THE VERDICT OF JURISPRUDENCE
The verdict of Islamic jurisprudence is just the practical expression
of the dictates of the faith. Women, according to Sharia, are counterparts
of men. And in Islamic jurisprudence, there is no separate order of regulations
for them. There are, however, few limited secondary regulations where
a distinction is drawn between the two sexes. But these are intended purely
to enable both of them to give a genuine expression of their faith in
accordance with their respective human nature. But the Sharia (or Islamic
law) is essentially the same, and its general rules are common for both
the sexes; it is addressed to both without any distinction. The underlying
presumption in the Sharia is that sex is immaterial, except where the
text makes the distinction or where proof can be adduced to that effect.
Thus personal religious services for a woman in Islam, for instance, are
the same as for a man. She has to perform her prayer, fasting, pilgrimage
to the Holy Kaaba and remember God.
Just like men, women have to observe the general religious standards relating
to personal conduct, social dealings and moral behaviour - like being
truthful, fair altruistic, beneficent, righteous and well-mannered. Islam
does not provide different moral codes for men and women. Even in matters
of public life they, too, are expected to do their part and endure the
sufferings of life as patiently as men are supposed to do. They too are
expected to show solidarity with the community of believers and to forsake
the comforts of their home and hearth to migrate to the state of the Muslims,
to wage jihad with them, and to promote the well-being of their society.
In all these matters there is no distinction between Muslim men and women.
For God has proclaimed, "And the believers, men and women, are allies,
of each other, enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong, establishing
prayer, giving alms and obeying God and his messenger. As for these God
will have mercy on them, God is Mighty and Wise". (Tawba, 71)
Women have an equal opportunity and incentive to share in every aspect
of religious virtue: "God has got ready forgiveness and tremendous
rewards for the Muslim men and women; the believing men and women; the
devout men and women; the truthful men and women; the patiently suffering
men and women; the humble men and women; the almsgiving men and women;
the fasting men and women, the men and women who guard their chastity;
and the men and women who are exceedingly mindful of God". (Al Ahzab,
Tradition has it that Umm-Salmah said to the Prophet, "O Messenger
of God! The Quran speaks of men but does not speak of us, women".
As a consequence, the above-cited verses of the Quran were revealed.
Islam assigns a Muslim woman a due role to play in discharging collective
responsibilities which preserve the essence of the religious society in
general. She must, therefore, assiduously apply herself to fulfil her
part; for if all Muslims neglect to discharge these collective responsibilities,
she would have to answer for that default like every man. Some special
obligations like maintenance of the family, attendance of group prayers,
and the levy or mass general conscription for war are too onerous for
the ordinary female. Islam has relieved women from attending to these
as a matter of original, personal responsibility, if Muslim men can sufficiently
attend to them. That does not mean that a woman is barred from doing any
of these things. She may very well participate in all such activities
even when there is no dearth of men to do them. However if men are not
fulfilling their due obligations in this regard, it would be her duty
to compensate their default or complement their effort.
None and nothing in Islam may stand in the way of a woman contributing
to the general good and competing for religious achievement. The equal
personal responsibilities of women in Islam are evident and clearly established.
That collective duties are commonly borne by men and women is shown in
the practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who commanded women to
act charitably and give for the sake of God, and in that women used to
In his collection of authentic traditions, Al-Bukhari narrates on the
authority of Ibn-Abbas, who said: "I attended the prayer of Eid-ul-Fitr
along with the Prophet, (peace be upon him) and Abu Bakr and Uthman. They
offered the prayer before the sermon. Later the Prophet (peace be upon
him) delivered his Eid address and then moved ahead making his way through
the people, till he reached the ladies, accompanied by Bilal. The Prophet
(peace be upon him) read out the following verse from the Holy Quran:
'O Prophet, when believing women come to you to offer their oath of allegiance
that they will not associate any thing with God, nor will they commit
theft, nor indulge in fornication, nor murder their children, nor slander
any one, nor disobey you in whatever that is fair, do accept their oath
of allegiance and beseech God to forgive them. Indeed God is the most
Forgiving and most Kind'". [Al Mumtahinah, 12]
"When the Prophet had finished with these verses, he said to them:
'Are you all committed to that? One of the ladies replied, (while others
kept silent), 'yes'. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not, at that
time. know which of them did so! The Prophet (peace be upon him) went
on to ask them to make their donations. Bilal spread out his shirt and
said: 'Donate, my parents be sacrificed for you ladies'. And they all
dropped their rings, studded with precious or ordinary stone)".
Throughout the period of the Prophet's ministry, women used to offer their
prayers, even the early morning and late evening ones, along with the
congregation of Muslims in general. In his collection of authentic traditions
Bukhari narrated: "I (the Prophet) like to prolong the prayer but
when I hear a child weeping I make it shorter for I loathe to make any
inconvenience to the child's mother". Similarly, Muslim, another
prominent authority on traditions, narrated in his own collection of authentic
traditions: "If your women ask for permission to visit the mosques,
do allow them to do so". On the authority of a report by the Prophet's
wife, Sayiadh Aishah, it is stated that the Prophet (peace be upon him)
used to offer the morning prayer whence the ladies would disperse completely
covered in their dresses and they could not be recognised in the darkness.
Muslim Women used also to participate in military expeditions bringing
water to the thirsty combatants, treating the wounded, and carrying them
to safety, and sometimes engaging in active warfare. The Quran refers
to this and other exploits of men and women, "And their lord responded
to them: I suffer not the work of any worker male or female to be lost.
You proceed one from another. So those who fled and were driven forth
from their homes and suffered harm for my cause and fought or where slain,
verily I shall remit their evil deeds and shall bring them into gardens
underneath which rivers flow as a reward from God, and God offers the
fairest of rewards". (All-Imran, 195)
Even the Prophet's own wife, Sayidah Aishah, actively participated in
such military services. Anas stated, "In the Battle of Uhud when
the Muslims were routed and were put to flight from the Prophet, I saw
how Aisha bint Abu Bakr and Umm-Saleem were extremely busy carrying waterskins
on their backs and emptying them into the mouths of the Muslims".
There were other prominent ladies who equally participated in the war
effort: Umm-Sinan Al Aslamyiah, and Ummyah bint Qais (as reported by Tabaqat).
Hamnah bint Jahash was one of those ladies who pledged allegiance to Islam
and participated in the battle of Uhud, bringing water to the thirsty,
transporting the wounded to safety and giving them the necessary treatment.
