Separation of Men and Women

‘Adiyy bin ‘Umayrah reported that rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Allah does not punish the individuals for the sins of the community until they see the evil spreading among themselves, and while they have the power to stop it, do not do so.” (Ahmad) Thus, here before me lies an opportunity to send a message to people who think that the best solution to living under the kafir rule is to compromise Islam to suit our needs in the west.

Establishing the Injunction of Separation of Men and Women in Islam

The religion of Islam is a perfect religion and exalted in law. It does not make anything forbidden unless it is harmful to all members of society. From the renowned scholars of the past and of today, there has always been a general ruling derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah that the mixing of men and women are against Islam. In suratul ahzab Allah says “And when you ask (his wives) for anything you want, ask them from behind a screen: that is purer for your hearts and for their hearts...”(33:53)

Although there were actually three commandments in this verse, the one particularly worthy of notice for this topic is observing a covering between men and the wives of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam.

Many people do not hesitate to point out that some verses in suratul ahzab were applicable only to the wives of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and were revealed specifically for the houses of Rasulullah and his Wives. However, these injunctions are binding for all Muslims as we are required to follow the guidance and tradition of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam.

Allah subhana wa ta’ala said: “Verily in the Apostle of Allah you have the best example for everyone who looks forward towards Allah and the Day of Judgment, and remembers Allah much (al ahzab:21)

The only instances injunctions are not applicable to all Muslims is if Allah specifies that a particular rule is meant only for rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and the Ummah is not subjected to it. It is not the case in this ayat of observing a covering that separated the men and his wives (Ibn 'Arabi, Ahkaam-ul-Qur'an, vol. 5, p. 342)

This verse provides the permission to ask, from behind a screen, the wives of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam for any necessary thing, including any matters of religion. And, all Muslim women would be bound by the same rule. Beside this verse, other principles of the Islamic doctrine also tell us that a woman, for her honor deserves to be hidden - her body as well as her voice. (Tafsir-ul-Qurtubi, vol. 14 , p. 227)

Um Salmah radi Allahu anha says that she and Maymoonah radi Allahu anha were in the presence of the holy Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam when Abdullah ibn Um Maktum, who was BLIND, came there. Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said "Go behind the curtain and screen yourself" Um Salmah said "O Prophet of Allah, he is Blind. At this Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said "are you also blind? don't you see him? (Agreed upon by Tirmidhi, Ahmad and Abu Dawud)

’Aisha radi Allahu anha said, "The riders would pass us while we were with the Messenger of Allah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. When they got close to us, we would draw our outer cloak from our heads over our faces. When they passed by, we would uncover our faces.” (Hadith - Recorded by Ahmad, Abu Dawud and ibn Majah, Narrated 'A'isha. [In his work Jilbab al-Marah al-Muslimah, al-Albani states (p. 108) that it is hasan due to corroborating evidence. Also, in a narration from Asma {who was not the wife of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam), Asma also covered her face at all times in front of men.)

If the holy wives of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam whom Allah subhana wa ta’ala himself had selected to be the spouses of His beloved Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, and who have had their purity announced in the Qur’an, are still asked to go behind the curtain, it is tantamount proof that the mixing between men and women has heavy consequences in this life and in the Hereafter.

Oqbah bin Amer reports that Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said "Beware of mingling with women" A man from the Ansar asked "O messenger of Allah, inform me about the Hamwa (Hamwa are the relatives of the husband except for the father and son). He said the Hamwa are death." (Sahih Bukhari and Agreed Upon by Muslim)

Ali radi Allahu anhu relates that he was with Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam when he asked : "What is the best thing for a
woman?" Ali radi Allahu anhu said "All the Sahaba remained silent. When I went and asked Fatima, when she mentioned " They should not look at men nor should men look at them."Ali radi Allahu anhu said " I said this to Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam exclaimed "Fatima is a part of me"(narrated by Daaru Katni)

Hasan radi Allahu anhu reports "It reached me that the Messenger sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said "Allah subhana wa ta'ala curses one who looks and who is looked upon. (Al-Baihaqi)

It is by not mingling with men or being in places were men can look at her that a woman can protect herself and vice versa. Allah subhana wa ta'ala said: "Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do." And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things) "(24:31)

