Question:

Dear MM,

Salam Alaikum. I have a problem that I am unsure of how to reconcile that I need your help with. 

In high school, my friends' group consisted almost entirely of girls. This was because the vast majority of guys in my school were not the type of people you'd want your children to hang out with: they did drugs, and used swear words, were not concerned with school, etc. I didn't want to hang out with those people because they were not my type of individual, and I feared I would become like them if I hung out with them too much.  Instead, I hung out with my group of friends, mostly girls. These people were devout Christians (there were no Muslims in my grade besides me), did not swear, were studious, intelligent, kind, respectful, etc.

I rationalized my involvement with them by saying that they made me a better person, which I still honestly believe is true. I helped them with life problems (not little things, large issues, such as depression or sexual assault at home), and they helped me. I grew very close to these people, and still truly enjoy their company.

However, over the past few months, I have grown closer to my deen, and I am starting to feel unsure of whether or not I can be friends with these people any more. I truly believe they are good people, and we are very close as friends, but I am unsure if it is Islamically permissible. 

I am running into the same issue in college. The majority of guys at my school are rowdy, swear excessively, and now, drink alcohol or do drugs. There are girls at my school who do so as well, but there are others who are more studious, kind, and sober people. I am befriending those type of girls, but I don't know if that's ok or not.

Occasionally, they'll ask if we can eat at the dining hall together, and while I know that it's not for nefarious purposes, I am unsure whether or not I can or should eat with them.

My problem is two fold: I don't know what to do in terms of friends. I have a few, close friends who are guys who I talk to, some of whom are Muslim, and whom I trust very much. But most of the time, those people are far away (don't attend my school, are still in high school, etc.), and I am surrounded by the general non-Muslim population. I don't want to befriend most of the guys at my school, as I fear I will fall into the habits of drinking or other haram things. And the few guys who are good hang out with girls as well. So I'm unsure whether or not I can be friends with girls, or not.

Secondly, I don't know what to do about my high school friend group. I am back home for winter break, and I wish to see them, but I have been avoiding responding to their text messages because I do not know if I am allowed to do so. Would I like to catch up? Ofcourse. But I don't know if I can. So how do I handle these friends? Do I explain myself and then just cut these people out of my life, delete their numbers from my phone, delete them from my Facebook, and never speak to them again? 

In brief: 
Am I allowed to befriend these girls or not? I do not wish to go against Islam, but I don't want to fall in the same pattern as most guys at my school.

What do I do about the ones I have already befriended? Should I cut them off, or how do I proceed? 

Jazakallah ul Khairun, I appreciate this so much. This issue has been driving me crazy, and I fear I have done great wrong in the eyes of Allah. Please help me understand what I need to do further. Salam Alaikum

Answer:

Bismillah wa salah wa salaam 'ala Rasoolillah.

Walaikum asalaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu

I want to commend you for reaching out about this issue.  This clearly shows that you are striving to gain the pleasure of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and that you are seeking to stay away from that which displeases Him.  I ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to reward you tremendously for that and always guide you toward that which is most pleasing to Him.  ameen.

Let me begin by discussing a few points from an Islamic standpoint:

Islamically, mixing and talking between men and women should be done only for legitimate reasons and if there is a need (e.g. you are classmates working on a joint project or coworkers, etc.) and even then a level of appropriateness and professionalism should be maintained.  In terms of socializing, it is best to ensure that your close friends are of the same gender.  Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in Surah al-Nur, “Tell the believing men and women to lower their gaze and protect their chastity, for that is bound to render them purer.  Allah is aware of all that they do.” [Surah an-Nur 24:30]

Islam is a preventative religion and one of the things it seeks to prevent is engaging in inappropriate relationships. And Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) commands us to avoid anything that may lead to that as he says, “O you who have believed do not follow the footsteps of Satan.” [Surah an-Nur 24:21].

One of the reasons behind lowering one's gaze is to prevent any thoughts, contemplations or desires that might take place between men and women. So the question is, would eating lunch with a few girls lead to the start of an inappropriate relationship?  Probably not.  However, it will increase your level of comfort with someone of the opposite gender, which can then lead to friendly texts, which can then lead to friendly phone calls, which can then lead to more “iffy” phone calls and conversations, and then to hanging out on your own… And, well, you know where I'm going with this.

 

This can also continue to be a struggle when you graduate college and start your career. One of the most cited reasons for infidelity is what is called “emotional infidelity” and it usually takes place in the workplace. That is because people spend most of their days at work with their co-workers in meetings, lunches, work-related parties, etc. A survey conducted by Randstad USA, a staffing and recruiting organization, found that 53% of women and 42% of men said they had an “office spouse,” which they identified means having strong emotional bonds similar to those in a marriage with someone of the opposite gender in the workplace. This can easily lead to sexual transgressions as found in a Yahoo Finance article published in 2011, entitled “Who's Cheating Who: Infidelity by Profession,” which states that 72% of bankers admitted to having had at least one affair and 87% of those were with a work colleague.

