How freely do women and men communicate publicly in Muslim communities
How freely do women and men communicate publicly in Muslim communities
Islam is a religion that one actually perceives of being strict and harsh maybe because people are not well affiliated or aware of its teachings or because they misinterpret what the religion actually means. Islam on the other hand is one religion that is the most adaptable to all the situations that occur in any era. Its teachings can be universally accepted and adopted. It’s fair and totally unbiased when it comes to any gender. It’s a religion that is very easy to understand and follow and not strict and complex if understood properly.
It does consist of principles that one find really hard to adapt to in today’s world but then those principles if adopted can prove to be of well being of a human himself. (Esposito, 2002). The Muslim culture provides women the most prominent place in the society. Women enjoy equal rights and privileges and are no way inferior to men. The rights and responsibilities are equal but not identical since men and women are both created differently. The Islamic culture does restrict women to stay reserved but that does not mean at all that it restricts women to communicate with men at all especially when it’s necessary.
Public communication is not at all prohibited for a men and women in Islam, it just disregards men and a women meeting alone. It just believes in women to ensure their dignity and keep themselves protected and secured against disgraceful conditions and circumstances because in Islam a women is considered highly sacred and dignified and this doesn’t weaken a women or makes her inferior rather it gives her a special position in the society and makes her more strong and respectable and also safeguards her integrity and honor.
Social priorities Socially a woman is not considered the bread earner for the family and therefore is not responsible for earning to meet the finances of the family. She is responsible to take care of the house and therefore is more preferred to stay in the house and look after the family rather than going out and exposing herself but if a woman herself wants to contribute in the earnings of the family then it is not at all disregarded by the Muslim culture as long as her honor and dignity stays protected.
If we take the example of Hazrat Khadija, the first wife of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) we can see that she was the most prominent trader in Arab that time, she worked with prophet and therefore there is no specific evidence that says that she has no communication or negotiation with men publicly. Similarly Hazrat Ayesha also is another example of a working lady who used to interact with men for conveying and transmitting the prophet’s message. (Esposito, 2008) . In many other strict Muslim states like Saudi Arabia, Iran etc, Muslim women are not all preferred and liked to work and to earn.
Neither are they allowed to even communicate with men who they are not related to publicly and if found doing so are punished for their act. Segregation is done everywhere is weddings, public seminars etc. Even schools are segregated and girls and boys are not allowed to study together. This clearly states that Muslim men and women are not free to communicate publicly and therefore enjoys no interaction between the two genders. Situation in which communication occurs Communication only occurs in cases like if the men and the women knows each other or have a direct relation with each other.
If we take a look on what the religion has to say then communication between a men and a women is not wrong publicly, as in communication and interaction is only prohibited when a men and a women are all alone together. Seclusion is prohibited but in the case of the presence of any third person, it is permissible as long as u communicate modestly and with a pure heart, still in many Muslim countries communication even publicly is not allowed at all. They think it’s indecent in immodest for a men and women to interact.
Communication before marriages is even not considered that good but still in many Muslim states and cultures communication does take place between men and women before marriages in the presence of elders or other people of the family. Schools and universities are even segregated mostly in Muslim states, therefore there is no communication among girls and boys as school is the main source of communication among youth. What does Islam say about men and women interaction? The Quran (holy book of the Muslims) defines important and necessary elements of all the existing relationships between all the people.
It includes respect, tolerance, kindness, self-restraint, honesty, patience, compassion and forgiveness. Such aspects apply between all the relationships let it be parents and children, neighbors, spouses, friends or work partners, regardless of any gender. Even Islam elaborates on what kind of relationship it finds acceptable between men and women, meaning that it does not totally opposes any interaction between them as long as it crosses the limits or boundaries set by the religion that includes physical contact or any immodest action, yet many scholars still does not allow any sort of communication between the two genders.
Social Interactions In some Muslim communities, social contact or interaction among men and women, who are not directly related to one another is forbidden and therefore has resulted in segregated recreational places, schools, universities, government offices and businesses and therefore it totally restricts women from any position of power or control. The oppression or domination of women is mainly due to the restrictions on social communication and interactions making the leadership in government not provide basic human rights and liberty .