(Al Isabah). Al Rabee bint Mua'weth, also known as Laila al-Ghifariah,
used to accompany the Prophet (peace be upon him) in his military campaigns,
treating the wounded and looking after the sick. (Al-Isabah). Bukhari
gives the following report from her: "We were with the Prophet (peace
be upon him), giving water to the thirsty, treating the wounded and bringing
the dead bodies of the Muslims to Madina". Umm-Dhahhak bint Masoud
also accompanied the Prophet in his military campaign of Khaiber. The
Prophet gave her the same share of spoils there as he gave to man. (Al-Isabah)
Safyiah bint Abdul Mattalib, too, was one of those women who actively
participated in the battles: "When the people took off for the military
campaign of Al Khandaq, the Prophet (peace be upon him) placed his women
in a small fortress called Fari, and Hassan bin Thabit was also left with
them. Later a Jew came and climbed up the fortress till he was in a position
to command a full view of all. Saifyah belted herself around the waist,
took a pole and descended upon him striking him with the pole till he
Nusaybah bint Ka'b is another lady who witnessed the battle of Uhud. She
intended to bring water to the wounded, but she in fact took an active
part in the fighting, and on that day brought great havoc to the enemy
and wounded twelve of them severely. When the Muslims pulled back and
exposed the Prophet, she stood her ground firmly in his defence. (Tabaqat).
The Prophet (peace be upon him) appreciated her much and praised her.
When she heard the news that her son Habib was killed in battle, she swore
either she would die in front of Musailamah, or kill him. She participated
in the battle of Al Yamamah along with Khalid bin Al Waleed. Her son Abdullah,
too, was with her. He was killed in battle while she as well lost one
of her arms. (Al-Isabah)
Another case is Umm-Haran bint-Malhan. The Prophet (peace be upon him)
went to the daughter of Malhan and stood by her side and then laughed.
She said to him: "Why are you laughing, O Messenger of God?"
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Some of my people would sail
on the Green Sea (the Mediterranean) for God's sake". She said to
him: "Please pray that God may include me with them". The Prophet
(peace be upon him) prayed for her. (Bukhari). About Umm-Saleem bint Malhan,
Sahih Muslim reports that, in the battle of Junain, she had a dagger which
she carried about.
From the preceding exposition, it is evident that in defence and other
collective duties and obligations of public life Muslim women may participate.
But they are not duty-bound to do so, except when the urgency is such
that their participation becomes mandatory. The Mother of Believers, A'yishah,
is reported to have requested the Prophet (peace be upon him) for permission
to participate in Jihad (fighting). The Prophet (peace be upon him) said
to her, "Haj is your Jihad".
According to Ibn-Batal, a commentator, the tradition of A'yishah mentioned
above proves that participation in fighting is not binding on women, but
the statement that Haj is their Jihad does not bar them from volunteering
for Jihad. Bukhari seems to express the same opinion.
On the basis of the uniform principles of Islamic jurisprudence, a Muslim
Woman enjoys the same capacity and freedom enjoyed by a man. She too can
propose to a man for marriage, orally or in writing, she can freely choose
her spouse, reject a suitor she does not like or obtain divorce from an
estranged husband against his will. But a male relative normally formalises
the marriage contract, and marriage dissolution or divorce on a woman's
initiative is only granted by a judge.
Umamah bint Abi'l-As was one lady companion of the Prophet (peace be upon
him) who proposed for marriage in writing. She sent a message to Al Mugheerah
bin Naufal saying: "If you feel you stand in need of us then proceed
forth". He then sought her hand in marriage from Al Hasan, her cousin,
who duly solemnised the marriage. (Al-lsabah)
An account about Sahal bin Saad Al Saidi in the books of authentic traditions
tells about a Muslim woman who proposed verbally to the Prophet (peace
be upon him) himself. She told him: "I present myself to you".
She then waited for quite some time while the Prophet kept looking at
her. A man said to the Prophet: "If you don't need her please marry
me to her". The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked him: "Do you
have anything to offer as dowry?" The man replied: "I don't
have anything except this loin cloth". The Prophet (peace be upon
him) said to him: "If you give her your loin cloth you will remain
without one, look for something else". The man said: "I can't
find any". The Prophet (peace be upon him) then advised him, "Try
to find even an iron ring". He tried in vain. The Prophet (peace
be upon him) finally asked him: "Do you know anything from the Quran
(learnt by heart)?" The man replied: "Yes, such and such Surah
of the Quran", and he named the Surahs. The Prophet (peace be upon
him) then declared: "I solemnize your marriage with her with whatever
verses of the Quran you have as dowry". (All Six Reporters of Tradition)
Regarding the making of marriage proposals to women, one may read the
provisions of the Quran about proposing to a woman whose husband has died,
while she is spending the period of transition, "Iddah". God
says, "There is no harm to you if you make a hint of an offer of
betrothal to women or hold it in your hearts; God knows that you cherish
them in your hearts. But don't make a secret engagement with them, except
in terms indirect and honourable, nor resolve the bond of marriage till
the term prescribed is fulfilled. And know that God knows what is in your
hearts. So take heed of Him. And know that God is most forgiving and most
forbearing". (Al Bagarah, 235).
Regarding the freedom of marital choice of a woman, one may read the provisions
of the Quran about not preventing a woman, by force, from marrying: "And
when you divorce women, and they fulfil the term of their Iddat, either
take them back on equitable terms or set them free on equitable terms.
But do not take them back to prejudice them or to take undue advantage
thereof. Whosoever does that, indeed, he harms his own self". (Al
The Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered that a woman should not be married
but with her own authority and consent. The Prophet (peace be upon him)
ordered: "Do not marry a non-virgin except on her instruction, nor
marry a virgin except with her permission; and her silence may go for
permission". (Bukhari). Whether a girl is a virgin or not, the Prophet
(peace be upon him) would not allow their marriage under compulsion. Ibn-Abbas
stated that a virgin girl came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and
told him that her father had got her married without her approval. The
Prophet (peace be upon him) gave her complete freedom to choose whichever
course that pleased her. (Reported by Abu Dawoud, Ahmed, and Ibn-Majah).
Another girl came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and complained that
her father had married her to his nephew against her wish, the Prophet
gave her the choice of rejecting the marriage. But she said to the Prophet
(peace be upon him), "I endorse what my father did, but I wanted
to show women that parents have nothing to do in the matter". (Ibn-Majah).
