Norms of Gender Interaction 
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi

يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتًا غَيْرَ بُيُوتِكُمْ حَتَّى تَسْتَأْنِسُوا وَتُسَلِّمُوا عَلَى أَهْلِهَا ذَلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ فَإِنْ لَمْ تَجِدُوا فِيهَا أَحَدًا فَلَا تَدْخُلُوهَا حَتَّى يُؤْذَنَ لَكُمْ وَإِنْ قِيلَ لَكُمْ ارْجِعُوا فَارْجِعُوا هُوَ أَزْكَى لَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ عَلِيمٌ لَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَنْ تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتًا غَيْرَ مَسْكُونَةٍ فِيهَا مَتَاعٌ لَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تُبْدُونَ وَمَا تَكْتُمُونَ قُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ذَلِكَ أَزْكَى لَهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ وَقُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُيُوبِهِنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَائِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَائِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي أَخَوَاتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَائِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُنَّ أَوْ التَّابِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُوْلِي الْإِرْبَةِ مِنْ الرِّجَالِ أَوْ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُوا عَلَى عَوْرَاتِ النِّسَاءِ وَلَا يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِنْ زِينَتِهِنَّ وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ (24: 27-31).

Believers! Enter not the houses other than your own until you have introduced yourselves and wished peace to those in them. That is best for you that you may be heedful. If you find no one in the house, enter not until permission is given to you. If you are asked to go back, go back, for it is purer for you. Allah has knowledge of all which you do. It is no sin for you to enter non-residential places in which there is benefit for you. And Allah has knowledge of what you reveal and what you conceal. [O Prophet!] tell believing men to restrain their eyes and guard their private parts [if there are women present in these houses]. That is purer for them. And Allah is well aware of what you do. And tell the believing women to restrain their eyes and to guard their private parts and to display of their ornaments only those [which are worn on limbs] which are normally revealed and to draw their coverings over their bosoms. They should not reveal their ornaments to anyone save their husbands or their fathers or their husbands’ fathers or their sons or their husbands’ sons or their brothers or their brothers’ sons or their sisters’ sons or other women of acquaintance or their slaves or the subservient male servants who are not attracted to women or children who have no awareness of the hidden aspects of women. They should [also] not stamp their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. Believers turn to Allah in repentance that you may prosper. (24:27-31)

    In order to protect the society from moral misconduct and to safeguard the sanctity of personal relationships, the above quoted verses outline the norms and etiquette of gender interaction. They are stated in Surah Nur with the warning that these norms of social interaction and communal contact must be adhered to in order to maintain the purity of heart and are the most appropriate set of principles in this matter. If people follow these norms, they will obtain the great blessings and favours they entail. However, to obtain these, it is essential that they follow these norms while regarding the Almighty to be all embracing in knowledge and always remain aware of the fact that the Almighty is not only aware of their deeds but also the intentions and motives behind them.
    These norms are:
    1. If friends, relatives or acquaintances visit one another, they should follow a certain decorum. Suddenly barging into a house without introducing one’s self is improper. The visitor should first of all properly introduce himself by paying salutations to the residents of a house. This will make the residents aware of the visitor, provide them with the opportunity to determine the purpose of his visit and whether it is appropriate for them to let him in. If the visitor hears a reply to his salutations and is given permission, only then should he enter. If there is no one present in the house to give him permission or if someone is present and the visitor is told on his behalf that meeting him is not possible, he should withdraw without any feelings of ill-will.
    In this regard, while explaining this directive, the Prophet (sws) has directed the visitor to seek permission three times and if he hears no reply even after his third call, he should turn back.1
    Similarly, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said that the permission to enter must not be sought by standing right at the front door of the house and while peeping in because the very reason for seeking permission is that the visitor should not catch a glimpse of the residents.2
    2. In case the visited place is non-residential, no formal permission is required. The Qur’an uses the words ‘بُيُوتًا غَيْرَ مَسْكُونَةٍ’ (houses which are not residential) for such places. They include hotels, rest houses, guest houses, shops, offices and meeting places. A person can enter such places because of some need without seeking permission as per the dictates of this verse.
    3. In both types of visited places, if women are present then the divine directive is that both the men and women present should restrain their gazes. The words used for this directive are ‘يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ’ (yaghuddu min absarihim). If there is modesty in the gazes, and men and women refrain from feasting their eyes on the physical attributes of one another and ogling each other, then no doubt the purport of the directive stands fulfilled. The expression ‘غَضِّ بَصَرْ’ (ghaddi basr) does not mean that men and women have to constantly stare at the floor while interacting with one another. It means to guard one’s gaze from taking undue liberty and to refrain from staring at one another. If this vigil on the eyes is not kept, then in the words of the Prophet (sws), this would be tantamount to adultery of the eyes. Once a person indulges into it, his sexual organ either fulfills the ultimate objective of what his eyes initiated or is unable to do so.3 It is regarding this first accidental gaze about which the Prophet (sws) has directed the believers to turn away.
    Baridah (rta) reports that the Prophet (sws) told ‘Ali (rta): ‘O ‘Ali! One must not follow up one’s first glance by a second one because the first glance shall be forgiven while the second not’.4
    Jarir Ibn ‘Abdullah reports that he asked from the Prophet (sws): ‘What if such a glance takes place suddenly?’. The Prophet (sws) replied: ‘Immediately turn it away or lower it’.5
    Once during the Prophet’s farewell pilgrimage when a lady from the Khath‘am tribe stopped the Prophet (sws) on his way, Fadl Ibn ‘Abbas started to stare at her. When the Prophet (sws) saw him, he caught hold of his face and turned it to the other side.6
    4. One must properly cover one’s sexual organs on such occasions of interaction. The expression employed by the Qur’an is ‘حِفْظِ الفُرُوْج’ (hifzu’l-furuj). At various instances in the Qur’an, this expression is used to connote inappropriate indulgence in sexual activity. However, it is evident from both the context in which it is used and the way it is used that in the above quoted verses this expression implies that men and women must properly cover their sexual organs. The purpose of the directive is that on occasions of gender intermingling body parts that need to be covered must be covered even more carefully. The primary way to achieve this end is to wear decent clothes. Men and women should wear such clothes which not only hide the ornaments worn but also the sexual organs. Moreover, on such occasions, care should be taken that a person does not expose his sexual organs. This is the very objective of hifzu’l-furuj. The Qur’an wants that believing men and women besides restraining their eyes also observe this norm of modesty.
    5. It is necessary for women in particular not to display any of their ornaments except before their close relatives, attendants and people of acquaintance. However, exempted from this are ornaments which are generally never covered: ie the ornaments worn on the hand, the face and the feet. In the opinion of this writer, the correct meaning of the Qur’anic words ‘إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا’ (illa ma zahara minha) used to indicate this meaning is the one pointed out by Zamakhshari in the words:

إِلَّا مَا جَرَتِ اْلعَادَة وَ اْلجِبِلَّة عَلى ظُهُورِهِ وَ اْلاَصْل فِيِهِ الْظُهُوْر

Except limbs which a person does not cover generally and instinctively and they are always left bare.7

    Therefore, barring the ornaments worn in these places, women must hide the ones worn in all other places. So much so that they should not walk by striking their feet in a manner which draws attention to any hidden ornaments they may be wearing. On these very grounds, the Prophet (sws) bade women not to use strong perfumes when they go out.8
    Relatives and people of acquaintance before which the above mentioned display of ornaments is not forbidden are:

i. Husband
ii. Father
iii. Father in law

    For the latter two relations, the word used by the Qur’an is ‘آبَا’ (aba). This word not only implies the father but also the paternal and maternal uncles and grandfathers. Therefore, a lady can display her ornaments before adults of both her maternal and paternal family and those of her husband’s just as she can before her father and father-in- law.

iv. Sons
v. Sons of the Husband
vi. Brothers
vii. Brothers’ Sons
viii. Sisters’ Sons

    The word ‘son’ implies the maternal grand and great grand sons as well as the paternal ones. The same implies for the sons of brothers and sisters. In these relations also, the sons of real, step and foster brothers and sisters is understood to be included.
    ix. Women of acquaintance and Maids
    It is evident from these words that unknown women should be treated the same way as men and a Muslim lady should be very careful in displaying her concealed ornaments before them. The reason is that this can result in both moral and financial afflictions, and in some cases a careless attitude in this regard may invite even graver dangers.
    x. Slaves
    The institution of slavery existed in Arabia in the times of the Prophet Muhammad (sws). The words used in the above quoted verse while referring to this institution are ‘مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُنَّ’. Some jurists have understood this expression to only mean ‘slave-women’. However, there is no reason for this exception. Writes Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi:

