A man then asked him: “What about her male in-laws?”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: “The in-law is the most dangerous”.
This hadîth emphasizes the importance of being wary of in-laws since they are likely to have more opportunities to be alone with the woman and to see her as others do not get the opportunity to see her.
The private meeting between a man and an unchaperoned woman is one of the serious forms of mixing that can take place between the sexes. Temptations are worse when the people know that they are shielded from the sight of others.
Ibn Daqîq al-`Id makes the following important observation: “We must take into consideration whether or not the man’s arrival at a place brings about a situation where he is alone with the woman. If it does not do so, it is not unlawful for him to go there.” (2/181)
This point was made clear by the Prophet (peace be upon him) when he said: “No man should enter into the presence of a woman after this day unless he is accompanied by one or two other men.” [Sahîh Muslim]
3. There are numerous evidences that the woman may not shake hands with men who are not among her closest relatives.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) never shook hands with an unrelated woman. Umaymah b. Raqîqah said: “I came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) with a group of the women of Madinah to swear fealty for Islam. The women informed Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) that they wished to swear fealty to him. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ‘I do not shake hands with women. The way I accept the pledge from one woman is the same as with one hundred women.” [al-Muwatta’, Sunan al-Tirmidhî, Sunan al-Nasa’î and Sunan Ibn Majah].
The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: “It is better for one of you to be pierced by a steel pin in his head than to touch the hand of a strange woman.” [Al-Mundhirî mentions that all the narrators of this hadîth are trustworthy. Al-Albânî classifies it as a good hadîth in Ghâyah al-Marâm (no. 403).]
4. The Qur’ân clearly forbids women from being soft of speech while talking to men. Allah says: “Be not too complaisant of speech, lest one in whose heart is a disease should be moved with desire: but speak with a speech (that is) proper.” [Sûrah al-Ahzâb: 32].
5. There is evidence that women may not sit with strange men while wearing perfume. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Any woman who puts on perfume then goes and passes by some men to let them find her scent is a type of adulteress.” [Musnad Ahmad, Sunan al-Tirmidhî, Sunan Abî Dâwûd, and Sunan al-Nasâ’î with a sound chain of transmission]
6. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The best of rows in prayer for the man is the first row and the worst for him is the last, and the best of rows for the women is the last row and the worst for her is the first.” [Sahîh Muslim].
If this advice is being given for men and women when they are in their purest frame of mind and engaged in prayer, then how should they be expected to conduct themselves in other situations?
Ibn `Abbâs relates that he prayed one of the `Id prayers with the Prophet (peace be upon him). He informs us that the Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed and offered a sermon, then he went to the women and offered to them a separate sermon, admonishing them and encouraging them to give charity. [Sahîh al-Bukhârî]
Ibn Hajr offers the following observations about this hadîth: “The fact that he went to the women separately shows that the women were assembled separately from the men and were not mixed in with them.” [Fath al-Bârî (2/466)]
7. Once the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw men and women mixing together on the road upon their departure from the mosque. He said to the women: “Hold back a bit. You do not have to walk in the middle of the road. You may keep to the sides.” The narrator of the hadîth commented that after that time, women would come so close to the buildings that their dresses would sometime cling to the walls.” [Sunan Abî Dâwûd with a sound chain of transmission]
Ibn `Umar related that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said about one of the mosque’s doors: “We should leave this door exclusively for women to use.” Ibn `Umar, until he died, never again entered through that door. [Sunan Abî Dâwûd with a sound chain of transmission. Al-Albânî says: “This hadîth is authentic according to the conditions set down by Bukhârî and Muslim.”]
Umm Salamah said: “When the Prophet (peace be upon him) completed the prayer, the women would get up to leave. He would then wait awhile before standing.” Ibn Shahâb said: “I believe that he waited for a while to give the women an opportunity to depart before the men.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî]
Ibn Hajr comments: “In the hadîth, we see that it is disliked for men and women to mix on the road. How much more, then, should such mixing be avoided inside of houses.” [Fath al-Bârî (2/336)]
8. It was related in al-Bukhârî that women at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not circumambulate the Ka`bah along with the men. `A’ishah used to go around the Ka`bah at a good distance from the men and avoided mixing with them. Once another woman bade to her to go forward with her so they could touch the corner of the Ka`bah. `A’ishah refused to do so. [Sahîh al-Bukhârî]
One of `Aishah’s handmaidens came to her and said: “O Mother of believers, I went around the Ka`bah seven times and touched the corner twice or trice”.
`Aishah replied: “May Allah not reward you for pushing your way
through men. It would have been sufficient for you to you to say “Allah
Akbar” as you passed by”. [Musnad al-Shâfi`î]
There are two things that this shows us. First, `A’ishah did not hesitate to circumambulate the Ka`bah when there were men around, nor did she forbid other women from doing so. She only refrained from crowding into men and mixing with them and this is what she prohibited others from doing. This shows us in the clearest of terms that the mere presence of men and women in the same place is not prohibited.
Second, the mixing and contact between men and women circumambulating the Ka`bah that unavoidably occurs during Hajj under today’s crowded conditions cannot be used as proof that such mixing is generally allowed. Firstly, the practice of the people does not constitute any sort of evidence in Islamic Law. Secondly, what is happening today during Hajj is unavoidable. It is permitted out of necessity and cannot be made into a general rule for all times and circumstances. It would be fruitless for us to try and demand that women avoid contact with men while circumambulating the Ka`bah during Hajj. It would be equally impossible to ask them to delay their circumambulations until the crowds depart, especially since the women on Hajj are always accompanied by the others who came with them who cannot be forced to wait around.
It is pure sophistry for anyone to use these exceptional circumstances to argue that men and women are allowed to mingle under circumstances where no necessity exists. It is just as baseless as taking the other extreme and declaring the mere presence or men and women in the same place to be unlawful mixing.
We will conclude by mentioning a few verses of the Qur’ân. Allah says: “Nor come nigh to adultery”. In this verse, Allah does not say “Do not commit adultery” but tells us not even to come close to it. This means that everything that may seduce a person to fall into adultery is unlawful.
Moreover, Allah says: “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them.” and says: “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty.” [Sûrah al-Nûr: 30-31] This shows us how men and women are to conduct themselves.