don’t talk to men that often I don’t even know how to interact with them. My awkward behavior makes them feel awkward. How can a single muslimah living in this western society maintain the balance of making people around her feel comfortable as well as maintain the rules of purdah? (Clear cut rules of conduct would help as I often like to think of things in black and white; for example, I can do this but I can’t do that, that sort of thing.)

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

Dear Sister,

Assalamu alaikum,

Thank you for your question.

I pray this message finds you well.

The first thing I can tell you is that these rules of behavior are not as black and white as you may think. What is considered polite or friendly in one society may be out of line in another.

Just be yourself. Stop feeling uptight or nervous around non-mahram men. If you live in the West, chances are you will have to interact with non-mahram men quite frequently, particularly if you go to school or have a job.

Simply observe your hijab, be pleasant, and don’t engage in aimless conversation. Any Muslims you deal with (whether family or not) should be able to respect this.

But bear in mind that observing Islamic etiquette is not an excuse for rudeness. So give salaams, ask people how they and the family are doing, and keep on going.

I pray this helps.

Related Answers:

Guidelines for Interacting With the Opposite Sex

Women & the Workplace: Is it Impermissible for Me to Work Even If I Observe Proper Limits?

Limits of Relationship between Males and Females

Who is Mahram

Hadith About Seclusion (khalwa) and Unmarriageable Kin (mahram)

A Detailed Exposition of the Fiqh of Covering One’s Nakedness (awra)

Regards,

Zaynab Ansari