Fatwa ID: 02654
Answered by: Maulana Imran Mughal
When I meet a non-mahram relative or family friend, can I just greet him and ask him how he is doing as normal social courtesy, without going into any informal talk? This is of course with modesty and in front of everyone.
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
There are a few aspects to this rule in general that need to be identified:
- The Prohibition of Khalwa
Being alone with a non-Mahram of the opposite sex in a room or place where a third person is not easily able to enter upon them, or it is not usually accessible to others is forbidden and hence must be avoided.
Umar bin Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) narrates from the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he said: “A man does not be alone with a woman except that the third amongst them is Satan.”
- Covering the Awrah
It is an established rule for both men and women to cover the awrah and dress modestly. A man's awrah is from his navel to his knees, and a woman’s awrah in the presence of men is her whole body except her hands, face and feet.
- The Prohibition of Informal Interaction
Informal interaction between those who are not Mahram to one another, meaning talking freely and casually, joking around, being flirtatious in the conversation, is also forbidden and a major sin.
Allah commands the wives of the Messenger (peace be upon him) in particular, and all Muslim women in general, to abstain from conversing with non-Mahram men in a soft and sweet tone.
He says: “O wives of the Prophet, you are not like anyone among women. If you fear Allah, then do not be soft in speech [to men], lest he in whose heart is disease should covet, but speak with appropriate speech.”
Therefore, when the need arises to talk, both the content and manner of conversation must be appropriate and free of anything enticing. The dialogue must be in a modest and restrained manner, and limited to the extent of need.
- The Prohibition of wearing perfume
It is not allowed for women to wear perfume in the presence of non-Mahram men.
Abu Musa (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “If a woman wears perfume and passes by a group of [non-Mahram] men, and they smell her perfume, she is such and such.” The narrator says that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used stern words.
- Lowering the Gaze
Allah says in the Quran: “Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is acquainted with what they do. And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests…”
All four mainstream Sunni Schools of Islamic law agree that it is unlawful and sinful for a man to gaze at a woman if there is a certainty, strong possibility or even a doubt of being attracted to her. As for when he is convinced that there is no possibility of attraction, the early Hanafi jurists did permit him gazing at her face. However, many latter jurists ruled that this was close-to-impossible, especially in later times, hence even when there is no possibility of attraction; it is not permitted for him to look at the face of a young woman. However, if the woman is old, then there is some leeway. As for the woman, if she is convinced that she will not be attracted to the man and does not fear Fitna, it is permitted for her to gaze at a non-Mahram man.
- Covering the Face (Niqab)
The transmitted and authoritative position of the Hanafi School, as mentioned in virtually all the major fiqh books, is that even though the face is not part of a woman’s nakedness (awrah), it is still necessary for her to cover it, due to the many evidences found in the Qur’an and Sunna, and due to the fitna involved in not doing so.
Note that a woman is allowed to uncover her face if there is undue hardship being caused, for example constant abuse. It is not necessary for her to fear death or the loss of a limb for her to do that. In this case, it will be a hajah (need) for her to do that and not a daruurah (necessity).
So, with regards to the first five categories, it will not be permissible to go against the established rulings as they are derived from the Quran and Sunnah except in the case of a daruurah (necessity). However, number 6 is less in that even in the existence of a hajah (need) it will be allowed to unveil only the face.
And Allah SWT alone knows best.
Answered by Maulana Imran Mughal
Checked and approved Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham