Free Mixing and Affairs of the Heart

*Based upon a true story. Real names have been changed.

Coming off the phone with her mother, Sarah was filled with anxiety and guilt. Maybe her parents thought she was extreme for not wanting to attend the party. Maybe it was just one boundary too far.

The party was originally planned to take place at Sarah’s parent’s house, which wasn’t a problem as it would only have involved close family members. However, these plans were later changed, and the party venue was switched to her brother’s house. His wife wanted to make the party a more elaborate affair and opened up the invitations to friends and the wider community. But this was now a dilemma for Sarah as she knew the party would involve the casual social intermingling of many men and women. It was arranged to take place over the weekend, and the weather was forecast to be dry and sunny. She also knew music and alcohol would flow freely throughout the house and garden. Sarah wanted to back out last minute due to a mysterious illness,’ but she knew it was wrong to lie. Added to this, she was such a bad liar. Quarrels had already erupted with her dad over her stance on wearing hijab and not shaking hands with male family friends. Although the male family friends didn’t appear to mind, Sarah’s dad insisted it was rude and that it implied that all his friends were sexual predators. Sarah understood his feelings on the subject but was grateful to finally have a valid exemption from touching their sweaty palms or enduring sloppy kisses. Creating a physical barrier didn’t resonate well with her dad, and it probably wouldn’t resonate well with her mum, but she felt she had to tell the truth.

“I’ll just pop round for a little bit to show my face, then I’ll have to leave,” Sarah informed her mum over the phone when the new plans for the party were revealed.

“Oh, I don’t understand this segregation thing.” Her mother huffed in annoyance. “It’s so unnecessary.” Sarah knew her explanation would only compound her dad’s indignation towards Islam, but it was now turning her mother against the religion. “And what’s wrong with a little flirtation anyway? It’s pretty harmless,” as her dad would say. Sarah knew free mixing always started innocently, but the potential repercussions were serious, and she couldn’t help but be reminded of the following hadith, whereby the Messenger of Allah warned:

Allah fixed the very portion of adultery that a man will indulge in. There would be no escape from it. The adultery of the eye is the lustful look, and the adultery of the ears is listening to voluptuous (song or talk), and the adultery of the tongue is licentious speech, and the adultery of the hand is the lustful grip (embrace), and the adultery of the feet is to walk (to the place) where he intends to commit adultery, and the heart yearns and desires which he may or may not put into effect.

Narrated by Abu Huraira. Muslim

While her dad would always brush off any ill intentions, Sarah knew lustful feelings were unpredictable and difficult to control, so it would be better to put safeguards in place to prevent them from arising in the first place.

A few days passed, and Sarah received another phone call from her mother to say the party had been called off and they were going to hold a family barbeque in the garden instead. Although Sarah was relieved, she noticed some tension in her mother’s voice and was convinced her religious stance on free mixing had been the main reason for cancelling the party. She could hear her dad’s voice in her head condemning her for ‘not compromising’ and ‘making things difficult again!’

That weekend Sarah and her husband drove with their three children to her parent’s house for the family barbecue. Although Sarah’s parents appeared friendly and relaxed, her brother and his wife, Chrissy, were frosty and aloof. They weren’t their usual upbeat selves, and snide comments were being made repeatedly throughout the afternoon. Sarah wasn’t sure if these remarks were directed at her personally, and it was difficult to pinpoint what the issues were exactly until two days later. Her brother made an unexpected visit one night after work and felt compelled to offer an explanation for his unusual behaviour with his wife that weekend.

“You must have noticed the atmosphere,” Her brother remarked as he pulled out a chair from the kitchen table to sit down. He avoided her eye contact and fiddled awkwardly with his car keys.

“I did, but I wasn’t sure what caused it,” Sarah responded guardedly, pouring him a cold glass of coke. She grimaced, anticipating his harsh criticism of her religious practices.

“I found out Krissy has been having an affair with my best friend,” he announced reluctantly. Sarah stood aghast; her mouth dropped open. “That’s why we cancelled the party, as he was going to be there…” There was a long pause. “…and his wife was going to be there too, but she doesn’t know anything about it,” he continued. There was another long pause. Sarah was speechless. She couldn’t help feel that all her reasons for refusing to freely mix were being validated in that moment. But it was pointless to mention the obvious now. It would also do nothing to lessen the inevitable pain and emotional trauma that was to follow over the next ten years with the family breakdown and acrimonious divorce. No one wants to say, “I told you so,” when the impact is so irrevocable. Everyone was affected by the reckless and selfish behaviour of those two people – her brother, his kids, her parents, the in-laws and those nearest and dearest who had emotionally invested in her brother’s marriage and family life. Relationships were never going to be the same again. Life was never going to be the same again.

Over the years Sarah has had to stand firm in her convictions against an opposing majority view, and yet Allah always showed her clear signs of His profound wisdom once time had elapsed. This has only strengthened Sarah’s unwavering position when observing etiquettes from the Quran and Sunnah. Allah’s Guidance is not always favoured positively by the people, but it is a strong safeguard from the harm and distress that can be caused if we act upon our own wanton desires and temptations. It may sometimes look strange to swim against the tide but as the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) once said:

“Islam began as something strange and will go back to being strange, so glad tidings to the strangers.”

Narrated by Abu Huraira. Ibn Majah 3986

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