The Shaytaan would never attempt to push you into a compromising situation of engaging inappropriately with a girl right off the bat- he knows you're too devoted to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to even try that.  But he may push you down that path in very small, seemingly innocent steps.  Therefore, it is best and safest to maintain only professional interactions with the opposite gender.

I also noticed you included a number of rationalizations regarding why being friends with the girls that you know has been beneficial to you.  It sounds like you already know that these relationships may not be the best for you since it seems as though your moral compass is pointing you away from them, which is why you feel the need to rationalize them.  It is natural to occasionally try to convince ourselves that certain things are good for us, even though internally, we know that's not true.  And the number of rationalizations we give ourselves is often a good indication of whether something truly is good for us.  If it was good for us, we wouldn't need all of these explanations.

You mentioned that you struggle to find guys with whom you can be close friends due to their behavior.  It also sounds like there are certain qualities that your female friends possess that you have struggled to find in male friends.  Oftentimes, girls are more open to listening to your struggles and have a softer way of providing feedback.  Perhaps this is why you have not found many male friends whose personalities resonate with you?  It may be difficult to find a guy you will feel as comfortable confiding in as you have felt in the past with your female friends but I want to reassure you that it is possible.

Men, oftentimes, connect by engaging in activities together (doing something, rather than just talking).  Join your university's Muslim Students Association and an academic club where you can find like-minded men to spend time with.  You may not find many male friends who are completely free of habits you don't approve of but try to take the good and leave the bad in these relationships.  My rule of thumb when deciding whether you should take someone as a close friend and devote spending time with him is to ask yourself two simple questions:

  • Can he be of benefit to me and impact me in a positive way?  If yes, then great!  If no, move on to the second question.
  • Can you benefit him?  If you answer “yes” to this question, go for it.  If you answer “no” to this question, this means that you can't benefit him and he will, therefore, impact you negatively.  If you find yourself getting swept into a negative habit or pattern, it is best not to take him as a friend.

Also, if you find yourself yearning for a strong relationship with a female friend, I would encourage you to begin your search for a wife when you feel you are personally ready to take steps toward marriage.  Your wife can be someone in whom you confide, someone who can become your best friend and someone who you can support emotionally as well.  This can help in filling the emotional gap that, perhaps, male friends cannot satisfy.

I would also encourage you to let your female friends know that you do not harbor any negative feelings toward them but you are, simply, trying to become a more faithful worshipper of God.  You mentioned that they are religious Christians, so this may resonate with them and they may even respect you more for it.

I also want to reassure you that, in standing by your principles and seeking to please Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), only good can come from these efforts.  I know it's a struggle to let go of friends but realize that our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, ”Whosoever leaves something for the sake of Allah then Allah, the Mighty and Magnificent, will replace it with something better than it.” [Ahmad]

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has promised that after hardship comes ease and He will always reward those who strive to obey Him.

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) bless you, grant you peace and reward you tremendously for all that you do for His sake.

Ameen.

10 Responses

  1. Sarah

    I agree with the counselor – I believe that there is also a wonderful explanation of gender interaction on Suhaib Webb called ‘Co-Ed For the sake of Allah’ which explains that we should not have ‘casual friendships’ but rather work together for the sake of Allah. Also – aside from the ‘little things lead to bigger things’ argument – it’s not so much that for me, as it is that close friendship with the opposite gender leads to some blurred lines – where does a friendship end and a relationship begin? It’s best to keep things clear cut. :)

    One important question that was asked was what the boy should do now – simply cut people off? I don’t think that you should abruptly say ‘I can’t be friends anymore with you because of my religion’ – instead, if they truly are your good friends, then they will understand if you say “I’ve become a bit more practicing and I want to treat women with the respectful guidelines that Islam asks me to, which means that I’d rather not just casually hang out with you anymore.” Emphasize your admiration and utter respect for these people, and that’s that is not something that disappears when you’re not in a casual friendship – instead, it means that you respect their space and them from afar.

    This is just my personal advice, having gone through something similar (although I’m a girl) – I did things little by little. I stopped seeking them out, I focused on creating a same-sex friend group and trying new things, and I basically cut down my relationships to much, much more formal ones. I would have an honest conversation with the person and say how I was feeling about the friendship, how I wanted to lay out boundaries – they respected and understood this. I did not go so far as cutting people off entirely – I still occasionally touch base and say ‘how are you, I’m doing well, I’m glad that you’re enjoying yourself at Uni’, but that’s all – and it can be very hard to stop yourself from going farther and talking for hours on end.

