Category Archives: Gender Relations

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

 

 

 

 

On Partition between Men and Women in Mosques

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

Some people claim that there should be no partition between men and women in mosques on the basis that such a partition did not exist in the time of the Prophet . How do we respond to such people?

After the verses that commanded women to wear the hijab were revealed, women were described as walking in al-Madinah like ‘black crows.’ Since there was no barrier between men and women the Prophet ﷺ said (referring to the prayer): “The best rows for men are the front rows and the worst are the back rows; the best rows for women are the back rows and the worst are the front rows.” The statement of Sayyidah `A’ishah – “Had the Prophet seen what women are doing now, he would have prevented them from coming to the mosque” – is an indication of the understanding which she took from the Prophet, based wholly on modesty. [These three narrations are evidence of the level of modesty prevalent amongst the Companions which meant that partitions were not a necessity. It is obvious that such a level of modesty is absent from society today.]

Partitions are only a means to accomplish the objectives [of preserving modesty and establishing Allah’s worship in the best way]. Women may need to change their clothing to prepare for prayer and if they are able to do so in concealment then this is better. Both men and women love to take advantage of the time they have in the mosque to attain complete humility in front of Allah [and the existence of a partition assists them in this]. If those with experience in secular education have found that segregating students along gender lines is more beneficial to their learning then it only fitting that we do the same in order to accomplish the higher objective of establishing the prayer correctly. Along with this we know that placing a barrier between men and women is not an obligation, and neither is it is prohibited so there is no reason for the issue to cause unnecessary argumentation. We need to remove the barriers that exist between the hearts by showing mercy and respect, having a good opinion of one another and working together to do good.

 

On Removing Gender Partitions at Gatherings

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

Is it permissible to attend a gathering of knowledge in which men are sitting on one side and women on the other without a partition between them?

It is permissible to attend as long as there is no looking at the opposite sex and no shaking of hands between men and women. You must look at your heart to decide whether there is benefit in attending and whether your faith increases.

There is no problem being in a gathering in which men and women are sitting together if they are non-Muslim and you are intending to call them to Allah.

When people are ready, organisers should aim to place a partition between men and women. Someone who has been blessed with the methodology of Islam should not be affected by his environment but rather he should have an effect on the environment and improve it.

 

Some organisers of talks and gatherings in North America prefer that there is no barrier between men and women at these events. They do this to accommodate different people’s views and because they believe it is more in keeping with living in the West. This has led to a number of problems. What advice would you have for them?

At times ignorance of the subtleties of understanding the reality in which we live and how to interact with it causes people to make mistakes. We take our understanding from the Sacred Law and any measures we take should not lead to something which is forbidden or disliked. Whatever situation we find ourselves in should be a means for elevation and if we find something which is wrong we should correct it. We should not merely follow a trend that is prevalent. Our role in life is to rectify that which is wrong, straighten out that which is crooked and to enlighten that which is darkened. It is true that at times we need to take things slowly and gradually but we should never lower ourselves and neglect the Sacred Law. We can never make a secondary issue a foundational issue and we can never make a foundational issue a secondary issue. We cannot make the main priority being in keeping with our situation (in the West) and make observing the etiquettes of Islam and the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ a secondary issue. We should venerate the Sunnah and act upon it and we should know that our mission is to establish it and spread it. All sections of the Ummah are in the utmost need of following the way and the teachings of the Prophet ﷺ in the knowledge that this is the methodology which is most beloved and most pleasing to Allah.