Mixing of sexes — The controversy continues

Mixing of sexes — The controversy continues

Mixing of sexes — The controversy continues

MIXING of genders has always been a controversial issue in the Kingdom with many proponents and opponents. Some believe the mingling of sexes is impermissible in Islam no matter what form it takes while others view the issue from a different angle.

Irrespective of the opposition to gender mixing, it occurs on a daily basis and in various forms; women ride in cars with their male drivers, they go see male doctors and shop at malls where male shoppers and salesmen are present. Al-Riyadh daily reports on how the issue has become increasingly polarizing as more and more women enter the workforce.

Sami Al-Majed, a faculty member of the Shariah Department, Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, says it is natural for men and women to be attracted to one another. Therefore, it is important to take all necessary precautions to prevent any form of intermingling.

“Today, only few young men can stand their ground and not be affected by any kind of emotions when they find themselves in an environment that allows intermingling. We should look at countries around us that allow intermingling and learn from them. Most of these countries suffer from a high rate of sexual harassment cases against female workers,” he said.

“The advocates of intermingling maintain that anything that is not prohibited by the Holy Qur’an or the Prophet’s Sayings cannot be called ‘haram’ or impermissible. First of all, this statement is misleading because the majority of scholars agree that the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sayings are not the only sources from which rulings can be deducted and made. There are other sources and methods, such as ‘ijtihad’ or independent reasoning. A scholar can use his own efforts to interpret a problem that is not precisely covered by the Holy Qur’an or the Prophet’s Sayings and base his reasoning on evidence from these two sources,” he added.

For example, the Holy Qur’an does not specifically have any texts that say it is impermissible for a son or daughter to beat their parents. However, there are several texts that state clearly that parents should be treated with great respect and should not be treated in a harsh manner.

“If the Shariah prevents women from wearing perfume when they go outside because doing so will tempt men, how can we claim it permits women to intermingle with men in work environment where there is more room for temptation? The proponents’ argument is weak and does not hold ground,” he noted.

Al-Majed went on to claim that many scholars are against the form of intermingling where women put on make-up and wear attractive clothes. Such intermingling allows men and women to act more freely with each other and develop relationships that are impermissible.

“The clear proof that intermingling is impermissible in Islam is the Shariah rule that prohibits any acts that may lead to committing sins. Most of the time intermingling can lead to temptation; therefore, it is prohibited. As for intermingling between men and women in malls and public places, it is different from intermingling between men and women in a work environment. In the latter, men and women will have to talk to one another because they are working in the same place. This talk might develop over time into an illicit relationship,” he added.

Ahmad Al-Ghamdi, former director of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) in Makkah Region, said there are no texts in the Holy Qur’an or the Prophet’s Sayings that prohibit forms of gender mixing, whether in public or even in a work environment. What is clearly prohibited in the Shariah is “khulwa”, when members of the opposite sex are caught alone with one another.

“If a man happens to be in an elevator with a woman or if a woman is sitting alone with a male doctor at the clinic and in the presence of a nurse, this is not called khulwa. The opponents of intermingling see things from a narrow angle and have segregated both sexes when the Shariah has not. This extreme point of view has caused a strong reaction among the proponents,” he noted.

According to Suhaila Zain Al-Abideen, a member of the National Society for Human Rights, there is no such thing as permissible and impermissible intermingling and that gender mixing is something that is natural.

“All forms of intermingling of sexes is permissible except in schools and universities because at that age, young men and women are still not mature enough and they are more prone to illicit relationships,” she said.