This was an issue that I didn’t understand at first when I became Muslim, and I kind of didn’t really pay attention to the ruling so-to-speak. Before I reverted to Islam, the majority of my friends were males, and I never got along with females too well.
Even in situations where the female thinks “oh, he’s like a brother to me,” typically the man has other motives in mind and often (not always) they will eventually tell you that they “love” you and an awkward situation occurs....or worse yet, “mistakes” end up happening that people don’t intend for, i.e. sleeping with them, and later regret.
Think about this...in our country, the divorce rate is 50% of all marriages!! Often one spouse or the other is cheating! This is what I see occurring in many people’s lives around me.
Another reason we shouldn’t mix freely is to protect the woman’s integrity. You know how it is....you see a woman and man whispering somewhere, and what is automatically assumed?? They could be talking about calculus for all you know. So, to avoid from people talking negatively about a sister (or from preventing a man LYING about a sister, because you know that happens too; some men will say they slept with a woman, or whatnot, even though it never occurred), we should not mix freely, and if we are talking with someone of the opposite gender, the female’s wali (male Muslim relative) should be present, to protect her integrity, and to prevent the other male from taking advantage of her.
Contrary to what people think, Islam holds women in HIGH regard!! There is a hadith that says a man asked Prophet Muhammad Peace and Blessings be upon him who should he respect the most, and he was told his mother; then the man asks “who next?” and is told “your mother;” and the man asks a third time “who next?” and the Prophet said “your mother;” and when the man says “who next?” again, finally he is told “then your father.” Islam is all about protecting the women, and making sure they are provided for.
This video gives a great example of why we shouldn’t inter-mingle freely (and it’s funny)
Okay, this is much longer than I anticipated it would be, Insh’Allah, this has been beneficial.
I am a new revert to Islam (took my shahadah in March 2009). I am a full-time college student, majoring in psychology. I am currently taking Arabic class as well.