The topic of Relationships with Na-Mahram is likely to be one of the most serious and relevant topics which affect you immediately and certainly within the next few years. As part of the culture we live in, relationships between Na-Mahram are commonplace, and the Islamic perspective on Women is the focus of attention from outside observers. Therefore, a comprehensive understanding of the rules on these issues and, crucially, why these rules exist is very important.
WHAT DOES NA-MAHRAM MEAN AND WHO ARE THEY?
"And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity.
They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary.
They shall cover their chests, and shall not relax this code in the presence of other than their husbands, their fathers, the fathers of their husbands, their sons, the sons of their husbands, their brothers, the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, other women, the male servants or employees whose sexual drive has been nullified, or the children who have not reached puberty"
In Islam someone who is Mahram (Haraam to marry) for you, is someone whom you cannot marry because of their close relationship to you. As such Hijab would not have to be observed in front of them and it is possible to have a close bond with them because they are close family, even if they are of the opposite gender.
Those who are Mahram to you fall in either of two groups; blood Mahrams and in-law Mahrams.
The first group will always be Mahram to you from birth but the second group will only become Mahram to you after marriage. However, both groups remain Mahram to you from the time they become Mahram to you until the end your life, irrespective of change in circumstances except marriage.
Like all Mahrams, Hijab is not observed in front of a married partner, but unlike all other Mahrams, a divorced partner will return to being Na-Mahram to you, whereas their family (your in-law Mahrams) will remain Mahram to you despite the divorce.
The table below gives an indication of the people who will be Mahram to a Baligh boy:
The list is incomplete but, for a complete list see Rules 2393-2398 of Islamic Laws.
The table below gives an indication of the people who will be Mahram to a Baligh girl:
SEXUAL OR PHYSICAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH NA-MAHRAM:
"Among His proofs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, in order to have tranquillity and contentment with each other, and He placed in your hearts love and care towards your spouses. In this, there are sufficient proofs for people who think". (30:21)
In today's society, sexual or physical relationships outside the boundaries of marriage are considered normal. These relationships may start amongst people of 14 or 15 years, and sometimes even younger.
They may do it because such relationships require no long-term commitment, everyone else is doing it and these relationships are considered 'a bit of fun'.
In fact many will argue that these relationships, between two consenting people, where both parties have 'fun' is not a problem at all because everybody is getting what they want without anybody losing out.
In Islam, sexual or physical relationships with Na-Mahram are considered wrong for a number of reasons.
Firstly, in Islam we believe in respect for yourself and respect for other people. This means that we treat people with dignity and act honourably. However, having casual relationships mean that we are just using other people for our personal satisfaction.
This shows that we have degraded these people in our eyes and are treating them as objects without even normal levels of dignity. As a result of relationships like these, it can become difficult to have successful long-term relationships because the objectification of people means they have lost the ability to respect these people.
Secondly, sexual or physical relationships are considered very important and precious acts in Islam, which should only take place after careful consideration and as part of marriage; a loving long-term committed relationship. Therefore, having physical relationships because 'other people are doing it' or as a result of peer pressure is wrong. To do it for these reasons would once again be devaluing the act and showing a lack of respect for the person with whom you are doing it.
Thirdly, the idea that these relationships are just 'fun' with nobody losing out is not always true.
In Britain, in 2007, the pregnancy rate amongst girls under the age of 18 was just over 42,900 of which just fewer than 8,200 were amongst girls under the age of 16.
The vast majority of these would have been accidental and completely unintended. Of these cases just over 51% were aborted and the rest became teenage parents. To be faced with such a situation is clearly going to have a life-changing impact.
Teenage parents would likely have to make sacrifices including their education, which would have a detrimental impact in their future development and if the parents were to split up this instability would likely have a detrimental impact on the early development of the child.
Below is a real-life example taken from a BBC report commissioned into teenage pregnancy and its effects.
NON-PHYSICAL OR FRIENDLY RELATIONSHIPS WITH NA-MAHRAM (PLATONIC):
The story of Prophet Musa and the daughters of Prophet Shuayb is a good guideline for us. After Musa fled Egypt and reached Madyan, the Qur'an (28:23-28) says:
And when he came to the watering well of Madyan, he found on it a group of men who were drawing water, and he saw besides them two women holding back their flocks. He went to the two ladies and asked: "What is the matter with you that you are holding back your flock?"
hey said, "We cannot draw water until the shepherds move away with their sheep from the water well ... and our father is a very old man so he cannot do this himself." On realizing the modesty of the ladies who did not like to mingle with strange men, Musa offered to help them and he watered their sheep for them, and then went back to the shade for resting. Since he was hungry and tired, he prayed: "My Lord! Surely I stand in need of whatever good You may send down to me."
When the two daughters of Shuayb went back home and narrated the incident, he asked one of them to call Musa so that he may thank him and pay him for the help. Then, one of the two women came to him walking modestly. She said, "My father invites you so that he may recompense you with the wage of drawing water for us." She led the way. Musa said to her that let me go forward and you walk behind me and guide me from the back "because we of the household of Prophets do not look at the back of women."
Once they reached Shuayb's house, one of the girls said, "O my father, since we do not have a young man in the family, employ him to work for you; surely the best person that you can employ is the one who is strong and trustworthy. This man has both qualities." Shuayb asked his daughter that "you know about his strength because he helped in watering the sheep but how do you know that he is also trustworthy?" She described how Musa asked to walk ahead of her; that reflected his modesty and chastity. And so Prophet Shuayb then offered the hand of one of his daughters to Musa and they got married.
WE CAN EASILY DEDUCE THE FOLLOWING PRINCIPLES FROM THIS STORY:
- No free mixing and mingling of men and women who are not Mahram to one another. According to the great jurist of the last century, Sayyid Kazim al-Yazdi, "Mingling of men and women is Makrooh.
- Ladies may, whenever necessary, step outside of their homes and participate in the socio-political-economic spheres of society but it must be done with modesty (haya').
- Even in permissible interaction, haya' must be observed in talking to and inter-acting with a non-Mahram person, as well as in controlling their glances towards non-Mahram men or women.
A mixed gathering can be any gathering, for any purpose, where Mahrams and Na-Mahrams are together. It would appear that mixed gatherings can fall into any of three categories:
- Non-social interaction between Mahrams and Na-Mahrams
- General social interaction between Mahrams and Na-Mahrams
- Social interaction between Mahrams and Na-Mahrams observing Hijab
The first category is where the mixing of the Mahrams and Na-Mahrams is incidental to the purpose of the people being there. For example, if Mahrams and Na-Mahrams are all together on a bus or train, the purpose of their mixing is not social and the mixing is incidental. Therefore, mixed gatherings of this nature are allowed within the bounds of Shariah.
The second category is of general social interaction between Mahrams and Na-Mahrams. This covers all relationships which are more than merely incidental but not covered by the narrower third category. For examples, this covers working relationships. The rulings for interaction under this category have been covered under the previous heading (Non-physical or friendly relationships with Na-Mahram).
The third category is of mixed gatherings between Mahrams and Na-Mahrams, where all the participants are Muslim and observing Hijab. This is the most controversial of the three categories and very likely to be faced by many of you in the near future.
According to the rulings of Ayatullah Seestani, the following test for this category of mixed gatherings has been proposed:
Based upon these rulings we can examine certain situations and whether mixed gatherings would generally be allowable.
A majlis is normally a monologue given by the speaker where the audience will only listen and not have any interactive participation.
As such segregation does not defeat the purpose of the gathering and mixed gathering would be unnecessary.
A lecture normally begins as a monologue given by the speaker but at the end of the lecture, the audience will often be allowed the opportunity to question the speaker in a question and answer session.
In this kind of programme, both genders may need visual access to the speaker for them to participate in the question and answer session. However, there is no need to have visual access to other members of the audience.
As such having a partition between men and women in the audience will not defeat the purpose of the gathering and therefore there is no reason to remove the partition between the genders in the audience.
