Answered by Habib Umar bin Hafiz
Question: Assalam aleykum
What are the shariah boundaries regarding the interaction between a female student and her male teacher?
Answer: [Assalam alaykum]
The shariah boundaries are those that were present in the interaction between the greatest teacher (Peace be Upon Him) and the women folk of his ummah who used to ask him, discourse with him, seek clarification from him and benefit from him. They are the ones who used to attend his preachings, sessions and sermons while sitting behind the men. The following are the boundaries that were upheld by the Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) and were followed thereafter by the rightly guided caliphs:
-She is not to show any of her physical beauties to him
-She is not be with him alone by themselves because the Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) said: “Let none of you be with a woman alone even if he was teaching her Quran and even if she were Mary the daughter of Imran”.
-She is not to divulge any of her secrets to him unless it is related to something obligatory or prohibited (in the shariah) that he is teaching her.
-She is to avoid softening her voice when talking to him.
-She is to fear Allah in her speech and dealings with him as it is the case for him (he is to fear Allah in dealing with her) for he (the teacher) is a “foreign” man i.e. not among her unmarriageable kin and so he is to be treated as such. For example whatever she must conceal of her body from a “foreign” man she must also conceal from him.
It is then to be known that the teacher has a high and lofty rank; he is indeed like a father when it comes to giving advice, training and counseling about important matters but not when it comes to permissibility of seeing his female students’ physical traits that are only permissible to their unmarriageable kin nor when it comes to being alone with them. In other words his fatherhood is a spiritual and metaphorical one that entails mutual religious benefit (in knowledge and spirituality).
And so he should wish for each of his female students to be at a high rank of understanding and spirituality just as he wishes this for his own daughter.
Habib Umar bin Hafiz is a descendant of the Prophet (upon him be Allah’s peace and blessings). Born into a family of scholars, Habib Umar, pursued the sacred sciences from a young age, including Quran, Hadith, Fiqh, ‘Aqeedah, Arabic, and Spirituality. In 1994, he established Dar al-Mustafa, an educational institute in Tarim, Yemem.
Translated by Abdullah Alrajhy