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Gender Apartheid or Respectable Interaction?

Muslim “progressives” suggest that the separation between men and women in mosques was established much later in Muslim history than during the days of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny). They have also tried to link that with the Wahhabi influence on the Muslim world. Those views are either sheer ignorance on their part or plain intellectual dishonesty.

The separation of genders is found in mosques run by all sects of Islam, from Sunni to Shia and from Wahhabi to Sufi, based on the explicit example left by the Holy Prophet. Separation is just a facilitator towards modesty, used according to circumstances, for maintaining respectable interaction as opposed to free mixing of genders in public spaces.

The first generations of Muslims in America established their Islamic centers with meager resources, modeled upon their cultural structures where women were assigned a smaller, inferior space. They also didn’t realize the challenges of their new homeland. It is high time many religious centers were modified to address the needs of our time and place, as well as being made female-friendly.

But in their quest for user-friendly centers, Muslims shouldn’t lose sight of their core Islamic values either. An Islamic center should not only reflect its unique architectural features in appearance, it must also infuse Islamic moral-ethical values into the community. Muslims should not just sheepishly imitate every norm that they see around themselves, especially when that imitation clashes with the Islamic texts they claim to follow.

Qur’anic and Historical References

Islam is based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet. While it does not necessarily reject local social customs, it does expect its followers to modify whatever is against its values. One of the core Islamic values is modesty in interaction between genders.

The story of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) and Prophet Shu’ayb’s daughters, mentioned in the Qur’an (28:23-28) and traditions, reminds us of inward and outward modesty (haya’). When Moses fled Egypt and reached Madyan, he came to a well where he found a group of men drawing water for their flocks. Nearby, he saw two young women holding back their flock.

He went to the two ladies and asked, “What is the matter with you that you are holding back your flock?” They said, “We cannot draw water until the shepherds move away with their sheep from the well, and our father is a very old man,” meaning he could not do the task himself.

Upon realizing the modesty of the women who did not like to mingle with strange men, Moses offered to help. He watered their sheep for them, and went back to the shade for resting.

Upon returning home, the sisters narrated the incident to Shu’ayb, and he asked them to call Moses so that he could thank him. Then, one of the two women came to Moses walking modestly and invited him on behalf of her father. They went back to the girl’s house, with Moses walking in front so as not to see her bodily features.

After Shu’ayb thanked Moses, one of the ladies said, “O my father, since we do not have a young man in the family, employ him to work for you; surely the best person that you can employ is the one who is strong and trustworthy.” Shu’ayb not only offered employment to Moses, he made him his son-in-law.

This Qur’anic story teaches us that in Islam: 1. Mixing and mingling of unrelated men and women is discouraged; 2. Women may, whenever necessary, participate in the socio-political-economic spheres of society outside of their homes, but they must do so with haya’; 3. Even in permissible interaction, haya’ must be observed in dealing with the opposite sex; 4. Islamic guidelines regarding separation or maintaining the distance between genders are not only for the mosque.

The vast majority of Muslim scholars, Sunni and Shia, accept the following traditions of the Prophet. We see that even when women came in Hijab (Islamic attire) to the mosque for prayers, the Prophet preferred that at the time of leaving the mosque, the men stay behind so that the women could exit first. Later, still in his lifetime, a separate entrance was made for ladies, so that there would be no chance for mingling inside. The Prophet did not even like the mingling of men and women in the streets. Even when women participated in the prayer at the mosque, the men and the women did not mingle; they maintained their distance. That is partly why some women asked the Prophet to dedicate a day for “ladies only,” so that they could meet him and ask questions away from men.

Therefore, the norm in most Muslim societies has been to keep men and women apart by a barrier or designated separate spaces whenever there is a gathering of Muslims. It is clear that this norm can be traced back through the centuries to the example of the Prophet of Islam himself.

Why is Modesty Stressed in Islam?

The concept of haya’ is manifested in Islamic teachings in different ways: the respectable interaction between men and women, the dress-code, and also, the separation of genders in Muslim gatherings. One can also refer to chapter 24, verse 33, of the Qur’an for examples of how men and women should behave with one another.

The obvious result of ignoring the value of haya’ in society is a rise in pre- and extra-marital affairs, marriage breakdowns and children being born out of wedlock. This is to say nothing, of course, about flaunting indecent behavior by shamelessly talking of one’s illegitimate sexual relations – something which seems to have become a non-issue with some people.