Teaching involves a lot of interaction between the teacher and the students, and also, sometimes, between the students themselves. Therefore, where the circumstance arises that a class cannot be conducted separately (i.e. one class for boys and another class for girls), having a partition will defeat the purpose of such a programme and a mixed gathering would be allowed. However, the teacher has to ensure that the boys are seated separately from the girls, and there should not be any indecent interaction between the two genders.
Full Hijab must be observed in such a setting.
SEMINAR AND/OR PRACTICAL WORKSHOP:
In the same way as classes require interaction between the participants themselves, seminars and workshops fall under the same category.
As such separation will defeat the purpose of such a programme and a mixed gathering would be allowed with the condition of full Hijab.
MARRIAGE CEREMONY AND RECEPTION:
In marriage ceremonies and receptions, people normally come dressed up, with many women using cosmetics and make up. In functions like these, it is not necessary for the participants to discuss anything for academic or non-social purposes, as was the case in earlier examples.
In addition, having the gathering with a partition would not defeat its purpose. Therefore, any kind of mixing and mingling between members of opposite is not proper at all. Asking Na-Mahram men and women to sit at the same table in a wedding reception surely puts people in a situation where the chances of improper mingling and of unlawful glances increase.
As a result, the only acceptable format, in a wedding reception, would be for the men and the women to be seated in segregated areas.
PROPOSED POLICY ON USE OF PARTITION IN EVENTS:
However, each situation is different and so it is up to you to apply the rules to your situation. These examples are only guidelines.
Pornography is the explicit portrayal of people specifically for the purpose of sexually exciting the viewer. In today's society porn is very easily accessible in formats ranging from newspapers and magazines, television, DVD's, the internet, and even to electronic games.
Some people will argue the viewing of such material is fun and since it won't result in any of the unwanted problems associated with physical interaction (e.g. pregnancy) it is a safe alternative. Many more will argue that even if the use of pornography is not recommended it is 'the lesser of two evils' when compared to physical relationships with Na-Mahram, and as a result is preferable or even acceptable.
In Islam both of those positions are wrong for a number of reasons. Firstly, the main argument about treating everybody with respect and dignity still applies to the viewing of pornography.
Whether the Na-Mahram is taking part in physical relations with you or whether sexually explicit actions are merely being watched by you does not change the position because both actions merely use the person as an object of desire for the sole purpose of personal satisfaction.
This again demonstrates a lack of respect for the person and degrades them from the dignified position of people to the undignified positions of objects.
This idea has been supported in a research paper by Professor Zillmann, a Psychology professor at the University of Alabama, who found that extensive viewing of pornography decreases the respect the viewer has for long-term relationships and family values, reducing the likelihood of the viewer being faithful in a relationship or even wanting a stable family relationship with children.
Secondly, the idea that pornography does not contain any unwanted problems or side effects is not necessarily true. Increasing amounts of research seem to indicate that pornography is addictive.
In 2004, the US Senate held hearings into pornography and was told by a sexual trauma expert "pornography's effect on the brain mirrors addiction to heroin or crack cocaine".
Masturbation means to manually arouse yourself in order to sexually excite. Many in society consider it a normal alternative to actual physical relationships. However, in Islam, this is not the case and masturbation is prohibited.
Islam views sex as a gift to mankind with the dual purposes of producing children and bringing a greater bond between the husband and wife.
Masturbation is considered a misuse of the gift of human sexuality because the act of masturbation is self-directed, and by its nature is incapable of expressing love and concern for another person.
This is especially apparent when masturbation becomes an addiction.
Applied Akhlaq - Making your life better today:1. Do you find yourself tempted by Haraam relationships, pornography or masturbation? If yes, please go to question 2, if not go to question 3.
2. Why would you get tempted by Haraam relationships, pornography or masturbation?
3. If you have the strength not to find yourself tempted by these activities, what other areas of your life can you apply that strength to and what benefits would you get?
4. If you find yourself tempted by these activities, consider your answers to question 2 and consider what Halaal alternatives there may be for achieving the same outcome or avoiding altogether.