Is Friendship With Memebers of the Opposite Gender Allowed ?
What does Islam say about talking to girls and making them friends? The Qur’an requires believing men to lower their gazes and guard their modesty? How can one talk to girls and make them friends when one can’t even look at them? The question gets more significant when it comes to the issue of sharing photographs and private information with others on facebook etc. What are the limits within which we should interact with members of the opposite gender and how far should we reveal our photographs and private information to the people not closely related to us?
There are two extremes normally observed amongst Muslim regarding one’s attitude towards the opposite gender. On the one extreme is found a behavior which doesn’t allow any interaction at all while on the other no limits are observed. My understanding is that the truth about this issue, like indeed in most other cases, resides somewhere between the two extremes.
The Qur’anic guidance in this regard is found at two different levels: in the descriptions of innate human nature (al-Hikmah) and the Almighty’s law (al-Kitab). The relationship between the two categories is that of a principle and its explanation or a seed and the plant that sprouts from it. In the former description about the issue, the Qur’an clarifies that one should not come close to obscenity, whether manifest or hidden. (6:151) In the latter, the book says that in order to ensure that ideal to be realized, both genders should be mindful of their gaze. They should not allow it to wander so as to cause obscene appearances to be observed or thoughts to be created. Also, both genders should be careful about their dress in that it shouldn’t be revealing. Ladies have been asked to also cover their chests properly; they should also conceal all parts of their body if they have embellished themselves through makeup, jewelry, or some other means. This requirement is to be relaxed only in case of close male relatives. (24:30-31)
Within the moral and legal limits mentioned above, one should decide how far one can go in interacting with members of the opposite gender. My own view is that interacting is very much possible provided the spirit of maintaining pure feelings is observed. If friendship is prepared to confine itself to the domain of decency, that too shouldn’t be considered out of the question. However, one must always keep reviewing one’s feelings if any such relationship is developed to ensure that the ideals pure feelings are not being compromised.
The same principle should be applied while making photographs and information available for others on the facebook. Neither photographs nor information should have any hint of obscenity or potential of carrying the mind or emotions away.
What exactly is obscenity? It is revealing a site or information or showing a gesture which has the potential of stirring base desires. If at times it appears to be subjective whether a certain situation falls within the scope of obscenity or not, it is always better to err on the side of caution.