For some of you, interacting with the opposite gender may not be a problem. For some of you, it might be a BIG problem!
My personal experience with this problem comes from my years in school, where I struggled a lot with my interactions with guys. Growing up, my mom told me not to talk to boys and I took this advice very literally. I realised that she didn’t actually mean what she said when I was paired up with a guy in grade 7 on a French assignment and came home crying, thinking I was going to Hell for breaking this critical rule. Suffice it to say that I don’t think this way anymore!
Some people say that having male friends and hanging out is fine, as long as you’re not too close or intimate. Some people say that when living in the West, girls and guys should go to schools where girls and guys are separated. You need to figure out what works best for you and what you’re most comfortable with.
But my biggest piece of advice is: keep your distance.
Islamically, it is recommended for men and women to maintain their distance when interacting with the opposite gender. Do that to the best of your ability.
Going to school or working in the West, there will undoubtedly be times when you will be paired up or grouped with the opposite gender. Sometimes you won’t have an option. And so the best thing you can do is focus on the assignment or project at hand, and keep your distance in your interactions without being too friendly.
School or work is usually the easiest part. It’s when you move out of that context and into the social setting that things can sometimes become complicated. In social events, the lines between the professional and the personal can be blurred, and it can become even harder to keep your distance.
Obviously there will be times when you’ll have to participate in mixed group social events. But know your limits.
But we don’t just interact in person. We also talk on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, BBM, Google chat, and on a million other platforms! I’m not going to tell you not to give a guy your number or your Twitter name or whatever, because sometimes it’s unavoidable. But like everything else, keep it clean and polite and respectful. Just because your mom can’t see you doesn’t mean God can’t.
During my university days, I took the keep your distance advice quite literally and didn’t really interact with the opposite gender much. I was shy, yet that manifested itself in not talking to guys at all and ignoring them. I was thought to be rude and standoffish.
And so there’s a caveat: be polite, yet don’t be rude. Say salam and return the salam of any Muslim brothers you encounter. Be friendly and respectful to all, since your manners speak for your character. There’s no reason why you can’t work productively in a professional capacity alongside men.
Everyone is different and everyone interprets things differently. So your idea of maintaining distance could be someone else’s idea of being too friendly, and vice versa. So know yourself and know your limits. Always remember that Allah is watching.
It’s a difficult road to navigate but you need to figure out what works best for you. Remember, only Allah has the right to judge. Hope you found this somewhat useful.
Keep smiling, beautiful girls!