On Friendship between Men and Women

Answered by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)

Is friendship between men and women permissible?

If what is meant by friendship is mixing between men and women and them joking with each other and looking at each other then there is no doubt that is impermissible. What is permissible is for them to seek to benefit each other and benefit from each other and for them to love each other for the sake of Allah, without shaking hands, mixing, without a man being alone with a woman and without them looking at each other in a way that is impermissible. Allah says: “The Believers, men and women, are protecting friends, one of another“. He thus legislates ties of love, friendship and allegiance between male and female believers, without anything prohibited entering. If people consider friendship to be doing things which are prohibited, then their understanding is warped and they have no proof to support their case.

On Establishing Complete Gender Segregation

Answered by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)

Is complete segregation between men and women best whenever possible?

This is most often the case. Sometimes people do not completely understand what is most beneficial for them, so they may need some preparation to understand that. Allah’s command regarding dealings with the Mothers of the Believers is sufficient for us: If you ask them for something, then ask them from behind a screen. Allah then says: This makes for greater purity for your hearts and theirs.1 These explicit Qur’anic texts are sufficient. Before the verses of hijab were revealed, some men inclined towards praying in the back rows (closer to the women) and others, out of fear for their religion, strove to pray in the front rows. As a result Allah revealed: We know those of you who hasten forward and We know those that lag behind. Surely it is your Lord Who will gather them together; for He is perfect in wisdom and knowledge.2 How can this not be enough for someone? Here there is a specific command: Say to the believing men that they must lower their gaze… and say to the believing women that they must lower their gaze.3 Anything which assists in implementing this command can only be praiseworthy. We also know that it is permissible for a group of men to address a group of women so we should not jump to prohibit that which the Sacred Law has not prohibited but at the same time we should not belittle that which the Sacred Law has recommended.

1 Al-Ahzab, 33:53

2 Al-Hijr, 15:24-25

3 Al-Nur, 24:30-31