Women: Segregation and seclusion of

Q703 :What is the purpose of women's segregation and seclusion?

A703 : I am not exactly certain of what you mean by women being kept in seclusion. If you are suggesting that women are kept at home all the time, this is hardly true anywhere in the Muslim world. They certainly move within women's circles, visiting their friends and relatives and receiving visitors. As for complete segregation, leaving women to have their own gatherings away from those of men, much of this is social tradition. What is forbidden in Islam is for one man to be alone in an enclosed area with one women to whom he may be legally married. That includes his first cousins. In order to remove this prohibition, they would be joined by at least another woman, who may preferably be one of his relatives to whom he may not be married, such as his mother or sister. As for the presence of many men and women in a social gathering or in a lecture hall or a meeting hall, this is permissible in Islam, provided that women should wear proper Islamic dress which covers their heads and all their bodies with the exception of their faces and the lower part of their hands. What Islam does not like and does not approve of is the sort of intimate mixing which happens in other societies, where married men and women interact in complete disregard of Islamic standards of propriety. Moreover, in a congregational prayer, men and women do not stand in the same rows. Men's rows are in the front and women's in the back. This is no indication of any superiority, since all of them are offering the same prayer as they are all required to offer it. It is simply a matter of organisation which takes human nature into consideration. The fact that there are different Muslim countries with some of them being much stricter than others, with regard to mixed social gatherings. I would like to say that the proper Islamic method is somewhere in between the liberal and the strict attitudes. It is, the middle way which meets people's needs and provides proper limitations to prevent excesses. Both the strict and the liberal communities have gone away from the Islamic middle road and their movement is based mostly on social traditions rather than Islamic teachings.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )