‘separate meeting for sisters and brothers’

Q: assalaamualaikum

We recently had a meeting in MSA and A few people suggested that we should have separate meeting for sisters and brothers. We would like to know what’s islamic ruling for meeting where both genders are present to discuss how to raise awareness about Islam on campus and how to serve Muslim students on campus and muslim community in state of Utah. Is this allowed or Not?                   Time: Thursday May 13, 2010 at 10:10 pm
Answer: وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته

MSA is a religious group. It would be best for it to function as such. In the formulation of rulings, we realize that if two opinions exist on a matter, it would always be best to travel the  safer route.

Being a youth group and youth being the prime age of possessing desires, safety should be exercised on all matters. Amongst the many options, we have focused on the following for your benefit:

Option 1)

Considering that the above query has become an issue of repeated concern in the form of it repeatedly being sent to my email box, i have opted to address it as follows:

Under ideal conditions to have separate meeting locations would be ideal. Females having a representative is sanctioned through sunnah.  At the time of Rasulullah (SAW) woman did represent other woman and came forth with whatever need other woman needed addressed to Rasulullal (SAW).

Likewise, during current MSA meetings, once woman have discussed given matters amongst themselves, emails can do justice to share that which has been discussed for the benefit of both genders. These emails should not be privatively sent. They should be sent to all key members of the group.

To assert that men and woman must be present  side by side for meetings would be foolish — be it from a religious or secular perspective. As we are aware, in long distance dealings (inter/national) one need not be physically present for a million dollar contract to go through. Likewise in dealing with the times, to ask for such a separation in line with technological advances  would not be too much to ask, for those seeking it as such.

(For students, it would also improve writing skills and mastering the art of media based communication. Are we not student groups that could thrive on this experience?)

Option2)

If meetings are to be held with both genders present with an appropriate barrier, (since everything cannot be viewed on email) — mainly due to certain practical purposes, then under such conditions, men and woman can meet with proper arrangements being imposed so as to allow for a separation between the genders. Example, sisters with their biological brothers, etc. Those that do not feel comfortable should be allowed to abstain without adverse consequences, etc.

We have to note the following; this is a Muslim based organization in a secular setting. It has to represent the rules of caution and the character of religion and secularism without salvaging the integrity of either one within the confinements of its religious appeal. I am aware that many of you work, educate in a gender-mixed environment, etc. Under ideal conditions this would not function as justification to freely mix. The right thing to do is to not turn your religious environment into a religious den of mockery.

At the same time we cannot segregate to such an extent that we stifle relations with those that are not part of the faith so as to inhibit the fulfillment of religious obligations  in a secular environment.  A delicate balance would have to be formulated by your group without the sacrifice of core religious elements.

Although ideal conditions would require for total partition, MSA being a student group seeking practical Islam must also learn to deal with what goes on in the real world without sacrificing cherish values. It is better students learn now on how to deal with aspects of religion, instead of making a mockery of themselves and religion later on.

Allah Certainly Knows Best.

P.s.  My sincere advice would be to also send this query to other local scholars to help evaluate this matter. More so, extend the assistance of Br Yassir who has dealt extensively with your organization. Sheik Ali being a senior member of this community and has helped the community grow spiritually could also be of great help. Kindly show my response to them; likewise, seek a written response from them as well, so as to maintain their religious integrity and minimize accusations of something that did not say or infer.

p.ss. It would be easy for me to give an ideal answer of yes or no. That would not help out the complex nature of our interaction in light of how we function on an everyday level, e.g. work, etc.

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