The dissolution of marriage and the grant of divorce by the judge on the
wife's application is normal practice in personal law. A wife can have
whatever creed of scriptural religion at variance with her Muslim Husband
without any compulsion. She can and should acquire any education without
any limit or hindrance. It is reported that Prophet (peace be upon him)
strongly recommended the good education of girls. Abu Bardah Ibn-Abi Musa
quoted his father as saying that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
three people will be doubly rewarded by God. Any one from among the people
of the scriptures who believed in his own Prophet as well as in Prophet
Muhammad (peace be upon him), a slave who endeavours to meet his obligation
towards God as well his masters and anyone who has a slave girl and strove
to educate her and teach her well and then gives her freedom and marries
her. (All the six reporters of tradition). It is worthy of note that women
have been attending the general assemblies for learning held by the Prophet
(peace be upon him).
Women are entitled to full freedom of expression of their proper views.
Sayidah Ayishah is famous for going all-out to advance her juristic opinions.
Muslim ladies used to venture their views in the presence of the Prophet
(peace be upon him) as well his successors, the Caliphs. Ibn Al-Jauzi
narrated the virtues and merits of Umar bin Al-Khattab (God bless him)
in the following words: Umar forbade the people from paying excessive
dowries and addressed them saying: "Don't fix the dowries for women
over forty ounces. If ever that is exceeded I shall deposit the excess
amount in the public treasury". As he descended from the pulpit,
a flat-nosed lady stood up from among the women audience, and said: "It
is not within your right". Umar asked: "Why should this not
be of my right?" she replied: "Because God has proclaimed: 'even
if you had given one of them (wives) a whole treasure for dowry take not
the least bit back. Would you take it by false claim and a manifest sin'".
(Al Nisa, 20). When he heard this, Umar said: "The woman is right
and the man (Umar) is wrong. It seems that all people have deeper insight
and wisdom than Umar". Then he returned to the pulpit and declared:
"O people, I had restricted the giving of more than four hundred
dirhams in dowry. Whosoever of you wishes to give in dowry as much as
he likes and finds satisfaction in so doing may do so".
According to Islamic jurisprudence a woman is competent to own property
and dispose of it in any manner. The Sharia generally provides for an
equitable and fair role for women in the economic life of Muslim society.
Just as much as they share in the management of family affairs, they can
contribute to the support of the family, although they are not legally
bound to provide maintenance. A woman can share outdoor work with the
man to earn a common living. Asma bint Abu Bakr is said to have narrated
that when Al Zubair married her, he had no land property, nor a slave,
nor anything else, except a camel for * lmgation * and a horse. She said:
"I would give fodder to his horse, draw the water, patch his water
skin, knead the flour. I was not good at baking and preparing bread; but
I had some sincere Ansar neighbour ladies who used to help me with the
baking. I used to bring, on my head, fruit kernels from the land which
the Prophet (peace be upon him) had given to Al Zubair. That land was
at a distance of three farsakhs (about ten miles). One day I was on my
way home with a load on my head when I met the Prophet with a number of
Ansar. the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked me to ride, behind him on
the camel, but I felt shy of joining the company of men. The Prophet (peace
be upon him) realised that I was feeling shy and, therefore, continued
his journey without me. Later I came to Al Zubair and told him how I met
the Prophet (peace be upon him) with a company of Ansars, and how I declined
his offer when he bade the camel to kneel so that I might ride behind
him. I told Al Zubair I felt shy and remembered your jealousy over your
self-respect and honour. On hearing that account Al Zubar said, 'By God
your carrying fruit kernels is far more distressing for me than riding
the camel with the Prophet'. Later Abu Bakr sent me a servant to save
me the trouble of looking after the horse and I felt as if I had been
relieved of the bondage of slavery". (Bukhari).
Muslim couples are supposed to cooperate and consult over matters relating
to their family, even after divorce. The Quran so provides that "Mothers
shall breastfeed their babies for two complete years, if a father desires
that the term be completed. The father of the baby shall provide them
food and clothes in the established manner. None shall be charged more
than his capacity. No mother shall be prejudiced with respect to her child,
nor father with respect to his. The same is the responsibility of them.
If both spouses decide, by mutual consent and consultation, on weaning,
there is no blame on either. If you want to have your babies breastfed
by a foster mother you are not doing anything blame-worthy provided you
pay to the fostermother what you had agreed to offer, in accordance with
the established manner. Fear God and know that God is aware it what you
are doing". (Al-Bagarah, 233).
In an Islamic Society women also take part in the appointment of counselling
and control officers responsible for the public affairs of society. This
may be done either through the process of election or consultation. The
account of the Shura process following Umar's death firmly establishes
this matter. Muslim ladies did actually participate in that general consultation.
Ibn Katheer, the historian, told, "then Abdur Rahman bin Auf undertook
to consult the people about (the candidates) Uthman bin Affan and Ali
bin Abi Talib. He was collecting and collating the general opinion of
the Muslims through their leaders. he consulted them singly as well as
collectively; privately as well as publicly. He even reached to the Muslim
ladies in their privacy". (Al Bidayah Wa-'Nihayah).
The tradition of early Muslim Society was for women to attend all public
meetings and festivals. Authentic reports about life with Prophet (peace
be upon him) give account of women going to attend the two Eid (festive
days) prayers. Even those who were excused from prayer, would also come
to attend the congregation. Hafsah, the Prophet's wife (God bless her)
is reported to have said: "We used to forbid young girls to go out
to attend the Eid prayers. But a woman came to visit and stayed in Qasr
Bani Khelf, and told about her sister, whose husband had participated
in twelve military campaigns of the Prophet (peace be upon him), her sister
took part in six thereof". She said: "We treated the wounded
and looked after the sick. I asked the Prophet (peace be upon him): would
there be any harm in not going out if we do not have julbabs (wide loose
gowns)?" The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, "Let her friend
lend her a julbab so that she may attend the blessed occasion and the
preaching of Islam". Hafsah went on: "when Umm Salma came I
asked her (to confirm): 'Did you hear the Prophet (peace be upon him)?'
she replied, 'Yes indeed I heard him say: all girls, young, screened or
in their monthly periods should go out to attend the Eid congregation
and witness the blessedness and publicity of social Islam. The menstruating
ladies should however stand by during the prayer'". Hafsa asked:
"The menstruating ladies too?" she replied: "Don't you
see that they attend the congregation in Arafa for pilgrimage?".
