Free mixing Between the Sexes
Shaykh Muhammad Bin Ibrahim Aal-Al Sheikh [1311-1389 H (1893-1969 AD)], the former Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, said:
Free mixing between men and women can be of three types:
Mixing of women with men who are their Mahram (husband and men whom she may never marry, e.g. father, brother, son etc). There is no doubt that this is permissible in Islam.
Mixing of women with non-Mahram men for evil and depraved purposes. There is no doubt that this type is not allowed (haram) in Islam.
Mixing of women with non-Mahram men in educational institutes, shops, offices, hospitals, get-togethers, parties etc. At first a questioner (asking fatwa) really might think that this does not lead to one gender tempting the other. To expose the reality of this type, we will reply (to the questioner) both briefly and in detail.
The brief answer is that Allah made men to have a natural inclination towards women and gave them power over the females. He made women to be naturally inclined towards men though He made them weak and soft in nature. Hence, when free mixing occurs between women and (non-Mahram) men, its effects result in bad intentions, since the human self is inclined towards evil and (carnal) desires make a person blind and dumb, while Satan commands people to do indecent and evil things.
The detailed answer is that Islamic Law (Shari’ah) is based on objectives and the means to achieve them. The means for an objective have the same rulings as the objective itself. Women are the object of desire for men, and Islam blocks the doors leading to members of one sex becoming attached to the members of the opposite gender. The evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah that we will now mention for you will show this clearly.
a) Proofs from the Qur’an:
There are six proofs for this from the Qur’an:
Allah says, “
And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him (to do an evil act), she closed the doors and said: “Come on, O you.” He said: “I seek refuge in Allah (or Allah forbid)! Truly, he (your husband) is my master! He made my stay agreeable! (So I will never betray him). Verily, the Zalimoon (wrong and evil-doers) will never be successful.” ” (Surah Yusuf 12:23)
It is a proof (for saying that the third type of free mixing is prohibited) because when there was free-mixing between the wife of the Egyptian minister and Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him), she displayed what was hidden (her love for him) and asked him to have illicit sexual relations with her. However, Allah had Mercy on Yusuf and saved him from her (advances), as He said,
“So his Lord answered his invocation and turned away from him their plot. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.” (Surah Yusuf 12:34).
Similarly, if free-mixing occurs between men and women, members of both genders pick for themselves the one they please from members of the opposite gender and use all means to get that person.
Allah commanded men and women to lower their gaze. He said,
“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things)…”
(Surah Al-Noor 24:30-31). This verse is a proof for what we say since Allah ordered believing men and women to lower their gazes, and His ordering something means it is obligatory. Then Allah tells us that it is purer and that only an accidental (unintentional) glance will be forgiven. ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
“O ‘Ali, do not follow a glance with another, for you will be forgiven for the first, but not for the second.”
(Reported by Al-Hakim in Al-Mustadrak (2/212 and 3/133), Ahmed (5/351,353 and 357), al-Tirmithi and others. Al-Hakim said it is authentic according to standard of Muslim, and Al-Dhahabi agreed with him in Talkhis). There are many hadiths with the same meaning. Allah did not order people to lower their gaze except for the fact that looking at objects that are forbidden to see is counted as adultery (zina). Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) said,
“The adultery of the eyes is the sight (to gaze at a forbidden thing), the adultery of the tongue is the talk,… and the inner self wishes and desires and the private parts testify all this or deny it.”
[Sahih Al-Bukhari (no. 6612), Muslim (no. 2657), Ahmed (2/276)]. Gazing at forbidden things is adultery since it is enjoying the sight of charms of a woman, results in these images becoming etched in the heart of the person and he tries to commit actual adultery with her. If Islam forbids gazing at her due the resultant evil, then the same evil results from free mixing. Hence, free mixing too is forbidden, since it is the means to the same evil consequences as the forbidden gaze.
The evidences that we mentioned earlier that it is not permissible to gaze at women means that it is obligatory upon a woman to cover her entire body, since exposing it or part of it results in (forbidden) glances towards it, which in turn leads the heart to become attached to her and then utilizing the means to obtain her (for illicit relations). This is also the case with free mixing.
“And let them (Muslim women) not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment.” (Surah Al-Noor 24:31).
Even though the act of stamping feet itself is permissible, still Since Allah forbade women from stamping their feet so that it does not become a reason for men to hear the sound of anklets worn by women. This would arouse men’s desire for women, and the same evil consequences result from free mixing.
“Allah knows the fraud of the eyes, and all that the breasts conceal.” (Surah Ghafir 40:19).
Ibn ‘Abbas and others said,
“It is (about) a man who visits the house of a family, which includes a beautiful woman too who passes by him. When the members of the family are not watching him, he looks at her, but when they are alert, he lowers his gaze from her. When they are not watching, he gazes at her and when they are observing him, he lowers his gaze. Allah knows that in his heart he wishes to see her naked and if he could, he would commit adultery with her.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir).
If Allah described the eye which steals a glance towards what is not permissible for it to look as ‘fraud’, then how about free mixing?
Allah ordered women to stay in their homes. He said,
“And stay in your houses, and do not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance.” (Surah Al-Ahzab 33:33).
Allah commanded the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who were the most pure and chaste women, to stay in their homes. This commandment is addressed to Muslim women in general too, since it is a well established principle of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) that directed speech is general in scope, except if there is an evidence proving that it is specific to whom it is addressed. However, there is no evidence to make it specific (the Prophet’s wives) in this case. Hence, if women are commanded to remain at home except in case of a necessity that required them to go out, then how can free mixing between them and men of the kind mentioned earlier be permissible? Moreover, in our times women have become too headstrong, have left modest all-covering garments and expose themselves wantonly to the extent of nudity in front of un-related (non-Mahram) men. Husbands and other guardians of women have little control over women whose well-being they are entrusted with.
b) Proofs from the Sunnah
As for the evidence from the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) words and actions, we will mention just ten:
Imam Ahmed narrated It was narrated that Umm Humayd the wife of Abu Humayd al-Saa’idi came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and said,
“O Messenger of Allah, I like to pray with you.” He said, “I know that you like to pray with me, but your prayer in your room is better for you than your prayer in your courtyard and your prayer in your courtyard is better for you than your praying in your house, and your prayer in your house is better for you than your prayer in the mosque of your people, and your prayer in the mosque of your people is better for you than your prayer in my mosque.” So she issued orders that a prayer-place be prepared for her in the furthest and darkest part of her house, and she used to pray there until she met Allah (i.e., died).”
[Narrated by Ahmad(6/371), Ibn Khuzaymah in his Saheeh (no. 1689)and others]. Ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with him) said,
“The woman’s prayer (salah) most beloved to Allah is the one she offers in the darkest part of her home”
[Narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah (no. 1691, 1692) and Al-Tabarani in Al-Mu’jam (2/35)]. There are many other narrations to this effect that it is better for a woman to pray at home than the mosque. Hence, because Islam advises women to pray at home and that it is better than even praying in the Prophet’s Mosque behind the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself, it free mixing should be forbidden with even more reason!
Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
“The best rows for men are the first rows, and the worst ones the last ones, and the best rows for women are the last ones and the worst ones for them are the first ones.”
[Sahih Muslim (no. 440), Abu Dawud (no. 678), Al-Tirmithi (no. 224). Al-Tirmithi declared it authentic]. Hence, the Prophet (peace be upon him) told the women that if they came to the mosque, they should firstly remain separate from the worshiping men. Then he described their foremost rows to be worst and the last rows as the better ones. This was only to keep the women praying behind away from mingling with, seeing and having their hearts attached to the men in front of them on hearing voices or watching movements of the men. The Prophet (peace be upon him) described the last rows of men as the worst if there were women in the mosque. The reason behind this is that men in the last rows missed being near the Imam (prayer leader) and instead found positions near the women who are a cause of distraction and may even spoil the prayers by making these men lose concentration and sincerity in worship. Hence, if the Prophet (peace be upon him) expected this to happen in a place of worship, then how about free mixing? Free mixing in which men and women are much closer!
Zainab, the wife of ‘Abdullah, reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said to us:
“When any one of you comes to the mosque, she should not apply perfume.”
[narrated by Muslim (no. 443), Ahmed (6/363)]. The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said
“Do not prevent the female servants of Allah from visiting the mosques of Allah, but they may go out (to the mosque) having no perfumed themselves.”
[Ahmed (2/475) and Abu Dawud (no 565)]. Ibn Daqeeq al-‘Eed said
“This indicates that it is forbidden for a woman who wants to go to the mosque to wear perfume, because this causes provocation of men’s desires, and it may even be a cause of provoking women’s desire (and sensuality)… The scholars also included other things under this heading of things to be avoided by women who want to go to the mosque, such as beautiful clothes, jewelery that can be seen and excessive adornments”. Ibn Hajar added, “and similarly, mingling with men.”
