Have you, my sister ever been in that awkward situation where a man offers to shake your hands? Or stares at you directly? Brothers, have you had those awkward moments where a woman is all to engaging in her manners? Her voice suddenly became soft the moment you spoke to her? Yes, I am sure we all have had our equal share of awkward moments, and sometimes, the person we are talking to is muslim too, but are unaware of certain rules and regulations.
Islam is a complete way of life that governs every aspect of your day-to-day being. From the moment you wake up, right until you fall back asleep, there is nothing the Prophet peace and blessings did not teach us about. Hence, he even taught us about how to interact with people, how to befriend them, how to treat them. He taught us how to address the opposite gender whilst maintaining polite mannerisms, without crossing the borders of obscenity.
All too often, muslims fall prey to ‘societal norms’ and break the rules when interacting with the opposite gender. When these boundaries are crossed, sin becomes easy.
Below is a summary of some Islamic guidelines to maintain when interacting with the opposite gender, whether they be muslim or not:
- Cover your awrah (nakedness): The awrah of a man differs from that of a woman (they are physically different you must admit!) The ‘awrah of a man is from his navel to his knees, however for him to uncover his chest/body unnecessarily knowing that it may cause fitan, is unbecoming of a believer, and from the actions of the immoral. As for a woman, her entire body is ‘awrah, and so should be covered and guarded in the presence of the opposite gender.
- Lower your gaze: In the West, it is encouraged to look at the person you are talking to directly, and maintain eye contact, whether they be male or female. However, in Islam men and women are encouraged to lower their gaze when interacting with the opposite gender, lest they fall into temptation. For Allah commands us saying (the translation of which is), “tell the believing men to lower their gaze…and tell the believing women to lower their gaze,” (An-Nur 24:30-31)
- Avoid khalwah: Khalwah is for a man to be alone with a woman, whether it be in the office at work, at the Doctor’s surgery, in the lift, or any other situation. The Prophet said, “No person (man) should be alone with a woman except when there is a Mahram with her.” (Muslim) This is a clear instruction to us, for our safety and protection from sin and evil.
- No touching: This includes a ‘formal, professional handshake,’ even if the woman in question is wearing gloves. the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “I do not shake hands with women.” (An-Nisa’i, Ibn Majah, Saheeh by Sh Al-Albaani) An the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “For one of you to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle is better for him than that he should touch a woman who is not permissible for him.” (At-Tabaraani, Saheeh by Sh Al-Albaani) Hence all forms of touching, whether they provoke desire or not, lead to temptation or not are all forbidden.
- Protect your reputation: do not put yourself in a situation that may give rise to suspicion. Avoid circumstances that could call your honour and morality into question. Maintain self-respect.
Narrated `Ali bin Al-Husain: Safiya, the wife of the Prophet (ﷺ) told me that she went to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) to visit him in the mosque while he was in I`tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan. She had a talk with him for a while, then she got up in order to return home. The Prophet (ﷺ) accompanied her. When they reached the gate of the mosque, opposite the door of Um-Salama, two Ansari men were passing by and they greeted Allah’s Apostle . He told them: Do not run away! And said, “She is (my wife) Safiya bint Huyai.” Both of them said, “Subhan Allah, (How dare we think of any evil) O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)!” And they felt it. The Prophet said (to them), “Satan reaches everywhere in the human body as blood reaches in it, (everywhere in one’s body). I was afraid lest Satan might insert an evil thought in your minds.” (Bukhari)
- Speak decently: avoid flirtatious talk, giggling, and unnecessary conversations. Sisters should not soften their voices when addressing the opposite gender, Allah says (the interpretation of which is), “O wives of the Prophet, you are not like anyone among women. If you fear Allah, then do not be soft in speech [to men], lest he in whose heart is disease should covet, but speak with appropriate speech.” (Al-Ahzab 33:32) Though this ayah is directly addressing the wives of the Prophet, it addresses all women too, for they were our role models.
- No Mixing: gender segregation is an easy way to cut down on the fitna. If you avoid the presence of the opposite gender you can escape direct interactions with them. There are many instances in which the Prophet sought to make avoiding sins easier for his ummah, by preventing free mixing between the two genders. A prime example is the prayer; men’s rows are at the front and women’s at the back.
To conclude, these rules have been put in place to protect us from sin. Allah knows human nature for He created us; thus His rules are our instructions to life. His regulations are to help us, for He only wants what is best for us.