The separation of genders in public has nothing to do with the superiority or inferiority of one over the other, and it definitely is not “apartheid.” Separation of the genders has to do with promoting decency and modesty. Separating men and women or enforcing modesty in their interaction also helps them stay focused on their work. That’s one reason many successful corporations discourage employees from having romantic relationships with each other.

When it comes to a woman’s involvement in society, surely Islam allows respectable and sanctified interaction; it clearly does not allow unnecessary mingling. One may make a personal choice not to follow this explicit guideline, but then one should not expect Islam to endorse such behavior.

I know of many Islamic organizations where, in spite of a physical separation in the centers, women fully participate at all levels of the decision-making process. Of course, more and more centers need to do that, but on Islamic terms, not secular ones. It is not Islam that needs reformation; it is Muslims who need to be reformed, to reach higher levels of submission to God’s will.

Muslim men and women shouldn’t compete against one another; they should be complementing one another in promoting the good and preventing the evil (Qur’an, 9:71).

But do the so-called “progressive” Muslims even know what is really right and what is wrong according to Islamic teachings? I think not.

Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi is the resident scholar of the Jaffari Islamic Center in Toronto, Canada. He is the author of Islam: Faith, Practice, and History, Shi’ism: Imamat and Wilayat, and numerous other books and articles on Islamic affairs.

This article originally appeared in The Arab American News.

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  • Abdullah

    We Find In Masjid Al Haraam And Nabawi To This Day There Is Respectable Interaction. Was This A Later Day Innovation Or Was It Always Like That? I Have Looked Up The Rulings Of Contemporary Shi’ah Jurists And They Say There Is Nothing Wrong With Respectable Interaction So Long As Shari’ah Modesty Requirements Are Observed. I Am Not In Favor Of Strict Segregation Because It Isolates Our Women And Neither Am In Favor Of Free-Mixing Due To Greater Possibility Of Sin. Isn’t The Right Course Of Action Somewhere Between The Two Extremes? Does That Make Me A Progressive Or A Moderate?

  • Jafer

    just because they do it in masjid nabi does not make it right. i think they do it for convenience reasons. and they have guards watching you at all times, so nothing fishy can ever happen! 😛

    what do you mean that segregation isolates our women? doesn’t it isolate our men too? it works both ways…

  • otowi

    Well, when there is segregation it is usually the women that end up with less access to the scholars, less ability to see/hear lectures, lower quality facilities, etc. Is there such a thing as separate but equal? 😉

  • Jafer

    [quote]The first generations of Muslims in America established their Islamic centers with meager resources, modeled upon their cultural structures where women were assigned a smaller, inferior space. They also didn’t realize the challenges of their new homeland. It is high time many religious centers were modified to address the needs of our time and place, as well as being made female-friendly.[/quote]

    😀

  • frequent reader

    I am so glad that someone has the courage to speak about this important issue.

    It seems so fashionable for men and women to sit together and engage in silly and immodest gossip. Unfortunately, there are few in North America who dare to point out that this not only lacking in taste, it is forbidden! Maulana Rizvi hit it right on the head: yes, men and women can share space provided that their is a higher cause, but if that interaction has no special purpose, it is to be avoided. The Prophet showed this when he allowed men and women to pray together in the masjid in Medina but with the women sitting behind the men. He also demanded that separate doors be built for men and women so that they would not have an excuse to run into each other and mingle.

    Regarding the points some have made about Masjid an Nabi and Mecca, there are some special rulings for those places which do not apply for other places. If you want to forgo killing even blades of grass and insects at your Islamic Centers or making sure that no Muslims enter due to their being holy sanctuaries, as is case in the Grand Masjid of Mecca, I would be very surprised.

    Additionally, Lady Fatima Zahra avoided mixing with men. When she debated with Abu Bakr, she chose to speak to him from behind a curtain. We should not laugh off such etiquette because it is clearly the manners of Ahlul-Bayt.

    Always check with the rulings of the Grand Scholars (the Maraje) on such matters as mixing. What they say has been stated clearly in the article above.

  • Abdullah

    I am sorry but I think you are wrong. Have you ever been to Ziyarat of Hadrat Zaynab (as) or Imam Ali (as) or Imam Husayn (as)? There is no segregation there but rather you will see respectable integration. This strict segregation is an Indo-Pak thing inherited from hindu culture. If you think I am wrong then tell them to segregate at the shrines of Imam Ali (as) and Imam Husayn and Abbas (as).

