Gender Segregation: The Islamic Perspective
Is it possible to have a strictly friendly relationship between opposite gender without attraction? The answer is, No. Moreover, men have stronger desires and stronger attractions than women, because they are created this way. This is what western studies say: it is impossible to not be attracted to the opposite gender.
Difference between men and women
When you look at small girls and boys, you will see differences in their behavior from a very young age, if you observed nineteen months old boy and girl, you will see the girl is making lots of noises and the boy is observing and moving more. If you notice older girls, you will see them talking more and boys of same age playing some sports or doing some activity. When images of the brain of women and men were taken they found that the part of the brain that is responsible for emotions is larger in women than in men, therefore, men are unable to read facial expressions, it’s just not in their brain, they need to learn it, while women are more able to read facial expressions, to feel for others, to sympathies and empathies, and you know why?
If you have a dead mouse in your yard imagine what your five years old brother will say when he looks at it, he may laugh, he may go closer and look at it, he may kick it around with a stick or his feet, but your five years old sis, even though she is very disgusted by it, she will sympathies, she will say poor mouse, it’s hurt, girls are wired this way, they are emotional, and that’s why they are the caretakers of babies, they instinctively take care of their babies physical and emotional needs, while as men are not so responsive, imagine both are the same, both are non-responsive, then no one will look after the baby.
Women typically have a larger deep limbic system than men, which allows them to be more in touch with their feelings and better able to express them, which promotes bonding with others. Because of this ability to connect, more women serve as caregivers for children. The down side to this larger deep limbic system is that it also opens women up to depression, especially during times of hormonal shifts such as after childbirth or during a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Women tend to communicate more effectively than men, focusing on how to create a solution that works for the group, talking through issues, and utilizes non-verbal cues such as tone, emotion, and empathy whereas men tend to be more task-oriented, less talkative, and more isolated.Men have a more difficult time understanding emotions that are not explicitly verbalized, while women tend to intuit emotions and emotional cues. These differences explain why men and women sometimes have difficulty communicating and why men-to-men friendships look different from friendships among women.
Two sections of the brain responsible for language were found to be larger in women than in men, indicating one reason that women typically excel in language-based subjects and in language-associated thinking. Additionally, men typically only process language in their dominant hemisphere, whereas women process language in both hemispheres. This difference offers a bit of protection in case of a stroke. Women may be able to recover more fully from a stroke affecting the language areas in the brain while men may not have this same advantage. Men are better at Mathematics.
When you reach a certain age, you start to transform from total dependency to independence; at puberty, you go through lets of changes, physical changes, emotional changes and hormonal changes. You feel confused; one day you are sad, another moment you are very angry; you experience mood swings at its worst, There may be experimentation with drugs and alcohol or sexuality, this is when you start feeling differently about many things, you strive to be more independent, you start to feel self-conscious about your look, I remember when I was 14-15, I would stand in front of the mirror for long time only fix my bangs, at school, I would go to the toilet again and again only to fix them and make sure they look exactly perfect, and if God forbid, it was humid day, my hair started acting crazy, I would feel so uncomfortable.
At this stage, you start feel differently about the opposite gender, you start to have thoughts, dreams, you start to fantasies, and what not. This is all normal, nothing to be ashamed of. This is a normal process of growing up, this is a time where you start to develop into this unique human being; this is when boys will turn into young men and girls will turn into young women, when you put them aside, a 14 years old boy and girl, physically you will see a huge contrast, the body is totally different from the other gender. As you grow older, the interest in the other gender increases with time. This is normal, a certain degree of interest is normal.
Who is the cause behind all of these changes? Who made my brain like this and my husband’s brain like this? Who is responsible? It’s Allah (swt), my and your creator. I have no control over this, you don’t have control over this, my brothers have no control over this.
Then who would know us better? Who would know what is best for us? Our creator? Or the media? Our movie-makers? Or the boy next door?
Why the changes?
This is a blessing from Allah (swt): it is preparing you to a new stage in your life, to marriage, commitment and having family. That’s why you feel the attraction, you are interested, you have thoughts and start to day dream – nothing wrong about this; nothing wrong in having an interest in knowing. This doesn’t mean you are a bad person, knowing about it and then directing your impulses means you are a good person, knowing about it and then not directing your impulses is not good. Allah (swt) is preparing us for our roles in this life, so that we can all live a beautiful balanced life. I know my role and my brother knows his role.