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  2. salmah

    Masha Allah i was able to get over this some months ago..i used a lecture by sheikh umar suleiman i got on you tube as a proof i showed them the video and told them it’s with his reasons I’ve decided to cut our contacts, others that pushed hard i asked for them to show any proof of beneficial conversations (halal) we’ve heard and i still won, others thought i was being too extreme but i didn’t care.
    and one thing that gave me more understanding was that most girls who had male friends before marriage immediately cut links with them after the marriage and those that didn’t usually had problems with gaining the husbands trust cause they spoke to other non-mahrams. the question was, if it were to be stopped some day why do it??
    Alhamdulilah of how far I’ve come and May Allah make us better muslims Ameen

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    • Sarah

      That method might work with other Muslims, but with non-Muslims it’s important to not be ‘extreme’ when leaving a friendship (as opposed to a relationship), so they respect your decision instead of merely being hurt.

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  3. Amy

    I would caution everyone to use discretion on taking friends based solely on answering “yes” to question number two (can I benefit them?). If we take too many friends because we can benefit them, without it being reciprocated, it can become draining very quickly. Friendships, just like any relationship, are best when they are balanced.

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  4. Nadine

    As-salaamu ‘aleykum wa rahmat Allaah wa barakatuh,

    The first verse from surat An-Noor (which is actually two verses) was not referenced correctly, the correct reference is:

    Surat An-Noor, verses 30-31: “Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what they do. And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts….”

    Also Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta’aala tells us in the noble Qur’an that “For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.” [94:6] so ease is not said to come after ease, but that it comes with it. Jazak Illaah khair.

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    • Nadine

      correction: so ease is not said to come after hardship, but that it comes with it.

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  5. Princess

    I think he should do as told in the article. but just saying good bye to your friends would be difficult and they may start to think that what kind of religion Islam is, that stops you from having friends. Which we know is not true but non-Muslims don’t understand the meaning of this so it would be better if he goes to his female friends and tell them the reasons for which he can’t be friends with them anymore, He should tell them that he really respects them. He should tell them that as boys get attracted towards girls so he don’t want to disrespect them by getting so or having any negative thought or feeling towards them. He should tell them the reasons that God didn’t allow men and women to hang out. He should tell them that he’ll always be friend with them as to be a friend doesn’t mean to hang out withsome or talk on phone for hours etc. But instead it means to care about someone, to respect someone, to pray for someone,to be there when he is in need , to think and wish good for someone. That’s what friendship is all about. He should tell them that he’ll be there to help them and will always wish good for them but he can’t hangout with them. There is no problem in having a phone number but he should use it only in case of important work such as helping them or getting help etc.

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  6. Yusuf

    All praise is due to Allah.

    Guys and Girls being friends is a big part of our life growing up. Telling a opposite gender human who is interested in you(thank you Allah) that it would be better if a relationship cannot transpire unless you wish to get married is not easy.(especially for non muslims, muslims should know the rules)

    The article is good, however the questioner is very willing to end the relationships. Nothing really seems to be the MATTER. This questioner is blessed, because for the most part the youthful questioner will be wanting to continue the relationships, and ask as many “but WHY!” questions.

    Males are physically attracted to women since first memories, however an emotional attraction is an acquired taste, it comes to us at different times. One must appreciate the non-physical blessings Allah has created in woman.

    Mashalllah
    Womens are a blessings
    Womens make your jaw drop
    Womens make you work harder(akhira and dunya)
    Womens take your breathe away
    Womens make you stand straighter, speak louder, and be more attentive.
    Womens spark the energy and excitement in your heart.
    Womens are soft and soft spoken.
    Womens are Allah’s many gifts to mankind.

    Consistency is key in obtaining a emotional/physical relationship with the opposite gender. The more consistent time that is spent with a person, the more opportunities to notice the blessings blossom. Things may not happen immediately but feelings come, you may meet them again next month, next year, or years after your marriage.

    You never forget the amazing feelings Allah puts inside you. Your spouse is not the only AMAZING person out there, their are other amazing people mashallah. The energy that you felt for someone in the past is never destroyed its only boxed away, only to resurface when her name is mentioned, you meet once more, or when the eyes dance. May Allah protect us all from acting upon these feelings(unless you wish to propose).

    You either are blessed with the understanding of how mens and womens work, or you are happy to cover your eyes on this issue and enjoy the company of the opposite gender.

    And Allah knows best.

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