Thursday, August 26, 2021

Understanding the Talibani Sharia: Does Islam Push For Complete Gender Segregation?


By S. Arshad, New Age Islam

25 August 2021

Is Complete Gender Segregation Even Possible?

Main Points:

1.     The Quran stresses moral on moral veiling than on physical veiling.

2.     The     Quran asks both men and women to lower their gaze.

3.     Islam allows both men and women to pray in the mosque behind a male imam.

4.     Women are allowed to interact with their male attendants.


Over the years, a general opinion has evolved among a large section of Muslims that Islam pushes for complete gender segregation in all spheres of life.  Many Islamic scholars are of the opinion that women should be kept in complete veil. Some even say that a woman should have only one hole in front of her eye in her Burqa. Some Islamic scholars even say that men should not stare at their daughter or sister at home. A section of Islamic scholars whom extremist organizations like Taliban follow say that women should not even be allowed to go to schools  or work outside home because they are considered vulnerable and also because they are considered at an evil force who will corrupt men if they are allowed to appear in public with their face uncovered.

In Pakistan a university professor was killed for advocating mixing up of genders in the campus. Malala Yousafzai was fired at for advocating education of the girls for the same reason that when they get educated they will become corrupt.

But to decide on an issue, Muslims should find the answer first in the Quran and then in the Sunnah, if the Quran is silent on it. The verses 30 and 31 of Surah Nur give some idea what kind of purdah it wants Muslims to follow:

O Prophet! ˺ Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their chastity. That is purer for them. Surely Allah is All-Aware of what they do.

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their chastity, and not to reveal their adornments1 except what normally appears.2 Let them draw their veils over their chests, and not reveal their ˹hidden˺ adornments3 except to their husbands, their fathers, their fathers-in-law, their sons, their stepsons, their brothers, their brothers sons or sisters sons, their fellow women, those ˹bondwomen˺ in their possession, male attendants with no desire, or children who are still unaware of womens nakedness. Let them not stomp their feet, drawing attention to their hidden adornments. Turn to Allah in repentance all together, O believers, so that you may be successful.

The Quran tells Muslim men to lower their gaze when confronted by women. Then in the next verse the Quran tells women to lower their gaze {when confronted by men}. So, if the women are not allowed to appear in the public in the first place, why they will be men be required to lower their gaze. The Quran knows that it does not envisage a society based on complete gender segregation and so men and women will have to interact with each other during the course of their social, economic and religious duties. The Quran stresses not much on physical veiling but rather on spiritual or moral veiling. And the onus of maintaining is not only on women but also on men as is shown in verse 30 of Surah Nur.

The verse 31 also allows women to interact with their male attendants in the family without veil along with their blood relatives.

Most importantly, during the life of the prophet pbuh, women were also allowed to pray in the mosque along with men behind the male imam at the same time. Therefore, Islam allows women to pray in the mosque along with men at the same time though their saf will start after the saf of men. So when women are not barred from coming to mosque and pray along with men, how can they be barred from other spheres of life only on the basis that some men or some women may be vulnerable or corrupt. To insist on complete segregation of women from all spheres of life will mean that Muslims consider women an evil force that will corrupt the society if they are allowed to join school or office.

During the life of the holy Prophet pbuh, some women complained to him that they could not ask him questions regarding religious issues because he was surrounded by men most of the time. They therefore, requested the holy prophet pbuh to give them time so that they can sit with him and learn Deen. The holy prophet pbuh assigned the women a particular day for the purpose. But this segregation was not because women were barred from joining men but because they could not reach the holy prophet pbuh as he was surrounded by men most of the time.

There is another incident in Sahih Bukhari narrated by Hadhrat Ibn Abbas. He said that one day the holy Prophet Pbuh came out of the company of men because he thought women could not hear his sermon. He came close to the women gathered there and exhorted them to give charity. On listening this, women gave their rings or other ornaments for charity and Hadhrat Bilal r.a. collected it.

In a multicultural society in which we live, it is very difficult to completely segregate the sexes.  Therefore, being a natural religion, Islam also does not push or insist on gender segregation in all spheres of life. All it wants is men and women should maintain a healthy moral distance with each other. They should strive together to make life better for the people.

Modern Islamic states follow this Islamic spirit presented by the Quran and practiced and demonstrated by the holy Prophet Pbuh and his holy companions. Confining women and covering them from head to toe is not Islamic. The scholars and organizations imposition complete ban on women’s education or their participation in jobs and social activities actually violate the Quranic principle of equality.

Confining women within the house without giving them the opportunity to get education and participate in social activities and politics in the modern world will only cause educational, social and economic backwardness among Muslims.


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