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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.


On the Etiquette of Seclusion: A Comprehensive SeekersHub Reader

The etiquette of seclusion form the 16th chapter of Imam Al-Ghazali’s seminal work, the Ihya, which is widely regarded as the greatest work on Islamic spirituality in the world.

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Is It Sinful for a Female Student to Be in Seclusion With a Male Examiner?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: Assalam aleykum

As a female medical student I have to be in a room alone with a male examiner for examination.

Am I sinful? Does it mean that I can’t become a doctor?

Answer: assalamu alaykum

Being in seclusion with the opposite gender is prohibited. Scholars define “seclusion” as 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.

As I detailed elsewhere, 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 very elderly woman; Nawawi, al-Majmu` (4:173-74); Mawsu`a al-Fiqhiya (19:267-68)]

As such, if you are in a room for your examination with only one other male with the door of this room being closed in a manner that people are not able to see you or enter upon, this would be considered seclusion.

However, in cases where there is a genuine need and no alternative for a non-seclusion examination setting, it would be permissible as an exception to the original rule. In your case, there is a genuine need. Therefore, there will be no blame upon you for sitting such an examination.

[Ustadh] Salman Younas

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Salman Younas 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.

Is It Permissible for Me to Stay in a Flat With My Brother’s Wife If a Child Is With Us?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: Assalam aleykum

If I am living in a flat and for a few hours during the weekdays there remains only me, my brother’s wife and her small male child in the flat, would this constitute unlawful seclusion?

Answer: assalamu alaykum

Seclusion (khalwa) is legally defined as a man being alone with a 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 easily enter upon them.

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 very elderly woman; Nawawi, al-Majmu` (4:173-74); Mawsu`a al-Fiqhiya (19:267-68)]

In the situation you describe, the presence of a young child would not be sufficient to lift the ruling of seclusion.

However, if you have a room that is separate to your sister-in-laws, then the ruling of seclusion would not apply while you are in your room and she is in hers even if the rooms are not locked. Similarly, if you are in a room together but it is divided by a barrier with each of you on opposite sides, this would also not constitute seclusion.

Finally, if you are alone in the same room, such as the living room, without a barrier, this would be problematic. Would leaving the front door slightly propped open or the fact that it functions as a fire door lift the ruling of seclusion? I am unsure about this.

I would verge on the side of caution in this scenario given that as a home there is an expectation of privacy that people generally respect. In other words, even if the front door was propped open or functions as a fire door, people would still be averse to entering this space without permission in normal circumstances as it is a private home. Additionally, neither option seems to really establish a reasonable possibility that an external third party would be aware of the actions of those inside the home.

Given the above, both of you may remain alone in the house for these few hours in your separate rooms or in a room with a barrier. You should note that it is fine for you to exit when you need to, such as to the kitchen or the bathroom, as should be obvious. There is no need to make things awkward simply because there are certain rules in place. Rather, I would advise being normal within the parameters of what has been mentioned.

[Ustadh] Salman Younas

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Salman Younas 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.

Is It Permissible for Me to Whatsapp My Fiancé?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: I recently got engaged. My fiancé and I live in different countries so we are not able to talk in person so we decided to message each other via Whatsapp. Does this count as seclusion?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you and your fiancé for having such sincere concern for your deen.

Khalwa (seclusion)

Congratulations! May Allah bless you and your fiancé with a loving and tranquil marriage.

I strongly encourage you and your fiance to read this article to clarify what khalwa (seclusion) is: What Is the Meaning of Khalwa (Seclusion) with the opposite Gender?

In short, it is permissible for you to Whatsapp your fiancé. However, please observe the appropriate limits between an unmarried man and a woman. After your nikah, you are both free to interact without any restraint.

When registration reopens, I encourage you both to complete Islamic Marriage: Guidance for Successful Marriage and Married Life to help you both prepare for the next stage of your lives together.

Please see:

A Reader On Gender Interaction

Wassalam,
Raidah

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

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 Taxi Driver Serve the Opposite Sex, Transport Customers to Haram Locations, or Transport Customers Carrying Haram Items?

Answered by Sidi Faraz A. Khan

Question: As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum,

I am a taxi/cab driver. My only role is to take people from A to B. I mainly deal with corporate customers (lawyers/bankers, etc). However there are a few issues that are bothering me! Now that I have started practicing, Alhamdulillah, I don’t feel right in these situations and I don’t want to do this job any longer. But I would like to know the answers to the following please:

° The customers are about 50%-50% ratio of male-female. Is this permissible?

