Five Islamic Guidelines for Gender Interactions

Harvey Weinstein, is a name that has an ugly ring to it today, due to the horrible sexual allegations that he’s being accused of by various women. This incident, however, has brought about a storm, with many women coming out about their own previous experiences of sexual harassments by writing the words “Me Too” on social media. According to RAINN, in America alone, one person is assaulted every 98 seconds, and 90% of rape victims are women.   Australia also has one of the highest rates of reported sexual assault in the world, at almost 92 people per 100,000 of the population, according to the United Nations.
Islam has rejected rape and it is reported that a woman went out in the time of the Prophet ﷺ for prayer and a man sexually assaulted her. The Prophet ﷺ told the woman that Allah has forgiven her and then asked his companions to stone the man who raped her to death. (Abu Dawud)
The Quran and Sunnah have established rulings in regards to the interactions with the opposite gender who are non-mahram, in the hopes of ensuring women are protected against such horrible incidents. So here are 5 Islamic guidelines for gender interactions:

Lower your Gaze

“Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts. That is purer for them… ..And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts…” (Quran 24:30-31) In a famous incident, a woman described as strikingly beautiful approached the Prophet to seek his guidance on a religious matter. The Prophet’s companion, Al Fadl, began to stare at her because of her beauty. Noting this, the Prophet did not scold the woman for her attire, but instead, he turned Al-Fadl’s face to the other side so that he would not gaze at her. (Bukhari)
All Muslims must behave modestly and carry themselves humbly amongst others. Allah has mentioned that in the Quran so that we know our duty as Muslims is to respect other people’s privacy and never cross the moral boundaries of interaction.

Stay Clear of Secluded Encounters

The Prophet ﷺ warned us that people of opposite sex (non-mahram)should never be alone in one room, otherwise the devil (Shaytan) will be the third one present with them. (At-Tirmidhi)
Hotel rooms, one of Weinstein’s preferred locations to conduct his “so-called” meetings, are a red flag, for it will leave victims vulnerable and not able to defend themselves in the event of sexual harassment or rape. Keep in mind, two people don’t need to be in complete isolation for it to be unsafe.

Your Tone Matters

Use a serious tone of voice and expression. This doesn’t mean you have to be rude, but speaking in a professional manner dictates the way people interact with you.   Allah says in the Quran,
“…do not speak in lowered tones (with a sweet voice) lest he in whose heart is a disease of lust should be moved with desire.  And speak in a befitting manner.” (Quran 33:32)

Interactions should be purposeful

In Islam, the relationship with the opposite gender should not only be professional but also purposeful. We can learn lessons about interactions with the opposite gender from Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, who not only gave Islamic rulings to the companions but also fought in battles. She did all that for the sole purpose of pleasing Allah and was always guarding her modesty.    

Treat each other with Dignity

Take an example from the story of Prophet Musa when he reached the Well of Madyan. He saw two girls struggling to keep their sheep away from the well.
“…He (Musa) said, “What is your circumstance?” They said, “We do not water until the shepherds dispatch [their flocks]; and our father is an old man.” (Quran 28:23) “So he (Musa) watered [their flocks] for them…” “Then one of the two women came to him walking with shyness. She said, “Indeed, my father invites you that he may reward you for having watered for us…” (Quran 28:24-25)
These women had dignity and were shy around men as the Quran mentions, however, they were confident enough to work and address men when necessary.

May Allah make us from those who have the best of manners and character.