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FAQs & Fatwas Islamic Studies

Can our MSA Conduct Meetings with Both Genders Present?

Question:

“Is it allowed for our MSA board to meet even though we have different genders on our board?”

The Answer:

All praise is due to Allah [alone]. May His prayers and blessings upon the Prophet Muhammad, His family, companions and those who follow him.

The scholars stated that If a gathering between the sexes follows Islamic guidelines, then such a gathering, God willing, is permissible because Islamic law does not forbid general gatherings between males and females. The only thing that is explicitly forbidden is being alone with [a person eligible for marriage]  where both are together, alone, in a place which no one could see them, not aware of what they are doing.

When a gathering occurs in which both parties are not alone, then what is forbidden is for either party to be dressed in a way that is not sanctioned by Islam; by showing any part of their body which is forbidden to expose, or acting in ways which are considered against Islamic standards.

Sh. Faisal al-Mawlawi writes:

“From here it becomes clear that the times in which such gatherings are forbidden are:

1. When both parties are alone together.

2. The absence of observing Islamic guidelines regarding dress and behavior.

Finally, in every situation the reason for such gatherings must be recognized by Islamic law. Such a reason could be obligatory in nature, recommended or permissible.”

There is no doubt that gatherings to discuss the affairs of the MSA are from the recommended affairs. Thus, God willing, there is nothing wrong with such gatherings if they meet the conditions above.

Allah knows best.

Suhaib

www.virtualmosque.com

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship.

Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010 and his website, www.SuhaibWebb.com, was voted the best “Blog of the Year” by the 2009 Brass Crescent awards.

Suhaib Webb has lectured extensively around the world including in the Middle East, East Asia, Europe, North Africa and North America. Upon returning from his studies in Egypt, Webb lived in the Bay Area, California, where he worked with the Muslim American Society from Fall 2010 to Winter 2011. He currently serves as the Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston’s Cultural Center (ISBCC).

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  • Jazakallahu khairan Sh. Suhaib. I was wondering if you could also highlight the etiquettes that need to be observed in such gatherings because very often our dear brothers and sisters forget that while such gatherings are considered permissible by our scholars due to its “necessity”, we should not be very casual in our communication, e.g. cracking jokes at one another, hanging out excessively, so on and so forth.

  • I dont understand, the “asl” of gatherings between men and women is that of permissability isnt it?

    Factors (like the ones mentioned) make it forbidden (due to Sadd Ath Tharai) hence we must keep this in our minds when dealing with this. Sometimes it is approached as if the asl is hurmah, and then it is permitted for necessity (Dharuratan) which seems to be how our dear brother Abdullah has mentioned. Taking this into account, we need not be that uptight when mix gatherings take place to the extent that it feels uncomfortable and unproductive.

    Peace…

  • ASAK,

    Not to gang up on akh abdullah who is clearly trying to fear Allah and holds an understanding that it is not allowed for men in women to intermingle unless there is a necessity. What Haq is trying to say in laymens terms is that the original ruling in culture/customs is permissibility until there is an authentic text which changes that original ruling and as outlined in the article, our deen forbids mingling in which men do not lower their gaze and women do not observe hijab. So if a believer knew that the Islamic code of cross-gender intermingling will not be observed by some then they should appoint a suitable person of each gender to properly advise those who don’t comply, otherwise the meeting should be held seperately or with a partition with different entrances.

    On the issue of just friendly gathering between couples and their families with the purpose of strengthening brotherhood. It would also be allowed to have casual cross-gender small talk although the same Islamic principles must be observed. On the other hand as Muslims who are defined by the character of Haya’ (shyness/modesty) it would be more comfortable for everyone if the genders were seperated, especially for women who might want to take off their head covering.

    It seems as though in this subject the Arab culture has imposed its strict culture as the prevailing fiqh opinion in many cases and sadly the women often pay for mens shortcomings. I suggest anyone wanting to truly understand how cross-gender mingling was in the time of the Prophet (saws) to read the Arabic book “The liberation of the woman in the time of the Prophet” by Abdul-Haleem Abu shuqqah. This book blew my mind straight from the authentic collections showing that you shouldn’t just beleive all that your told. This book as a whole is enlightening and only a few issues in its entire 6 volumes have a strong refutation as to the meaning and application of the mentioned texts.

    Wallahu a’lam,

    Abu Majeed

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