Had only slave-women been implied by this expression then the appropriate words would have been ‘اَوْ اَمَاءِهِنٌ’. A common expression that connotes both slave-men and slave-women would never have been used. Moreover, the verses already mention the category which as, has been explained, includes both women with whom one is generally acquainted as well slave-women and maidservants. After a mention of this category, an independent mention of slave-women is needless.9

    xi. People who live in a house as dependents and because of their subservience or owing to any other reason are incapable of feeling any attraction towards women.
    xii. Children who are as yet unaware of sexual matters.
    6. Since the chest of women is means of sexual attraction, and there also may be jewelry worn in the neck, they are directed to cover their chests with a cloak. In this way, the neckline shall also be covered as much as possible. If by some other means this objective is achieved, then this cannot be objected to either. The real purpose is that women must not reveal their chest and neckline before men; on the contrary, these should be concealed in a manner that they do not become prominent in any way.
    The surah also mentions certain other clarifications regarding these norms.
    Firstly, slave-men and women and sexually immature children who generally frequent a house are not required to take permission every time they enter private rooms. They are just required to seek permission in three particular times of the day: before the Fajr prayer when the residents are generally in bed, during the nap in the afternoon when they may not be wearing proper clothes and after the ‘Isha prayer when they go off to bed for sleep. These three periods of time require privacy. If someone suddenly enters a private room in these times, he may see the residents in an inappropriate state. Barring these three times of the day, sexually immature children and slave-men and women can enter the private rooms and other areas of the house without taking any permission. This then cannot be objected to. However, in the above mentioned three times, they must seek permission when they want to enter a private room. Once children reach sexual maturity, they too need to seek permission at all times. The fact that they have been frequenting the house ever since their childhood is not reason enough for them to continue with the exception granted to them. Consequently, once they reach this age, they must follow the regulations that pertain to all:

يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لِيَسْتَأْذِنْكُمْ الَّذِينَ مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ لَمْ يَبْلُغُوا الْحُلُمَ مِنْكُمْ ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ مِنْ قَبْلِ صَلَاةِ الْفَجْرِ وَحِينَ تَضَعُونَ ثِيَابَكُمْ مِنْ الظَّهِيرَةِ وَمِنْ بَعْدِ صَلَاةِ الْعِشَاءِ ثَلَاثُ عَوْرَاتٍ لَكُمْ لَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَا عَلَيْهِمْ جُنَاحٌ بَعْدَهُنَّ طَوَّافُونَ عَلَيْكُمْ بَعْضُكُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ كَذَلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ الْآيَاتِ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ وَإِذَا بَلَغَ الْأَطْفَالُ مِنْكُمْ الْحُلُمَ فَلْيَسْتَأْذِنُوا كَمَا اسْتَأْذَنَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ كَذَلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ  (24: 58-9) .

Believers, let your slave men and women and those who are under age ask your permission on three occasions when they come in to see you: before the Fajr prayer, when you have put off your garments in the heat of noon and after the Isha prayer. These are the three occasions when none may intrude upon your privacy. At other times, it shall be no offence for you, or them, [because you] go around visiting one another. Thus God explains to you His verses and God is all-knowing and wise. And when your children reach the age of puberty, let them still ask your permission as their elders do. Thus God explains to you His verses and God is all-knowing and wise. (24:58-9)

    Secondly, the directive of covering the chest and neckline does not pertain to old women who are no longer of marriageable age on the condition that they their intention is not to display their ornaments. It is not necessary for a woman to cover her chest and neckline in the age in which she generally loses her sexual urge and in which a man feels no attraction for her. So old women can dispense with the cloth that covers the stipulated area. However, what is more pleasing in the sight of Allah is that even in this age they be careful and not dispense with this garment:

وَالْقَوَاعِدُ مِنْ النِّسَاءِ اللَّاتِي لَا يَرْجُونَ نِكَاحًا فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْهِنَّ جُنَاحٌ أَنْ يَضَعْنَ ثِيَابَهُنَّ غَيْرَ مُتَبَرِّجَاتٍ بِزِينَةٍ وَأَنْ يَسْتَعْفِفْنَ خَيْرٌ لَهُنَّ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ (60:24).

