Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan answers a question about how to deal with having to sit next to a person of the opposite gender in a mixed school.
Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
I go to a school that is mixed and in one of my classes, I sit near a boy. I do my very best to avoid him, but is it okay if I talk to him now and again – obviously staying in the limits?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
I pray you’re well insha Allah. Jazakum Allah khayran for your question and may Allah reward you for being concerned about your religious practice.
Unfortunately, mixed gender schools are now part of most people’s lives and for some, there are no alternatives. Religious individuals and groups must therefore learn how to deftly maneuver within the reality of their environment; balancing the often difficult task of remaining firm on clear principles of social conduct while at the same time doing their best not to isolate or repel others.
We often have to remind ourselves that traditional gender barriers that religion places are no longer understood or observed by most people, especially in the West. Of course, we should maintain these barriers for they serve a necessary purpose, however, we must also be sympathetic in attitude to people to whom such formal interaction may seem strange or extreme. Acknowledging this at least allows us to view and interact with others in a merciful and respectful manner. In time, they may even admire and appreciate the wisdom in our customs.
In these situations, one can only do the best one can, observing proper etiquette and modesty while remaining genuine and good-natured. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Do not be extremists, but try to be near perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded.” (Bukhari, Muslim)
Suggestions on Mixed Schools
You could ask the teacher if it is possible to seat you next to a female student.
If you must sit next to a boy, then just ensure that you are properly covered and avoid physical contact. Talking now and again to greet him or when needed is fine. Be natural and don’t be harsh. It’s also not his fault he is sitting next to you!
Simple questions and answers usually suffice to be pleasant yet succinct.
You may also refer to this post: How to Deal with Free Mixing in Public Schools.
I wish you the very best. Warmest salams,
Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.