    It is so easy to pick a hadeeth here or there to justify almost any stance. The proof of your folly is staring you right in the face when you go for Ziyarat. Salaam.

  • H.

    Brother Abduallah, with all due respect, I would have expected better manners when speaking to others, especially such a respected writer !

    Segregation is NOT limited to one country. I’m from the middle east and segregation is present. Also, at the shrines, I was under the impression that there were separate entrances for males and females.

  • frequent reader

    Brother Abdullah, I have been to the shrines. Where in Lady Zainab’s shrine can men and women mix? If you enter the hall where she is buried, the men and women are completely separate. They have different doors to enter the hall. They even have separate shoe areas! If you go for Friday prayers nearby on the same property, the men and women pray in congregation but in different rooms. The same is true for the other shrines. I cannot think of one place our holy personalities are buried where men and women are encouraged to interact. Insha-Allah you will visit the places and see for yourself one day.

    And by the way, please do not use words like ‘folly’ lightly. I have seen that the use of such terms is often highly coincidental.

  • Abdullah

    Have you been to Ziyarat of Najaf and Karbala? Integration is more obvious there than in Syria. See for example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SJiQxnOXp4
    Now that is the way things should be everywhere, not like in Indo-Pak oriented centers.

  • frequent reader

    The clip you provided is not the shrine but the courtyard outside. It is also rather curious that you provided photos of Indians and Pakistanis sitting separately and say that is proof that they can sit together. Anyway, what matters is not what everyone on the street is doing but what our grand religious authorities (maraje) uphold.

    It seems to me that you have an idea in your mind, that separation is only an Indo-Pak thing. You have said the evidence is ‘staring you right in your face’ but when we show you the evidence you provide pictures you think support your view but are quite plainly not doing that. You should re-consider your views.

  • minimadmonkey

    to be quite fair, I believe Abdullah is referring more to the fact that there is a tendency in Indo-Pak cultures to consider physical barriers in particular a near absolute necessity. of course, the other [i]hayas[/i] are upheld unconditionally, or at least should be.

  • Abdullah

    Exactly! I want to see the barriers removed. Put women who wear hijab on one side of the hall and men on the other side of the hall with NO barrier and equal access to seeing the live speaker and asking him or HER question eye to eye. Then you can have a seperate shack in the back for women who don’t wear hijab or don’t want to be in the main hall.

  • frequent reader

    Abdullah, you are not exactly making sense now. You are not even making a case for what to do based on Islam now. Instead, you are just saying ‘I want to see the barriers removed’ in the name of protecting women’s rights. Although I do not endorse this, you could put a curtain between the men and women so that the hall mostly divided and put the speaker on the end where everyone could see him and it would still be better. But no, you want the men and women to be in full view of each other. Why?

    I find what you are saying to be extremely rude. There are many religious centers where men and women are in separate places and both sides are treated well. Your saying ‘you can have a seperate shack in the back (sic) for women who don’t wear hijab or don’t want to be in the main hall’ is extremely insulting. Muslim men should not speak so carelessly about their women’s dignity.

    Your idea of putting men and women in the same place makes sense if there is a reason to interact with the speaker. What you are suggesting though doesn’t even mention this important Islamic tenet.
    Instead, you want to mistreat Muslim women who don’t agree with your positions by putting them in a shack. Those are your words, not mine. God forbid our religious centers become a place where people with your sort of manners are prevalent.

  • anonymous

    salam alaikum,

    it’s not only an indo-pak tendency. even in iran, there’s strict segregation, not only in the shrines of imam ridha [a] and masuma qum and for religious events but also public transports like busses!

    brother abdullah, what barriers are you talking about? it’s not like the barrier deprives a woman of her right to ask questions to the scholar. also, is it necessary for women to *look* at the speaker? she can hear what the speaker has to say.

    i think we need to break out of the mould defined by the western societies on what is oppression of women and what isn’t; what is liberating and what isn’t.

    i’m a sister by the way, in case you misunderstand.

    ps: can the administrator please delete the above comment. i don;t know how it came that way.

  • otowi

    Personally, I would like to be able to look at the speaker. I can listen to him/her better when I can see him/her rather than just listening to a disembodied voice which does not work as well for me personally. Same thing for TV – I cannot listen as well to a TV as to the actual speaker. Even when I watch TV at home, it is always with closed captioning on so I can better get the people’s words, even though I hear fine. Maybe it is because I grew up with a hearing impaired member in my household, I don’t know. I also find that often things are more noisy on the women’s side in many places I have been if they can’t see the speaker – people pay attention less and think it is more okay to talk, wander around, etc., again making it much harder for people to concentrate. But for me, if I can’t see the speaker, I might as well stay home.