See Fath al-Baari, 2/279.
Usama bin Zaid reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying:
I have not left after me any (chance) of turmoil more injurious to men than the harm done to the men because of women.
[narrated by Al-Bukhari (no. 5069) and Muslim (2740)]. Since the Prophet (peace be upon him) described women as being a fitnah (temptation, trial) for men, how can the temptation and the temptable be placed together? This is not allowed!
Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
" The world is sweet and green (alluring) and verily Allah is going to install you as vicegerent in it in order to see how you act. So avoid the (allurement of) women: verily, the first trial for the children of Israel was caused by women.”
[Sahih Muslim (no. 2742)]. The Prophet (peace be upon him) made it obligatory upon Muslim men to avoid (non-Mahram) women. But how can we act on this hadith in the presence of free mixing? This is impossible, hence free mixing of the sexes is forbidden.
Abu Usayd Al-Ansari said he heard the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) say
when he was coming out of the mosque, and men and women were mingled in the road: ‘Draw back, for you must not walk in the middle of the road; keep to the sides of the road.’ Then women were keeping so close to the wall that their garments were rubbing against it.
[Abu Dawud (no. 5272)]. The Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade them from walking in the middle of the road since it leads to temptation, then how can one permit mingling in other places?
It is narrated from ‘Umar that when the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) built the mosque, he made a door for women and said,
“Men should not enter from this door.”
[Abu Dawud Al-Tialisi in his Sunan (no. 1829) and Al-Bukhari in his Al-Tarikh Al-Kabir (1/60)].Hence, the Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade men and women to mingle with each other when entering and exiting the doors of the mosque by forbidding them to use the same doors. This prohibition was enforced to block the means to free mixing. If free-mixing between the sexes is forbidden in such a condition, it should be forbidden at other places too with all the more reason!
Umm Salama (may Allah be pleased with her) said,
“Whenever Allah’s Prophet (peace be upon him) finished his prayers with Taslim (saying salam at the end of prayers), the women would get up and he would stay on for a while in his place before getting up.”
In another narration, the words are:
“When the Prophet finished the prayer with Taslim, the women would depart and enter their houses before Allah’s Apostle departed.”
In the third narration in Bukhari from her,
“In the lifetime of Allah’s Apostle the women used to get up when they finished their compulsory prayers with Taslim. The Prophet and the men would stay on at their places as long as Allah will. When the Prophet got up, the men would then get up.”
[Sahih Al-Bukhari (no. 849)]. Here, we see that the Prophet (peace be upon him) prevented mixing between men and women by his action. This action cautions us against free-mixing between the genders in places other than the mosque as well.
Mi’qal Bin Yasar (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
“If the head of one of you is pierced with an iron needle, it is better for him than to touch a woman who is not legal for him (to touch).”
[Narrated by Al-Tabarani in Al-Mu’jam Al-Kabir (20/213), Ibn Abi Shaybah in Al-Musannaf (4/341) and the narrators were declared trustworthy by Al-Haytami and Al-Mundhiri].
Abu Umamah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated from the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he said,
“It is better for man to press (against himself) a pig smeared with clay and mud, than to press his shoulder against the shoulder of a woman not legal for him (to touch).” [Al-Tabarani 4/326, though Al-Mundhiri said that a narrator in the chain is extremely weak].
Hence, the Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade men from touching women (and vice versa), whether with or without a barrier (like a cloth etc) if he is not her Mahram due to its evil consequences. So, free mixing between the sexes too is forbidden for the same reason.
A person who ponders on the evidence presented by us will clearly see that the opinion that free mixing among men and women does not lead to fitnah (trials, temptation) is a figment of imagination of a few people. However, in reality, it does lead to fitnah and that is why Islam forbade from it; in order to nip the evil in the bud. The special circumstances which are due to necessity or extreme need in places of worship, e.g. the mixing of men and women in the Grand Mosque at Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina are exceptions to the rule. We ask Allah to guide the misguided among the Muslims and to increase the guidance of those Muslims who are guided. We ask Allah to make the Muslims rules to do good, leave evil and physically stop the foolish people. Indeed, Allah is All-Hearing, Near (by His Knowledge) and Responsive!.
by Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim
Translated by Abu Maryam Bilal