Originally Posted by Erundur
Asalaamu Alaikum, it is very unfortunate that we have such ignorant people in our ummah who instead of researching and looking up certain aspects for themselves in order to know what Islam says on such a matter they make up their own diluted version of Islam based on their whims and desires. You should give dawah to such people using wisdom and tact but steer clear of them and do not keep them as company for such company is like poison.
In regards to relationships outside of marriage then having friendships with members of the opposite gender could potentially lead to flirtatious behavior and inappropriate gestures and nuances due to one's intimate comfort level with them. It is not only adultery that is forbidden is Islam but also any act that would lead to this venomous action that destroys family and society.
Allah Almighty said,
"Do not come near fornication, for it is indeed lewdness and an evil life-style." (Al-Isra': 32).
The key words here being, "Do not come near",
meaning the avenues that lead to fornication i.e. free-mixing personal friendships with the opposite gender.
There are also hadiths on gender interaction, one of the most serious of which is:
"When a man and woman are alone together, Satan is the third." [Tirmidhi]
Ibn ''Abbas (Allah be pleased with them) reported: I heard Allah''s Messenger (may peace be upon him) delivering a sermon and making this observation:
"No person should be alone with a woman except when there is a Mahram with her, and the woman should not undertake journey except with a Mahram..." [Sahih Muslim, Book 7, Number 3110]
"Tirmidhi reports from al-Mughira that when he got engaged to a woman, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,
''Look at her, for it is likelier to last between you.''" [Reliance of the Traveller, m2.2]
In Islam, interactions between the sexes are permitted within certain limits specified by the Quran and the Sunna. To some, these limits might appear to be very strict. However, there is a divine wisdom underpinning the limits set down by the Shariah. In adhering to the boundaries set by the Sharia, we can uphold the Quranic command to the believing men and women to be awliya of one another, or protecting friends, while at the same time maintaining the modesty and purity of heart that come from obeying Allah and His Messenger in this regard.
In brief, when interacting with a woman who is not a member of your unmarriageable kin or your wife, you must avoid khalwa, or seclusion; guard your gaze; and obviously, avoid any physical contact.
In more detail:
1. Khalwa takes place when one man or more than one man are alone with one woman in a place where no one can see them or enter. If there are two women and a man, for example, this is not khalwa. However, when there is only one woman, this situation is considered as seclusion, and becomes unlawful. Obviously, this is for the protection of the woman and the man (or men) so that a situation will not arise where the male becomes tempted and the woman possibly harmed.
If you are in a situation where you are in a room with two or more women, this is not khalwa and there is no need for you to be uncomfortable.
2. Guarding your gaze is a good practice that fosters modest interaction between the sexes. The Quran commands both believing men and women to guard their gaze. Unfortunately, many Muslims have lost this practice. What guarding the gaze means is that you should refrain from staring at a woman's face (if she's not a member of your unmarriageable kin or your wife). It does not mean keeping one's eyes glued to the ground. In Western societies, guarding one's gaze can sometimes be interpreted as a lack of assertiveness or respect for the other person. However, with Muslims, guarding one's gaze indicates respect for the other person's space and modesty of intention. Our scholars have said that looking at a woman's face is permitted in certain occasions. For example, if you are seeking a woman in marriage, it is permitted to look at her face. If you work in any type of job that requires you to look at people and interact with them, looking is permitted as long as you don't look with desire. If you are a teacher, looking at your female students is permitted as long as you don't look more than necessary or with desire. In short, be modest and respectful.
3. According to the Shariah, where looking is not permitted, then touching is also unlawful. This can be a sensitive topic for Muslims living in the West where handshaking is commonplace and is considered a polite thing to do. Shaking the hand of someone from the opposite sex is unlawful. According to our scholars, the Prophet, peace be upon him, never shook the hand of a woman who was not a member of his unmarriageable kin or his wife. So you should do your utmost to avoid shaking hands. But try to do it in a way that does not offend the other person. For many non-Muslims, if you simply explain to them that your religion (or culture) does not permit shaking hands and that you mean no offense, then usually people are okay with that.
4. Covering the awrah or one's nakedness. Another requirement of interaction between the sexes is that everyone should observe Islamic modesty or covering the awrah. For men, this means covering what's between the navel and the knee. For women, there is a difference of opinion where one opinion to cover the whole body including the hands and face and another opinion says to cover everything except the face and hands. Obviously, this is possible in a Muslim gathering. But there are very few places in this world where you will encounter women who are always covered. Obviously, if you live and work in the West, everyday you will see women who are not properly covered. What you need to do here is to simply be modest, behave respectfully, and avoid looking at women without need.
In conclusion, when one finds themselves in a situation with the opposite sex, Muslim or otherwise, then simply be modest and respectful. There is no problem with talking to a member of the opposite sex or working with that person when there is a need. As long as we adhere to these boundaries, inshallah everything should be fine.
And Allah knows best in all matters
Taken and edited from Sunnipath