Ustadh Tabraze Azam answers a question about what counts as seclusion if one works is a closed office anyone can access at any time.
Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
I work in a small office whose main door is routinely closed, people can do routinely enter and exit but someone from the inside has to open the door for the strangers, we are in a manner that we expect anybody to knock the door or to open with keys at any time. Sometimes I stay alone with a “non-Mahram” woman for a period of time (30-60 minutes). I can not keep the main door open.
Does that count as a seclusion, What should I do?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
No, remaining alone with a person of the opposite gender in an enclosed space which people routinely enter and exit from would not constitute impermissible seclusion (khalwa).
The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Let no man be alone with a woman except whilst she has her unmarriageable kin (mahram) with her.” (Bukhari)
Usually, the ruling of impermissible seclusion is lifted when there is
1. a barrier between you and the other person, such as separate offices for each,
2. a window and the like which allows anybody from the outside to look in,
3. a third party present (with some detail), or
4. an absence of a permission requirement to enter the space.
Needless to say, during lunch breaks and the like, namely, occasions where staff are unlikely to come to and fro as normal, the ruling of impermissible seclusion would apply. In such cases, consider keeping the door open, if reasonably possible, or simply stepping away like others have.
Clearly, you would ensure that you’re not lowering your religious guard in all circumstances, and continue to ask Allah Most High to facilitate your matters for you. (Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar ‘ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar)
And Allah Most High knows best.
Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.