    I don’t really care if there is a curtain or wall between the two sides, that is fine with me – but just a sincere question – if the people are all observing hijab, what is wrong with the part suggested above that there is no barrier between the two sides? Is there something in Islam saying there must be a barrier there?

  • frequent reader

    Otowi, regarding the issue of the curtain or partition, it is a facilitator for modesty. If you read the article that Maulana Rizvi wrote, it’s very clear that Islamic guidelines encourage it. Just because women wear the scarf in a gathering does not mean that negative things will not happen there. The organizers of such gatherings are duty-bound to do their best in protecting others from such occurences.

    It is a sad state that many so-called ‘Islamic gatherings’ are just meeting places where the seeds of lust and debauchery are sowed. I do not agree that the issue of women being mistreated should be conflated with separation of the genders.

  • Another Frequent Reader

    Abdullah: Before you make any further claims on a religious issue such as this, we would like to know about the extent of your religious knowledge and experience. What kind of Islamic education have you obtained? What are your qualifications? And how do these qualifications stand up to those of Sayyed Rizvi? 😮

    Otowi: Have you ever seen how easily teenage boys and girls (and even some adults!) get distracted during the lecture when the separation is removed? 🙂

  • Abdullah

    Do you do taqleed of Sayyed Rizvi or me or Ayatullah Sistani or someone else? I am telling you I have already looked up the rulings of several Maraaji’ on this issue and Sayyed Rizvi’s views are much more restrictive and segregative then even the Marja’! I challege you to prove to me what I am suggesting is haraam. It is not. It is in fact mustahabb. This indo-pak style barricade between the women and the speaker prevents the women from learning. Sister Otowi is telling you the truth and I have heard the same complain from so many sisters. When they can’t see the speaker they lose attention and the women get too noisy and they go home with almost nothing. Many women say it is a waste of time to come to the center due to this problem.

    I want to see the barriers removed. Put women who wear hijab on one side of the hall and men on the other side of the hall with NO barrier and equal access to seeing the live speaker and asking him or HER question eye to eye. Then you can have a seperate shack in the back for women who don’t wear hijab or don’t want to be in the main hall.

    Why are you not open-minded? Am I telling you to disobey Allah? This is the optimal solution so everyone gets maximum benefit.

    When you isolate the women from actually seeing and hearing the speaker live most women come home empty handed and the women’s side becomes a talkathon fashion show in most centers I have been too.

    Wake up and smell the coffee. Your backward thinking is causing us to lose the next generation.

    And please request Sayyid Rizvi to stop doing his end-lecture in Urdu. Most of us don’t understand Urdu. Everything should be in English. If he wants to lecture in Urdu tell him to go back to India.

    Do you expect people like me and Otowi to learn Urdu? Why should we? This is an English speaking country and lectures should be in the language of the people here. Even our Marja’s say that.

    وما ارسلنا من رسول الا بلسان قومه ليبين لهم فيضل الله من يشاء ويهدي من يشاء وهو العزيز الحكيم
    And We never sent a messenger save with the language of his folk, that he might make (the message) clear for them. Then Allah sendeth whom He will astray, and guideth whom He will. He is the Mighty, the Wise. 14:4

  • Another Frequent Reader

    [quote]I am telling you I have already looked up the rulings of several Maraaji’ on this issue[/quote]
    Let’s see them, please.
    [quote]It is in fact mustahabb[/quote]
    😮
    [quote]If he wants to lecture in Urdu tell him to go back to India. [/quote]
    Watch your language. We are lucky to have a scholar like him in North America.
    [quote]Do you expect people like me and Otowi to learn Urdu? Why should we? This is an English speaking country and lectures should be in the language of the people here. Even our Marja’s say that.[/quote]
    [url]http://islamicinsights.com/religion/religion/islam-and-the-role-of-language.html[/url]

  • Hasan

    Abdullah, did you even bother to read the article?! The Sayyid uses Qur’an and Hadith to prove his point. This is not a Fiqhi matter, so I doubt the Maraja would even have a fatwa on such an issue. Plus, just because something is not explicitly haram does not mean it’s a good idea. And in that regard, an aalim like Sayyid Rizvi knows a lot better than you or Otowi what’s best for our communities…

