VIEW OF SHAIKH DANIELS ON WOMEN LECTURING AT MIXED GENDER GATHERINGS
I have decided to divide my answer to this question in at least two posts in order to make it easier upon the reader to contemplate the contents of it. As always, I also welcome discussion from those noble students that particpate on this forum.
I ask Allah to increase you in your desire to remain on the ‘straight path’ and make your journey on this path easy and clear for you. What probably causes you to ask this question is a trait that has all, but become lost in secular societies, but remains strong amongst Muslims, known commonly as gheerah. (chaste-jealousy)
In order for me to answer this question and address the specifics of it, I would need to know more information about the nature of these lectures and how they are to be conducted as well as other information that will come in the context of my answer. As this information is not available to me now, my answer will provide general guidelines about the topic.
First of all, I would like to provide you with a non exhaustive list of the vices that occur when such lectures are conducted to a mixed gender audience.
*The female lecturer speaks softly, tells jokes and even laughs during her lectures.*
Where is she from these verses of the Quran in Surah al-Ahzab which do not require much explanation as they are quite clear?
If you fear Allah then do not be soft in speech [to men], lest he in whose heart is disease should be moved to desire [you], but speak with appropriate speech. And abide in your houses and do not display yourselves as [was] the display of the former times of ignorance.”
*The female lecturer does not adhere to the principles of Islamic Hijaab by either not wearing a Hijab or by wearing a Hijab that adorns her and causes a person to stare, worst still she wears make-up.*
For an example of this, one simply needs to look at the Islamic satellite channels or al-Jazeera news channel where the women cover their heads with vibrant fashionable scarfs and wear make up as if they are going to their marriage ceremony, not read the stories of the day to viewers.
*The gathering causes for the free-mixing of genders.*
It goes without saying, that if a Muslim female lecturer is talking on an Islamic subject the likelihood of women attending the lecture is very high and if men are also invited there is a huge potential risk that free-mixing will occur. More often than not, and based on my extensive experience of traveling to conferences, good preparations ensuring the segregation of sexes to a reasonable degree are not made. This leads us to find that men and women are sitting beside each other, large groups of men and women are entering and exiting through the same doors sometimes in such a hurry to obtain a good seat etcetera that they even make physical contact.
Further to that, and in the interest of covering the expenses of bringing this lecturer, no dress code is advertised on the promotional materials or even enforced at the event. This results in a many brothers and sisters -that suffer from a lack of hayah- attending and wearing make-up, jewelry and clothing that is not permissible for them to be wearing other than in front people of the same gender and nothing is said about it, but rather it has been said that, “You should have a Hijab in your heart”
*The female lecturer wears clothing that shows the contours of the body or while she gives the lecture bends into positions that are not synonymous with the concept of hayah in Islam.*
Again while attending a Muslim training conference in New York, none of the attendees found it in the least deplorable that the female Muslim lecturer was clearly displaying her cleavage and when I objected to this, I was looked upon as if I was strange or an extremist. (Subhan Allah )
*The female lecturer commits actions or talks on subjects that would be contrary to the norms of hayah (modesty) required of all Muslims leading to temptation.*
An example of this occurred with me during a conference that I was invited to for Muslim youth when a well-known American-Egyptian woman started to talk about condoms in front of hundreds of Muslim attendees which I was absolutely disgusted by and will never forget in my life.
*The young female lecturer traverses distances that exceed those permitted for a believing woman to travel when there is no urgent need for her to do so.*
It has been narrated in numerous authentic Ahadith that it is not permissible for a woman to travel such as the following:
Narrated Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) the Messenger of Allah (salahu alayhi wasalam) said: “It is unlawful for a woman who believes in Allah and the last day that she travels the distance of one day and one night without a Mahram accompanying her.” (al-Bukhari)
Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) the Messenger of Allah (salahu alayhi wasalam) said: “A woman must not travel for three days except with a Mahram.” (Agreed Upon)
Now, none of the Fuqaha deem as urgent traveling to give lectures, but rather that it is mainly for those actions that are related to the preservation of life such as for some medical treatment, escaping from a war zone and the performance of Hajj, the last of which contains much difference of opinion amongst the scholars depending on the madhab that one adheres to. If they have differed in regards to fulfilling one of the five fundamental pillars of Islam, then it goes without saying that it remains unlawful for a woman to travel even if she is to give Islamic lectures.
*The nature of a lecture requires that eye contact be maintained with the audience.*
As an accomplished public speaker that has received training from numerous organizations, I am fully aware of the role that eye contact has in engaging the audience and delivering a successful lecture. When one delivers a lecture to a mixed-gender audience it becomes very challenging not only for the speaker to not keep eye contact with the audience, but also for the audience not to look at the speaker. If one were to say, ‘you don’t have to look at the speaker if you don’t want to’, that would be rather nonsensical because it is well known in communication that a varying percentage of what is being communicated is not only in the audio that one hears, but also in the gesticulation of the speaker which in public speaking carries a more emphasized role. Furthermore, if organizers insisted that men should not look at the speaker then wouldn’t it be rational for them not to be put into this scenario in the first place? We should also be aware that looking at the opposite gender whether we have a reason for it or not has its affect on the human heart and this is why Allah mentions it first when commanding us to guard our private parts.
قُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ذَلِكَ أَزْكَى لَهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ
Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment… (24:30-31)
The effect it contains can very easily be translated into bad thoughts because the human self is weak, add to that the effects of today’s society where sexuality is accentuated and licentiousness is rampant and you have a recipe for disaster.
Our Beloved (salahu alayhi wsalam) said very clearly in a Hadith that occurs in the Sahihayn (Bukhari and Muslim):
إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَتَبَ عَلَى ابْنِ آدَمَ حَظَّهُ مِنَ الزِّنَا ، أَدْرَكَ ذَلِكَ لَا مَحَالَةَ ، فَزِنَا الْعَيْنَيْنِ النَّظَرُ ، وَزِنَا اللِّسَانِ النُّطْقُ وَالنَّفْسُ تَمَنَّى وَتَشْتَهِي ، وَالْفَرْجُ يُصَدِّقُ ذَلِكَ أَوْ يُكَذِّبُهُ
“Allah has written upon the son of Adam is portion from Zinah (fornication) from which there is no escape. The zinah of the eyes is to look, the zinah of the tongue is to speak, the self wishes and desires and the private parts either actualize it or deny it”
Allah the creator of both men and women is fully aware of what is in the hearts and even if one ‘pious’ Muslim were to say that I do not feel any danger of temptation, what about the rest of the audience, it cannot be guaranteed that they will not feel anything. Furthermore, what about the non-yet Muslims males who may be watching this lecture on the net; how many times have we come across immoral comments about our Muslim sisters online?
My advice to honourable sisters who genuinely want to help the deen, not gain facebook fans
As our deen is Nasiha, I feel that my answer on this topic would be incomplete if I do not offer some at this juncture. I would like to offer all sisters the advice that they should contemplate their actions and search for and weigh the positives and negative elements of what they are doing in lecturing men. Looking at Muslim population statistics, the number of women in the Ummah is more than that of men and therefore the need for sisters is great. I recommend that sisters should specialize in issues that their fellow sisters would feel more comfortable discussing with them as there is a genuine need for this in the Ummah and leave the lecturing of men to the same gender. This would be a far more effective use of human resources in the Ummah.
My advice to the organizers of these events who seek to please Allah alone.
Organizers of events that seek to get people to practice their deen ultimately pleasing Allah in the process must ask themselves one golden question. Who is it that gives guidance to these people so that they are able to make the life changing decisions after listening to the lectures? Should the answer be Allah, then does it not follow that Allah is the One that puts barakah into our efforts and in order for him to do that, we need to act in complete and unquestionable accordance to the guidelines that He has set out for us.
My advice to brothers that are intending to attend a lecture conducted by a female lecturer
Ask yourselves what is the goal of your attending this lecture? Is it to gain proximity to Allah and increase your Imaan or is it for some other reason? While your are attending this lecture, is your heart undividedly attached to what is being said in a similar way to if you were attending a lecture conducted by a male lecturer or are you being distracted?
وَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُنَّ مَتَاعًا فَاسْأَلُوهُنَّ مِن وَرَاء حِجَابٍ ذَلِكُمْ أَطْهَرُ لِقُلُوبِكُمْ وَقُلُوبِهِنَّ
And when you ask [his wives] for something, ask them from behind a partition. That is purer for your hearts and their hearts. (33:53)
It would be sheer sophistry to deny that women have an innate allure to any sane heterosexual man and that just because a woman is talking about love in Islam as opposed to love in general or any other subject for that matter, that those present would not be tempted by her soft speech, humour or even the idealistic notion that she is trying to convey setting their imaginations off in all directions.
In ending, I would like to say that if one studies the books of Usool and the Maqasid (purposes) behind the prohibitions of actions they realize that there are many actions that have been deemed Haraam even though they may contain some apparent benefit in them. The scholars have said that this is because people vary in their level of susceptibility to these things and so the prohibition encompasses everyone. I feel that this sort of activity for which I cannot find any pressing need in the Ummah to justify its dispensation, nor am I convinced will contain more good than bad, is not to be condoned and depending on the frequency of the factors above is either severely disliked or completely prohibited.
Finally, those of you whom have studied with me, know that I am always encouraging female scholarship in Islam by giving examples of great female scholars of the past in the hope that I can motivate my sisters to be more perceptive in their pursuit of the Sacred Sciences, so let not any person say that I am stepping on women’s rights or anything of the sort.
And Allah knows best
Servant of Allah