In modern western society free mixing, is regarded natural; men and women sitting together, dinning together, working together and studying together. However, this was not the case in the past, before the Second World War schools, colleges and most universities were single sex. Old school buildings still have entrances with engravings, ‘Boys Entrance’ or ‘Girls Entrance’. However, with rapid secularisation and disregard for traditional moral values after the Second World War free mixing has become the norm. In 2006, the last women’s only college in Oxford University opened its doors to men.
The Western liberal and promiscuous society with its laxed views on decency and modesty poses a real challenge to people of faith and particularly to practising Muslims. In this article I shall examine Islamic principles concerning free mixing and the biological and social costs of free mixing.
Biological differences between the sexes
The Glorious Quran describes the biological relationship and the origin of man and women in the following manner: “People, be mindful of your Lord, He created you from a single person and created his partner from him, and then from the pair He spread countless men and women throughout the world” (An Nisa: 1). From this, it is understood that both the sexes have come from one living person, that was Adam (Peace be upon him). So Adam is the first man and father of humanity. Biologically, we know that all human beings have 23 pairs of chromosomes of which, one pair determines the sex of the individual; a female comes from two similar X chromosomes in each cell, whilst a male has one X and one smaller Y chromosome. This chromosomal difference leads to the sexual differences in men and women, differences in their bodies, organs and hormones. Traditionally these anatomical, physical and biological differences between men and women implied differences in their role and function of the two sexes as well. Men, hunter-gatherers, workers doing more strenuous work whilst women cared for and ran the home. There was a complementary in their roles.
The biological difference between the sexes has important functions of being a natural magnet between the two, as a source of attraction to one another. The Quran expresses this eloquently in the following verse: “Another of His signs is He created spouses from your own kind, in them you find comfort; and He nurtured love and kindness between you, in that are signs for thinkers” (Al Rum: 21).
Abdullah Yusuf Ali makes the following comment: “This refers to the wonderful mystery of sex. Children arise out of the union of the sexes and it is always the female that brings forth the offspring, whether female or male”. So there is natural attraction between the two sexes, scientists have discovered that in addition to the anatomical differences, another important cause of the natural attraction is the production of pheromones by the human body, particularly when they are together. These molecules cause attraction and are thought to also affect the natural ovulation and menstruation.
So biologically, there are strong tendencies to free mixing and enjoying the company of the opposite sex, however it can also be very destructive with disastrous results; unhealthy extra-marital affairs, rapes, stalking and sexual harassment. This can also lead to health risks like sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, illegitimate children and broken families. Very heavy prices to pay for a momentary pleasure. The scale of these fallouts of sexual laxity and promiscuity is enormous, effecting perhaps millions of people in Britain. Not only does this leave physical scars but mental and social scars on future generations, which leads to further delinquency, social and moral degeneration.
Free mixing creates a fertile breeding ground for all kinds of suspicious, temptations, rumours and even accusations that conflict in families leading to domestic violence and criminal acts. Free mixing and greater familiarity and friendship with the opposite sex unconsciously produces attractions as expressed by an Arabic proverb; “ A look, then a smile, then a meeting and then … sin and even haram move”.
Modern society has not properly understood the destructive impact of free mixing on marriage, family and the very existence of humanity. It is interesting to note that some people in the West are beginning to recognise the dangers of free mixing and the benefits of segregation and are turning back to the old ways! This is seen in the mushrooming of women only schools, hospital wards, holiday resorts, workplaces, gyms and swimming pools etc. “In this single sex environment, women are allowed to be women once more and it is more relaxing, safer and better for women” (Sunday Times 22nd April 2007). The statistics about sexual harassment further confirm our reservations about a mixed environment, see the latest papers.
The Islamic guidance on Free Mixing
The blessed Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “Whenever a man is sitting alone with an woman, the devil is the third”. From this the scholars have formulated a principle that it is forbidden (haram) for a man and a woman to be alone if they are not mahram. Mahram are all those women that a man cannot marry including; mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, foster-mother, mother in law, step daughter etc (Al Nisa: 23).
This is a precautionary move, when the Quran commands, “Do not even go near adultery”, it means do not mix freely. The beloved Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “The eyes, ears and hands all commit adultery by looking listening and touching”.
Historically, the single sex environment was the natural and normal way of life for people all over the world. For Muslims it is also a religious duty. During the time of the Messenger (peace be upon him), women would attend the congregational prayer in the Masjid but they would be neither seen nor heard. They would pray in the back rows, come and go quietly without being noticed. What a peaceful, sublime and segregated yet united community! In order to help the believers live virtuously and to avoid evil, Islam lays down the principle of ‘denying the means’. Adultery and extra marital relationships are forbidden and to help people from falling into this temptation Islam has closed all those doors that lead to this evil by making it forbidden.