mixed outings, gender

Q: Dear Imam:

First of all, I would like to thank you for your balanced and very convincing ways of outlining the fatwas.

My question is about mixed outings between both genders. I am raised up in a non-religious family. Therefore, I am use to going out with my male and female class mates at school in groups. Taking my male class mates as brothers and implementing very respectful friendships with them. At University, I started to be more aware of the differences between traditions and religion and started to take things slowly to become a better Muslim. Now, as I am graduating, am wondering if my friendships and outings with the opposite gender is considered to be sinful? Note that as well my working position in a Public Relations and Marketing agency influences that kind of lifestyle on me.

Jazak Allah Khayran

Time: Sunday January 16, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Q: Excuse me for being outdated. When I married XXXXXX (name withheld) we agreed to not attend mixed gatherings. We are both beautiful and we both draw a fair share of attention. We agreed that this would be best for us. So far it has worked. Lately our parents are getting offended by us and huge arguments have erupted. Our friends are offended by us. Our former opposite gender friends are angry that we do not hug them anymore or hand out as we used to. (I not hugging a former male friend, my husband does not care to hud his female friends, etc. My question, what is the sharia ruling of mixed gatherings and can we attends with the above in mind?

Email October 21, 2010 at 5:31 am

A: I likewise appreciate both your queries and patience on this important matter that our youth are constantly confronted with. It always seems that woman are more concerned about this topic. I understand each of your dilemmas as it relates to cross gender interaction/communication and have shared my response in light of academia as well as religion.

Focus on this VERY first important point and ignore the rest if you wish:

Allah places questions and answers in the heart of every person. Thus we must sometimes ask our heart for the fatwa (ruling), for deep down we often know that which is correct. This statement of mine is derived from hadith. Likewise, we sometimes ask a question not due to a lack of knowledge on a given matter; rather it may be due to us possibly seeking validation for an issue that confronts us. Other times we merely seek justification for an issue that is doubtful to us. I am confident that Allah (SWT) wants both of you to be guided, and thus you both are asking for an added nudge so you can do the right thing. I truly appreciate this in our current culture.

Era of temptation, social facts first

We are living in times wherein meeting members of the opposite gender is rather common. We even have cases of ‘religious girls’ (woman) and ‘religious men’ sneaking out and going to lunches and dinners with strange men for attaining a promotion on the job, acceptance to given fields of study at universities due to sideline/secret rendezvous/meetings, attaining scholarships as a result of inappropriate interactions, etc. It is our religious contention that little good can be derived from a flawed foundation (Derived from hadith.)

As both of you are aware, we are living in ‘strange times,’ thus we must learn to embrace our times without the baggage of our past and yet embrace positive change for a better future by making good choices as it relates to our social interactions. Life is too precious for us to do things that would cause us to live a life of regret. I agree, although you both may be able to control your lusts and desires, others may not be able to do so upon you, thus Islam has opted for a method that relates to prevention of a given action as part of its cure. (Takbeer)

The cure as well as the ‘brotherly argument’ has allowed for many affairs to occur

Meeting strangers as brothers is truly perplexing.  Although I am convinced that you would not marry a biological brother, it remains ironical as to how often these ‘fake brothers’ end up being so much more than ‘our brothers.’ Often these ‘fake brothers/sisters’ are treated with more respect than our biological brothers/sisters.

Research in the field of communication studies has well articulated: task oriented relationships (i.e. guy and girl interactions on the job) do have a great potential of resulting in physical relationship. Work related interactions are a convenient way to find out about another. After-all you meet every day, you share personal stories resulting in an inevitable; before one knows it, employees and classmates have gotten more than they have bargained for. Research has also made reference that social interaction occurring between those we know contributes to a greater potential of facilitating an affair then an interaction with a total stranger. These facts are known to majority of social relational researchers.

The poet

The Arab poet could not have said it better, first it’s the gaze, than the touch, before you know, the sin is committed (paraphrased –class notes from student days). That is why Allah commands men and woman to lower their gaze. Research has made clear that men in particular find it difficult to go on a ‘date’ or attend a mixed affair and keep their eyes down. Modern day research has also made clear that it is difficult for man to not objectify a woman that shows off her attractiveness. No wonder Allah (SWT) has articulated: do not get close to zina, meaning, even if the bond with the male is clean, the fact that is associated to closeness, such a bond should be abstained for the possible scar it can leave behind.

Often such social interactions are viewed as fruitful, yet, many young woman are suffering relational losses due to their past being exposed with fellow ‘ male friends.’ (Our website is living testimony of such drama.) In all honesty, such drama is not worth it at all. Why live a life of regret when age is at your advantage that assists you to do so much better!

Your field knows better, this I know for a fact! (Upon meeting reporters etc on a regular bases)

Public relation folks are very culturally sensitive (being formally part of such a major myself and having graduated in a field very closely aligned to your prior to my added studies in religion!) Thus, although you may work or socialize out of necessity, this work/socializing does not demand ‘hanging out together’ or getting ‘too close.’ This usually is a self imposed demand. One should refrain from the unnecessary.

Our final answer for a person that feels they MUST mix:

If you require employment and you are called upon to go to a work related event, the following would be necessary: A) you cannot be in seclusion with the opposite gender, and you meeting with him/her must not be on a mere whim/voluntary fun filled interaction. B) You must be well clad; none of your beauty or adornment must even remotely exist to entice the opposite gender. C) Appropriate distance must remain to avoid touch or a false accusation on your reputation.

May Allah (SWT) bless both of you and keep you both always in search of the Truth, Ameen.

Allah Certainly Knows Best.

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