Another aspect of women in Apostolic society was revealed by an account
of Sayidah Ayishah about how she attended a spectacle of the Ethiopians:
"By God the Prophet was by my chamber's door while the Ethiopians
were showing their spear games in Al Haram. The Prophet (peace be upon
him) covered me with his shawl so that I may too watch their feats. I
was watching them from behind his shoulder. He would pose there for my
sake till I choose to break off". Ayishah suggests: "you should
fully appreciate a young girl's interest in fun". (Bukhari).
Excepting those specific tasks of public life which are obligatory on
men and only voluntary to women, male Muslims in an Islamic Society have
no exclusive prerogative or specialisation.
They have no power or authority over women except in the context of conjugal
relationship. That relationship itself is established and dissolved with
the consent of the female party, and should be conducted in a spirit of
mutual respect, consultation and conciliation. The man is in charge of
the family, but that amounts only to responsibility for financial maintenance
and authority for direction and discipline exercised in a reasonable manner.
Both spouses should share in the management of family affairs, and have
equal authority over their sons and daughters.
Public life is no stage where men alone can play. There is no segregation
of sexes in public domains which call for joint efforts. Thus both men
and women are supposed to participate in congregational prayers. The Prophet,
(peace be upon him) is reported to have said: "Don't stop women form
going to mosques at night". A son of Abdullab bin Umar, on hearing
this statement, said to his father: "We would not allow women to
go out of the house at night for fear of any abuses". * Ibn-Umar
* reprimanded his son: "I say the prophet (peace he upon him) said
so, and you still say you won't allow it". (Muslim).
From the foregoing, it is clear that the Prophet's directive is for women
to go out publicly to frequent mosques even at night, and to attend and
offer Eid prayers. It is also recognised that pilgrimage (Haj), despite
its displacements and thick crowds, is a function performed in common
by men and women. Some over-scrupulous Muslim rulers endeavoured to introduce
some modification in this respect with a view of segregating men and women
in the Tawaf (going round the holy Kabah). But scholars who upheld the
Sunna and favour strict adherence to Tradition, opposed any change in
the practice current in the Prophet's own times. Consequently, the traditional
practice of Tawaf in common remained established and the change fell through.
That was when Muhammed bin Hisham, the governor of Mecca, stopped ladies
performing tawaf alongside men. Ata, the famous scholar of tradition objected:
"How do you stop them when the Prophet's own wives did Tawaf of Kaba
alongside men?" The practice had continued without any change even
after the introduction of the restrictive regime imposed on the Prophet's
wives, although they used to steer clear of the men around them, while
all other women used to mix with men and huddle to touch and kiss the
Black Stone in the wall of Kabah (Bukhari). Educational assemblies, too
were attended by men and women jointly. The Prophet (peace be upon him),
in teaching the Muslims, used to address men and women together even where
he was giving instruction, relating to conjugal matters. Once he was lecturing
muslims after prayer about tales they would tell the morning following
their conjugal activities. Abu Hurrairah is quoted to have reported this
as follows: "The Prophet (peace be upon him) had just finished his
prayer with us, when he directly turned and asked us to keep sitting,
and then asked: 'Is there amongst you any who would shut doors and draw
curtains when he approaches his wife, but would later go out and tell
every body how he did so and so?' all men present kept silent. Then the
Prophet (peace be upon him) turned to the ladies and said: "Does
any one of you openly discuss her conjugal matters with other women?"
A young lady in the audience, when she heard this, knelt up on one knee
and craned her neck so that the Prophet (peace be upon him) might see
her and hear her speak. She said: 'Yes by God, all men discuss these matters
among themselves and so do all women, too'. The Prophet (peace be upon
him) said: 'Do you know whom does one doing that compare to?' 'Indeed
it is like two satanic couples who meet on a high street and indulge their
sexual desire in full view of the people'". (reported by Ahmed, Abu
Dawwod, and Albazar).
In another mixed audience, a woman intervened during a sermon the Prophet
(peace be upon him) was delivering to a congregation of Muslims by publicly
asking: "Why do you reckon most women would go to hell?". This
was reported by Ibn-Umar who quoted the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying:
"O women! Give alms, and beseech God excessively for his forgiveness,
for I see that most of the inmates of hell will be from amongst you".
Some of the ladies present in the congregation asked: "What it was
that made women outnumber the male inmates of hell?". The Prophet
(peace be upon him) replied: "Because you curse excessively and are
ungrateful to your partners. I haven't seen anything so deficient in wisdom
and religion". The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: "The
testimony of two women equals that of one man; further, she has to abstain
from the prayer for days" (Meaning that limited experience and abstinence
from prayer during her period may impinge on her proper conduct and judgement).
Separate meetings exclusively for ladies were sometimes convened, but
that was for practical reasons, mostly the dominance of men, sitting close
to the Prophet (peace be upon him) after prayer and the inability of women
sitting behind to hear him well. Bukhari narrated, in a chapter titled,
'Is a day set aside exclusively for the education of women?', that women
told the Prophet, "men have dominated us around you", the Prophet
(peace be upon him) promised to give them a separate day. He would meet
them on the scheduled day and deliver his lecture and instruction. It
is in such a session that he once told them: "Any woman who loses
three children would find it a barrier from hell". A woman said,
"and what about two?" The Prophet (peace he upon him) replied,
"even two". (Bukhair).
On the authority of Ibn Abbas, Bukhari stated that the Prophet (peace
be upon him) was on his way after delivering his Eid address and Bilal
was with him. He felt that the ladies attending the congregation did not
hear his lecture. He therefore went to preach to them especially and to
ask them to give alms.
A woman is quite entitled to go out for any need. She may go to the market
to do business or otherwise; even though this may entail someone inconveniencing
her. After the Prophet's wives were curtained away and segregated, the
Prophet (peace be upon him) would still permit them to go out of their
houses for their needs. Sayyidah Ayishah is quoted as saying that after
the introduction of segregation "Saudah went out of her house to
pursue some need. She was a bulky lady and anyone who knew her could easily
recognise her. Umar bin Alkhatab saw her once and said, 'O Saudah you
are not unrecognisable to us. Just see how you have come out?' when she
heard that, she withdrew and returned. The Prophet (peace be upon him)
was at that time in my (Ayishah's) house for his dinner. Sauda entered
and said to him, 'O Prophet of God, I went out of my house for some need
and Umar said to me so and so'" Sayyedah Ayishah Said, "Then
revelation came from God and later, when it was over, the Prophet (peace
be upon him) regained his hand and said to Sauda, 'God has permitted you
to go out of your house for your needs'". (Bukhari).
The following verse of the Quran clearly bears out that ladies can go
out of their houses: "O Prophet! tell your wives and daughters and
the women of the believers to lower their outer garments on their persons.
That is likely to allow them to be recognised and by consequence, not
be molested, and God is most Forgiving and most kind". (Al Ahzab,
59). The occasion for the revelation of these verses of the Quran was
the fact that some rogue individuals would inconvenience ladies in the
streets of Madinah. Explaining the meaning of: "To lower their outer
garments on their person", Mujahid (a famous early authority on the
exegesis of the Quran) said, "they covered themselves with their
outer garments so that it is known that they are free-born women of good
social standing and no depraved person may level at them undue words or
The Prophet (peace be upon him) taught Muslims, if they had to sit by
the road, to lower their gaze as women pass by. Abu Saeed Al-khudri quoted
the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying, "try to avoid sitting
by the roads and paths". The Muslims said, "O Prophet! sitting
by the roads is unavoidable for us". The Prophet (peace be upon him)
then said, "If you insist on sitting there, then give the highway
its due". The Muslims asked, "what is that?" the Prophet
(peace be upon him) said, "lowering of your gaze, desisting from
hurting any one, exchange of greetings, asking others to do good, and
warning others off anything foul". (Muslim).
Women can engage in business and commerce. Take the case of Qailah Umm-Bani
Atmar, one of the merchant ladies. She said, "I am a woman who buys
and sells". (Al Isabah). Umar Ibn Al Khattab entrusted the supervision
of administrative market affairs to Shaff'a bint Abdullah bin Abd Shams.
Umar used to seek her counsel, pay due regard to her and hold her in high
esteem. (Al-Isabah). In this regard the dialogue between Abu Al-Yasar
and a woman who came to purchase dates from him, is also significant to
show how women went about shopping (Trimithi).
Islam does not call for segregation between men and women. A woman may,
therefore, receive the family guests, serve and entertain them. Consider
the story of Ibraheem (Abraham) (peace be upon him), when he received
the angels in the guise of (human) guests who told him, "We were
sent to the folk of Lot". And his wife, standing by, laughed. They
gave her good tidings of the birth of Isaac and after Isaac of Jacob.
She said, "O woe to me, shall I bear a child when l am an old woman
and this is my husband an old man? This is a strange thing?" (Hud,
There were some elderly ladies whom the Prophet (peace be upon him) used
to visit, regularly. He might take meals in their places and pray there,
and when they fell sick he would call upon them to console them. Take,
for instance, Umm-Aiman. She migrated from Mekkah to Madinah walking all
the way on foot with none to keep her company and in extremely hot weather.
The prophet (peace be upon him) used to honour her with his social visits
Khaulah bint Qais is another such lady. According to Al Tabrani, Ibn-Harith
heard Khaula hint Qais say: "the Prophet (peace be upon him) and
I took meals in the same dish". (AI-Isabah). Al-Shaffa bint Abdullah
was one of the wise and prominent ladies of Madinah. The Prophet (peace
be upon him) used to visit her and took his mid-day nap in her house.
She arranged a bed and a sheet for him to sleep in. (Al-Isabah)
Al-Shaykhan (i.e Bukkari and Muslim) give an account of Maleekah Al Ansariah
on the authority of Anas who said that his grandmother Maleekah invited
the Prophet to meals which she herself had prepared. The same tradition
relates how the Prophet (peace be upon him) offered his prayers in their
houses: Anas said, "An orphan and I would stand behind him, and the
old lady behind us". (Al-Isabah)
Lubabah bint Al-Harith, it is stated, was one of the first ladies after
Sayyedah Khadijah, to embrace Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) used
to visit her and take his mid-day nap in her house. Umm-Waraga was a lady
that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to visit. The Prophet (peace
be upon him) allowed her to pray at home and to lead her staff, male and
female, in prayer (Abu Dawoud). It was she who, when the Prophet (peace
be upon him) conducted the battle of Badr, requested him to allow her
to accompany him so that she might treat the patients and that perhaps
God might bless her with martyrdom. (Al-Isabah).
Fatimah bint Asad bin Hashim was a very pious lady. The Prophet (peace
be upon him) used to visit her and take his mid-day nap in her house.
Umm al Fadhl bint Al-Harith was the first woman to embrace Islam after
Sayyedah Khadijah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to visit her and
take his mid-day nap in her house. (Tabqat). All these were women of social
distinction worthy of the Prophet's consideration.
Even a bride may undertake to serve guests personally. Sahal bin S'ad
Al Ansari stated that Abu Saeed invited the Prophet (peace be upon him)
to his wedding feast. His bride Umm-Saeed was the one who prepared the
meals and served the guests too. She put some dates in a stone vessel
to soak in water. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) had finished the
meal she crushed the dates with her own hand and gave the prophet (peace
be upon him) to drink, as a special favour. (The Shaikhan, Bukhari and
The practice of family visits was also common in the early period of Islam.
For instance, the visits of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to Al Rabee
bint Muawiz and her husband Ilyas bin Al Kabeer, were well-known. Abu
Dawoud, At-Tirmithy and Ibn-Majah quoted a number of traditions on the
authority of Ibn-Aqeel. Al Rabee bint Muawiz gives a description of the
Prophet's ablution. She said that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used
to come to them and say, "please pour water so that I may do the
ablution (wadu)". (Al-Isabah)
So far as the familiar Hijab is concerned, it refers to the special regulation
pertaining to the Prophet's wives due to their status and situations.
They occupied a position different from all other women, their responsibility
is thereby stiffened. God has ordained that their reward as well as punishment
be double that for any other woman. "O wives of the Prophet whoever
of you commits a vile deed will have her punishment doubled. And that,
for God, is quite easy. And whosoever of you serves God and his Prophet
devoutly and acts righteously, we shall give her double reward. And we
have prepared for her honourable sustenance in the hereafter". (Al-Ahzab,
The verses of the same Sura ordained that the wives of the Prophet (peace
upon him) draw a curtain (to ensure privacy in the Prophet's room which
naturally attracted many visitors of all sorts), and that they dress up
completely without showing any part of their bodies including face and
hands to any man; though all other Muslim women were exempted from these
restrictions. Thus the Quran goes: "O you who believe don't enter
the Prophet's homes except when you are invited for a meal and don't come
too early awaiting its preparation. But when you are invited, do enter
(the prophet's home). When you have finished the meal, disperse, without
(lingering) for familiar talk. Such behaviour used to inconvenience the
Prophet who was too embarrassed shy (to ask you to disperse). But God
is not embarrassed to say the truth. And when you ask the Prophet's women
something ask, them from behind a curtain. This is purer for your hearts
as well as for theirs. It is not proper for you to annoy the Prophet.
None of you will at all marry the Prophet's wives after his death. God
considers that an enormously great sin". (Al-Ahzab, 53).
The text of this commandment is evidently restricted to the Prophet's
house, dialogue with his wives, and impermissibility of their remarriage
after his death. The circumstances surrounding the revelation of the commandment
confirm that the provisions of the commandment are so confined. An authentic
tradition demonstrates that this commandment vindicated a specific suggestion
advanced by Umar bin al Khattab. Sayyedha Aishah is quoted as saying that
Umar bin Al Khattab asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) to confine his
wives. She said, "but the Prophet (peace he upon him) did not do
so. Then God sent down the verses relating to confinement". (Bukhari).
Anas reported that Umar said: "My Lord granted me three wishes: I
asked the Prophet (peace be upon him), 'how about adopting the spot of
Prophet Ibraheem for prayer?' and later the verse, 'Adopt the spot of
Ibraheem for prayer' was sent down. I said to the Prophet (peace be upon
him), 'O Prophet the pious as well as the dissolute enter your house to
meet your wives. How about ordering them to withdraw themselves?' Subsequently
the verses of confinement were sent down. Similarly the wives of the Prophet
(peace be upon him) conspired, out of jealousy, against the Prophet (peace
be upon him), and I said to them what was later sent down the verse, 'God
may, if he divorced you, give him in exchange wives better than you'".
(Al Tahreem, 5) (Musand Al-Imam Ahmed Ibn-Hambal).
The verses may directly concern the prolonged stay of the guests who came
to attend the wedding to Zainab bint Jahash. Ibn-shihab reports that Anas
bin Malik gave him the following account: "When the Prophet (peace
be upon him) arrived in Madinah, I was a boy of ten. And I spent 10 years
serving him. None knows more than myself about the revelation related
to the confinement of his wives. Ubai bin K'ab used to ask me about the
Prophet's marriage to Zainab bint Jahash. The Prophet (peace be upon him),
as bridegroom, invited the people in the morning to feast. Most took the
meal and went away. A group of them, however, remained with the Prophet
(peace be upon him) and stayed rather long. The Prophet (peace be upon
him) stood up and went out. I followed him out so that they might likewise
go. The Prophet (peace be upon him) walked up to the threshold of Sayyedah
Ayishah's room, and thought that by that time they might have left. But
when he returned, with me after him, to Zainab's, that group was still
sitting and had not dispersed. The Prophet (peace be upon him) returned,
and again I followed, till he reached threshold of Sayyedah Aiashah's
room that they might go. It was only when we returned that they had just
gone out. As a consequence the verses relating to confinement were revealed.
A curtain was then lowered between me and the Prophet's private quarters".
A further confirmation of the foregoing conclusion in respect of the scope
of the confinement rule is that those women who were separated from the
Prophet (peace be upon him) before consummation of marriage, were not
given the title of Mothers of the Believers nor was confinement imposed
on them. Some did, in fact, remarry after the Prophet's death. Take, for
instance, Asma bint Al Numan. There is consensus over the fact that the
Prophet (peace be upon him) did marry her; but there is some controversy
about the circumstances surrounding his separation from her. Some said
that she remarked, "I seek refuge in God from you". The prophet
(peace be upon him) said, "You sought sure refuge and God has granted
you protection from me". He, therefore, divorced her. (Al-Isabah).
Another example is the case of Qeelah bint Qais whom the Prophet (peace
be upon him) married in the tenth year A.H., shortly before his death,and
died soon after. He did not receive her; and the marriage was not consummated.
It is also said that he married her only two months before his death.
It is said that he married her during the illness that led to his death.
It is reported that the Prophet's instructions were that if she liked
she might be confined and abstain from remarriage. Otherwise she might
marry whomsoever she liked. She opted to marry Ikrimah in Hadramaut. When
the news of the remarriage reached Abu Bakr, he threatened to burn their
house. but Umar told him that she was not reckoned among the Mothers of
the Believers, and that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not consummate
his marriage with her, nor was she confined. (AI-Isabah).
The commandments regarding confinement were sent down in the month of
Dhul-Qaidah of the fifth year of Hijrah. It did not affect the position
of the generality of Muslim ladies.
Life in Islam is oriented towards God. If it allows men to come into contact
with women that is indeed a test. A Muslim should make such association
an opportunity for furthering the aims of worship and gratitude to God.
At least he should observe the limits of what is permissible in that association.
There can be no legitimacy in exploiting the relations between persons
of opposite sexes as an occasion for illicit sexual enjoyment in contravention
of God's commands and in deviation from the proper system for conjugal
relations. There is no scope in religion for licentious sexual pleasure,
which reduces man to a situation of slavery to passions, instead of to
God, or to which man dedicated his time and exploits his total energies
as ultimate purpose in life. There is no room for unbridled and uncontrolled
passions outside the bounds of marriage.
Fornication, therefore is strictly forbidden; and as commanded by the
Quran, no man is allowed to approach a woman with that intention. "Don't
get close to fornication. it is indeed atrocious and a bad way".
One should even avoid any perverse sight or touch that may excite sex.
Abu Saeed Al-Khudri reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
"No man should look at another man's private parts, nor a woman at
another woman's. No man or woman shall rub skin with another in the same
dress". (Abu Dawoud, At-Tirmithy, Muslim).
It is not permissible for a man and a woman not tied by marriage to seek
privacy - the two of them alone hidden from the view of other people.
Indeed in such a situation the temptation of sex would be dominant and
would engross one's thoughts, whereas in larger company one is more likely
to be oblivious of sex and preoccupied by the pursuits and affairs of
Ibn-Abbas says that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Keep it
in mind that in the absence of a mahram (real father, real brothers, real
uncles, etc. to whom a women can not be lawfully married) no man shall
be alone with a woman". (Bukhari and Muslim). Abduallah bin Amr bin
Al-A'as said a number of men of the tribe of Bani Hashim came to see Asma
bint Amees. In the meantime Abu Bakr Also came. She was at that time his
wife. When Abu Bakr saw those people, he did not approve of their being
in his house. He told the Prophet (peace be upon him) about it and said,
"I did not see anything wrong", the Prophet said, "God
has acquitted her of that suspicion". Then the Prophet ascended the
pulpit and said, "In the absence of her man, no woman shall meet
a man but in the presence of another man or two". (Muslim)
In public, however, man and woman can confer privately at a distance from
others. Anas reports that a woman who was slightly abnormal said to the
Prophet (peace be upon him) "O Messenger of God! I need you for something".
The prophet said, "O mother of such and such, look which way you
want to go, that I may arrange your need". He went with her along
some path till all what she required was over. (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawoud)
The story of Moses (peace be upon him) and the two daughters of Shuaib,
as narrated by the Quran, is very instructive: "and when he came
onto the water of Madian, he found there a group of people watering, and
he found apart of them two women holding back. He said: 'what is the matter?'
They said: 'we cannot water until all the shepherds leave, and our father
is an old man.' He watered for them and withdrew to the shade... shortly
afterwards, one of the two maidens came to him and said: 'my father calls
you that he might reward you for watering for us....' One said, 'O my
father, hire him, for the best you can hire is one who is strong and trustworthy'".
A man should not gaze at a women nor a woman at a man so fixedly that
temptation is stimulated. Instead, whenever any such thing strikes the
mind, one must desist from looking on. "Tell the believers to lower
their looks and guard their private organs. This is purer for them. God
is fully aware of what they are doing. And ask believing women to lower
their looks and to guard their private organs...." (An Nur, 30-31)
In the traditions, Jabir bin Abduallah is reported to have said, "I
asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about looking at some woman by chance,
the Prophet (peace be upon him) told me to divert my looks".
The Prophet (peace be upon him) advised Ali, "O Ali, you must not
gaze at a woman. You are allowed the first look but not the subsequent".
But Ali's report does not mean that looking at a person of the opposite
sex is absolutely forbidden. It is only when one seeks sexual pleasure
or finds and relishes it. Indeed, in the model society of Islam, Muslims
used to assemble freely and frequently; they were mostly acquainted with
each other, men and women; they conversed and interacted intensively.
But all those activities, were undertaken in a spirit of innocence and
in the context of a virtuous society.
The meaning behind the prohibition of some looks at women is borne out
by the correlation between such looks and sexual intercourse: "Allah
decreed for every human being his unavoidable share of sexual intercourse.
The eye partakes of that by looks, the tongue by speech the soul aspires
and craves, and the genital organs fulfil or deny the final act".
(Bukhari and Abu Dawooed).
Similarly Abdullah bin Abbas reports that the Prophet was riding a camel
with Al-Fadhl, Abdullah's brother, behind him. A beautiful woman came
to ask the Prophet about the Haj of her father. Al Fadhl began to stare
at her; her beauty impressed him a lot. The Prophet (peace be upon him)
having noticed this while Al Fadhl was busy looking, put his hand behind
and turned his face away from her hither and thither as she went along
with them. Al Abbas said to the Prophet, "you are twisting the neck
of your nephew!" The Prophet replied, "I noticed that both the
boy and the girl were young; and I feared that Satan may intervene".
(At-Tirmithy and Bukhari).
When assembled men and women must not be crammed in such a manner that
breaths and bodies are very close to each other. If the practical exigencies
demand, they may, however, get closer, as for instance during Haj. And
wherever there are men and women in homes, streets, meetings or public
occasions, it is advisable that some distance between the two sexes be
maintained. It is on the basis of the same principle that men and women
occupy conspicuously separate rows in prayers. During the prayer, sitting
or standing, people take up their position in a very compact manner; and
while praying one should be completely detached from everything that may
divert one from attending fully to God. The Prophet (peace be upon him)
designated a door exclusively for ladies to enter and leave the mosque.
Ibn-Umar reports that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "may
we restrict this door for ladies only". (Abu Dawoud).
Similarly, on the highway, men and women must maintain some distance.
Hamza bin Sayyed Al Ansari cited his father as saying that he heard the
Prophet (peace be upon him) ask the ladies, "you stay apart, for
you can not walk in the middle of the road; you bear to the sides of the
road". "A Lady", he added, "would walk so close to
the walls along the road that her clothes would touch the walls".
(Abu Dawoud). The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to defer his departure
so that the ladies might leave the mosque first. (Bukhair). Umm-Salama
reported that when the Prophet (peace be upon him) finished with his prayer,
the women would immediately get up from their places to leave, while he
would remain in his place for a short while, and then would rise to go.
The dress of a man or a woman should be modest. By no gesture, word or
appearance should man or woman deliberately tempt the other. God says:
women shall not show their adornment except what is naturally visible.
They should draw their scares on their bosoms. And they must not show
their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers or the fathers
of their husbands, or their sons or the sons of their husbands, or their
brothers or the sons of their brothers or the sons of their sisters or
their women slaves, or male servants uninterested in physical needs, or
small children who are not sexually aware. Nor will they kick with their
feet, to announce whatever is invisible of their adornment. (An-Nur, 31).
"0 Prophet tell your wives and your daughters and wives of the believers
to lower their outer garments on their persons. That is likely to make
them known, and, as a consequence, not be molested. And God is Most Forgiving
and Most Merciful". (Al-Ahaab, 59).
The Prophet (peace be upon him) directed that excepting face and hands
no other part of a woman's body should be exhibited. Sayyedah Ayishah
is said to have reported that Asma bint Abu Bakr came to the Prophet (peace
be upon him) wearing a dress made of thin cloth. The Prophet (peace be
upon him) turned his face away and said to her: "when a girl matures
it is not appropriate for her to show but such and such", pointing
towards his face and hands. Abu Dawoud quoted this tradition, And the
majority of Muslims have accepted it in practice.
Thus temptation is the basic criterion on which these rulings rest. "For
women of advanced age who do not expect to be married, there is no harm
if they set aside their outer garments provided they do not play up their
charms. But it is better for them if they abstain from doing so. And God
is All-seeing and All-knowing". (An-Nor 60). The Prophet (peace be
upon him) prohibited women from passing by men after perfuming themselves.
he warned women in these words: "after using scents no lady should
attend Isha prayer with us" (Muslim). Abu Musa Al Ashari reports
that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "any woman who, after
perfuming herself, passes by the people so that they may find her smell,
is a fallen woman". (Musnad Imam Ahmed). The Prophet (peace be upon
him) warned against women who walk swinging ostentatiously and temptingly:
"two categories of the inmates of hell I did not see before: a group
of people holding whips resembling cow tails lashing at people, and women,
half dressed and half naked, walking swingingly to all allure, with their
heads like inclined humps of camels. They shall never enter Heaven nor
get the inclined nor get the smell thereof, even though its smell can
be felt from such and such distance". (Muslim)
Any relationship or situation which may be instrumental to temptation
or illegal sexual contact between men and women, is thus not permissible.
