Gender Relations Women

He’s Like A Brother

“You’re just like a brother to me!” she’d often tell her Muslim college friend whom she’s grown close to over the years. She feels comfortable with confiding in him, trusting him, opening up to him – but she’s never thought of him as a husband. They hang out together during their breaks, she calls him whenever she needs to vent, and she loves how he’s never judgmental towards her. To him, she was a friend at first — but he soon discovered that he’d often feel a tinge of jealousy whenever she spoke nonchalantly and joked with other male classmates. It burned him inside, and he’d always try to pull her away casually without making his irritation apparent. Many times, he’d look at her with admiration, smiling and melting away with his dreams of what could be for them. He would never dare bring up marriage to her, though. How could he when she only viewed him as her brother?

So, would you call these two good friends? Brother and sister maybe? Boyfriend and girlfriend? As with many cases in the Muslim community, this is a confused pseudo-marriage framed under the guise of friendship or an innocent brotherly bond. As the two become lax in their interaction, their hearts naturally – albeit unintentionally – gravitate towards each other, their minds become occupied with each other, and one or both parties eventually develop feelings that either remain trapped or expressed and acted upon unlawfully. With their increasing closeness and intimacy, the special reserves of loyalty, emotional sentiments and halaal physical attraction may be exhausted before their rightful outlet in marriage. If they end up not getting married and search elsewhere for a partner, they may never be content because they can’t resist comparing potential spouses with their former “friend”. Even if they eventually marry someone else, they will always have a history, and sometimes Shaytan can push them to reconnect and rekindle that past relationship during marriage.

It is no wonder why our wise Creator `azza wa jall, who is well aware of our natures and inclinations, says in the Qur’an “…Nor of those who take (boy)friends…(4:25). With many commands and prohibitions in Islam, Allah has mercifully forbade the prerequisite acts that would lead to major sins. He is protecting us from Shaytan and from falling prey to our desires, which saves us the emotional distress and painful regret that often come as a consequence to disobedience.

It’s also no wonder why it is purer and more chaste for both men and women to lower their gaze when speaking to those of the opposite gender (24:30-31), and to focus only on the tasks necessitating their communication. Remember Musa (`alayhissalam ) with the two daughters of Shu`ayb? Their interaction and communicating was exuding hayaa’ and self-respect; Musa (as) never struck personal, unwarranted conversation with them and when one of the daughters informed Musa (as) that her father is inviting him to reward him for his assistance, she walked (and spoke) with utmost modesty and dignity.

One of the greatest manifestations of modesty and also a safeguard to indecent conduct is the Muslimah’s Islamic dress. Besides obeying Allah and the Messenger’s commands in wearing loose, non-transparent, non-perfumed clothing, the attire brings with it an entire set of behavioral traits that the Muslim woman finds befitting to uphold. She is no longer comfortable mingling with men, joking and laughing loudly with them – or behaving in any way that may ignite their desires. Her taqwa (God-consciousness) and hayaa’ with Allah become embodied in all her mannerisms – her body language, how she speaks and carries herself – and reminds her of amicably maintaining the boundaries that Allah and the Messenger (peace be upon him) would be pleased with.

There is a profound hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him), which if practiced and truly believed in, can adorn our lives with blessings and many successes. It states: “There is nothing that you leave out of God-consciousness except that Allah will compensate you with something better” (Ahmad). We all long for acceptance and relationships that quell our loneliness and make us feel needed and loved. Perhaps if we devote our lives to increasing our love for Allah and gaining His love in return, He will bless us with halaal relationships that will be the greatest source of happiness, love, loyalty and compassion in this life and the better one to come.

Originally published by Muslimah Source

About the author

Naiyerah Kolkailah

Naiyerah Kolkailah was born and raised in San Luis Obispo, California. She graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, with a B.S. in Biological Sciences, and a minor in Religious Studies. During her college years, she served as President of the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) and Vice President of the statewide organization, MSA-West. In 2011, Naiyerah received a Diploma in Islamic Studies from the Faculty of Islamic Studies at Qatar Foundation in Doha, Qatar. In 2012, she received a license in memorization and recitation of the Qur’an from Shaykh Uthman Khan, whom she continues to study Tajweed with at Jaamiah Jazriyyah. Naiyerah currently lives in Pismo Beach, California, where she co-directs an Islamic Studies youth program, private tutors women and children in Qur’anic recitation and memorization, and speaks about Islam at local churches, interfaith events and Islam classes. She is also serving as President of the Board of Directors of the Islamic Society of San Luis Obispo County. Naiyerah can be reached at


  • Masha’Allah, so glad someone posted an article about this. It applies to so many of us sisters, especially on college campuses. Alhamdulillah and jazak’Allahkheir.

