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One thing I struggle with as a convert is haya (shyness, modesty, shame).

A recent instance was where I bought a non-mahram (probably non-Muslim) man a coffee in Azerbaijan. People stared. I thought I was being friendly, doing a good deed, and maybe he'd get a better impression about Islam than what people see in the news. (And, I just really like coffee.) It's made me want to re-evaluate things.

I feel it's unfriendly to have too much shyness. And it feels rude (even elitist) to minimize speaking to men, or to be too straightforward when speaking.

Question: How does a Muslim woman balance friendliness with shyness?

I'm seeking broad and practical guidelines as a starting point, and to help avoid making major mistakes. (Hopefully I can improve step by step.)

YouTube videos have led me to the surah containing Qur'an 28:23 and how Prophet Musa and two women interacted when they were struggling to water their sheep. I'm not sure what the take-home message is here though, but it seems at least permissible to talk to non-mahram men.

  • Are you saying that you just picked a random stranger and offered to buy him a cup of coffee? – UmH Apr 25 '17 at 8:06
  • Not exactly like that, but kind of. I saw his passport and was surprised to see another Australian at Baku airport, so I said hi (to a random stranger), and we went for coffee and chatted. I ended up paying. He boarded his flight, and I went to pray, and that was the end of the story. – Rebecca J. Stones Apr 25 '17 at 8:12
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Bismillah. So it sounds like there are two dimensions to your question. One is legal and the other is a matter of preference. The legal question is what is the level of interaction that men and women can have with each other if they are not married and not mahrem to each other (and both are past puberty). I think you will find a range of opinions on this issue among the scholars.

Sadly there are not many real scholars here on stack exchange so I will try to answer this question as best I can (but please bear in mind that I am no scholar and so this is just my opinion).

Although there are text about lowering the gaze, there is no explicit text which I know of that says non mahrem men and women cannot speak to each other. I also know of at least one hadith where male and female companions were speaking to each other, I can't recall all the details off the top of my head but it was a discussion some companions were having about who had served the Prophet (saw) more, be it those who were with him or those who were in Abyssinia. There are probably several other examples but I can't think of any at the moment.

So this seems to indicate that it is not haram for non mahrem men and women simply to speak with each other. Now the next question is can they have prolonged conversations, like friends, over a cup of coffee. Many would say this is free-mixing and is not allowed. I tried to follow Shakjh Faraz's reasoning in this post and he doesn't seem to bring much in terms of explicit text but it seems to be grounded in the principle of blocking the means (saddal-dhara’i).

But I think some would bring the argument that it is possible for a man and woman to be just friends and not fall into zina. It just depends on the people.

So my humble opinion is that a situation like you described might be permissible, especially if it is always in public (because there are explicit text about 'being alone with each other'), you do not fear that it might lead to zina, and your intention is this person should get a better perception of Islam and Muslims (dawah).

The second dimension of your question is preference. Some people are more comfortable interacting with the opposite gender than others. I know my wife was brought up in a very conservative culture so she just doesn't feel comfortable making 'small talk' with non mahrem men. I respect this and do not force her. But if your preference is to have such conversations then please go ahead, but realize that many Muslims may find this awkward based on their culture and upbringings (which tend to have a very restrictive and conservative view of Islam).

As a final note, I would just add a word of caution that if any in any of your interactions, you feel an attraction building then you should check yourself. And in that case, you should evaluate if that is real love (in which case you should consider marriage) or just lust (in which case you should fear Allah and limit your interactions with that person).

Allah knows best.

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It is culture and how you are raised. I was reading a book (history of sarcean people?), the author mentioned how some Muslim women talk freely (less hesitation) with strangers in some countries. I forgot which Muslim country it was but I am sure it was not middle east.

I always wonder why Muslim women does not even return salam, some of them just pretend as if they did not hear it and some look at me amazed that I had courage to say salam to them!

But I think it is cultural and most of the scholar will tell you not to talk with strange man without reason. I agree with them from relgious perspective as it may lead to unnecesary headache (we don't know who we are dealing with) and also unnecessary desires in hearts.

There is a hadeed related to it (please check Bukhari) but to summarize it.. If a man is alone with a woman then shaitan is the messenger between them.

Most muslim men or women avoid meeting alone but I am sure there was a crowd in the coffee shop.

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