Can women attend University where there is a Non Islamic environment and
intermingling of both sexes. Would there be a difference in commuting and
residing in the Halls. How about for men?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.
Islam is a religion that instructs its followers to be moral and modest and does not allow its followers to tread the path of immorality and immodesty. Allah enjoys on both males and females to restrain their eyes from looking at each other. “Enjoin the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their modesty… Likewise enjoin the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their modesty… (Surah An Nur: 30-31)
Allah says to the believing women: “And stay in your houses, and do not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance…” (Al-Ahzab: 33)
Further in Surah Al-Ahzab Allah says “…When you ask them (the wives of the Prophet) for anything then ask from behind a screen. This is a means for greater purity for your hearts and their hearts…” (Al-Ahzab: 33)
Imam Qurtubi states: “This verse indicates the permissibility to ask and communicate with the wives of the Prophet from behind a screen. All Muslim women would be obligated by the same regulation. (Qurtubi: Vol14, P201)
Ahadiths on the prohibition of men and women intermingling are many. Jarir ibn Abdullah narrates that I asked the Prophet (sallal lahu alayhi wa sallam) about the sudden glance (that is cast) on the face (of a non-Mahram). He commanded me that I should turn away my eyes. (Muslim, 1015)
Uqba bin Amir narrates that the Prophet (sallal lahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Beware of entering upon the ladies.” A man from the Ansar said, “Allah’s Apostle! What about the in-laws of the wife?” The Prophet replied, “The in-laws of the wife are death itself.” (Bukhari, Vol 7, 159)
The above verses of the Quran and the Ahadiths of the Prophet (sallal lahu alayhi wa sallam) indicate the importance of observing segregation. A person is instructed to turn the gaze away when a glance is cast on a non-Mahram let alone intermingling.
In another hadith Aaisha, Ummul Mu’minin (RA narrates: A woman made a sign from behind a curtain to indicate that she had a letter for the Prophet (sallal lahu alayhi wa sallam) . The Prophet (sallal lahu alayhi wa sallam) closed his hand, saying: I do not know if this is a man’s or a woman’s hand. She said: No, a woman. He (sallal lahu alayhi wa sallam) said: If you were a woman, you would make a difference to your nails, meaning with henna. (Abu Dawood, 1938)
From the above hadith it is clear, that the companions of the Prophet (sallal lahu alayhi wa sallam) used to observe segregation hence the curtain. If intermingling was acceptable and permissible then there would not have been a need for the curtain.
In conclusion it is apparent from the above that Islam prohibits free intermingling of the sexes. Even when there is a genuine need to intermingle and talk, the conversation should be held in a modest way, to the point, and be limited to the extent of the need only. The scholars and commentators of Ahadith are of the opinion that the Hadith reported by Anas (radi allahu anhu) that the Prophet (sallal lahu alayhi wa sallam) said’ “It is compulsory for every Muslim to attain knowledge.” (Mishkat, P36) is referring to the knowledge of religion only. Therefore if a person can attend university and study without the unnecessary intermingling and gatherings of the opposite sex then it will be permissible. However if one feels they are not spiritually strong to avoid the useless interaction with the opposite sex then it will not be permissible for one to attend whether it be male or female, residing at home or the halls of residence as the injunction laid down by Shariah will take precedence.
Only Allah knows best.
Darul Ifta, Birmingham