It shall be no sin for aged women who have no hope of marriage to discard their cloaks on the condition that they do not display their ornaments. Better if they do not discard them. God hears all and knows all. (24:60)

    Thirdly, it is explained in these verses that there is absolutely no harm if people and their relatives who are disabled or impaired in any manner come and visit one another and whether men and women among them eat together or separately in their own houses of their children, of their fathers’, mothers’, brothers’ and sisters’, of their paternal uncles’ and aunts’, maternal uncles’ and aunts’ and people who are financially dependent on them. Indeed, when they enter such houses they must greet the residents in the prescribed way. The Muslim religious greeting (al-salamu alaykum) is in fact a beautiful invocation to the Almighty to strengthen personal relationships. The norms of social interaction that are outlined in these verses are not meant to deprive people of mutual support or to curtail their social freedom. If people show prudence, they can maintain all these relationships even after following these norms. They must not think that these directives are meant to put them through difficulties. The Almighty does not intend to prohibit social interaction in any way:

لَيْسَ عَلَى الْأَعْمَى حَرَجٌ وَلَا عَلَى الْأَعْرَجِ حَرَجٌ وَلَا عَلَى الْمَرِيضِ حَرَجٌ وَلَا عَلَى أَنفُسِكُمْ أَنْ تَأْكُلُوا مِنْ بُيُوتِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ آبَائِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ إِخْوَانِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ إِخْوَانِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ أَخَوَاتِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ أَعْمَامِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ عَمَّاتِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ أَخْوَالِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ خَالَاتِكُمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكْتُمْ مَفَاتِحَهُ أَوْ صَدِيقِكُمْ لَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَنْ تَأْكُلُوا جَمِيعًا أَوْ أَشْتَاتًا فَإِذَا دَخَلْتُمْ بُيُوتًا فَسَلِّمُوا عَلَى أَنفُسِكُمْ تَحِيَّةً مِنْ عِنْدِ اللَّهِ مُبَارَكَةً طَيِّبَةً كَذَلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ الْآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ (61:24) .

There is no harm if the blind, the lame, and the sick eat at your table nor if you eat in the houses of your own children, your fathers’, your mothers’, your brothers’ and your sisters’, your paternal uncles’, your paternal aunts’, your maternal uncles’, your maternal aunts’, or your friends’; or of those who are [financially] dependent on you. There is no harm if men and women eat together or apart. [However, this much you should do that] when you enter a house, say ‘peace to you’ – an invocation fixed by God, and let your greeting be devout and kindly. Thus God explains to you His revelations, so that you may grow in wisdom. (24:61)

    These are the norms of social interaction in general circumstances. However, in the age of the Prophet (sws) in Madinah when some miscreants started teasing and besmearing the characters of Muslim women, the Almighty in Surah Ahzab bade the wives of the Prophet (sws), his daughters and other Muslim women to draw their cloaks over them when they go out to places which were insecure. Such dressing-up would distinguish them from women of lewd character and they would not be teased on the pretext of being outwardly similar to such women. It is reported in various narratives that when Muslim women in the dark of night or in the dim light of dawn would go out to relieve themselves these miscreants would get after them and when they would be called to account they would say that they actually though that they were talking to slave-women10. The Qur’an says:

وَالَّذِينَ يُؤْذُونَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ بِغَيْرِ مَا اكْتَسَبُوا فَقَدِ احْتَمَلُوا بُهْتَانًا وَإِثْمًا مُبِينًا يَاأَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُلْ لِأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِنْ جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ذَلِكَ أَدْنَى أَنْ يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا لَئِنْ لَمْ يَنْتَهِ الْمُنَافِقُونَ وَالَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ مَرَضٌ وَالْمُرْجِفُونَ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ لَنُغْرِيَنَّكَ بِهِمْ ثُمَّ لَا يُجَاوِرُونَكَ فِيهَا إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مَلْعُونِينَ أَيْنَمَا ثُقِفُوا أُخِذُوا وَقُتِّلُوا تَقْتِيلًا (33: 58-61).

Those who harass believing men and believing women unjustifiably shall bear the guilt of slander and a grievous sin. O Prophet! Enjoin your wives, your daughters, and the wives of true believers to draw their cloaks over them [when they go out]. That is more proper, so that they may be distinguished [from slave women] and not be harassed. God is ever forgiving and merciful. If the hypocrites and those who have the ailment [of jealousy] in their hearts and the scandal mongers of Madinah do not desist, We will rouse you against them, and their days in that city will be numbered. Cursed be they; wherever found, they would be seized and put to death. (33:58-61)