  • Assalaamu alaikum
    I think this article is biased because it puts so much duty on the woman to be a certain way (dress, speech, behavior etc). Why didn’t you write about the men and what duties they are suppose to have? What set of behavioral traits men should uphold? Why didn’t you write about why men choose to be in a “brotherly” relationship with a female?
    I sort of resent the statement “One of the greatest manifestations of modesty and also a safeguard to indecent conduct is the Muslimah’s Islamic dress”. Not because I don’t like Islamic dress, infact I love Islamic dress and I love hijab. This statement immidiatly makes me feel like it’s solely the woman’s responsibility to not enagage in a friendship with a man and to avoid such behavior is to dress a certain way. I think that is a bit unfair and irrational. I think you could go more in depth about this situation and explore the complexities of this “friendship” between and a man and a woman in the Muslim community.
    Thank you for the article!

    • It says at the bottom, “Originally published by Muslimah Source”.

      I absolutely agree with you that emphasis should be placed on the attitudes and behaviours of brothers. After all, Allah tells men first to lower their gaze. But this article was from a source aimed at sisters so it makes sense that the message is directed at sisters. 🙂

    • @biased, wa alaikum salam
      the article is not at all biased. its a 50/50 split on the modesty point. each side has their requirement set forth clearly by Allah swt. the quote:“One of the greatest manifestations of modesty and also a safeguard to indecent conduct is the Muslimah’s Islamic dress”. may make you feel a certain way, but that is purely because of your perspective. I am a woman and I didn’t have that reaction and I know many other women who feel the same. the article is sound, we must take the information presented and build on it by researching and learning about whatever caused a question or desire to comment. Additional info about this topic is in no way scarce, so I would say you yourself could go into more about this situation and explore the complexities of this “friendship” between and a man and a woman in the Muslim community. and I’m sure you would find the journey richly satisfying.

  • Why are we ALWAYS emphasizing the woman’s role in relationships and completely negating the man’s? It is soooo frustrating!

    • The emphasis on dress and behaviour always seems to be directed at women in Islam. Women are not responsible for the shortcoming in a man’s morals….the man himself is 100% responsible. The over-focus directed at women in Islam belittles and degrades women but it also degrades Muslim men by implying that they are all animalistic, lustful animals not capable of indpendent self-control. Blaming women for this is an easy excuse for those men looking for one ! It is this extreme bias that makes it next to impossible for non-Muslim women to ever consider changing their faith to Muslim.

  • A wonderful article, but it seems to be missing any guidance for those currently in that situation. Also, what are the boundaries for interaction? Hayaa’ is so broad and defined by culture and people’s expectations. What are the actual boundries for what is halaal and haraam?

    • I think the boundaries for interaction in Islam is clear. All the moslem, brother and sister, have responsibilities to keep their aqeedah for each other. So, we must avoid things that can bring up to emotional sentiments and physical attraction.

      For this case,it doesn’t matter to go hang out together, but they have to go with other friends in groups. All of us should avoid khalwat (man and woman, who are not muhreem, being together in a close proximity) because the Prophet said that if a man and woman being together in a quiet place, the third who join them is shaytan.

      And back to this case, actually he should not hesitate to bring up marriage to her, in a proper Islamic way. If she is a good moslem, off course she should consider his offer. If she refuse him, then he still has to apreciate her decission, and respect her as a sister in Islam, protecting her aqeedah and vice versa.

      • Assalam alaykum sister,
        I agree with you that both muslim brothers and sisters should avoid things that can bring up to emotional sentiments or attraction.

        However, I would want to ask you about the second point, sisters and brothers going out together in a group. Is there any incident in the sunna where female sahabah hang out with male sahabah in the presence and knowledge of the prophet (sallah Allah alayhi wa salam)?
        As a girl, do you really think that going out in groups with brothers wont bring up any sort of attraction, emotional sentiment or even the slightest feeling in both sisters and brothers about the opposite gender?

