More Than A Friend


Having hayaa in front of the opposite gender is more than wearing a hijab on your head; it’s protecting yourself from that first innocent look that can lead to so much more.

More often than anyone would like, we have all at some point in time come across a scene where we can’t help but shake our heads and say, “Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.”

Let’s imagine a hypothetical story, shall we?

Nasreen was a good Muslim; she prayed daily, fasted, and wore the hijab. But whenever she saw Ali at her high school, she felt a tingle of something. At first, she thought it was just one of her annoying crushes, but as the days passed, she realized she couldn’t take her eyes off of him. The image of him kept floating in her head and before she knew it, he was paying attention to her also. It wasn’t difficult to spark up a conversation. She laughed at his jokes, always smiling and chatting along.

In the mornings, she paid more attention to dressing nicely, even putting some eye shadow on her lids. She felt excited, always glad by the prospect of meeting him. And she didn’t have to be sad when she returned home because there was always Facebook, AIM, and texting. The hardest thing of all was to keep it a secret from her family, but she found her way around that too.

Ali always found it easier to talk to a non-hijabi than a hijabi. But Nasreen was different. Granted, she was shy at first, but she was intelligent in conversation. Closer up, she looked pretty and when she had those jeans on it was even better. He wasn’t sure where they were going with this, but he enjoyed her company. Sooner or later, he hoped she would realize that there wasn’t much they could do together.

Ali’s friend, Nazir, had a good friend named Ayesha. Both Nazir and Ayesha hung out together strictly as friends, and even called each other brother and sister. They studied together and sometimes went to basketball games with the other. Ayesha never found Nazir attractive or thought of him as anything more than a friend. But Nazir secretly liked her, just too afraid to tell her, and hoped that one day she would feel the same about him.

Well, what do you make of that? Forgive me if I’ve presented this a bit dramatically here, but let’s dissect the situation.

I hope you were shaking your head when you read this, because I certainly was when I wrote it. These incidents have been all too common and the probable cause is simply this: a lack of hayaa with the opposite gender.

When girls think of modesty with the opposite gender, we think to dress appropriately and not to draw attention to ourselves. When guys think of modesty, it’s probably by keeping their gaze low. I’m not a guy, so I’ll talk from the perspective of a girl and list the ways to live in hayaa when it comes to the opposite gender.

Eye contact: Looking at the opposite gender, even by mere accident, is the primary step to notice that someone is attractive. The first time can be forgiven, but not the subsequent. If Nasreen didn’t look, she would not have gotten to the last step. If she kept her gaze low continuously, she would have convinced both herself and Ali that she didn’t care about him. It’s hard to avert your eyes, but that hardship will be rewarded immensely one day and cannot be exchanged for anything less beautiful.

Haraam Conversing: Just because you don’t talk in person doesn’t mean talking is allowed via the Internet or phone. Ah, Ayesha might have felt nothing when she first confirmed that friend request. But then she started browsing through those pictures and realized Nazir is not so bad-looking after all. He has always found beauty in appearance, and can’t help but compliment her for looking nice in that wedding photo. Get the picture? Maybe she wasn’t being so modest after all. Texting isn’t bad—it’s just a quick means of finding out when that assignment was due, right? But the conversation, as choppy as it may be, eventually shifts somewhere else. Chatting online doesn’t seem like a big deal, but suddenly Nasreen finds herself counting the minutes until Ali comes online. If only she didn’t fool herself and instead defended herself against Shaytan. When it comes to disguising sins, Shaytan does it best.

Flirting: Nasreen couldn’t come up with those savvy lines even if she tried. But she knew her smile was beautiful and perhaps enough to do the charm. It was the way she naturally tilted her head back a little and laughed with a pleasurable ring. It was the way she fluttered her eyelashes and paid genuine interest when he was talking. She was displaying the beauty that Allah had commanded her to hide. Despite shrouding herself in hijab, she had lost touch with its very essence. It all just happened in a matter of seconds. But just because she wasn’t in control of Ali being in the same English reading group didn’t mean she had no control of her demeanor. Even something as simple as a smile can suffice to make him think you are beautiful and that he is important to you.

He’s not just a friend: Sometimes, Ayesha enjoyed the company of guys better than girls. She was a tomboy after all.  There was nothing wrong in chatting or hanging out with guys she thought to be like her brothers. When she did a high-five with them or they got close to her in a basketball game, she didn’t feel uncomfortable. But she forgot something very simple. She forgot that Allah knows her and those around her better than she does. There’s a reason why Allah has decreed gender separation between unwed men and women. Just because she was bored with the gossip of the girls and enjoyed the company of males better didn’t make her “brotherly-sisterly” relationship permissible. By paying attention to her own comfort, she failed to realize His orders and perhaps plummeted in the eyes of Allah. If you refrain from something for the pleasure of obeying Allah, He will return that favor to you one day also.

Can’t hide from Him: Sure, Nasreen’s parents were nice, but they would never approve of her talking or hanging out with a guy. She was able to deceive them with white lies most of the time. But she forgot that nothing escapes Allah. If it mattered to her what her parents thought of her, it should have mattered so much more what Allah thought of her. We become so occupied in this world that we easily forget He is watching our every move.

Seeking guidance: When Nasreen realized her crush was getting serious, she could have asked Allah for help. But on the other hand, she wanted that excitement in her life and couldn’t resist it. She didn’t want to turn to her family to discuss the matter because she would feel ashamed in doing so. Eventually in the end when Ali stopped showing interest in her and she felt broken, it was only Allah that she could return to. There was no one else to go to and as always, He was there for her. Never forget the mercy of Allah because He knows human are weak and accepts repentance.

Next time you find your gaze wavering or you have an impulse to exchange some lines with that brotherly guy, remember that Allah is watching. When you find yourself in a state where your desires overwhelm you and it is hard to understand Allah’s orders, find comfort in His words:

But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not (2:216).