    P.S. Most communities do try to accommodate the women by having live video broadcast of the sermon in the women’s section. I know plenty of sisters who are able to listen/watch the speech as well as ask questions if necessary. However, what can we do if some sisters would much rather sit and gossip during the entirety of the program? We can provide for their needs, but we can’t police them! 😀

  • otowi

    Pardon me, but I have not made any claim to know what is best for anyone. I simply asked a question. Is that somehow wrong? I do not believe I have said or done anything disrespectful. And, I don’t think I lack haya because I learn and concentrate best and therefore prefer if I can physically see a speaker that is speaking, but maybe I’m wrong. I already stated that I do not mind if there is a barrier in the audience. I just happen to feel that when you put people in front of a TV screen or just a wall without even the TV, they are less attentive and able to get less out of it than in front of the real speaker. I have made no objection or disagreement with anything in Maulana Rizvi’s lecture. Of course our people need more haya, even in the comments sections we do, eh? So maybe I shouldn’t comment any more or ask any more questions.

    • jesyl

      yes, i agree with otowi. i like being separated. i do. but i see no reason for a wall. a barrier is fine. it may be easy for someone to say someone else should be behind a wall, but just imagine if it were reversed. it is nice to be able to see, and you do get more out the speaker if you can see his gestures. otowi is not saying anything entirely normal for all people. we are to be separated… in back, to left or right.

      • jesyl

        my gosh, i just read further up and realized that the word barrier is disputed. in my mind i was thinking of a rope barrier like for lines to form in, or some plants maybe, but nothing like a wall.

  • mohammed.husain

    I suggest we turn off anonymous commenting. It’s seems like anonymity encourages people to behave in ways they otherwise wouldn’t. We should be able to stand by our words.

  • H.

    [quote]I suggest we turn off anonymous commenting. It’s seems like anonymity encourages people to behave in ways they otherwise wouldn’t. We should be able to stand by our words.[/quote]

    I completely agree with the Sister here. It has to strike some irony however, that those complaining about negative comments and attacks, were the very same who led the attacks in previous articles. Such as, “The Hijabis We See” and the Gender Equality Piece.

  • frequent reader

    Personal attacks are not to be tolerated. Whenever I have disagreed with something, I have tried to do so based on the teachings of Islam. Not only that, I have provided references from primary Islamic texts upon which we base our ideas.

    When you hear someone tell people to go back to their country and that they should stay in shacks, that’s when you know they’ve lost the debate. 😉

  • frequent reader

    Salaams,

    Sister Otowi, I like hearing what you have to say. You have made many good points over many weeks on Islamic Insights. My family and I love going to Islamic Insights and we just read over the comments. Our opinion of you has not changed. Please keep posting.

    Everyone, I suppose more more proof is important. It should not be necessary considering that Maulana Rizvi is Ayatollah Seestani’s special trusted representative to Canada, and not just someone who would be throwing his views out there. In addition to that, Maulana Rizvi has done great things for our community here in Toronto. He only speaks for five minutes in Urdu and for about 35 minutes in English. If you add up how much he is speaking in English versus other languages, more than 95% is in English! It is only to keep the senior citizens involved that he speaks a little Urdu at the end of the lectures. Additionally there are many times where he gives a whole talk in English and also other speakers visit who speak all English. I love learning from him, may Allah bless this man who was one of the first to start English speeches for the Shia community, anywhere in the world.

    I decided to search for this paper came across a similar version of this paper to the World Federation propagators of Islam conference. This is what the IEB chairman of the time had to say:

    [i]
    Preamble by the Chairman of the Islamic Education Board

    The following paper has been authored by Syed Muhammad Rizvi and was presented for discussion at the IEB Muballigheen Retreat held in London from 30 September to 2 October 2005. The paper was tabled for discussion under the theme ‘Three Burning Issues Facing the Community’. The response from the Muballigheen was unanimous – they agreed the paper dealt with the subject most competently and that the resulting action should be for the guidelines to be circulated to the Jamaats and to be adopted as a code of conduct across the board in our communities.

    The Islamic Education Board would like to present this to the Executive Council and recommend its adoption as a guideline by Jamaats, having already been endorsed and recommended by leading Muballigheen of the community.