        Shatan would be the third person in a Khalwa with a non mahram, but he would also be there whispering to every member of the group causing a huge damage, a damage in ones heart and eeman especially in the long term which can be really hard to repair.

        Thats what i think. If i am right, its from Allah and if am wrong, its from my nafs and shatan.

        hope you the best my sister in islam


  • Where is the responsibility of the men in also acting Islamically. Whenever modesty comes up in Islam we always talk about the women but there are also guidelines for modesty for men. Somehow we seem to forget that.

  • totally agree with Biased and Judah! why always the emphasis on women’s dress/conduct!

    ”One of the greatest manifestations of modesty and also a safeguard to indecent conduct is the Muslimah’s Islamic dress. Besides obeying Allah and the Messenger’s commands in wearing loose, non-transparent, non-perfumed clothing, the attire brings with it an entire set of behavioral traits that the Muslim woman finds befitting to uphold.”

    And men? is it not befitting to them to wear clothes that dont draw attention to their bodies? ass-tight jeans anyone? This applies just as much, although differently to men.

    • Not only the jeans, but sleeves down to the wrist, please, and shirt buttoned above the collarbone, also not tight-fitting. Jazak’allah khair to the brothers who are considerate of their sisters.

  • Please everyone calm down about the “what about the men?” the article is correct and true in it’s own right! The greatest manifesation of hayaa is the dress code of the muslim woman and we should be proud of this and not get hotblooded. yes it doesn’t talk about everything pertaining to hayaa including the attitude of the man but you all forget that this article may just be aimed at a subset, namely women. If you want to know the kind of hayaa a man should possess look to the Companions of the Prophet, read and study the Quran. lowering ones gaze was commanded to the men first because their desires naturally far outweighs women’s and thats not just anyone’s opinion.

  • can i call u my sister in islam or can i be your brother in islam? if cant, then should all the opposite sex relationship only be based on desire no other purpose? i beg to differ. thanks for the article. salam

  • I really like your concluding sentence:
    “Perhaps if we devote our lives to increasing our love for Allah and gaining His love in return, He will bless us with halaal relationships that will be the greatest source of happiness, love, loyalty and compassion in this life and the better one to come.”

    However, as a single sister in the West without having her family around, it can be quite difficult to not feel that “void” in one’s life. It’s easier said than done. May Allah swt make our imaan strong. Ameen.

  • Hi hanuna,

    I agree with you the article is slightly biased. But most men do know that you never be really friends with women. Women are objects of sexual curiosity to men unless they are their own off limits mother or sister etc. Most men unless gay will start thinking about each women in their life in a sexual way at least once. Doesn’t matter if there married & honourable and would never do anything; they have thought it at least once or their not male. Also if a man is close to you i.e. female and if its a friendlily situation; you joke and laugh and get along and talk etc. Then the man is more inclined to think sexual thoughts about you even though he may have thought you not so attractive initially. He will start think you in positive terms and it will lead him to think of you as prospect.

    Most guys know this as they have experienced it. I have no idea about the females. I know of one particular instance of my female cousin when she was in college one of her male friends became a very good friend. He was decent but quiet guy and he brings his Mom to her house to propose. The fit she pulled on him was epic. She at least had no idea he was going to anything like that and she only saw him as a brotherly figure.

    So advice to males and females – you can never be really friends. You can be FWB but true friends like two guys or two females never. Unless one or both are gay. That’s whole different set of troubles.

    • This is spot on. And I think women have to come clean in terms of owning up to enjoying the benefits of friendship with males without commitment. It is analogous to enjoying intimate physical relations outside of marriage. Close, trusting friendship between the sexes is (or should be) one of the major purposes of marriage. A female’s close male friend should be her spouse; a male’s close female friend should be her spouse. By developing these friendships outside of marriage, it serves to weaken and cheapen the uniqueness and strength of the partnership bond within marriage.