If we talk in general terms, then most of the Muslims have usually adopted such segregation and separation haunted by the fear and thought that allowing social interaction and communication among men and women will result in illegal sexual behavior and physical contact. However as mentioned earlier there is fairly very less or no evidence to support that Islam discourages or totally prohibits social contact or interaction between men and women who are unrelated.
These are just the man made values and rules or basically we can say the cultural values that have been followed since ages and have remain unchanged for protecting people against the wrong deeds or any such wrong or immodest behavior that may result in ruining the dignity or character of a person but still the option of complete avoidance in between the opposite gender is considered very unacceptable and impractical for many sensible people and is not a necessary or important element of Islamic social behavior. (Sardar, 2007)
Sex segregation in different Muslim communities:- It varies throughout in different Muslim communities. In some communities it’s strict and harsh as compared to others where it is a bit practical and understandable. Let’s take a look in some of the communities and how this issue is dealt there. Afghanistan: Due to Taliban’s leadership in Afghanistan there is a very strict sex segregated system that does not allow women and men to contact in public at all and women even do not enjoy equal opportunities of education or employment.
Iran: In Iran Ruhollah Khomeini only favors single- sex schools and strictly discourages women teaching in boy’s school and men teaching in girl’s school. Also public places like cafes, restaurants, schools, libraries, swimming pools, beaches, shopping malls and sport halls are also legally segregated. It was ordered and announced that all the business halls, marriage halls, political meetings and even conference halls should consist of separate sections. Men and women are even ordered to form separate queues.
In cinemas and restaurants specially there is always a section labeled as “only for females”. Women are required to wear a hijab and cover themselves completely. Only the showing of eyes is allowed and a women if found not covered properly given 74 lashes in punishment. Men and women are not even allowed to travel in the same busses or other means of public transports. There are few busses that have separate section for women and men are not even allowed to stand beside them. Saudi Arabia In Saudi Arab sex segregation is even seen in hospitals and health care centers.
A female patient is not permissible to be treated by a male doctor unless there is no other female doctor available similarly it is also not permissible for a female doctor to treat a male patient. A woman is not allowed to meet any other guy unveiled except for her spouse. A woman is also forbidden to eat in public as this would expose her face while she is eating as this considered immodest therefore all restaurants in Saudi Arabia has a special section for women to conceal them from men. Women are not even allowed to drive or even get out of their house without their husband or son.
Indonesia: Indonesia is a country with the highest Muslim population. Sex segregation is not so harsh as compared to other Muslim communities. Hijab is considered an important part of the dress among women in Indonesia but if not worn does not punish them. Women are seen working in Indonesia a lot and men and women social contact is allowed to some extent in the country. Physical contact is however not permissible but people in Indonesia do practice handshaking and it’s not considered wrong there. Coughlin, 2006) Guidelines for appropriate behavior resulting in healthy men and women public contact:- In some Muslim cultures healthy relationships are not forbidden at all and this is what the religion does not even consider wrong. Therefore appropriate behavior that does not lead to temptation or physical attractiveness should be adopted. In order to maintain healthy relationships between the two sexes, following steps are taken in some practical cultures: Treating one another with respect in all conditions:
This recommendation is even made by the religion itself. Respectful behavior is one factor that allows both the gender to maintain social contact or interact with each other in a modest and a pure manner. Behaving modestly: Maintaining healthy relationships also involve behaving modestly with one another. It means to avoid provocative behavior such as physical contact, flirtation or harassment. Avoiding seclusion: Seclusion is the situation when men and women are alone in an isolated place.
This is not considered right in a Muslim culture as the chance of intimacy is apparent when two people who are attracted to each other are alone in some place. Therefore in order to avoid such temptation it is much better to avoid situations of seclusion so that healthy relationship can’t be maintained between both the sexes Dressing modestly: Dress is one factor that arouses interest and attention of the opposite sex therefore when meeting an opposite sex always dress properly and modestly so that it does not lead to any bad thought in other person’s mind and does not ruin the healthy relation that exists.
Conclusion The freedom to which the men and women communicate publicly in Muslim communities varies from community to community. In some states as stated below no communication exists between the sexes where as in others it is a bit lenient. However if we see in general Islam, the religion that Muslims follows only restricts such interactions among the Muslim men and women that lead to any physical contact or immodest behavior or it opposes men and women meeting alone in an isolated place for no productive purpose.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 23 September 2016
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