° Sometimes I get customers who are going to or coming from a bar/club and this can sometimes even include Muslims! Is this permissible?

° Sometimes customers would have alcohol and such like, as in shopping. Would the hadith about the 10 people re: alcohol apply here in the sense that I am transporting it?

° More generally, is my income from this job halal or not?

° And if it is not, does that mean there will not be any Barakah in spending this money? For example, I have recently started some Islamic Courses using the money from this job.

JazakAllah Khair.

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

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

I want to commend you on your concern to learn and apply the Sacred Law in your life, especially with respect to your profession and income. May Allah reward you tremendously for that concern and open for you all the avenues of goodness and success in all your endeavors, spiritual and worldly.

Brief Answers to Your Questions:

(1) As a taxi driver, it is permissible for you to take a female customer, based on the following considerations. It would not entail seclusion (khalwa) that is forbidden, as long as the streets taken have people there that can easily see inside the cab. Avoid secluded streets, and avoid doing so at night.

(2) and (3) The scenarios you mention of transporting customers to bars or clubs, or transporting customers with their alcohol or other haram products, fall under the category of indirectly assisting in sin, which according to the Hanafi school is mildly disliked (makruh tanzihan). It is not deemed directly assisting in sin, which would be unlawful.

According to Imam Abu Hanifa (Allah have mercy on him), indirectly assisting in sin is not itself prohibited or sinful, but rather disliked. This is because the actual sin is incurred by an action of one who willingly chooses the sin itself (fi’l fa’il mukhtar). This meaning is absent in indirect assistance. In his discussion of this issue, the Imam specifically used the example of carrying alcohol for a non-Muslim for a wage. [Sarakhsi, Mabsut; Kasani, Bada’i; Zayla’i, Tabyin]

The hadith you refer to is as follows: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) cursed ten with respect to wine: the one who produces it; the one for whom it is produced; the one who drinks it; the one who carries it; the one for whom it is carried; the one who serves it; the one who sells it; the one who earns from the sale of it; the one who buys it; and the one for whom it is bought.” [Sunan Tirmidhi, Ibn Maja, Sahih Ibn Hibban. Shaykh Shu’ayb al-Arna’ut grades it as “good” (jayyid) in strength]

Our Master Abu Hanifa interpreted the category of “the one who carries it” in the hadith as referring to those who carry wine with the intention of disobeying Allah, i.e., for its consumption. Without that intention, then, one who carries alcohol would not fall under the accursed category mentioned in the hadith. [Dr. Salah Abul Hajj; Khulasat al-Kalam fi Mas’alat al-I’ana ‘ala ‘l-Haram]

Having said that, you should definitely hate such things in your heart, as hating the unlawful is an obligation. Try your best to avoid such situations, using pragmatic caution and reasoned judgment.

(4) and (5) Based on the Hanafi position, your income is inshaAllah completely halal and, as such, there will be baraka in your spending of it, especially for good causes like seeking Sacred Knowledge, and especially when coupled with a noble, lofty intention of seeking nothing but the good pleasure of Allah Most High.

Some Useful Links

Please see the following answers as well for more info on the issue of assisting in sin according to the Hanafi school.

https://seekersguidance.org/answers/hanafi-fiqh/can-i-work-at-a-supermarket-checkout-that-sells-pork-and-alcohol/

https://seekersguidance.org/answers/hanafi-fiqh/a-beautician-with-non-hijab-clients-am-i-accountable-when-they-go-out-uncovered/

And Allah alone gives success.

wassalam

Faraz A. Khan

Checked & 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

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

Answered by Sidi Salman Younas

Question: I recently came across a hadith in English that says, “[t]he man must not be alone with a woman except in the presence of her mahram.” Would you happen to know the book of hadith in which this saying is found. I have not been able to locate it. Also, does “khalwa”, which I’m assuming the hadith pertains to, include a man and woman together in a public place?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

I pray you are well.

Ibn `Abbas said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah (Allah 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]

As for the situation you described, it would not be considered “seclusion” (khalwa). Seclusion is defined as a man and a woman, who are not unmarriageable kin (mahram), being alone in an enclosed area in such a way that a third party cannot easily enter upon them.

As such, a public place will not be considered a place of isolation, though one should take caution in their interaction with the opposite sex in such a setting, doing so only when there is benefit or need, while maintaining proper etiquette.

Wasalam
Salman

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani