As-salamu `alaykum.Your site is very helpful and gives a lot of insight into contemporary and repeated questions on Islam. My problem seems very serious to me because it lives with me, so to say.I moved from Egypt to Switzerland for studies and am now living in a hostel. Five girls live on my floor, including me, and four boys. One of them is an Alawite Turk. He is the only Muslim boy on the floor, so I dared talk to him on a regular basis. At first, we only chatted on the floor or in the kitchen of the floor. Then, I called Al-Azhar during the `Eid Al-Adha asking whether it was okay to go buy food with him—which I did after an ok—and have dinner in the kitchen together with him and two other girls from the floor, one being a Shiite Iranian. I got an ok for this as well. Now, I feel that something is wrong because I cannot distinguish acceptable from unacceptable behavior. For example, the same dinner group, including me, went skiing in the mountains, where the Turk taught me how to ski, and when I fell he helped me up and thus there was total physical contact, so to speak. I do not know any more what is ok, what is not, where the limits are. And I cannot read the whole Qur’an again to find out in time. Can you help me out here? With some verses from the Noble Book? I am really desperate and feel that I am just as bad as the Western girls here. I am Egyptian and loved life in Egypt, but studies tore me from my homeland and put me in Switzerland, where I only get shocked by what I see others doing and by what I see myself eventually ending up doing. In Egypt, relations with boys was a taboo, even talking or walking together in university. But here? The taboo seems impossible; mixing is routine and unavoidable. Please help me.
Waleed Ahmed Najmeddine
Thank you for your question and putting your trust in us to help.
Your situation is one shared by many Muslims in the West, both young and old. The key to solving your problem is to remain true to the basics of your faith as a Muslim. You must stay confident in your understanding that the Islamic way of life is the healthiest, safest, and the most peaceful way of life known to mankind.
I would like to draw your attention to something that you may not be aware of. Your Alawite friend should not necessarily be considered a Muslim. Alawites have many beliefs and practices that are against Islamic teachings. Even if he was a Muslim, going out on dates such as ski trips with him is unacceptable behavior for a respectable Muslim lady, especially when it involves close physical contact.
You must ask yourself, quite honestly and sincerely, why you feel the need to associate with him. Friendships between Muslims of the opposite sex should always be kept on a very formal basis. Saying “as-salamu `alaykum” or having casual conversation is the quite innocent contact recommended. When the encounters become more frequent and more private, then the problems become larger and more serious.
Also, is it really necessary for you to read the entire Qur’an to verify what you already know is wrong in your behavior? If you reflect on the wonderful words of Surat Al-Fatihah, the first chapter of the Qur’an, will this not remind you of your duties as a Muslim? It is simply the remembrance of Allah that keeps us from committing shameful deeds at all times.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), said: “Leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not make you doubt.”
It seems that this relationship that you are pursuing with this young man is making you feel unsure and distant from your faith. Allah has blessed us with a good nature, or fitrah, that makes us feel uncomfortable when we are about to do something that is wrong. You should pay more attention to your “gut feelings” in any relationship.
You are right when you say “In Egypt, relations with boys was a taboo, even talking or walking together in university. But here? The taboo seems impossible; mixing is routine and unavoidable.” It is impossible to avoid mixing between sexes in the West, but it is not impossible to control it to suit your beliefs and traditions as a Muslim. Millions of Muslims are surviving and thriving in the West while preserving their identities and faith in Islam. Try to spend more time with the numerous pious believers you will surely find at your university. You will find them if you seek them out. In sha’ Allah, you will be able to meet other young Muslims (women and men) like yourself who wish to interact in ways that please Allah and will keep you on the straight path.
I hope this advice has been beneficial to you. I pray to Allah to guide all of us to what pleases Him.
Thank you again for your question and please keep in touch.