Is it possible for men and women to just be friends? And by that I mean, can they be friends without experiencing any kind of feelings of a unilateral or multilateral romantic or sexual bond?
We need a clear answer because Islam warns strongly against friendships between the genders. This is despite the unfortunate fact that many Muslims today do not heed this warning.
Then you have many convert sisters who feel hurt when they are forced to sever ties with their male friends. They are simply not able to understand, at least at first.
And I wish this was a problem that was exclusive to converts. However, sadly it is common even among sisters who were born into Muslim families. Many sisters think it is perfectly fine to have male friends prior to getting married, so long as they just send out messages on the evening of their wedding, politely asking these men to not contact them anymore.
Most of them view this prohibition as simply being a cultural practice, or no longer relevant during this day and age. This is a view that is also perpetuated by modernists/deformists who try to distort the teachings of Islam.
As such, these sisters believe we are simply overreacting. They even wonder how they’d ever be able to find a husband if they’re now allowed to speak with men casually and enjoy their company.
Without even delving into the obvious negative effects that developing bonds with strange men can have on their future marriage, let’s address the nonsensical ideas of it being fine to be friends with men; and that such relationships can flourish in an unambiguous way.
Allah (Mighty and Majestic is He) says:
وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا۟ ٱلزِّنَىٰٓ ۖ إِنَّهُۥ كَانَ فَـٰحِشَةًۭ وَسَآءَ سَبِيلًۭا
And you shall not ever approach illicit sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is [utter] lewdness and a most evil way. (Qur’an, 17:32)
We already know it is forbidden, but if it can be proven that friendships between males and females may involve arousal and attraction in any sort of way, this should be sufficient for any doubters that such friendships would constitute an “approach” towards Zina and should thus be stopped and prevented altogether.
Take a look at this survey which was conducted in 2007 on a college campus. It highlights how 7 out of 10 women had reported that someone of the opposite sex had misperceived their friendliness as sexual interest. Before you jump the gun and accuse all men of being irrational perverts, 6 out of 10 men reported the same regarding their female friends:
Both women and men frequently report that their sexual intentions have been misperceived by someone of the opposite sex, although substantially more women than men report that their level of sexual interest was overperceived (Abbey, 1987; Haselton, 2003; Koss & Oros, 1982). For example, Koss and Oros (1982) found that 70% of the female and 53% of the male college students in their survey reported that the level of sexual intimacy they desired from a member of the opposite sex had been misperceived at least once. Similarly, Abbey (1987, Study 1) found that 72% of college women and 60% of college men reported that someone of the opposite sex had misperceived their friendliness as a sexual come-on. Among those students who had been misperceived, the average number of misperceptions was 4.8. These findings are typically explained in terms of the ambiguous meaning of many nonverbal and verbal cues (P. A. Anderson, 1985; Fichten, Tagalakis, Judd, Wright, & Amsel, 1992; Kowalski, 1993). People may be signaling sexual interest when they smile, stand close, give a compliment, or pat someone of the opposite sex on the arm; however, they also may be signaling friendship or attention. The multiple meanings associated with flirtatious cues contribute to frequent misunderstandings, particularly early in an interaction (Henningsen, 2004; Koeppel, Montagne-Miller, O’Hair, & Cody, 1993).
The reality is that women are very skilled when it comes lying to themselves and ignoring the obvious desires of their male friends. Cynics may argue that women are highly aware of these cues, but they ignore them out of fear of ruining their “backup plan.” This is where women keep a male friend—who is otherwise not “good enough” for them to even consider romantically—so that she can settle for less and simply marry him if she can’t find the man she actually wants. This practice is referred to as “monkey branching,” and some informal surveys suggest that a significant number of women take part in it:
A new, not-so-scientific survey of 1,000 married women conducted by the Daily Mail found that 50 percent have a “fall-back partner” should their current marriage take a turn for the worse.
A spokesman for OnePoll.com — the online market research company who conducted the poll for the Daily Mail — said, “For our research to establish that 50 percent of women in relationships have a ‘Plan B’ is a worrying sign.”
To conclude with, a 2012 study showed that men reported a higher average level of attraction to their female friends than vice-versa, succinctly ending the debate over cross-sex friendships once and for all:
The findings from Study 1 highlight men’s greater physical-sexual attraction to their cross-sex friends relative to women’s, as well as men’s tendency to overestimate their friends’ attraction to them. These findings provide initial support for the overarching hypothesis that men’s and women’s perceptions of their cross-sex friends reflect the structure of men’s and women’s evolved mating strategies. We documented these effects using pairs of friends, so the higher level of attraction reported by young men cannot be a result of men’s responses being about a different “type” of friend compared to women. Perhaps the young women were less inclined than men were to admit attraction to a cross-sex friend, but our findings coincide with a variety of other studies that have documented sex differences in attraction toward friends (e.g., Kaplan & Keys, 1997).
There is no absolutely justification for your wife to have male friends or casual, friendly chats and meetings with other guys. Only an effeminate, honorless, ghayrah-less dayyuth would be fine with other guys developing feelings towards their wife and fantasizing about her.
Friendship with a member of the opposite sex is a clear and undeniable path towards fornication. I urge every Muslim, especially the youth, to completely abandon this dangerous practice that has been picked up from the disbelievers. Sacrificing your desires is not always easy, but do it for the sake of Allah and He will facilitate it for you and grant you immense rewards. Otherwise, it may ruin both your dunya and your akhirah; it may destroy your soul as well as your present or future marriage.