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Men and Women in Mosque: How Islam Dealt with Violations

The Hadiths quoted in the previous part, and other similar Hadiths, do not claim that the Madinah community was free from deviations, even within the Prophet’s Mosque.

It was reported in Al-Mustadrak from Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) that a pretty woman, one of the most beautiful, used to perform prayers behind the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

So, some men used to go into the first row to avoid seeing her, and some others used to lag behind so that they would be in the last row, and when they bowed, they would stealthily look behind to see her. Then Allah revealed concerning her matter:

{And indeed, We know those of you who hasten forward, and indeed, We know those of you who lag behind} [Al-Hijr: 24] (348/2).[1]

It is also noticeable here that this sin of gazing at that beautiful woman during prayer was redressed through admonition and reminding people that Allah Almighty is watching them. However, the rules governing interaction between men and women in mosque did not change, let alone the design of the mosque itself.

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At the present time, however, reality proves that no violations occur in men’s interaction with women in mosques except in rare cases, which entails no change in the original rule. In fact, anyone who intends to commit the sin of gazing at women does not need to frequent mosques to do so; may Allah safeguard us!


The means are allowed just as they are blocked

As for those who argue that allowing such normal interaction will increase the chances of temptation for young men and women, the answer is that there is a real need, recognized by anyone living and dealing with the youth, to allow young men and women to see each other, within the rules and regulations of Shariah, to facilitate marriage opportunities for them.

The Prophet’s Sunnah does not imply blocking such means (towards marriage), but rather allowing it. It was narrated that Al-Mughirah ibn Shu`bah said: I proposed to a woman and then the Prophet said to me, “Did you look at her?” I answered, “No”. Then, he said to me, “Look at her, for it is more likely to maintain the relationship between you“.[2]

However, in case illegal looking occurs and temptation is feared, then the most conclusive reference in handling such an issue is the Hadith about the woman of Khath`am. It was narrated that `Abdullah ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) let Al-Fadl ibn `Abbas ride behind him on his she camel, on the Day of Nahr (slaughtering of sacrifice, 10th Dhul-Hijja), and Al-Fadl was a handsome man. The Prophet stopped to answer people questions. In the meantime, a beautiful woman from the tribe of Khath`am came, asking the verdict of Allah’s Messenger (on a certain issue). Attracted by her beauty, Al-Fadl started looking at her.

The Prophet looked behind while Al-Fadl was looking at her; so the Prophet held out his hand backwards and caught the chin of Al-Fadl and turned his face (to the other side in order that he should not gaze at her) …” [3]

However, current reality indicates that when a young man and woman acquaint with each other in a mosque, then the normal outcome that comes to the mind is – Allah willing – marriage.



All the Hadiths quoted above indicate normal exchange between men and women, with even neutral and non-embarrassing description of respective women’s pretty face, good looking hair, dark complexion, snub-nosed or tallness, and so on.

When violations occurred by some men, who gazed at a woman in the Mosque in an illegal manner, the Prophet did not order the building of a barrier between men and women to avoid potential temptation. Rather, the interest behind the presence of men and women within the same mosque hall remained of greater weight than individual violations. For then, women remained capable of raising questions and commenting on various affairs in a manner that benefited the whole community

In addition, normal interaction within mosque opens room for marriage opportunities for young men and women and offers a solution for this serious and real social problem.

* Translated from the Arabic original by Sources referenced in the end notes are the Arabic works, not their English translations.

[1] Al-Hakim stated that “this Hadith is of an authentic chain of narration, though they (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) did not reference it”. See also Ibn Khuzaymah’s Sahih, 818/2, and Ibn Hibban’s Sahih, 2/126.

[2] Sharh Ma`ani Al-Athar, 3/14. It is also recorded in Al-Mustadrak, 2/179, and Al-Hakim said, “This Hadith is authentic according to the criterion set by Ash-Shaykhayn (Al-Bukhari and Muslim), though they did not reference it”. It is also reported in other reference books.

[3] Al-Bukhari’s Sahih, 2/132 and 8/51.