Gender Segregation, How Far Should it Go?

08 April, 2017
Q Do Muslims take gender segregation too far? How far should gender segregation be taken? What did the Prophet say about this and how did he practice it?

Answer

Asalamu Alaikum,

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.

Dr. Shabir Ally addresses this question in the video below:

Transcript:

Aisha Khaja: So, Dr. Shabir, we have a question from someone in Netherlands: how far should gender segregation be taken in Islam and how would this look in practice?

Dr. Shabir Ally: Well, a lot of things in the Quran are described very vaguely. When instructions are given, they’re given in a broad manner. And the specifics are often given either in hadith or in further interpretations by Muslim scholars over time.

Now, if we go back to the Quranic basics, so we see that the Quran allows for a wide degree of or a close sort of interaction between men and women so long as this does not cross the line and go into indecent behavior.

That’s generally the Quranic parlance on this. But then when we get to hadiths, there are more specific requirements and stipulations. And we should ask, how much of this is actually creditable to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as his genuine sayings.

And how much of this actually was basically the way in which the thinking evolved in the Muslim community over the first couple of generations? And then people thought that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) actually gave these instructions.

And, hence, they credited these instructions back to him in retrospect.

Now, it is interesting in the midst of all of these narratives, however that there was an indication even in hadith that a certain allowable limit is given. Or, you can say, a certain allowable leeway is given so long as unacceptable limits are not crossed.

Or limits are not crossed so one does not get into unacceptable behavior. The hadith I have here in mind is the hadith that says that God has prescribed for the child of Adam his share of adultery. And the adultery of the eyes is looking. The adultery of the hand is touching. The adultery of the tongue is speaking. And then the private parts either affirm or deny that.

Now, this hadith can be taken to mean that even if you see that this is adultery and so on, but it could also be taken in another sense that these are allowable things in that whatever happens without your pursuing it whatever normally happens in the usual course of activity so much is allowable, is excusable.

And then, of course, you have to watch that you don’t cross the line and go into adultery.


I hope this helps answer your question. Please keep in touch.

Walaikum Asalam.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Mixed-Gender Interaction: Prophet’s Time vs. Today

Gender Interactions… Are We Too Strict?

About Dr. Shabir Ally
Dr. Shabir Ally holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, with a specialization in Biblical Literature. He also holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto with a specialization in Quranic Exegesis.
He is the president of the Islamic Information and Dawah Centre International in Toronto where he functions as Imam. He travels internationally to represent Islam in public lectures and interfaith dialogues. He explains Islam on a weekly television program called "Let the Quran Speak". Past episodes of this show can be seen online at: www.quranspeaks.com.