Al Hassan related that he heard rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam say "Allah curses the one who looks and the one who is looked at!" (Mishkhat)

In Sahih Muslim we find that "The eyes commit adultery, which is looking at other women; the ears commit adultery, which is hearing the voice of other women..." (Muslim)

Abu Hurairah radi Allahu anhu relates that Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said a man commits adultery with his eyes when he looks at a strange (non-Mahram) woman"(Sahih Bukhari and Agreed Upon by Muslim also can be found in Riyadh-Us-Saleheen (Arabic English) vol. 2 page 792 Hadith1622)

The following justification are common, and were used to rationalize the breakdown of the physical barrier between men and women in the masjid; "Islam is not a difficult religion: the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam never put a divider between men and women, we do not want to scare the non-Muslims who come to visit."

In response to these, I would first like to point out that any action that encourages taqwa is best. This was the way of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and his companions radi Allahu anhum. It is NOT how the newspapers will perceive us that matters, it is NOT how public school children who use our masjids as fieldtrip exhibits that matters, and it is NOT how local politicians form their opinions of us that matters. Rather, what matters is how much we attempt to remain on the straight path as individuals as well as a community in order to please Allah that matters and be worthy of His mercy on the day of Judgment.

Second, the scholars have agreed that if a fraction of a matter is forbidden then it renders the whole prohibited. The method have the same ahkam as the goals. Avoiding corruption such as men and women mixing is superior to bringing the benefits of such acts. Allah subhana wa ta'ala said: "Help one another in righteousness and piety; and do not help one another in sinning and transgression." (5:2) The community I came from grew out of our adherence to the straight path and out of our encouragement of each other in loving Allah and His message. Islam did not grow out of compromising our ways to the society at large, yet people seem to have forgotten this.

Third, it is well known that rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam did not put a divider between the men and women at the masjid. In fact he merely placed children to divide the two sections. And, in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, 'Aisha radi Allahu anhu was allowed to watch the Abyssinians do their war dance. However, the Prophet was concealing her from them and it was by his approval of what she was doing because the look was in the absence of lust.

However, we need to take this aspect of Islam in context. We cannot pick and choose which sunnah to apply and which ones not to. There were prerequisites to such circumstances. For instance, men and women dressed differently to the masjid. Children in schools were not encouraged to run after boys and girls to get a kiss as is today. Child rearing methods emphasized HAYAH (sense of shame) that brought up nearly pure men and women during that time. And to be blunt about the matter, in those days, there were no pornographic films or emails to see. Anybody that tells me there is no difference between the time frames, has either been asleep all their lives or is finding loopholes to compromise.

At the time of rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam we acknowledge that evil existed in society. There were many fasiqun and hypocrites alike. There was corruption no doubt. But I cannot for one second be convinced that the scale at which corruption and heinous crimes were being carried out then are in the same scale as today.

Here, I am recognizing that while people's fitra do not change, the society around them changes. There is a big theoretical difference in principle. My main evidence to debunk the idea that "time does not change" is in suratul 'asr. Allah subhana wa ta'ala said: "By the passing time, man is indeed in loss, except those who believe, do good deeds, enjoin upon one another the keeping to truth, and enjoin upon one another patience in adversity." (103:1-3)

Here Allah even warns us that through time we will be in loss except for those who do good, enjoin keeping to the truth and enjoin patience.

Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam was also quoted as saying: "In the latest part of my Ummah there shall be women who, would be naked in spite of being dressed, they have their hair high like the humps of the Bukht camel, curse them, for they are cursed. They will not enter Al-Jannah and would not even perceive its odour, although it's fragrance can be perceived from a distance of 500 years traveling by camel."

Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, by saying "in the latest part of my Ummah", recognizes that society will transform, and in this case will transform women for the worse.

In another narration, Abu Hurairah said that rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: "The Hour will not come until a man passes by the grave of another and says, "If only I were in his place." (al muwatta 16.16.53/Yahya related from Malik from Abu'z-Zinad
from al-A'raj )

By a man saying to the dead man, "If only I were in his place" is likewise indicative that society will change for the worse so much so that a living man will wish he was dead.

