Reflection on gender relations from an Islamic law perspective
In Islamic law, the relationship between a man and a woman has a set of determinants that can be summarized in three main ethical foundations: chastity, respect, and modesty.
In the light of these determinants, rules governing the behavior and contact between men and women have been enacted in Islam, including also their mutual assistance and complementarity for the benefit of society.
The sum of all these rules can be summarized as follows: lower your gaze and keep your chastity.
Tell believing men to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts. (Quran 24: 30- 31)
So, the Sunna has made this subject explicit, and Prophet Muhammad’s society (PBUH) has illustrated its best example, by interposing itself with two extremisms that have now become epidemics.
1- The extremism of immorality that alters moral values such as chastity, respect, and modesty
2- And the excess in the practice of the precepts of Muslim law.
So, we will examine the second case that will be the subject of this article.
The excess in question is simply to impose on both men and women, which Islamic law has spared them, under the pretext of preventing temptation. Like imposing the full veil on women, interfering with all kinds of contact between the two sexes, prohibiting all kinds of gender diversity and prohibiting women from driving.
It is under this pretext, namely prevention against temptation, that several excesses have been committed, thus forging a weak and troubling personality of the Muslim who avoids or even fears contact with others. Admittedly, this state of mind has given rise to obligations that Islamic law has not called for.
In this regard, and in order to dust off this observation from the point of view of Muslim law, it is necessary to reflect on this verse, which is full of meaning. Allah the Highest said: “Tell believing men to lower of their gaze “
It is a question of knowing that the “partition” in the divine prescription, expressed in the verse by the preposition “of”, proves that believers have not been commanded to lower their gaze in a total way but they have been commanded to lower their gaze only on what they are forbidden.
Achaoukani explains in his exegesis that the preposition “of the” verse ” of their gaze ” refers to the « partition », so the majority of exegetes have circumscribed the meaning of ” lowering of the gaze ” in what is illicit.
In this case, the illicit resides: in the gaze that is concupiscent and arouses a carnal desire, because it is the open door to fornication that is forbidden with an explicit text, it is turpitude that is obviously not honorable for the faithful. It is, therefore, this gaze that is unlawful from the point of view of Muslim law, as the great scholar Achafii, whose legal school attests that “it is permissible for men to look at women if this gaze is not concupiscent and prevents them from any temptation”.
Al-Maraghi says in his exegesis that “tell the believers to lower of their eyes”, they are forbidden to look at what is illicit, such as the genitals of men and women or other things that would cause their concupiscence. Otherwise, everything else is lawful for them”.
The legal status depends in this case on the intention of the gaze. If the intention is lawful the gaze will also be lawful and conversely if the intention is unlawful the gaze will also be unlawful. However, in certain circumstances, the gaze becomes mandatory, such as in legal and therapeutic cases.
This relative prohibition is validated by the hadith of our mother of believers saying: “I saw the Envoy of Allah (PBUH) at the door of my room, just as the Abyssinians were playing in the mosque.
I watched their games as the Envoy of Allah hid me with his clothes.”
And in another Hadith by Fatimibn Qais:
“Abu Salama Ibn Abdul Rahman ibn Awf reported according to Fatima Bint Qais that Abu Amr ibn Hafs had definitively divorced her, while he was in Syria. He sent her his agent with a quantity of barley, she was repulsed and said to the agent “By Allah, I expect nothing from you”, he replied:
“By Allah, you owe us nothing.” She came to find the Envoy of Allah (PBUH) telling him what had happened, he replied: “You owe him no expense”, and ordered him to spend his waiting period at the house of Um Charik, then told him: “No, this woman receives a lot of people, it is better than you spend this period at Abdallah Ibn OumMak-toum’s house, because he is a blind man. At home, you can take off your veil (change your clothes). Once you finish your waiting period. Let me know. Fatima continued: “Once I was at the end of my waiting period, I came to tell her that Mou’awia ibn Abi Sufian and Abu Jahm ibn Hicham proposed to me”. Then the Envoy of Allah (PBUH) replied: “As for Abu Jahm, he still has his cane on his shoulder and for Mou’awia, he is only a man without any good. Wife, Osama Ibn Zaid”. She says, “But I don’t agree with him.” But he replied: “Wife Osama Ibn Zaid”, and I married him: Thus, Allah granted me so much good and I lead a happy life with him”.
We can deduct from the above that the prophet specified the gaze to which he opposed, a gaze to which an unveiled woman is exposed, and he did not contest he gaze in general.
We, therefore, conclude that only the concupiscent gaze of a person of his opposite sex is reproved by the verse quoted above in order to stand up against any temptation of fornication.
However, the viewpoint whose intention is sound, for example, learning, trading or helping each other for legitimate purposes, is lawful, which is a golden rule in all transactions.