God says, "don't approach fornication. It is indeed a vile deed and
what an evil practice it is". (Al Isra 32) That is the standard which
determines cases which we did not mention. Thus Islam tolerates that one
may greet women or talk to them in decent and chaste language and with
good intent. The Prophet used to do so. Asma bint-Yazeed reported that
one day the Prophet (peace be upon him) passed through the mosque where
a group of women were sitting. He greeted them by waving his hand. (At-Tirmithy).
In the chapter Kitab ul-adab of his collection of traditions, Abu Dawoud
gave the following account on the authority of Asma: "the Prophet
(peace be upon him) passed by us and greeted us". Imam Bukhari has
given a chapter in his collection of authentic traditions under the title,
"Greeting Women by Men". Ibn-Hazim reported that his father
cited Sahal, why so? he said, an aged lady used to send me some goods.
She would take the roots of salaq (a salad) and put them in a pan, and
then prepare some barley bread. After offering Juma prayer we would go
and greet her and she would serve us those dishes, which gave us a lot
of joy. On Fridays we always took our meal and mid-day nap after offering
Juma prayer. (Bukhari)
Asma bint-Yazeed narrated that, "the Prophet (peace be upon him)
passed by us, the women, and greeted us". (Al-Tirimizy)
When greeting a lady, shaking hands in a spontaneous manner may be permissible,
especially if it is a customary practice in a chaste setting. One may
find in Islamic texts strong admonition against touching strange women.
But the word "touch" or the like is, in this context, a euphemism
for sexual intercourse.
Whenever women came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) for the oath of
allegiance, it is reported that he would not shake hands with them. This
is obviously a reservation unique to him. It is quoted by Al Bukhari that
the Prophet (peace by upon him) said: "I don't shake hands with women".
Other reports say that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did shake hands
with the ladies covering the hand with a garment. (Abu Dawoud cited that
on the authority of Al Shaabi and Abdul Razzaq). Sometimes the Prophet
(peace be upon him) would deputise Umar for that function (Al Tabrani).
So long as the conditions already mentioned are observed, family gatherings
and joint meals, both at home or elsewhere are permissible. Abu Hurairah
(may God be bless him) narrated that a man came to the Prophet (peace
be upon him) and said, "I am completely exhausted with hunger".
The Prophet (peace be upon him) sent a message to one of his wives. She
told him, "by God, who sent you with the truth, I don't have anything
except water". The Prophet (peace be upon him) then sent the message
to another of his wives. She, too, told the same thing. It was the same
with all the rest of his wives: "By God, who sent you with the truth,
I don't have anything except water". "By God, who sent you with
the truth, I don't have anything except water". The Prophet (peace
be upon him) then said, "whosoever takes this man as his guest God
will grant him mercy". An Ansari of Medina stood up and said, "O
Messenger of God, I shall take him as my guest". He, then took him
to his dwelling, and said to his wife, "Do you have something?"
"Nothing except the meal for my children", she replied. He said
to her, "you distract them with something: when our guest arrives,
put out the lamp, and show him that we. too, are eating". He narrated
how they all sat down and the guest took his meal. Next day when the Ansari
went to the Prophet (peace be upon him) the latter said to him, "God
appreciated so much the treatment you extended to your guest last night".
More than anybody else, it is permissible for those who are seeking each
other's hand in marriage or are divorced, to see or talk to each other.
Mughirah bin Shubah stated that he proposed to a woman for marriage. The
Prophet (peace be upon him) told him, "Have a look at her. that some
affection might develop between you two". Mughirah went to the girl's
parents and told them about the Prophet's instruction. It was as if they
were reluctant. The lady, who was in her private room. having overheard
this, called out, "If the Prophet has ordered you to see me, then
do so". Mughirah said: "I saw her and married her". (Ahmed,
Ibn-Majah, At-Tirmithy, Ibn-Habban and Al-Darimi).
A case in point is the famous story of Mughith who used to go after his
ex-wife Burairah through the streets of Madinah. He would try to appease
her with tears flowing from his eyes in order to bring her back; but she
would refuse to do so. When Burairah was set free, her husband, a negro,
was a slave of Bani al Mughirah. "By God" Ibn Abbas said, "I
still recall how he followed her all over the streets of Madinah with
his beard bathed in tears trying to please her in vain". The prophet
(peace be upon him) himself tried to intercede but the girl declined as
long as the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not order her to reconcile
The application of the standard of temptation depends subjectively on
what a person finds in his soul - that is what he experiences by way of
feeling in the case. This is naturally a function of his religious education
and integrity. Objectively, it would depend on the seriousness of the
affair in any association of men and women such as would distract them
from thinking of sex, and partly on the innocence of the particular social
The juridical principle is sound: that the avenues and approaches of wrong-doing
should be closed by barring acts innocent in themselves for fear of what
might ensue. But over-caution may inhibit legitimate conduct on the pretext
that it exposes to the risk of temptation and vice. This may lead to the
distortion of the general social system of Islam which is based on the
full participation of men and women in everyday life with piety and chastity.
Indeed, segregation and isolation may well protect a woman from temptation,
but it essentially denies her the benefits of the communal life of Muslims.
It denies and abrogates her legitimate role in the social process of cooperation
in the promotion of knowledge and good work, in the mutual counselling
of Muslims to do all that is beneficial and avoid all that is objectionable,
in their solidarity for the maintenance of their well-being and the defence
of their establishment. God says, "The believing men and women, are
associates and helpers of each other. They (collaborate) to promote all
that is beneficial and discourage all that is evil; to establish prayers
and give alms, and to obey God and his Messenger. Those are the people
whom God would grant mercy. Indeed God is Mighty and Wise". (Al-Taubah,
71) The benefits drawn from that communal life of Muslims more than outweigh
any preventive considerations in the segregation of sexes in ways not
ordained or clearly implied in the formal text of the Sharia.
............................Next Chapter3: WOMEN
IN MUSLIM SOCIETY
Chapter 4: THE
RESURGENCE OF WOMEN