The main argument that is used to exaggerate gender segregation practices and stifle women’s social life by preventing them from coming to the masajid, attending Islamic lectures or getting educated even though this contradicts the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) is the excuse of widespread corruption (fitnah), or fitnah-phobia.

Phobia means an irrational, unfounded or exaggerated fear. While closing the doors of fitnah is a valid concern in Islamic life, its exaggeration or misapplication becomes quite poisonous in a community that feels insecure and lacks balanced scholarship and proper guidance. This situation has been quite harmful in many Muslim communities across the world.

Today’s societies are full of fitnah, the argument goes, and we must protect our women and ourselves. Some say that there has been a constant increase in fitnah since the death of the Messenger of Allah and his Companions, and use the statement of the Mother of the Believers, Aisha, who said: “If the Prophet (pbuh) saw the behaviour of the women today, he would have forbidden them from coming to the masajid as the women of the Banu Israel were forbidden.”

First, it should be noted that the society that the Prophet (pbuh) lived in was a real human society, and there were incidents of crimes and mistakes of all kinds. Several cases of theft, rape, adultery, fornication and false indictments were reported in his blessed life. Most of the tribes of Arabia had freshly entered Islam towards the end of Prophet’s life and their social life was only beginning to be transformed by Islam; there must have been much fitnah in those regions.

He (pbuh) did order or recommend several precautionary measures to protect us from fitnah, such as prohibiting women from travelling a long distance alone, enjoining that they pray behind the men’s rows and leave the masjid before men if mixing was feared, ensuring that a man may not be alone with a non-mahram woman, and forbidding both men and women from looking at each other in a lustful way and ensuring they both cover themselves properly. But all this never caused the Prophet (pbuh) to issue a general statement about the prohibition of women from coming to the masjid, Eid prayers or other festivities.


SA discussion of fitnah cannot be complete without mentioning the opposite extreme, that of those who are attracted to fitnah or immodesty, either because of the powerful influence of the promiscuous and lustful society we live in, or because of personal inclinations.

Moreover, there are those (including some well-meaning Muslims) who say that we must have self-confidence and must not be too concerned about interaction between men and women. They say that piety is in one’s heart and men and women talking to, befriending and being permissive with each other is not our concern; we can handle ourselves.

Such an attitude is a result of ignorance of Islam as well as human nature. Such people must be reminded that Allah has Himself warned all believers of the dangers of sexual waywardness and called it one of the major reasons for deviation and destruction of nations before us. Personal piety is not enough; Allah has required of the Muslims communal, social, and legal measures to guard against the fitnah of sexual perversion.

Allah, our Creator, knows us best, and it would be self-righteous, arrogant and foolish of us to think that our intentions, piety and character can be pure without heeding to Allah’s warnings.

When giving reason for hijab for the wives of the Prophet (pbuh), Allah says: “That is purer for your hearts and their hearts,” [33:53]. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “Beware of entering upon a woman (without permission, inappropriately, or being alone with a woman)”. A man from the Ansar said: “What about the brother-in-law, O Messenger of Allah(ق)?” He (ق) said: “The brother-in-law is death.” (Bukhari). Scholars have explained that brothers-in-law are especially trusted and a culture may take such interactions liberally, and this could make the danger greater. This hadeeth means that the Islamic guidelines of proper dress and avoiding seclusion (Khulwa) with such close relatives must be observed. This must not of course preclude the special relationship, compassion and mutual help among in-laws that characterise a healthy family.

Allah warns us that if we are heedless of Allah’s Shari’ah and loose about gender relations, and fail to dress properly and guard our sight and thoughts about the opposite sex, we will definitely fall into inappropriate behaviour, distraction from worship and other shameful consequences in this world and the Hereafter.

Read Part 1 of Women In Muslim Communities Today HERE