In view of the above, we must interpret the hadiths in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) invites us to avoid the look such as this hadith where he asks Ali the following: “O’Alî does not persist in looking at what is forbidden to you[when you find yourself in this situation]. For you will not be held responsible at first sight, but you have no excuse for the second.
For the meaning of this hadith would be polysemic, a polysemy that manifests itself in the light of the foregoing in the following meaning; the prophet wanted by means of this hadith to distinguish between an innocent and fortuitous look and another that is pernicious and devouring, the former is not guilty of sin while the latter is indeed a sin.
Thus, contact and mutual assistance concerning praiseworthy things is the very foundation of relations between men and women, something that was commonplace in the Prophet’s society (PB). Allah said: ” The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong.
In addition, The Prophet (PBUH) allowed Safwan Ibn Almoatal to escort the Mother of Believers back to Madinah, even if the hypocrites then fomented slander against Aicha, which unfortunately turned into the famous incident called the Alifk incident.
In addition, the presence of men and women in the same place was a well-known custom in prophetic society; in the mosque, the market, the houses, etc. Men and women exchanged words with respect, chastity, and decency.
The women of the Medina society went out, performed various tasks, contributed to various activities, participated in trades, made clothing, also demonstrated their skills, attended the two religious holidays, Friday prayers and the gatherings.
The great scholar Albani says: “Puritanism in Islam is not a laudable thing, because it cannot give birth to a generation of Muslims capable of conceiving its message in a theoretical way and even less in a practical way in moderation and in the right environment, without exaggeration or negligence”.
I can hardly imagine that puritanism could generate Muslim women capable of ensuring the legal requirements of their social life, like their ancestors, of whom we will cite examples here below.
1- Um CharikAlansaria, who received guests.
2- Abi Osayd’s wife who cooked for the prophet and his companions while she was both the bride and the servant.
2- Asmaa Bin Tabi Bakr who supported her husband: who fed her horse, carried the palm kernel on her head along 3 km
3- The Ansari woman who received the prophet and prepared food for him by placing him under a palm tree.
4- Aicha (mother of the believers) and Om Solaym who watered the people.
So, this was, therefore, the basic principle Prophet Muhammad’s society (PBUH), and if ever incivility manifests itself it is remedied without exaggeration and without revoking the basic principle.
According to Ibn Abbas, “a good and beautiful woman prayed behind the prophet, some deigned to occupy the first and last ranks in order to avoid seeing her in such a way that some of them deliberately arrived late to pray behind the mosque, but when they bowed they looked at her from under their armpits, as Allah said about this: ” And We have already known the preceding [generations] among you, and We have already known the later [ones to come]” ( Alhijr 24)
The Muslim must nurture his soul in order to ennoble it, this care will increase his confidence in his faith which will lead him to fear his creator more and therefore to keep his chastity. This is, therefore, the ultimate purpose, while the rules for banning corruptive temptations should only be conceived as means and complements that facilitate and contribute to the achievement of this purpose.
Unfortunately, some religious individuals find it difficult to conceive, as we have already discussed, that they confine themselves to negativity through which, they raise the definition of the rule of banishment of corruptive temptations, to such an extent that they make it a basis, to such a degree that this hypertrophy has caused them a lack of control when they deal with their opposite sex, because they see it as a source of temptation. Like a person suffering from colds and immunodeficiency who try to cure only the common cold in his remedy and fails to strengthen his immunity, which is the primary cause of his pathology.
Among the other symptoms of this misconduct is the person naturally becomes isolationist, and neglects enlightening his heart and purifying his soul, which becomes troubled at first sight by a person and thus falls into the duplicity and schizophrenia that give the appearance of a pious person but which incite him to commit unlawful acts each time circumstances are favorable, and thus forbids people to look at what is interesting and imposes on women and society what religion has not asked them to do, under the pretext of banning corruptive temptations.
Among the jurisprudential obligations that must be challenged is imposing on every woman with a beautiful face, to cover it, under the pretext of banning corruptive temptations, and the fact that they admit that Islamic law has not prohibited gender diversity and yet they call for its prohibition under the pretext of banning corruptive temptations just as driving cars for women.
Like a scholar who says with a good faith and for noble intentions, but it is because of this heresy that he omitted a tradition and neglected to guide people to purify their souls and enlighten their hearts in order to achieve a high degree of faith that protects them from all evil.
It is such people, with strong personalities, who are most loved by Allah, because their strong personalities allow them to work alongside people and interact with them in order to found and develop their society.
On the other hand, those who easily succumb to their sexual inclinations each time they come into contact with their opposite sex must know that they suffer from a lack of faith and must act quickly to heal their hearts and not impose their unfounded and erroneous positions that make an entire society vulnerable.