Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
Question: I am part of a da’wah effort in our city centre. Often, members of the opposite gender approach us and ask about Islam. Not all of their nudity is covered, and sometimes I have to look at them to communicate effectively. Is the odd glance permissible, or must I avoid looking at them altogether?
Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us.
A general rule: It is wiser to make continual da’wah to a person of the same gender.
In the meantime:
1) Uphold the principles of gender interaction.
2) Involve Muslim sisters in ongoing da’wah effort with women, and aim to ‘hand over’ all ongoing interaction to said Muslim sisters.
In regards to your excellent question, please refer to this excerpt from Ustadha Zaynab’s answer:
Guarding your gaze is a good practice that fosters modest interaction between the sexes. The Quran commands both believing men and women to guard their gaze. Unfortunately, many Muslims have lost this practice. What guarding the gaze means is that you should refrain from staring at a woman’s face (if she’s not a member of your unmarriageable kin or your wife). It does not mean keeping one’s eyes glued to the ground. In Western societies, guarding one’s gaze can sometimes be interpreted as a lack of assertiveness or respect for the other person.
However, with Muslims, guarding one’s gaze indicates respect for the other person’s space and modesty of intention. Our scholars have said that looking at a woman’s face is permitted in certain occasions. For example, if you are seeking a woman in marriage, it is permitted to look at her face. If you work in any type of job that requires you to look at people and interact with them, looking is permitted as long as you don’t look with desire. If you are a teacher, looking at your female students is permitted as long as you don’t look more than necessary or with desire. In short, be modest and respectful.
At all stages of your da’wah work, please regularly remind yourself of your intention behind your actions, observe taqwa, and always strive to uphold good character. If anything begins to sit uncomfortably with you, then stop and reassess your situation, and ask for support.
[Ustadha] Raidah Shah Idil
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi‘i fiqh, Arabic, Sirah, Aqidah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajwid. She continues to study with her Teachers through Qibla Academy and SeekersHub Global. She also graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales.