From among the core values that Islam encourages Muslims to adopt is the quality of hayaa (shame and respect). Hayaa is the stepping stone to acquiring the true morals, values and ethics of Islam.
Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) has said, “Every religion has a distinguishing characteristic, and the distinguishing characteristic of Islam is hayaa (shame and respect).” (Muwatta Maalik #1610)
Though hayaa relates to all departments of one’s deeni and worldly life, observing hayaa between males and females in their dealings is from among the most important and essential teachings of Islam. Hence, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)’s desire for the males and females of this ummah was for them to observe purdah among themselves, and for them not to have any type of contact with each other.
In the Qur’aan Majeed, Allah F commands women to remain in their homes, and not to leave their homes (unless they have a valid need). This was in order that they remain safeguarded from the gazes of men.
The Best Thing for a Woman
On one occasion, Hazrat Ali (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was seated by Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) when Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) asked, “What is best for a woman?” All the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) remained silent and nobody answered.
Hazrat Ali (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) said, “When I returned home, I informed Faatimah (radhiyallahu ‘anha) regarding the question which Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) posed before the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum), and asked her the same question, ‘What is best for a woman?’
“In answer, she replied, ‘The best thing is that they do not see men nor do men see them.’”
Hazrat Ali (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) then said, “When I mentioned her answer to Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), he became delighted and pleased and said, ‘Faatimah is part of me.’”
Purdah in the Life of Hazrat Moulana Muhammad Ilyaas Kaandhelwi (rahimahullah)
Our pious predecessors were extremely cautious in upholding this great injunction of Deen – of observing strict purdah when dealing with non-mahram women. This conduct of theirs was in complete conformity and total compliance with the command of the Qur’aan Majeed and the blessed sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam).
Below is an incident of Hazrat Moulana Muhammad Ilyaas (rahimahullah) which sheds light on the great importance he showed to upholding purdah with non-mahram women at all times:
When Hazrat Moulana Muhammad Ilyaas (rahimahullah) was proceeding for his final Hajj in 1357 A.H, there were two passenger ships in Karachi that were competing with one another in attracting passengers. One of the passenger ships reduced the ticket price to 55 rupees, however the passengers boarding this ship had to take an injection which was being given by a female doctor.
When Hazrat Moulana (rahimahullah) learnt of this, he became angry and said, “People are going to fulfil a great obligation of Deen, and yet they are allowing a female to touch their bodies, thereby committing an impermissible action?! I will not accept an injection from a ghair-mahram female!”
Hazrat Moulana (rahimahullah) was informed that if they do not hasten to board the ship now, after taking the injection from the female doctor, then they might lose this discount and will have to pay 182 rupees instead of 55 rupees.
However, Hazrat Moulana (rahimahullah) responded, “Despite how much discount I may receive, I am not prepared to allow a female to touch my body.” Saying this, Hazrat Moulana (rahimahullah) rejected their suggestion and the entire group remained where they were.
Eventually, when the passenger ship company learnt of what had happened, they made multiple phone calls, seeking a male doctor. Finally, a male doctor arrived, overcome with annoyance and irritation. He asked, “Where is the Peer Sahib who is not willing to take the injection from the female doctor?”
Thereafter, Hazrat Moulana (rahimahullah) and the rest of the group took the injection from the male doctor, and they also received the tickets for the discounted price of 55 rupees.
Hazrat Moulana (rahimahullah) then said, “No ghair-mahram woman has ever touched my body throughout my life. Only once did it happen when I went to see an old lady who was critically ill. As she was in the last moments of her life, she tried to take hold of my hand, but I quickly withdrew my hand and only the tip of my fingers came into contact with her hand.” (Hazrat Moulana Muhammad Ilyaas aur un ki Deeni Da’wat pg. 267)
From this incident, we see the great caution that Hazrat Moulana Muhammad Ilyaas (rahimahullah) adopted in regard to observing purdah with non-mahram women. He ensured that at no time he should compromise in his deeni principles. He was prepared to even pay the extra amount rather than to allow a female to touch his body.
However, Allah Ta‘ala deals with His servant in accordance to the servants’ obedience and loyalty to Allah Ta‘ala. Hence, in the end, Allah Ta‘ala made it such that a male doctor administered the injection, and Hazrat Moulana (rahimahullah) and the whole group also received the ticket for the discounted price.