    Safder Jaffer
    IEB Chairman

    February 2006[/i]

    Source: [url]http://www.world-federation.org/Secretariat/Circulars/Mixed_Gathering_guideline_for_community.htm[/url]

  • otowi

    [quote]I completely agree with the Sister here. It has to strike some irony however, that those complaining about negative comments and attacks, were the very same who led the attacks in previous articles. Such as, “The Hijabis We See” and the Gender Equality Piece.[/quote]

    Are you talking about me? I am not aware of having attacked anyone, nor “leading” any attacks. Perhaps someone needs to contact me and clarify what problems they have with me.

    salaam alaaykum

  • Abdullah

    “Islam says neither imprisonment nor mixing, instead
    the sanctity [of hijab and decent interaction] is to be
    observed.”
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&rls=com.microsoft:en-US&q=Islam says neither imprisonment nor mixing, instead the sanctity site:world-federation.org

    Sistani Q&A:

    Q. 1 Is it permissible to organize
    religious and educational gatherings in
    which young men and women will
    participate with observance of Islamic
    rules of interaction (that is, without
    any intention of lust and without any
    threat of corrupting morality)? Let it be
    clear that such a program will be
    organized under supervision of parents
    and sympathetic religious persons.

    Answer: No objection, provided:
    [a] girls observe the Islamic hijab
    completely;
    [b] girls sit separately from boys;
    [c] both sexes should observe the
    respect and dignity in character,
    conversation, and dress in such a way
    that they never put themselves in any
    sinful or corrupt situation.
    It is highly recommended that in the
    beginning of such gatherings a
    religious scholar, with sound reputation
    and Islamic behaviour, should exhort
    the audience, explaining to them the
    harms of abandoning the Islamic laws.

    Q.2. Can young men and women in
    such gatherings exchange views and
    discuss issues in the form of debate
    and argument?

    Answer: If the topic is, from religious
    point of view, an appropriate subject
    for discussion and exchange of views
    between the boys and girls, and if what
    has been mentioned in the previous
    answer is observed, then there is no
    objection.

    Q.3. Can young men and women in
    such gatherings which has been
    organized specifically for them give
    speech and present papers on religious
    and educational topics for each other?

    Answer: With the observation of the
    conditions already stated, there is no
    objection.

    Q.4. In order to encourage these
    youths to get married among
    themselves so that their religious
    interests will be preserved, is it
    permissible to organize activities under
    the supervision of the parents and
    sympathetic religious persons to allow
    them to know each other through
    conversation and discussion?

    Answer: Their knowing each other is
    attainable through the activities
    mentioned in other questions.

    http://islamicinsights.com/religion/clergy-corner/gender-apartheid-or-respectable-interaction.html?cpage=20

    Apologies for offending. I just don’t see Rizvi’s views in harmony with Sistanis. Why is he pushing for strict segregation when he himself says it is imprisonment???

  • otowi

    I didn’t see anything in the article that specifically said that people could not, for example, be in the same room but on two different sides – unless I misunderstood? He mentioned separate entrances and separate areas, but I’m not sure that meant absolutely two different rooms?

  • Abdullah

    http://www.world-federation.org/NR/rdonlyres/9F39FBB6-1C7C-4011-B726-D1DBB56E6407/0/2006Conf_MixedGathering.pdf

    “Islam says neither imprisonment nor mixing, instead
    the sanctity [of hijab and decent interaction] is to be
    observed.”

    Obviously they would have to be in the same room for decent interaction, hopefully not with a wall between them. LOL. You Indo-Pak types are rediculous. I am sorry if that hurts your feelings but you guys make no sense. You go against the Marja’s advise and resort to imprisonment (segregation) though you admit that decent interaction is the correct course!

  • Link

    Salaams all,
    It is quiet upsetting to see how certain individuals assert their own understanding of Islam all over and try to pass of things which are not mustahab as mustahab and twist the rulings of the marjas.

    Abdullah, with due respect please bring forth proof that what you are stating is actually deemed Mustahab by any marja let alone Ayatollah Sistani.

    What you fail to realise just as you did on the thread where you picked up the link to this article is that the rulings of the Sayyid state certain conditions one of which is that Hijab has to be observed. If there is a lack observence of Hijab then that gathering becomes haram if there is no segregation. Furthermore, Ayatollah Sistani gives conditions to imply that IF an organisation really wishes to do an event then the conditions have to be implemented. And know this that if any of those conditions cannot be met then the segregation becomes an obligation. It is not optional anymore.