'Aisha radi Allahu anha, ummul mu'mineen, said "If Rasulullah, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam had seen what women do now, he would have forbidden them to go into the mosques, just as the women of the bani Isra'il were forbidden." Yahya ibn sa'id said that he asked 'Amra, "Were the women of the bani Isra'il forbidden to go into the mosques?" and she said, "Yes." (al muwatta 14.6.15/Yahya related from Malik from Yahyah ibn Sa'id from Amra bind Abd ar-Rahman)

Considering she stated this only a few months after the death of rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, is specifically informing us that the society at large does and will change.

Thus, the argument that at the time of rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam "there were no dividers between men and women therefore today we should not", is faulty because it does not take societal changes into context. There are prerequisites to the Sunnah of not physically dividing the men and women at the masjid. If "most" everyone followed the Qur'an and the Sunnah nearly comparable to the time of rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam then the Sunnah of not dividing the men's and women's section is much deserved. However, I sincerely doubt that while the brothers are exposed to bikini commercials everyday, and the sisters are exposed to Human Sexuality 101 at the university, that there is no need for a physical barrier to divide the men and women at the masjid or any social gathering. It is in these times that we should even be looking out for each other and making sincere efforts to encourage taqwa by word and actions.

Fourth, the reasoning of "We do not want to scare non-Muslims away. We want them to like Islam and become Muslims" reveals a weakness in accepting Qadr as a community. We do as much as we can in dawah, in calling non-Muslims to the truth. But we do so, without compromising any of our beliefs. It is not in our hands that people become Muslims. It is only by Allah's decree. Our task is to present Islam as is, and the rest is with Allah subhana wa ta'ala.

Allah subhana wa ta'ala said: "And if they belie you say; "For me are my deeds and for you are your deeds! You are innocent of what I do and I am innocent of what you do! And among them are some who listen to you, but can you guide the deaf to hear even though they apprehend not? And some among them are some who look at you , but can you guide the blind even though they see not? Truly Allah wrongs not mankind; but mankind wrong themselves." (10:41-44)

We are not like the Christians. We do not pick and choose what we want to follow. We do not pick and choose what to present to the non-Muslims just to get that shahada out from their mouths [the way Christian missionaries do in our countries] so we can rant and rave about being the "fastest growing religion in America."

Abu Dawud and Ahmed have related that Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: "The one who take the similitude (manner) of a certain people, then he/she becomes one of them." By compromising the separation between men and women, we are likened to the Christians who would change colors like the chameleon.

The Ummah of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam is the best due to its exemplary qualities, not because of compromise! One of these qualities being the ordaining of the good and forbidding evil. Allah subhana wa ta'ala said "You are the best of nations produced for mankind. You order what is good and forbid what is evil and believe in Allah." (al-Imran:110) That is one of the things that makes us distinct from the non-believers.

The difference between the Christians and Muslims is we do not move and change with the times. Allah tells us in the Qur'an: "And the Word of your Lord has been fulfilled in Truth and in Justice, None can change His words. And he is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower. And if ou obey most of those on earth, they will mislead you far way from Allah's path. They follow nothing but conjectures, and they do nothing but lie." (6:115-116)

How far are we from Allah when our hearts and eyes are constantly exposed to al munkirat even in Islamic gatherings? Do we instead nourish a diseased heart which no longer recognizes the munkar as munkar?

A Muslim revives the Sunnah of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam in his worship and behavior. His behavior and his life become a stranger among the people he lives with as Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: "Islam began as a stranger and shall return as a stranger as it began. So give glad tidings to the strangers." [Reported by Muslim - Sahih]. And in another narration: "So give glad tidings to the few, those who purify, correct what the people have corrupted of my Sunnah." [Al-Silsilah of Shaikh
al-Albaani - Sahih].

"O you who believe! Take care of your ownselves, [do righteous deeds, fear Allâh much (abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which He has forbidden) and love Allâh much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained)]. If you follow the right guidance and enjoin what is right (Islâmic Monotheism and all that Islâm orders one to do) and forbid what is wrong (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islâm has forbidden) no hurt can come to you from those who are in error. The return of you all is to Allâh, then He will inform you about (all) that which you used to do." (5:105)



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