Think of it this way: an engineer makes an airplane, he gives some instructions to follow in order to fly the plane without crashing it. Can I, a layman, fly it however I want and hope it won’t crash? Can I do what seems reasonable to me and contradict the engineer’s instructions and, at the same time, expect the plan to reach safely? Not possible! The one who made it knows the ins and outs of the plane, he knows exactly while fuel to use, what speed should we fly it which height, etc… because he is the maker… Same goes with us: Allah (swt) created us, and he made men and women so different from each other, we didn’t create ourselves, we can’t even create an eye if we want to, we didn’t bring all these differences in ourselves. Now, whose instructions should we follow, our Creator’s? Or someone else’s?
Now, can you, who is very different from boys or young men of your age, have platonic relationship with the opposite gender? Platonic relationship means a relationship between individuals of the opposite sex marked by the absence of romance or sex. So it’s a friendship between men and women where they don’t have any kind of desire, attraction for the other person. That means, they talk and listen to each other, they help each other, they share secrets, joys and sorrows, they hang around together, they laugh with each other, they tease each other, they are playful with the other’s right, this is friendship. And friendship is a deep kind of relationship; it’s not a shallow relationship, right?
Now, let me ask you again: can we form such a relationship with a boy and absolutely no attraction, no desire, no sexual thoughts and fantasia about the boy?
Let’s explore what the media says, since it has such a strong presence in our lives and it’s everywhere: through the media, movie-makers, actors, singers. How? By the kind of movies they make, by the kind of songs they make, this is what they promote in their movies and songs. Every movie, every song highlights men and women relationship, it feeds you this image of happiness when being with the other gender. The media is glamorizing relationship with the opposite gender in a very seductive and sensual way. And you know why?
Is it because they want to save humanity from wars? They want to save humanity from poverty? The answer is because it sells, because they can make lots and lots of money by appealing to this human instinct, by tickling it again and again, they can seduce us to believe it, they can never seduce us to believe that being poor is cool or good for us, we have brains, they can’t sell us that because it is in human nature to collect money and have a better material life.
Of course, they don’t think nor they care about its effect on the young girls and friends from boys, to hang around with, my community is so backward, so dry, my family doesn’t know what fun is, they are still living in the eighteenth century: this is what they are feeding us, right, when we watch these movies? Media doesn’t model restraint but, in fact, it portrays cool girls as hanging around with men and uncool, boring, backward girls hanging around with ‘girls-only’ groups and not mixing with the opposite gender. So should we care about what they say? Should we be influenced?
So these are the ones who portray that men and women can have platonic friendship and, not only that, but they also influence you to have such friendships in order to fit in today’s world.
Secondly, let’s see what recent studies are saying. Is it possible to have a strictly friendly relationship between opposite gender without attraction? The answer is, No. You will definitely have feelings, and interestingly, men have stronger desires and stronger attractions than women, because they are created this way, this is what western studies say: it’s impossible to not have attraction to the opposite gender.
The reason platonic friendships can be difficult is genetics. For a good portion of us, attraction to the opposite sex is genetically “hardwired” into our psyche. There’s no way to avoid it. We find the physical form of the opposite sex attractive, the opposite sex exudes pheromones that we find attractive, even something as simple of the timbre of the voice of a member of the opposite sex can trigger a romantic response in us.
Add to that the fact that nothing makes a romantic relationship more successful than when the people involved are “friends first,” and it’s easy to see why platonic relationships can be difficult to keep strictly platonic.
What the Creator says
Now let’s see what our creator says? No, we can’t have friendship, because we can never be just friends, since Allah (swt) the one who created us, knows what is good for us; He knows how we can achieve success and how we can’t, who knows what is harmful and what good.
The engineer knows more than me, my Creator knows what’s good for me, what’s good for humanity, all these rules are places so that we have successful life, so that we fulfill our roles in this life and live a peaceful life, a content life, a life where we discover our potentials.
Allah wants us to have a good life, to find our talents, develop them, to find our goals. Do you think our purpose in life is to marry Mr. X? No, there is more in life than this, we have talents, we have potentials, huge, we can achieve a lot a lot if we work on it. But then, many are not working on any of that because they are busy thinking about Mr. X; how, when he comes, he will sweep me off the floor, make me forget all my problems and live happily ever after forgetting that the poor guy has issues of his own and he won’t have time to sort out my issues for me.
Islam is a religion that helps us to reach spiritual peace and reach our potential…discover ourselves, our passions, our talents, and help us grow and mature.
Drawbacks of having friendship with the other gender:
You feel used, because you invest emotionally in this person and you don’t get what you want, commitment and love.
You distance from your family, isn’t it when you make a mistake you can’t meet your mom’s or dad’s eye, you can’t look into the eye of their parents, you become distant. Guilt, you don’t feel you are worth the relationship.
You start to imagine your future husband with the qualities that you liked in your male friend and you start to expect your husband to be like the one in your imagination.
So, now, do we know why it’s not okay to have friends from the opposite gender?