Assalam alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa baraktu
Today in sha Allah I will be discussing the issue of interactions with the opposite gender. I chose this topic because it is a topic with strict rulings and it should not be taken lightly. I was also recently reminded of the rulings and thought it would be nice remind everyone else.
Before I dive into the topic, I would like to remind everyone about the qualities of a believer- the descriptions that Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) gave to those who believe.
In surah al-Ahzaab, Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allaah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision” [al-Ahzaab 33:36]
And then in Surah al-Noor, Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“The only saying of the faithful believers, when they are called to Allaah (His Words, the Qur’aan) and His Messenger, to judge between them, is that they say: “We hear and we obey.” And such are the successful (who will live forever in Paradise).
And whosoever obeys Allaah and His Messenger , fears Allaah, and keeps his duty (to Him), such are the successful” [al-Noor 24:51-52]
So what we learn from this is that the faithful believers are those whom when Allah and His messenger (peace and blessing be upon him) have decreed a matter, they accept without hesitation, and they obey without questions.
I would like everyone to keep that in mind while reading.
I would also like us to a questions before I begin. Is there anyone who has more knowledge of the creation than the creator himself? No
Is there anyone who knows the best for the creation more than the creator himself? No.
Do we all agree that Islam is a religion that closes door to fitnah? Yes (the answer should be yes).
Now let's get back to the topic.
All the scholars agree that interaction between males and females should only happen for a specific need, rather than for fun and enjoyment. So before initiating a conversation with the opposite gender, it is important to ask ourselves- why am I doing this? What are my intentions? What am I hoping to achieve? Is it really necessary?
After having a legitimate reason to initiate an interaction. How do we go about the interaction in a respectable and appropriate manner?
The answer lies to that question lies the content and manner of the interaction. We have verses from the Quran and evidences the Sunnah of the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that guide us through how to interact with the opposite gender. In this write-up I will mention a few guidelines or etiquettes of interaction with the opposite gender.
- The conversation should be limited to the topic
This is self-explanatory. You want to find out a specific information, do just that. There shouldn’t be unnecessary chit chat or branching off topic.
The Mother of the Believers ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated the story of the slander (al-ifk) that the hypocrites accused her of; in her hadeeth she (may Allah be pleased with her) said:
Safwaan ibn al-Mu‘attal al-Sulami al-Dhakwaani was behind the army and had set out at the end of night. In the morning he reached the place where I was and he saw the shape of a person sleeping. He recognized me when he saw me, as he used to see me before the hijab was enjoined. I woke up when I heard him saying Inna Lillaahi wa inna ilayhi raaji’oon (Verily to Allaah we belong and verily unto Him is our return) when he recognized me, and I covered my face with my jilbab. By Allah, we did not exchange a word and I did not hear any word from him apart from his saying Inna Lillaahi… He made his camel kneel down and put his foot on its foreleg (to keep it steady), then I mounted it, and he set off, leading me on the mount, until we came to the army.
This hadeeth also shows good manners with non-mahram women, especially in the case of being alone with them out of necessity in the wilderness or elsewhere, as Safwaan did when he made his camel kneel without speaking or asking questions. Tarh at-Tathreeb, 8/53
2. There should be no softening of the voice by either party.
Allah, may He be exalted, says, addressing the Mothers of the Believers (interpretation of the meaning): “then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease (of hypocrisy, or evil desire for adultery, etc.) should be moved with desire, but speak in an honourable manner” [al-Ahzaab 33:32].
If that is for the mothers of the Believers who are amongst the best women, what about us?
3. Lowering of the gaze
Men have been commanded by Allah (subuhanu wa taala) to lower their gaze. Allah says in the Qur’an in surah al- Noor,
“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts). That is purer for them. Verily, Allaah is All‑Aware of what they do. [al-Noor 24:30].
Hence, they should avoid staring and try hard to lower the gaze as much as possible. Quick glances for the purpose of speaking are okay.
4. Avoiding joking and laughing as it is not part of etiquette and dignity. Laughing and joking also tends to make the conversation flirtatious and unserious.
5 . Avoiding the use of any words that may have some suggestive meanings, and so on. This is self-explanatory. We should be direct and straight forward.
6. Not going to extremes in embellishing one’s speech.
Some people use their skills in communication with others by movements of the hand or face or by quoting poetry or proverbs or romantic phrases. This is a means that the Shaytaan uses to open the door to haraam attraction between the sexes, so it should be avoided.
7. There shouldn’t be khulwah
Khalwah refers to when a man and a non-mahram woman are alone where they cannot be seen, or they can converse without being heard even though they can be seen (for example in a car).
The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “No man should be alone with a woman unless there is a mahram with them.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (1862) and Muslim (1341). And he (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) also said: “No man is alone with a woman but the Shaytaan is the third one present.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (1171) and classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi.
With regards to online interaction, similar rulings apply( ie, should happen when necessary).
It’s important to note thaat, it is NOT permissible for men and women to have private chats either via emails or in chatrooms or PMS’. This is because it is a means of leading to fitnah and Islam is a religion that closes all doors to fitnah. A person may think that there is no fitnah, but the Shaytaan will keep trying until he tempts him.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) commanded those who heard of the Dajjaal to keep away from him, and said that a man may approach him as a believer, but the Dajjaal will keep trying until he leads him astray.
Even the use of smileys should be avoided when interacting with the opposite gender even on a public forum. This is because these faces are used to express a woman's feelings, so it is as if she is smiling, laughing, acting shy and so on, and a woman should not do that with a non-mahram man.
Side Note: It is not permissible to use some emoticons are or emojis when chatting with anyone. For example, the emoticons representing angels, devils and prayer (with closed hands). These concepts are specific to other religions and using them would be imitating those concepts.