I am Muslimah... pt.IV
INTERACTION WITH MEN
Who hasn’t heard about the restrictive policies of Saudi Arabia towards their women? A theocracy which legislates the movement of its female population and mandates that women be accompanied by male escorts (relatives). And those who fail to comply, Get punished. Simple as that. There is also the notion that Muslim women do not have the liberty or right to associate freely with men without the presence of male ‘protectors.'
Yes, this does happen, and yup Islam does encourage, more correctly advocate for women to be accompanied by men when they are in public. However, Islam doesn’t explicitly forbid the mixing of the sexes. Verse 58:7 of the Holy Qur’an says: “Do you not see that Allah knows whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth? Nowhere is there a secret counsel between three persons but He is the fourth of them, nor (between) five but He is the sixth of them, nor less than that nor more but He is with them where ever they are; then He will inform them of what they did on the day of resurrection: surely Allah is Aware of all things.” This verse reminds us that Allah is always there, with us, whether in intra-gender or inter-gender gatherings; and as such one must always conduct him/herself in a way that pleases Him.
Let me repeat, the interaction between men and women is not forbidden in Islam, as there is no single verse in the Qur'an which explicitly says no to men and women interacting.
Nonetheless, Islam is a religion of modesty, composure, and structure which is why it is mandated on both men and women to interact in such a way that these principles aren’t blurred nor corrupted. As a result, lots of details play into the mix when men and women come together; starting with intention.
The intention behind any act or deed is fundamental in Islam; some might even debate that it is more important than the result, for this reason, the intention behind any mixed gathering matters tremendously. So meeting up with a friend, co-worker, teacher, etc. of the opposing sex for the sake of bettering yourself, learning something, consultation or anything productive would not be considered haram (forbidden by Allah). However, whenever the meeting begins to have an undertone of gossip, criminality, or anything immoral –according to Islam- it must be shut down immediately.
Sex and sexual desire is and will always be the elephant in the room when you are talking about male-female relationships. Whether men and women can be just friends is a reoccurring question asked today. Islam’s stand on male-female relationships has always been unambiguous and precise i.e. males and females can have a platonic relationship only when certain rules and limits are set and as such a decorum is necessary when men and women interact so as not to fall into sin (especially unlawful sexual acts).
Talking about the dynamics of male-female interaction according to Islam will not be complete without the subject of Mahram coming into play. A Mahram is an unmarriageable kin with whom sexual intercourse would be considered haram. A Mahram plays many important roles, one of which is a guardian or chaperone thereby almost guaranteeing that nothing shady happens. And in the case of lovers or people who could find themselves in a compromising situation the mahram becomes the ultimate third wheel ensuring everything is above board. As funny as that statement might be, out of wedlock sexual activity is a major component of Islam, and as such either as the third wheel or a screen which distances you from unwarranted attention or mixing with bad company a mahram plays a crucial role.
In the end, whatever you feel or think about Islam it is safe to say that Islam is a religion of checks and balances especially in regards to the relationships. It's ageless fundaments maintain a concept of conservativeness and modesty which is one of the things that sets it apart from other religions. Nonetheless, it has been countlessly reported that the wives of the prophet (and numerous other Muslim women) have been in the company of non-mahrams as teachers, etc. therefore one must conclude that when it is necessary men and women can mix but never should some lines be crossed.
Lastly, Looking at it from a purely logical point, and acknowledging the reality of attacks/ assaults and other social norms targeted at women is it so bad for women to be accompanied by male relatives whose only goal is to safeguard them?
It is common knowledge (for those who have looked into Islam) that Muslim women inherit half of what men inherit from the possessions of a deceased family member. And let’s be honest, feminists and most liberals aren’t happy about it. After all, its unequal and women deserve as much as men do. Luckily, there is more to the story than a religion or patriarchal system hell bent on making women second to men in all aspects.
The Qur’anic verse 4:7 says “For men, there is a share from what their parents and close relatives leave, and for women, there is a share from what their parents and close relatives leave, be it little or considerable; a definite share.” The verse was revealed during a time when a woman inheriting any familiar goods/ wealth was considered preposterous. After all, what does a woman need money for when she is to marry and be taken care of? On this, account Islam was progressive beyond its time and did what culture and pre-existing religions couldn’t i.e. give women financial freedom.
Islamically, men and women have been allotted very different gender-specific roles. This has enabled uniformity and a form of unison in the Muslim Ummah (population/community) where all men are expected to uphold the same values and as such execute the same responsibilities and vice versa for the females. One of such roles is in the regard of financial obligations which in most cases fall 100% on men. While women are exempted from having to provide for anyone (including themselves). That is not to say they can’t. It just means that whatever a woman has/ makes belongs to her and her alone, therefore whatever she chooses to do with her finances is entirely up to her.
In summary, a Muslim woman is entitled to her inheritance (half of what a man gets), Mahr (dowry), Nafaqah (financial support i.e. part of a woman’s marital rights), Gifts and her income- if she has a job. And, she is not required to use whatever she owns on anyone- including her husband, children, parents, etc. unless she chooses to. Furthermore, when she does spend her money on someone other than herself, she is rewarded for it as it is considered charity or a generous gift.
As for men, Islam requires their income and inheritance to be spent in the service of their families (irrespective of their female counterpart’s saving or income). Not to mention in the case of war or other unplanned calamities, men have to contribute financially as well as physically which means they (their dependents) must have a nest to fall back on. Therefore, to give men a boost/ means to continuously provide for the many people they are Islamically responsible for; hence the inheritance of men is double.
Understandably, I understand some people will still roll their eyes on the subject, but I do think when properly examined one can see the logic of having men inherit more. However, realistically, especially in this day and age, it will be naïve to not look at financial restraints and how women are increasingly required to get jobs. Despite that, this does not take away from the duties of a man. Instead, I think it should be a driving force for people to aim for more- to take care of their responsibilities. Nevertheless, women can and should be financially secure, and if she does choose to make a financial contribution, it is a choice a woman must make for herself.
So, guys, this is it for the series. I enjoyed getting to relearn bits and pieces of my faith and sharing it with you. Getting my first angry reaction to a post has been a real eye-opener; however, I will like to say the majority has been positive.
Religion is and will continue to be a sensitive topic, and I understand that the natural reaction to anything that makes us uncomfortable is avoidance, but I refuse to do so. I want to know more about my faith and every other faith because religion is a fact of many lives. And for us, as a race to see eye-to-eye, we must be open to listening to one another and take initiatives to understand what matters to those outside our comfort groups.
I hope I have been able to clarify some of your doubts, questions, and misunderstandings about Islam and what it says about women. And if not, please don’t shy away from sharing your views, concerns, and questions about the subject or anything else.
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Till next time blabbers 😘😘