    One more thing to note here is that Islam has given us Fiqh and Akhlaq. While in Fiqh certain things maybe deemed acceptable but from an akhlaqi point of view they might not come across as being acceptable. In this situation of segregation the rulings presented in the paper linked from World Federation if one pays attention to the questions posed to Ayatollah Sistani he has stated that if so and so conditions are met then it is okay that answer indicates that he is giving purely a fiqh view. When a marja gives a ruling he has to take into consideration that not everyone is at the same level of understanding. The marjas when they formulate their rulings taking into consideration as to what can be expected from everyone in the society regardless of whether they are layman, scholars, young or old. However there is an akhlaqi side to which has a relation to Fiqh and in this situation of the Hijab, the akhlaqi side would mean that having a segregation is better. I do not wish to say mustahab because I cannot assert that but if someone has contact with the representatives of the marjas maybe they can inquire about this point specifically in regards to this situation.

    Lastly, Abdullah hold on your tonuge and stop speaking so ill of everyone. Your problem is that you disregard the akhlaqi side of the situation all the time. Islam is not only Fiqh but it also includes Akhlaq, Usul, Mantiq and many other subjects. To look at one and disregard the other is choosing the religion selectively. The examples you have given in this comments section do not indicate anything. Segregation takes place in all Shrines notice I said Shrines not the courtyards or halls. As for your comment about Masjid e Nabawi there is segregation there too. Just because this aspect is not implemented in the courtyards does not mean that we should disregard it completely. As for decent interaction that you are quoting so vehmently try to read the answers by Ayatollah Sistani regarding that too. It is only acceptable if it is regarding a certain subject or the topic of discussion. Not free mingling rather notice the fatwa quoted by Sayyid Rizvi regarding free mingling.

    And no, by doing segregation it does not make Indo-Pak look ridiculous or anything. The point is that you cannot tolerant anyone opposing your twisted interpretation of Islam. You have time and time again failed to back up your logic regarding certain aspects and you have misquoted and applied flawed logic to justify certain things, be it your love of polygamy or your understanding of the concept of tab’eed regarding Taqleed. You should really stop misinforming people it is not good and moreover cast your day when you will be questioned about these things.

    WS

  • frequent reader

    I just realized something. Abdullah thinks I’m Indo-Pak!!! 😀

    If he had just read the link I provided as well as the original article, he would see that the article is about [b]respectable interaction[/b]. So how can anyone say Maulana Rizvi is against all gatherings in which men and women share the same space? In fact, in the article Abdullah has so selectively quoted from, Maulana Rizvi mentioned the different gatherings in which mixing is acceptable provided certain Islamic requirements are met. Note that the gatherings in which a speaker is presenting and the audience is not participating are NOT endorsed:

    Whether a mixed gathering is proper or not depends on the purpose of the gathering:

    * If the gathering is of a nature where segregation and/or partition do not defeat its purpose, then mixed gathering should not be encouraged.
    * If the gathering is of a nature where segregation and/or partition will defeat its purpose, then mixed gathering is permissible with the condition of hijãb and decent behavior.

    Let us look at some examples: majlis/milad, lecture; madrasa/class, workshop, meeting, conference and seminar, marriage ceremonies and receptions.

    Majlis & Milad: Normally, the majãlis are of monologue nature where the zãkir speaks and the audience listens. The purpose can be achieved with segregation and/or partitions between the two genders, and so I don’t see any reason to remove the partition/barrier in majlis – more so in milãd (celebrations) where men and women come dressed up with make up and cosmetics. (It is needless to remind that if a lady applies visible make up on her face, then she cannot show her face to the non-mahram, she will have to put a veil on her face.) In a segregated area, the women do not have to worry about hijãb, and can be relaxed and free in meeting one another.

    Lecture: Normally, at the end of the lecture, the audience is allowed the opportunity for interaction with the speaker in the question-answer session. In this kind of program, both genders should have equal visual access to the speaker for them to participate in the question-answer session. Having a partition between men and women in the audience will not defeat the purpose and therefore I don’t see any reason to remove the partition between the genders in the audience.

    Madrasa & Classroom: Teaching involves a lot of interaction between the teacher and the students, and also, sometimes, between the students themselves; and so having partition will hinder the purpose of such program. But then the teacher has to ensure that the boys are seated separately from the girls, and there should not be any indecent interaction between the two genders – neither in the classroom nor in the hallways. It is obvious that full hijab must be observed in such a setting; and the teachers/organizers are responsible to maintain the Islamic environment in such events.