    It is evident from the words ‘أَنْ يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ’ and the context in which they are used that the directive mentioned in the preceding verses was not of permanent nature. It was a temporary measure adopted to protect Muslim women from the evil of lecherous people. Owing to similar reasons, the Prophet (sws) also forbade Muslim women from traveling alone on long journeys and from walking on pathways within a crowd of men11. Consequently, if today Muslim women are faced with similar circumstances, they can adopt a similar measure to make themselves distinct from other women.
    The surah also mentions certain directives that are specific to the Prophet Muhammad (sws) in his capacity of a Messenger of God. They bear no relation to other people; however, since certain scholars have extended their sphere of application to all Muslims, their explanation seems appropriate here.
    A deliberation on the contents of the surah reveals the fact that when the hypocrites and miscreants mentioned above embarked upon a campaign to scandalize the private lives of the wives of the Prophet (sws) to make the common man averse to them and to damage the moral repute of both Islam and the Muslims, the Almighty took certain measures to curb this evil: First, He gave the noble wives the choice to leave the Prophet (sws) and live the life of common Muslim women enjoying its luxuries and comforts or to once again decide with full awareness to live forever as the wives of the Prophet (sws) in order to obtain the comforts and luxuries of the Hereafter. They are then informed that if they decided to stay with the Prophet (sws), then they must realize that their status as his wives entails great responsibility. They are not like common women; they are like the mothers of the believers. Therefore, if they remain faithful to Allah and His Prophet (sws) and do righteous deeds with full sincerity, they will earn a two-fold reward. Likewise, they will be worthy of a two-fold punishment in relation to other women if they commit a sin. Their inner purification is beyond doubt; however, the Almighty also wants to morally cleanse them in the eyes of the people so that no one is given a chance to even cast slight aspersions on their characters. This is a requisite of their status and they must adopt certain things in their daily lives to achieve this purity.
    Firstly, if they are fearful of the Almighty they should not be kind and affectionate in speech to every person who enters their house. Though in normal circumstances, one must be gentle and kind when he speaks to others, but, in the circumstances they are facing, such an attitude would only embolden the miscreants and the hypocrites around them to take undue advantage of them. Such an attitude of kindness would create in them the expectation of success in their mission – the mission of whispering evil in people’s hearts. So if ever they have to talk to such people they must speak in clear and simple tones so that those among their addressees who intend evil realize that they cannot achieve their objective. The Qur’an says:

يَانِسَاءَ النَّبِيِّ لَسْتُنَّ كَأَحَدٍ مِنْ النِّسَاءِ إِنْ اتَّقَيْتُنَّ فَلَا تَخْضَعْنَ بِالْقَوْلِ فَيَطْمَعَ الَّذِي فِي قَلْبِهِ مَرَضٌ وَقُلْنَ قَوْلًا مَعْرُوفًا (32:33).

Wives of the Prophet, you are not like other women. So, if you fear God, do not be too complaisant in your speech, lest the lecherous-hearted should lust after you. Talk with such people in plain and simple words. (33:32).

    Second, they should remain in their homes in order to protect their rank and status. All their attitudes and mannerisms should be in accordance with the status that the Almighty has conferred them with. So if they have to go out to meet some compelling need, they must not go out displaying their ornaments and finery – something which was the way of women of the age of ignorance. Both their status and responsibility entail that they remain in their houses and diligently pray and spend in the way of Allah as much as they can and with full sincerity spend their time in obedience to the Almighty and His Prophet (sws). However, if due to some unavoidable reason they must leave their place, then they should do so in the most befitting of manners exemplifying the culture and tradition of the Muslims and not let any hypocrite to even cast an aspersion on them:

وَقَرْنَ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ وَلَا تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ الْأُولَى وَأَقِمْنَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتِينَ الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِعْنَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنْكُمْ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا (33:33).

Abide still in your homes and do not display your finery as women used to do in the days of ignorance. Attend to your prayers, give alms and obey God and His Messenger. O woman of this house, the Almighty wants to cleanse you from the filth [these hypocrites want to besmear you with] and to fully purify you. (33:33)

    Thirdly, they should try to communicate the verses of the Qur’an as well as the beliefs and moral teachings of Islam to people who come and visit them and refrain from other general gossip. It is for this very objective that the Almighty has chosen them. Their purpose of life now is the dissemination of the message of Islam and not indulgence in the luxuries of life:

وَاذْكُرْنَ مَا يُتْلَى فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ مِنْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ وَالْحِكْمَةِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ لَطِيفًا خَبِيرًا (34:33) .

