It is commonly known that a woman must make purdah with non-mahram males. Hence, it is noticed that many women, when leaving the home to fulfil some necessity, ensure that they are clad in the niqaab and burqah, so that they remain concealed from the gazes of non-mahram men.

However, at times, within the home, and at times, out of the home, some women become lax in making purdah with certain people, and they deal with them as though they are their mahrams with whom they do not have to make purdah. Therefore, it is imperative for one to understand who are a woman’s mahrams, and who are a woman’s non-mahrams.

Who are a Woman’s Mahrams?

All those males whom a woman is unable to marry throughout her life are referred to as her mahrams. With such people, she does not have to observe the laws of purdah, as she cannot marry them.

Among a woman’s mahrams will be her father, grandfather, her brother, brother’s and sister’s son, mother’s brother, father’s brother, grandparents’ brothers, her son, her grandson, her father-in-law and her son-in-law.

After examining the above list of mahrams, it is important to highlight the following two areas where people are often lax in observing purdah: (1) one’s male cousins are NOT mahrams. (2) Similarly, the husband of the father’s sister or mother’s sister is NOT a woman’s mahram. Thus, one must ensure that complete purdah is made from them.

The Brother-in-Law

Among the men who are NOT regarded as a woman’s mahram is her brother-in-law. In the blessed hadeeth, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “The brother-in-law is death.” (Saheeh Bukhaari #5232)

In other words, due to the brother-in-law being considered a part of the family, and frequently visiting the home, the chances of the sister-in-law falling into haraam and zina with him are greater than her falling into zina with a stranger who has no access to the home.

Hence, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) referred to the brother-in-law as ‘death’, indicating that he has the potential to completely destroy a person’s Deen and imaan. Hence, the sister-in-law should fear fitnah occurring with her brother-in-law just as she fears death, and even greater precaution should be adopted and exercised in regard to him.

Hurmatul Musaaharah

As seen in the list above, a woman’s father-in-law and son-in-law are regarded as her mahrams. However, it should be borne in mind that on account of the abundant evil that is prevalent today, the environment being charged with sin and haraam temptations and the overall breakdown in hayaa and shame, hayaa should be upheld between the mother-in-law and son-in-law, and daughter-in-law and father-in-law, and to some degree, caution should be exercised.

If one is negligent in this regard and lustful contact takes place between them, the consequences would be very serious and the nikaah permanently terminated.

The Fuqaha explain that if the son-in-law and mother-in-law hug each other, or the daughter-in-law and father-in-law hug each other, and lust is perceived by both or either one person, then the nikaah of the son-in-law or daughter-in-law with their spouse will break.  Therefore, the son-in-law should refrain from hugging his mother-in-law, and the daughter-in-law should refrain from hugging her father-in-law, and vice versa.

Hence, caution MUST be exercised. The son-in-law and mother-in-law, or father-in-law and daughter-in-law, should avoid being in seclusion, refrain from any physical contact, and avoid becoming too casual with each other.

In fact, caution requires that even passing anything directly to one another should be avoided as any accidental touch could also spark off fitnah

Let us remember that the more hayaa we adopt, the safer our imaan will be. On the contrary, being lax in regard to hayaa and purdah, for even a few moments, can lead to a lifetime of regret and everlasting misery.

May Allah Ta‘ala bless us all with hayaa and safeguard our marriages, aameen.