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Islam and lawful mixing of men and women in society

By Yusuf Al Qardawi

(Translated by Syed Ubaidur Rahman)

Some words have existed in our lexicons from the very beginning. Nonetheless these words have acquired new meaning in recent past. This includes the word mingling or mixing of man and woman. Even during the time of the Prophet, women used to meet men and men used to meet women. And this mixing used to happen during religious and social gatherings. It was never forbidden completely. On the contrary, with some restrictions, it was allowed when there was a need for such meetings.

Nonetheless these were not called mixing of sexes. The word ikhtilate or mixing has become a much abused word these days. I don’t know when this word actually came to be used in this meaning. The meaning that the word indicates towards is despised by both Muslim man and woman. This is because of the fact that the word ikhtilat or mixing has been derived from khalt and this denotes mixing something in other substance till they become one. Mixing of salt and sugar in the water seems to be the most apt example of the word.

It must be pointed out here that all sorts of mixing are not forbidden by Islam, as the proponents of extremism claim. Similarly all the sorts of mixings are not allowed by Islam either as is being portrayed by the people who have been swayed by the Western civilization.

I have discussed this issue in detail in my book Fatawah Ma’asirah. There are some questions that are related to mixing of man and woman, while some other are related to questions like greeting woman and shaking hands with her. There are some other questions that are related to man treating woman and vice versa. A careful Muslim who is eager to know about these issues in details needs to consult those fatawa.

We need to adhere to the guidance that has been given to us by the Prophet (pbuh) and the rightly guided Caliphs. It is the best guidance and the Prophet (pbuh) has assured us that this leads us to success in this life and in the life Hereafter. The Prophet (pbuh) has commanded us to follow his Sunnah, along with the sunnah of the rightly guided Caliphs. He has asked us to follow them with the best of our abilities and not be swayed by wrongful and misguided norms of other societies.

By carefully analyzing the guidance by the Prophet and his Caliphs, one reaches the conclusion that at that time woman was not confined inside the boundaries of her house. Nor was she kept aloof from social issues that seems to have become the norm when Muslim societies became educationally and culturally laggards.

During the time of the Prophet (pbuh), that is described as the best of all times (khairul qurun), women used to join daily congregational prayers including the dawn and night prayers, besides Friday prayers. The Prophet (pbuh) used to prompt them to make rows behind men and children’s rows. It was better if they formed their rows towards the end of the prayer hall as there was fear that sensitive parts of men’s bodies might be exposed to them. At that time most people were not very familiar with undergarments or pajamas. The fact that must be kept in mind is that there was no partition between men’s rows and women’s rows.

Initially both men and women used to enter the Mosque of the Prophet from all the gates. Later when the number of Muslims increased and at time there was a stampede like condition, the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Can we leave this gate for entry of women alone”. This gate was dedicated to women and is known as the Gate for the Women (Babun Nisa).
Women used to be present in Friday’s congregational prayers in a very large number. A woman even memorized Surah Qaaf while listening to it from the Prophet (pbuh). It was the habit of the Prophet (pbuh) to recite the Surah Qaaf during the Friday sermons.

Similarly women also attended the prayers offered during Eidul Fitr and Eidul Azha, the two festivals that Muslims celebrate every year. During the Eid congregations, people, old and young, male and female used to assemble in the open outskirts where they would chant the name of Allah and offered special Eid prayers. Umm Ateyya, a witness of the Prophet’s era said, “We were frequently instructed to go out for the two Eids.”

Similarly women also attended the prayers offered during Eidul Fitr and Eidul Azha, the two festivals that Muslims celebrate every year. During the Eid congregations, people, old and young, male and female used to assemble in the open outskirts where they would chant the name of Allah and offered special Eid prayers. Umm Ateyya, a witness of the Prophet’s era said, “We were frequently instructed to go out for the two Eids.”

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