The meeting together, mixing, and intermingling of men and women in one place, the crowding of them together, and the revealing and exposure of women to men are prohibited by the Law of Islam (Shari'ah). These acts are prohibited because they are among the causes for fitnah (temptation or trial which implies evil consequences), the arousing of desires, and the committing of indecency and wrongdoing.
Among the many proofs of prohibition of the meeting and mixing of men and women in the Qur’aan and Sunnah are:
Verse No. 53 of Surat al-Ahzab, or the Confederates (Interpretation of the meaning); "...for anything ye want, ask them from before a screen: that makes for greater purity for your hearts and for theirs..."
In explaining this Verse, Ibn Kathir (May Allaah have mercy on him) said:
"Meaning, as I forbade you to enter their rooms, I forbid you to look at them at all. If one wants to take something from a woman, one should do so without looking at her. If one wants to ask a woman for something, the same has to be done from behind a screen."
The Prophet (May peace and blessings be upon him) enforced separation of men and women even at Allaah’s most revered and preferred place, the mosque. This was accomplished via the separation of the women’s rows from the men’s; men were asked to stay in the mosque after completion of the obligatory prayer so that women will have enough time to leave the mosque; and, a special door was assigned to women. Evidence of the foregoing are:
Umm Salamah (May Allah be pleased with her) said that after Allah’s Messenger (may peace and blessings be upon him) said "as-Salamu ‘Alaykum wa Rahmatullah’ twice announcing the end of prayer, women would stand up and leave. He would stay for a while before leaving. Ibn Shihab said that he thought that the staying of the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) was in order for the women to be able to leave before the men who wanted to depart. (Narrated by al-Bukhari under No. 793).
Abu Dawood under No. 876 narrates the same hadith in Kitab al-Salaat under the title "Insiraaf an-Nisaa’ Qabl al-Rijaal min al-Salaah" (Departure of Women before Men after the Prayer). Ibn ‘Umar said that Allah’s Messenger (may peace and blessings be upon him) said: "We should leave this door (of the mosque) for women." Naafi’ said:
"Ibn ‘Umar never again entered through that door until he died."
(Narrated by Abu Dawood under No. 484 in "Kitab as-Salah" under the Chapter entitled: "at-Tashdid fi Thalik".)
Abu Hurayrah said that the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) said: ""The best of the men’s rows is the first and the worst is the last, and the best of the women’s rows is the last and the worst in the first." (Narrated by Muslim under No. 664)
This is the greatest evidence that the Law of Islam (Shari'ah) forbids meeting and mixing of men and women. The further the men are from the women’s rows, the better, and vice versa.
If these procedures and precautions were prescribed and adhered to in a Masjid, which is a pure place of worship where people are as far away as they ever are from the arousal of desire and temptation, then no doubt the same procedures need to be followed even more rigorously at other places.
Abu Usayd al-Ansari narrated that he heard Allah’s Messenger (may peace and blessings be upon him) say to the women on his way out of the mosque when he saw men and women mixing together on their way home: ‘Give way (i.e., walk to the sides) as it is not appropriate for you to walk in the middle the road.’ Thereafter, women would walk so close to the wall that their dresses would get caught on it. (Narrated by Abu Dawood in "Kitab al-Adab min Sunanihi, Chapter: Mashyu an-Nisa Ma’ ar-Rijal fi at-Tariq.")
We know that the intermingling, mixing and crowding together of men and women is part of today’s unavoidable yet regrettable affliction in most places, such as markets, hospitals, colleges, etc., but:
- We will not willfully choose or accept mixing and crowding, particularly in religious classes and council meetings in Islamic Centers.
- We take precautions to avoid meeting and mixing of men and women as much as possible while at the same time achieving desired goals and objectives. This result can be achieved by designating separate places assigned for men and women, using different doors for each, utilizing modern means of communication such as microphones, video recorders etc., and expediting efforts to have enough female teachers to teach women, etc.
- We show fear of Allaah as much as we can by not looking at members of the opposite sex and by applying self-restraint.