    It is worth mentioning that, according to a report presented in November 2004, a Richmond Hill public school (in Ontario, Canada) started a pilot-project of offering gender-separated classes. After three years’ experiment, the teachers reported “more productive classes, greater student participation and higher grades in both genders.” (Instead of blindly following others in name of ‘progress’ and ‘modernization,’ we should uphold our values and let the rest of the world catch up with us!)

    Seminar & Workshop: The nature of workshop involves interaction between the moderator and the participants as well as among the participants themselves. In such a gathering participants may interact with one another in a formal/professional manner with adherence to full hijab.

    Conference & Committee Meeting: the same format as the workshop will apply here also.

    Marriage Ceremony & Reception: In marriage ceremonies and receptions, people normally come dressed up, especially the women who use cosmetics and make up, and so any kind of mixing and mingling between members of opposite is not proper at all. Asking non-mahram men and women to sit at the same table in a wedding reception surely puts one into a situation of unlawful glance and the chances of improper mingling increases. Keeping the Islamic values in mind, the only decent format, in a wedding reception, would be for the men and the women to be seated in segregated areas. (It has been observed that even when the card says ‘Islamic dress code is mandatory,’ there is no guarantee of enforcing it or ensuring that it is a proper hijãb. In such gatherings, the problem is not only bi-hijãbi, it is also bad-hijãbi.)

    Wherever we have suggested that partition may be removed, it is absolutely necessary to observe the rules of hijab and decency: the ladies must observe full hijab covering the entire body (even the hair) with the exception of the face and hands.

    Source: http://www.world-federation.org/Secretariat/Circulars/Mixed_Gathering_guideline_for_community.htm

  • minimadmonkey

    salaam all,

    Now I feel sorry for having said anything. No offense to anyone, but people need to stop belittling/insulting others especially learned people(of course I won’t single someone out 🙂 ) and also stop taking offense when they were not offended.
    Balconies may be a good solution to this problem. They allow good visual contact and also maintain hijab and haya.

    wa salaam

  • Jesyl Gonzer

    I consider myself a progressive Muslimah, and I really see nothing wrong with what was said. I like to not feel jostled or touched in large crowds. I like to be with other women during prayer. I think it’s fine. At work we find ourselves together, asking questions and giving direction. This is a work environment and there is no problems interacting to carry out our duties. What I wish to restate is this part: Muslim men and women shouldn’t compete against one another; they should be complementing one another in promoting the good and preventing the evil (Qur’an, 9:71). This is of course, in context to evil, and we all know Allah wants harmony. But what I do not like is when this is misused to suggest that I should not compete for advancement in the workplace.

  • Musa

    Salam everyone,

    I thought I’d put my two cents into this debate…I completely agree that mosques should be segregated during prayer times, this is clearly indicated in Islamic practice. However I tend to disagree that the genders should be segregated during social functions. As we all know (and don’t bother denying it) homosexual acts, although not necessarily homosexuality, are rampant among both men and women throughout the Islamic world.

    The solution to this problem is not continued segregation of men and women. Islam has a solution to the urges that all of us have….Mut’ah. But how are we supposed to find spouses for this mustahib, sacred institution if we do not have contact with members of the other gender?? In addition men and women have much to learn from each other, why should we cut ourselves off from knowledge?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying men and women should interact without haya’. Interacting with respect, equality and honesty is key in Islamic society (or any society). Although I’m arguing against segregation, I’m not arguing for zina, speaking about your sexual exploits, or anything else like that. I’m just arguing that Mut’ah and interaction among men and women is far preferable to homosexual actions. In addition, we all know the hadith about seeking knowledge, even if it takes us all the way to China, why not seek it from the opposite sex?

    Just a different perspective. Wassalam.

  • Noor

    It’s worth noting that the biggest mixed gathering in the Islamic world is in Hajj, in particular during tawaaf. I’ve always wondered why this obligatory act involves so much mixing and one cannot help but bump into na-mehrams at some point of tawaaf due to sheer numbers.

    • dot

      It’s also worth noting that the rules for hajj and the sacred masjid in Mecca are completely different from any other time. Some of the rules of hajj include not being able to kill even blades of grass or insects.

      Sister, if we want to use hajj as a reason for casual mixed gatherings, logically you should be following the other rules too on a daily basis. 🙂