      Finally, I’d like to say that even the gay friendship thing is a myth. Back in the day before accepting Islam, I had a very close friendship with a gay male. He was my best friend. But one day he came to my house and made a very direct pass at me! I rejected this because I had already dismissed this possibility. The opposite syndrome is well known, whereby women who befriend gay men because they are “safe” end up falling in love with them and become heartbroken. There is a closeness and love between men and women that leads to physical intimacy as its natural and ultimate fruit. Both parts of the equation, the whole process, should happen within marriage.

      • “A female’s close male friend should be her spouse; a male’s close female friend should be her spouse.”

        I think the reason why both genders seek friendship outside of their gender is because, among other reasons is, they’re not married! I know for fact more than a hundred girls who are well educated, have good jobs and are practicing, good muslimas looking to get married but couldn’t…for lack of forum to meet men of their choice.

        The same thing can be said of the guys who’re looking to get married as well. Also, in Islam the mingling of the sexes in masjids and most functions is forbiden. So, in my opinion, the attraction to become friends with a guy – like a brother- at work places is the product of “the tie that binds us together ie Islam”.

        In the end the muslim guy would be protective than trespassing the boundries of friendship knowing the religion.

        I would also argue, if anyone has a good marriage where they rely on the spouse for their emotional support, have that open relationship with each other, where they confide and have an open dialogue, they may not need/crave the close relationship of the other sex to be heard as was told in the story.

        Jazak allah fi kulu khairun

    • Salaam,

      I agree with what was stated by Mike, it is difficult for men and women to be friends. This statement is not the exception but the rule–regardless of whether you are muslim or non-muslim.

      If you want some proof then watch this video about a guy who interviewed women and men regarding the gender friendship issue.

      • First of all, that video wasn’t even a proper interview. It was done mainly for comedic purposes. Even if you consider an ‘interview,’ statistically, the sample of students interviewed in that university alone does not constitute for the entire population of human beings.

        On top of that, the way the interviewer posed the questions affected the answers he received. How do you think the same people would respond if the interviewer was a woman instead of a guy?

        So all in all, that video is not proper proof or evidence.

  • This is the statement I have a problem with:
    “We all long for acceptance and relationships that quell our loneliness and make us feel needed and loved. Perhaps if we devote our lives to increasing our love for Allah and gaining His love in return, He will bless us with halaal relationships that will be the greatest source of happiness, love, loyalty and compassion in this life and the better one to come.”

    This is brainwashing those muslim women who wish to get married.

    We will get married if Allah wills. But if no one helps us Allah will not make a husband fly down from the sky.

    There are many many muslim women who have spent their entire lives in worship and avoiding the opposite sex. Trust me, there are many of us who remained unmarried.

    There is no evidence to suggest the formual you have stated in your article. Everyone knows that muslim men cross Islamic boundareis, and end up in happy marriages to nice muslim girls. Everyone knows that there are muslim girls out there who also cross Islamic boundaries, and who nonetheless end up with nice muslim husbands. And, I can say unequivocally that there are nice muslim girls who spend their lives respecting Islamic boundaries, and end up completely alone and childless.

    Giving us a false sense of security is not helpful. There is not “supernatural” element to finding a spouse. Either our families and muslim communities will help us, or they won’t. And if they won’t, then we are out of luck. Short and simple. We can be good pious muslims until the end of our lives, but that doesn’t guarantee us a nice husband and children.

    I am 41 and so sick of all this brainwashing that goes on. “Oh jsut read dua and OF COURSE you will get married and have children!!” “Oh just avoid the opposite sex and a nice muslim husband will be catapulted into your life, that is ALL it takes!” Where, oh where, in teh QUran does it say that that is how a muslim woman gets married?

    I followed the “rules” but when my elders and community were pushed to teh task, they bowed out. Of course, they still attend the mosque, fast, pray , etc, but when it comes to marriage of their muslim daughters they don’t bother.

    I really think some of the statements here are misleading. Nor am I suggesting that we break Islamic Rules. Not at all. But I am suggesting that this “don’t do anything” attitude is a scapegoat.

    • I totally agree star. The family has to or the girl has too. God is not dropping husband, money or cars in our laps. We have to go out there and get with Allah’s mercy and blessing but we gotta get out there. Somebody, matchmaker, parents or you. The coming down from heaven ended with Moses(PBUH) and I can’t tell you how sorry I am for that… It’s just that you gotta tell the guy upfront I’m thinking you for husband material but no just let’s be friends. You can get to know him a bit; like him; give him the heads up you’re into him for marriage and if he’s not move on or if you’re not move on and make sure he knows you’re not. The moral of the article guys and gals can not be friends for more than say 4-6 weeks with some immorality creeping in the guy’s mind even he’s doesn’t make a move. It’s the gray area the Prophet(SAW) told us to avoid.