Communicate what is taught to you of the verses of God and the wisdom revealed by Him [to your visitors]. The Almighty is very discerning and all-knowing. (33:34)

    It seems that even after all these measures, the miscreants did not mend their ways. Consequently, the Almighty gave some more directives to Muslims which were to be strictly followed.
    Muslims were told that no one should enter the house of the Prophet (sws) unless he was called. If people are invited to have food at the house of the Prophet (sws), they shall come right at the time of food. They shall then disperse immediately afterwards and not keep talking to one another.
    The wives of the Prophet (sws) shall be secluded from the Muslims and except for near relatives and women of their acquaintance no one shall come in front of them. Any who wants something from their private places must ask for it from behind a veil.
    The wives of the Prophet (sws) shall be the mothers of the believers. Those Hypocrites who have the desire to marry them should know that even after the death of the Prophet (sws) they cannot marry them. They are eternally prohibited to marry after him. Consequently, every believer should honour and respect them the way he honours and respects his own mother. The Prophet (sws) is greatly distressed by the wrong attitudes of these miscreants. They must know that bothering the Prophet (sws) is not something trivial. A person may fashion out an excuse for his misdemeanor in this world but he would not be successful in justifying it before the Lord of the worlds who is aware of what is in the hearts:

يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتَ النَّبِيِّ إِلَّا أَنْ يُؤْذَنَ لَكُمْ إِلَى طَعَامٍ غَيْرَ نَاظِرِينَ إِنَاهُ وَلَكِنْ إِذَا دُعِيتُمْ فَادْخُلُوا فَإِذَا طَعِمْتُمْ فَانْتَشِرُوا وَلَا مُسْتَأْنِسِينَ لِحَدِيثٍ إِنَّ ذَلِكُمْ كَانَ يُؤْذِي النَّبِيَّ فَيَسْتَحْيِ مِنْكُمْ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَسْتَحْيِ مِنْ الْحَقِّ وَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُنَّ مَتَاعًا فَاسْأَلُوهُنَّ مِنْ وَرَاءِ حِجَابٍ ذَلِكُمْ أَطْهَرُ لِقُلُوبِكُمْ وَقُلُوبِهِنَّ وَمَا كَانَ لَكُمْ أَنْ تُؤْذُوا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَلَا أَنْ تَنْكِحُوا أَزْوَاجَهُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ أَبَدًا إِنَّ ذَلِكُمْ كَانَ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ عَظِيمًا إِنْ تُبْدُوا شَيْئًا أَوْ تُخْفُوهُ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمًا لَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِنَّ فِي آبَائِهِنَّ وَلَا أَبْنَائِهِنَّ وَلَا إِخْوَانِهِنَّ وَلَا أَبْنَاءِ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ وَلَا أَبْنَاءِ أَخَوَاتِهِنَّ وَلَا نِسَائِهِنَّ وَلَا مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُنَّ وَاتَّقِينَ اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدًا (33: 53-5).

Believers, do not enter the houses of the Prophet for a meal without waiting for the proper time, unless you are given leave. But if you are invited, enter; and when you have eaten, disperse. Do not engage in familiar talk, for this would distress the Prophet and he would feel shy to bid you go; but of the truth God does not feel shy. If you ask his wives for anything, speak to them from behind a curtain. This is more chaste for your hearts and their hearts. You must not speak ill of God’s Messenger, nor shall you ever wed his wives after him; this would surely be a grave offence in the sight of God. Whether you reveal or conceal them, God has knowledge of all things. It shall be no offence for the Prophet’s wives to come before their fathers, their sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women of acquaintance, or their slave-girls. [O] women [of the household of the Prophet!], have fear of God; surely God observes all things. (33:53-5)


(Translated by Shehzad Saleem from ‘Mizan’)



1. Bukhari: No. 6245
2. Bukhari: No. 6241
3. Bukhari: No. 6343
4. Abu Da’ud: No. 2149
5. Muslim: No. 2159
6. Bukhari: No. 1513
7. Zamakhshari, Kashshaff, 1st ed., vol. 3, (Beirut: Dar al-Ahya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 1997), p. 236
8. Abu Da’ud: No. 7143
9. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i-Qur’an, 4th ed., vol. 5, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1991), p. 398
10. Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Azim, vol. 3, (Beirut: Daru’l-Ahya wa al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 1969), p. 518 / Zamakhshari, Kashshaff, 1st ed., vol. 3, (Beirut: Dar al-Ahya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 1997), p. 569
11. Bukhari: No. 1088 / Abu Da’ud: No. 5272