Categories of Women in Relation to a Man
Women in relation to a man fall into three categories:
- She could be his wife:
In this case, he is allowed to enjoy her company in any way he likes, Just as she is allowed to enjoy his company. In fact, Allah describes each one of them to be a ‘garment’ for the other, revealing an excellent image of a perfect physical, emotional and mental union: “They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.” (Soorat Al-Baqarah, 2:187) (See page 213)
- She could be a relative whom he is never permitted to marry at any time in his life whatsoever (mahram):
This category consists of the following:
|1||The mother and above (the maternal grandmother, the paternal grandmother, etc.)|
|2||The daughter and below (granddaughter, great-granddaughter, etc.)|
|3||The sister, paternal stepsister or maternal stepsister|
|4||The paternal aunt, maternal step-aunt or paternal step-aunt, paternal aunt of one’s father and paternal aunt of one’s mother|
|5||The maternal aunt, maternal step-aunt or paternal step-aunt, maternal aunt of one’s father and maternal aunt of one’s mother|
|6||The brother’s daughters and stepbrother’s daughters and below (brother’s son’s daughters, for instance)|
|7||The sister’s daughters and stepsister’s daughters and below (sister’s daughter’s daughters, for instance)|
|8||The mother-in-law, whether he is still married to her daughter or has divorced her, and grandmother-in-law|
|10||The son’s wife and below (such as the grandson’s wife)|
|11||stepmother and above, e.g. the stepbrother’s wife (from the step father’s side)|
- She could be one he is allowed to marry (ajnabiyah, literally, foreigner, not related to him):
Such a woman is one who does not belong to the category of women known as mahram stated above, whether she is one of his relatives, such as his maternal or paternal cousin or sister-in-law, or she is not one of his relatives at all.
Regarding this category of women, Islam has laid down a number of rules and criteria which govern a Muslim man’s relationship with such women. By doing this, Islam aims to protect people’s honour and block all the means that are bound to lead to evil. Allah who has created man knows exactly what is best for him, as the Qur’an states, “Does He who created not then know while He is the All-Pervading, the All-Aware?” (Soorat Al-Mulk, 67:14)
Every day, we read new reports and statistics of cases of rape and illicit sexual relationships that have ruined countless families and societies that do not implement Allah’s laws.
Rules Governing the Relationship between a Man and Women he Is Allowed to Marry
- Lowering the Gaze
A Muslim man must not look at other women or at anything for that matter which is bound to sexually arouse him, nor should he unnecessarily look at women.
Allah commands both men and women to lower their gaze, for doing so leads to modesty and serves to safeguard one’s honour, while lustful looks generally pave the way to sins, as the Qur’an states, “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty. That will make for greater purity for them. Allah is aware of what they do. Say to believing women that they should lower their gaze and remain chaste.” (Soorat An-Noor, 24:30-31)
However, if a Muslim accidentally sees a woman, he must divert his eyes from her. In fact, the order to lower the gaze applies to anything that is bound to lead to sexual arousal, including those scenes that are presented in the media and on the Internet.
- Observing Modesty in Speech
When talking to a woman who is not related to him,he must observe politeness and modesty and avoid any words or gestures which may lead to sexual stimulation. It is for this reason that:
- Allah warns women against speaking in a coquettish and too soft a manner when addressing men, as the Qur’an states, “Do not be too soft-spoken in your speech lest someone with sickness in his heart becomes desirous. Speak correct and courteous words.” (Soorat Al-Ahzaab, 33:32)
- Allah warns them against using suggestive gestures and manner of walking or displaying their charms and some of their ornaments: “They should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments .” (Soorat An-Noor, 24:31)
- Avoiding Private Seclusion with Non-MahramWomen Altogether (Khalwah)
The Arabic word khalwah means the state of being alone with a non-mahram woman in a place where no one can see them. Islam strictly prohibits this as it could, through Satan’s temptations, lead to illicit sexual relationships. The prophet once said, “Never is a man alone with a woman except that Satan is the third.” (Sunan At-Tirmidhee: 2165)
- Wearing the Hijaab (the Modest Muslim Style of Dress)
Allah commands women, but not men, to wear the hijaab because women in particular enjoy a natural beauty and attraction that could easily tempt men into sinful acts.
Islam commands women to wear the hijaab for a number of reasons, including the following:
- So that they could carry out their mission in life and society in scientific and academic fields in the best possible manner while at the same time guarding their modesty.
- So that they would reduce chances of temptation in order to purify society, on the one hand, and safeguard women’s honour, on the other.
- So that they would help male onlookers control themselves even more and thus treat them as civilised and educated human beings and not as sex objects that only serve to tempt men and stimulate them.
What Must the Hijaab Cover?
Allah commands women to cover all their bodies except the face and the hands, as the Qur’an states, “They should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof.” (Soorat An-Noor, 24:31)However, in cases of likely temptation due to their striking beauty, they may have to cover their faces and hands as well.
Criteria of Proper Hijaab
A woman may choose any design or colour she likes for her hijaab as long as the following conditions are met:
- It must appropriately cover the parts of the body which must be covered in public.
- It must hang loose and must not fit very closely to the body, so that the shape of the body is not revealed.
- It must not allow the wearer’s body to be seen through its fabric.