    • I totally disagree with the comment made by star. To get married, u don’t need to start mixing up with guys. As u said there were girls who were totally into worship and avoided guys. Do you mean they should start talking and mixing up with guys so that they can choose one out of them??
      I don’t see any brainwashing in the article above.

      There are hundreds of other better ways.
      Islamic organisations which arrange for suitable matches are established worldwide.

      Or otherwise even if a girl likes to get married to a certain person, there’s no harm in it provided that they remain in their limits. In fact a muslim girl has every right to choose her own husband.

      Yes, Islam allows the girl to see the guy. They are allowed to talk for hours,if required, provided that they don’t talk about anything obscene and there’s a mahram present.
      The only thing i can see that the article is trying to point out is that avoid being friends with guys because at one point of time or another, feelings are sure to creep in.

      And as for some of the people who say that the article is biased. Why don’t we just try do our part at its best? No one is blaming us. It’s a reminder for us because certainly more responsibility lies on the women. The only thing guys can do is lower their gaze. Women are the ones who can cover themselves up to avoid being the source of attraction for a man even if he looks up at us! Believe me…. guys get much more attracted to a woman who shows herself up….they cannot fantasize about a covered woman.. can they??

      • Yes, actually, they can, and do. When the only time men are around women is for sex (broadly understood), they quickly become conditioned to think that being around a woman means there will be sex. It could be a useful part of a young person’s moral formation to learn how to be around a person of the opposite sex and keep their mind on something besides sex – like geometry and civics and community issues and being able to mutually occupy a workplace.

        Shaping that mindset requires not that kids be allowed to run around together without supervision. Quite the opposite. It means involved parents, male and female, working with kids in a way that helps the younger generations learn how to think, how to put their minds and their deen in control of their hormones.

    • You are right on so many levels.I do feel thatthe community and the families schould be more active in searching for husbands for their daughters.why this isnt happening I honestly don’t understand.
      However if nobody is helping, than the women should be more pro active.For e.g. ask around, join diffrent groups, look abroad as an option.Nevertheless ,I say SHAME on the families and the community that neglects their single sisters.Shame on you!

      • Thanks sister.

        Yeah, as much as I’d like to agree with you, the problem is multi-level. I don’t know how a parent can go about searching for husband for their daughters, specially in North America…the distance to communities, the time you need to develop friendships adn so on, are prohibitive.

        I know groups that started charging for signing up and registering to mediate between guys adn girls yet there were no success stories. And as one participant put it, it’s getting more expensive just to look for a husband for yourself because of the time and money it takes to sign up for various sites/groups and actually attend.

        In the end, still remains, what is the solution to this growing problem?

        Coming back to the original question though,my stand remains the same – if women have a open and strong relationship with their spouse, they’d rather open up to him then a mere stranger.

        It’s all about being listened to and thacknowledged, that you have something to say, that from time to time you need to bounce an idea or run it by someone you trust…that you’re valued or just need an honest opinion, something that you’re confronted with and you want to consult someone -if I’m making any sense 🙂 I bet you anything a coupld with strong relationship don’t seek out opposit friends to open up to.

        Allahu yaelem.

    • Salaam
      I agree with you Star I think there are many Islamic ways to meet a guy and women do not need sit around waiting for guy to ask them. Khadijah was women enough to proposed to our beloved prophet (peace be upon him) so why can’t we do the same. I think our community focuses too much on trying keep women and me separate as if, if we see each other we will jump on each. I know that the opposite sex cannot be friends but we can be around each other without having any lustful thoughts for example we can do the same workshop or be in the same class and of course we have to maintain Islamic dress code and adab to avoid any temptations.

      Allah knows best

  • At the end of the day if someone is non-mahram that is how we should separate the interaction between people.There always comes a point in the relationship where one develops feelings for the other. Its all part of nature and its the way we humans are made. Some people are better at controlling and hiding their feelings and others arent.

    Its best to avoid men altogther until marriage

    Anywho,Great Read.

