Is it permissible for a female to teach males the science of Qur`anic recitations and its related topics such as the [variant]recitations, Qur`anic orthography and classical religious books since there are no males specialized in this science in our area?
There is no legal objection to men teaching women or vice-versa. Muslims have always maintained that the mere presence of women in the same place as men is not prohibited in itself. The prohibition only concerns the manner of mixing when it contradicts the guidelines of Islamic law such as men and women exposing those parts of their bodies which must remain covered, males and females gathering for an unlawful purpose or an unlawful seclusion between the sexes [being alone together in a place where no one could have access to them] or touching.
Evidence from the Sunnah
Sahl ibn Sa’d al Sa’idy, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “Abu Usayd invited the Prophet [pbuh] and his Companions to his wedding feast and his wife, Um Usayd, served them food and drink herself” [Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Al Bukhari placed this hadith in a chapter which he entitled On [the permissibility] of a woman serving [food and drink to] men at her own wedding.
Al Qurtuby stated in his exegesis of Qur’an: “Our scholars said: The report demonstrates the permissibility of the bride serving [food and drink to] her husband and his friends at her wedding.”
Ibn Batal said in his explanation of Bukhari’s collection of authentic hadith: “Separating between men and women [when they are in the same place and in direct interactions] is not obligatory for Muslim women in general but was specific to the wives of the Prophet; Allah says:
And when you ask [his wives] for something, ask them from behind a partition. [Qur’an 33: 53]
Ibn Hajar, the scholar of hadith, said in his book Fath al Bari: “The hadith demonstrates the permissibility of a woman serving [food and drink to] her husband and his guests. There is no doubt that this permissibility is valid only when the legal guidelines (lack of temptation and a woman covering what must be concealed) are met.”
The two foremost scholars in hadith, al-Bukhari and Muslim, mention a report about Abu Talha al-Ansari and his guest: Abu Talha and his wife invited a guest into their home. As they did not have enough food to go around, they pretended to eat, and spent the night hungry. In the scholar Ibn Abu Dunya’s version, Anas narrated that Abu Talha told his wife: ‘Crumble the bread and put it in butter, and tell the servant to blow out the lamp.’ Then they pretended to share the food with their guest.” It is apparent from this report that they were all eating from the same dish. The Prophet [pbuh] told Abu Talha: “Allah is pleased with what you did tonight.” The following verse was sent addressing this event:
They love those who emigrated to them and find not any want in their breasts of what the emigrants were given but give [them] preference over themselves, even though they are in privation. [Qur’an 59: 9]
Abu Juhaifa, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “The Prophet [pbuh] established a bond of brotherhood between Salman and Abu al Dard’a. Salman visited Abu al Dard’a and found his wife, Um al Dard’a disheveled. “What’s wrong?” he asked her. She replied: “Your brother, Abu al Dard’a, has no worldly desires…”
Commenting on this hadith, Ibn Hajar said: “This hadith includes some benefits … the permissibility of talking to non-mahram women and asking about that which concerns their life.”
Women Teaching Men
The Prophet’s [pbuh] wives used to teach Islamic law and spread religion. This was mentioned in the books of Sunna as well as the fact that later generations of women delivered religious knowledge and men reported hadiths from them. In his book, Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani mentioned 1543 women from among female scholars, hadith narrators, and literary figures.
Muslim women participated with men in public life while observing Islamic decorum. Some females from among the Companions of the Prophet [pbuh] were even in charge of looking after the morality of the city.
Balj Yahya ibn Abu Salim said: “I saw Samra` bint Nahik- a woman who lived during the time of the Prophet [pbuh], wearing heavy armor and a thick face veil [khimar]… commanding right and forbidding wrong” [Reported by al-Tabarani in Al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer with authentic chain of transmission].
Based on the above, no one can deny that this was an established practice found in Islamic history. Likewise, it is invalid to allow inherited traditions which were specific to certain times and places to overrule religion and Islamic law; rather, Islamic law is exalted above everything else. It is impermissible for one who chooses to tread the path of religious precaution to force others to do the same, be prejudiced against them or restrict what is permitted.
Allah the Almighty knows best.
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Dar al-Ifta al-Missriyyah