Mingling of the sexes

Lets have a discussion on the mingling of sexes. There is so much confusion within the American Muslim world. Some communities have free mixing; some are segregated. I do not see evidence of the prohibition of mixing with the opposite sex. This prohibition really dehumanizes females. We are turned into sexual objects. The Prophet never limited the role of women.

Like you said, there is no evidence from the Quran or the authentic Hadeeth that the two sexes cannot be together, provided they are in a public place (otherwise it would be the forbidden Khulwa) and provided both sexes are dressed modestly and act properly. The extreme segregation applied to the wives of the Prophet (PBUH) only. We know that because the Quran made that clear,

“O wives of the Prophet, you are not like anyone among women. If you watch out [for God], then do not submit in speech, lest he in whose heart is disease should covet, but speak with appropriate speech.
And abide in your homes and do not expose yourselves as [was] the exposition of the former [era] of ignorance. And establish prayer and give alms and obey God and His Messenger. God only wants to displace from you the impurity [of sin], O people of the [Prophet’s] household, and to purify you with [extensive] purification.” (33:32-33)

Extending that to all Muslim women is a matter of tradition, not Sunna. Umar ibn Al-Khattaab, may God have been pleased with him, was once invited to dinner with the Prophet (PBUH). The two of them sat at the table with `Aa’isha, may God have been pleased with her. No segregation here. As they were eating from the same plate, Umar and `Aa’isha reached out to the the plate at the same moment and their hands touched. Umar was very upset but the Prophet (PBUH) was not! He saw that it was accidental.

I respectfully disagree that segregation is tantamount to dehumanizing either sex; it is acknowledging the potential harm and taking precautions against it. Would you live in a drug infested neighborhood if you don’t have to? Admitting that men are lustful does not dehumanize them; it is simply acknowledging a fact of life. Admitting that women are extremely attractive to men and that their effect on them can preempt their better judgement, is an admission to a widely known fact. We may resent that fact, but that doesn’t change it. Pretending otherwise is wishful thinking and ignoring the elephant in the room. You can see that in today’s world a lot. Both men and women keep telling themselves that what they are wearing or the way they are conducting themselves should not lead to adultery; that grownups can control themselves. Is that what actually happens? Hardly.

The example set by the Prophet (PBUH) and followed by the Sahaaba after him, in the congregational prayer in the mosque, best illustrates Islam’s view on segregation. Women and men pray together in the mosque, a public place, both dressed properly and behave decently, and all the women pray behind all the men. Doing otherwise would open the door to distractions and ugly attempts from men to touch the women or watch their bodies. Segregation in this manner protects both sexes. Outside the mosque, the same awareness should be present, i.e., women and men can work together and socialize but only if they act like ladies and gentlemen and dress properly. This is not a novel concept. Corporations have had dress codes and codes of conduct all employees must agree to.

6 Responses to “Mingling of the sexes”

  1. Aapa says:

    We often go to extremes in segregating women. The mere fact of the extreme segregation objectifies women. We become the trophy. In no means am I advocating inappropriate behaviors on the part of either sexes. I am suggesting some extremism lends to issues of itself. And the concern is to make reverts comfortable.
    We are human beings and have to have control of our desires. But not every interaction is lust based.
    It is a given that our behavior within the confines of the masjid be exemplary and by that definition our behavior must be in accordance with our faith everywhere.

    • noclash says:

      Islam is a centrist religion, if you will. It abhors both extremes. God calls our Umma a middle community (2:143), i.e., a community that does not favor either extreme. It is people who tend to go to one extreme or another. Being centrist enables one to “bear witness upon others”, as verse 2:143 explains why we have been assigned the job of a middle community. Bearing witness necessarily means that we live by the middle way and call people to it.

      I have to comment on your statement that not all interactions between men and women are lust based. True, but for some men, it is all they think about! It sounds comical, but it is a fact.

  2. Aapa says:

    PS: How do we help recent converts to understand the need for the change in behavior. It is a very big step to go from total integration to segregation. And the burden falls upon the females. I understand the elephant in the room.

    How is a sister to find a husband if the traditional “home” marriage makers are unknown to her. What is the balance.

    It is easier for sisters to talk to non-Muslim men as they do not have an understanding of Islamic etiquette.

    ( Please feel free to change the above responses. My point is to educate and not bicker.)

    • noclash says:

      There is nothing in Islam to prohibit women from talking to Muslim men, directly or indirectly, as long as proper manners and dress are observed. We even have the example of the marriage of Khadeeja, may God have been pleased with her, to the Prophet (PBUH). She proposed to him! She did it in a most proper manner: via an intermediary.

      So, my humble answer to your question about revert sisters is that they should not feel awkward about talking to Muslim men. In fact, their introduction to Muslim men is rather easy. There are no lines to try. “Assalaamu Alaykum” would do! Knowing that the brother will treat her like his real sister, makes the introduction stress free. Obviously, once the relationship develops further, precaution against Khulwa is necessary.

  3. Aapa says:

    I was thinking what is a woman to do if she does not have a husband. A sister posed this question to me. If half our deen is marriage for those who have no possibility of marriage does that make us half beings.

    Who would be the identified intermediaries for single sisters in the US. These are once again serious questions posed to me by many a sister. They are both reverts and those whose families have been Muslims in the US for generations.

    The matrimonial websites are comical. I am attempting to define a group of women who are isolated from many masjids. In smaller communities the masjids do not offer services due to size etc. There are no single men in other communities. The sisters often live simple lives but have little social interaction.

    • noclash says:

      The hadeeth says, “Whoever is married, then God has helped him in half his religion. Let him observe God in the other half!”, Narrated by Anas ibn Maalik and reported by Al-Albaani who rated it Sound by support of similar narrations. What it means is that marriage provides a huge protection from sin. Being unmarried does not make one half a being, but increases the potential for sin.

      The Prophet, peace be upon him, has strongly emphasized marriage. He said, “Whoever of you can afford it, let him marry, for it is more gaze lowering and chastity guarding.” Narrated by Abdullah ibn Mas`ood and reported by Al-Bukhaari. He also said, “I fast and eat, pray and sleep, and I marry. Whoever desires away from my Sunna does not belong to me!” Narrated by Anas ibn Maalik and reported by Al-Bukhaari.

      I’d suggest that a proper intermediary is the imaam of the mosque, as well other sisters in the mosque. Many people want to help those who are serious about marriage.

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