    • Um… how do you do that? Not being sarcastic. Take the case of the adult female convert. Perhaps she either has no Muslim mahram persons, or no mahram at all. Who is going to serve as go-between for her? What can the masjids do for these sisters, and I assume brothers, who have the desire not to be alone, but no Islamically appropriate way to manage it, other than paying some internet-based matchmaking service? What does a sister do who has no one to be wali for her? And if she has no interaction with the brothers, how does she ask, say, the imam, to speak for her?

      I just don’t see complete avoidance as either possible or practical. But I may be wrong and Allah knows best.

    • Re:@FadwaB “Its best to avoid men altogther until marriage” Huh???
      For starters are you for real???????where in the world do you live? How can that even be possible? You’re painting everyone as if upon seeing each other they want to commit something so therefore should avoid each other altogether until marriage.

      You miss the point…it is about knowing how to governing yourself APPROPRIATELY without compromising your values and convictions and not “HIDING” or avoiding anything that you may think would create unwanted results.

      The whole issue with men/women being together is about minimizing unwanted lust/relationship and so on. Therefore it boils down to having a strength of character (for both men and women), how to be around each other without loosing yourself, to minimize unwanted situations = Having Control.

      Please think over what you said.

  • Askm,
    No man and woman can have a platonic relationship………. mutual feelings develop…………and emotional attachments are difficult to get rid of…its better not to have any male friends for women and for men to have any female friends…the rishta is simply not halal or ja’iz.


  • This is a beautifully written article. Simple, to the point. It focuses on broader topics and doesn’t really get into all the issues so many people have brought up here. I totally understand our community has issues with the marriage crisis and putting way too much responsibility on women over men. However, those are issues our communities have. It’s obvious this article was not a social commentary on all of those things.

    jazaki Allahu khayran Naiyerah. This was a beautiful read mashaAllah.

  • Salam everyone. Enjoyed reading the article and the comments people left at the bottom. I want to present my point of view. I believe that it is impossible to not have any friends of the opposite gender. It just goes against nature. Someone mentioned something about niat. And I believe niat is the most important thing. Allah knows our niat and we have to keep that in mind before doing something. To me, it is not wrong to meet up in groups for discussion(projects,etc). And as we are currently in the month of Ramdadhan, i believe we can go for iftar together as a group, and complete it with terawih at a nearby masjid. We have to work hard to get something that we want. And islam is a beautiful religion that does not make life hard for its ummah. Everyone has to play his or her role to ensure that everything is done in accordance to syariah. If you want to get married, it is obvious that you would have to meet up with people and make friends. As long as you obey syariah, i see nothing wrong with that. As mentioned earlier, go out in groups. Learn more about each other. If you know that he/she is the one, as your parents for approval and set the date. When we make dua, we have to work hard for it as well. You cannot just pray to do well in your exams without studying for it in the first place. Please brothers and sisters, remember that Islam is there as a guide and not as a burden. I pray that everyone will get a good spouse that will lead you to jannah. Insyaallah. Salam. And thanks for reading my point of view.

  • Not replying to anyone in particular. Just a comment for those interested. Firstly let me state I am not muslim. Im a bit old fashioned (brought up by my grandparents).
    I totally agree with cultures that encourage men to marry at a reasonable age (i.e. not too late). In western countries, men tend to avoid marriage, unless they are manipulated in some way by the woman. This creates a problem for women who are may find difficulty in having children at later ages. Even if a woman is able to get a man to agree to marry, the nature of women makes us a bit resentful if we have had to do this, and thereby it may (often does) cause problems later on in the marriage (I would say this is part (not all) of the reason alot of western marriages end in divorce). I am not a religious person who attends church, but I have dicussed issues such as this with priests/reverends (of course male!), and they really dont give a hoot. In my opinion you can really judge a religion if it listens to important issues raised by its devotees, both male and female. I know I have diverged from the main topic here, but I do think it is somewhat related. Also agree with a comment here that its extremely difficult for a man and woman to remain strictly friends for long term periods. In general I agree with most comments here.

  • Excellent article, very thoughful- All of our muammalat need to be in line with syara’. It drives the key point for us to remember Allah in thoughts and Hearts all the time, total submission to Allah will bring us closer to Him.

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