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Ikhtilat (Arabic: اختلاط) is a term used for intermingling of the sexes. The meeting together, mixing, and intermingling of men and women in one place, the crowding of them together, and the revealing and exposure of women to men are prohibited by the Law of Islam (Shari’ah). These acts are prohibited because they are among the causes for fitnah (temptation or trial which implies evil consequences), the arousing of desires, and the committing of indecency and wrongdoing.

There is no doubt that enabling women to mix freely (ikhtilat) with men is the root of every calamity and evil. It is one of the biggest reasons for general punishment (from Allah) to befall (a society). It is also one of the reasons of corruption of general and specific matters. Free-mixing between men and women is also the reason for increase in immorality and illegal sexual intercourse (zina). It is one of the reasons of widespread death and incessant plagues.

One of the greatest reasons of widespread death is fornication and adultery (zina) due to enabling women to mix freely with men and move among them made up and dressed up. Had the rulers known what corruption it causes in worldly affairs and the society, before the hereafter, they would have been the strictest in stopping it.”

- Imam Ibn Qayyim

The wives of the Prophet sws were ordained to keep from intermingling unneccesarily because they were of such a higher and more pure status and were to set an example for the muslims sisters to come.

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]

In explaining this Verse, Ibn Kathir (May Allaah have mercy on him) said: “Meaning, as I forbade you to enter their rooms, I forbid you to look at them at all. If one wants to take something from a woman, one should do so without looking at her. If one wants to ask a woman for something, the same has to be done from behind a screen.”

 The Prophet (May peace and blessings be upon him) enforced separation of men and women even at Allah’s most revered and preferred place, the mosque. This was accomplished via the separation of the women’s rows from the men’s; men were asked to stay in the mosque after completion of the obligatory prayer so that women will have enough time to leave the mosque; and, a special door was assigned to women. Evidence of the foregoing are: 

Umm Salamah (May Allah be pleased with her) said that after Allah’s Messenger (May peace and blessings be upon him) said “as-Salamu ‘Alaykum wa Rahmatullah’ twice announcing the end of prayer, women would stand up and leave. He would stay for a while before leaving. Ibn Shihab said that he thought that the staying of the Prophet (May peace and blessings be upon him) was in order for the women to be able to leave before the men who wanted to depart.”

Narrated by al-Bukhari under No. 793. 

Ibn ‘Umar said that Allah’s Messenger (May peace and blessings be upon him) said: “We should leave this door (of the mosque) for women.” Naafi’ said: “Ibn ‘Umar never again entered through that door until he died.”

Narrated by Abu Dawood under No. 484

In the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad sws, men and women would actually mix at times. Of course, this was if/when there was a purpose and not for the sake of social leisure:

  1. Aa’ishah bint Abee Bakr teaching Sahabah from the males about jurisprudential matters or Aa’ishah and the Prophet journeying together but where also accompanied by others. Here, the purpose is education and teaching and a group or jama’ah making travel together.
  2. The Messenger (S), and the Companions, after marrying a woman had/held a waleemah in which they would eat and drink etc, together in the company of both men & women. The bride -or wife- is actually the one who would host the occasion, and serve her visitors.
  3. Ahadeeth about Muslim women who treat Mujaahideen injured from fighting in the Jihaad.
  4. Ahadeeth about Muslim women who were Mujaahidaat themselves, fighting in the Jihad. etc.
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