Monday, May 29, 2017 - 3 Ramadan 1438

I live in a European country and my work requires mixing with men. Is this permissible?

I live in a European country and my work requires mixing with men. Is this permissible?

Question

I am a Muslim girl living in Europe. I studied there and then started to search for a job but couldn’t find a suitable job which did not require me to take off my hijba. One month ago I finally found a job that allows me to put my hijab on but requires me to mix with men. My husband says that It is not permissible in Islam for women to mix with men at work. Is this true? And what about the money I receive as a salary, is this money haram?

Answer

Muslims have always maintained that the mere presence of women in the same place as men is not prohibited in itself. The prohibition only concerns the manner of mixing when it contradicts the guidelines of Islamic law such as men and women exposing those parts of their bodies which must remain covered, males and females gathering for an unlawful purpose or an unlawful seclusion between the sexes [being alone together in a place where no one could have access to them] or touching. 

Evidence from the sunna

Sahl ibn Sa'd al Sa'idy, may Allah be pleased with him, said: "Abu Usayd invited the Prophet [pbuh] and his Companions to his wedding feast and his wife, Um Usayd, served them food and drink herself" [Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim]. 
Al Bukhari placed this hadith in a chapter which he entitled On [the permissibility] of a woman serving [food and drink to] men at her own wedding. 
Al Qurtuby stated in his exegesis of Qur'an: "Our scholars said: The report demonstrates the permissibility of the bride serving [food and drink to] her husband and his friends at her wedding." 
Ibn Batal said in his explanation of Bukhari's collection of authentic hadith: "Separating between men and women [when they are in the same place and in direct interactions] is not obligatory for Muslim women in general but was specific to the wives of the Prophet; Allah says: 

And when you ask [his wives] for something, ask them from behind a partition. [Qur'an 33: 53] 

Ibn Hajar, the scholar of hadith, said in his book Fath al Bari: "The hadith demonstrates the permissibility of a woman serving [food and drink to] her husband and his guests. There is no doubt that this permissibility is valid only when the legal guidelines (lack of temptation and a woman covering what must be concealed) are met." 

The two foremost scholars in hadith, al-Bukhari and Muslim, mention a report about Abu Talha al-Ansari and his guest: Abu Talha and his wife invited a guest into their home. As they did not have enough food to go around, they pretended to eat, and spent the night hungry. In the scholar Ibn abu Dunya's version, Anas narrated that Abu Talha told his wife: 'Crumble the bread and put it in butter, and tell the servant to blow out the lamp.' Then they pretended to share the food with their guest." It is apparent from this report that they were all eating from the same dish. The Prophet [pbuh] told Abu Talha:"Allah is pleased with what you did tonight." The following verse was sent addressing this event: 

They love those who emigrated to them and find not any want in their breasts of what the emigrants were given but give [them] preference over themselves, even though they are in privation. [Qur'an 59: 9] 

Abu Juhaifa, may Allah be pleased with him, said: "The Prophet [pbuh] established a bond of brotherhood between Salman and abu al Dard'a. Salman visited Abu al Dard'a and found his wife, Um al Dard'a disheveled. "What's wrong?" he asked her. She replied: "Your brother, Abu al Dard'a, has no worldly desires…" 

Commenting on this hadith, Ibn Hajar said: "This hadith includes some benefits … the permissibility of talking to non-mahram women and asking about that which concerns their life."

As for business affairs which require for men and women to remain in the same place, there is no legal impediment for them to be together should the atmosphere is secured from temptation and private seclusion. The mere existence of both men and women in the same place is not prohibited in itself as what is prohibited is the seclusion of man and woman in a locked place where no one can enter. Imam ibn Daqiq al ‘Eid said in his book (Ihkam al Ahkam Sharh ‘Umdat al Ahkam) in his commentary on the prophetic tradition in which the Prophet said “don’t enter on women”, ibn Daqiq said that this statement is meant to address men other than the non marriageable male relatives of the woman and the statement does not prohibit the general entrance of a room where there is a woman but rather prohibit entering a room on a woman when prohibited private seclusion with the woman is meant. Therefore if there is no prohibited private seclusion with a woman is meant, it is permissible for the man to enter a place where there is a woman.

More importantly, not every seclusion is meant to be a prohibited seclusion as Bukhari and Muslim reported through the authority of Anas ibn Malik that a woman from the Ansar came to the Prophet so he sat alone with her and addressed her saying “by God you- the women of Ansar- are dear to my heart” and al Bukhari included this hadith under the chapter titled “Chapter on the permissibility of seclusion between a man and a woman when they are among people”. Al Hafiz ibn Hajar in his book (Fath al Bari) said that conversing with non mahram women secretly does not cause questioning one’s religiosity should there be no temptation. Mulla ‘Ali al Qari in his book “Mirqat al Mafatih” said that seclusion with a woman in the street is not the same as seclusion with a woman in a house. Sheikh al Shabramalsi al Shafi’i opined in his commentary on (Nihayat al Muhataj) that the prohibited private seclusion only occurs when the meeting of the two sexes is accompanied by a strong potential of temptation but if usually there is no room for temptation, seclusion is not prohibited.

Therefore based on the above mentioned question, there is no legal impediment which prevents you from continuing your work and your financial compensation from it is not prohibited.