I was impressed by the reply the Kingdom’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Asheikh gave to a question he was asked during a lecture in Riyadh last week on the permissibility of selling and buying between men and women.
The Grand Mufti said there was nothing in the Shariah that forbids buying and selling between men and women provided they adhere to the rules of public conduct. He said this is permissible so long as they do not talk more than what is necessary and avoid "illicit seclusion".
In this reply, the Grand Mufti has issued a final ruling on this matter. It is against all who claim righteousness and bar women from working in lingerie shops in the markets. Such people also carry out attacks against the Ministry of Labor under the pretext of piety. They protest against the employment of women and seek to prevent our girls from earning a living.
There is a contradiction between showing concern and fear for women and their obscene demand that men should be the ones selling lingerie to women. The Grand Mufti’s opinion given in this fatwa is a message to those who claim they are concerned about or think that they possess this religion and are the ones to protect it. Islam, thanks to Allah, is protected by Allah Almighty. It is also protected by a tolerant approach where we are told to implement what Allah has ordained by using our minds and without taking a hardline approach. What the Grand Mufti has said is a clear indication that it is permissible for men and women to intermingle provided such interactions are in line with Shariah teachings and moral values. This should be within the limits of honest dealings between men and women that are devoid of lust and other social ills.
It is a revival of the approach of our Prophet (peace be upon him), as women used to live a normal and upright life in the early days of Islam. They used to intermingle with men and provide first aid to those injured among them. Men used to benefit from the knowledge of the “Mother of the Believers” Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her). Whoever claims that the women (wives) of the Prophet (pbuh) did not mingle with men or tries to twist the text by saying that this mingling was before the revelation of the verse on "hijab", I remind him of the military expedition known as "the Battle of the Camel" in which Aisha was one of the commanders. This occurred after the death of the Prophet (pbuh).
The attempts of some to separate women from men in all walks of life is a deviation from normal life in which both sexes observe self-respect and purity in dealing with other human beings. The separation of genders that is overdone in our society is due to customs and traditions, while Islam is innocent of these exaggerated practices.
In such a climate, one finds himself or herself incapable of dealing with the opposite sex. It is quite natural for the appearance of such a disease when there is complete separation of sexes and not allowing a man to see any woman except their unmarriageable female relatives. The same applies to the girl. The social and psychological diseases that appear and aggravate with time result in the inability of the two sexes to coexist and divorce cases increase. It is natural for a man to see women and vice versa. However, there are religious and moral limits that must not be exceeded. People will not learn not to exceed these limits or cross these boundaries except by practicing it in a normal and upright life.