The startling crack of a gunshot… the wailing of a police siren… the helpless cry of a new-born baby… the soothing sound of the mother’s voice…

All these are mere sounds, yet each sound is such that as soon as it enters the ear of the one who hears it, it provokes a spontaneous emotion and reaction. On hearing a gunshot, most people will be filled with fear and begin to panic. On hearing the siren, a criminal will flee while the victim will be filled with a sense of relief. When the mother hears the baby cry, she is filled with anxiety for her child’s wellbeing, and when the baby hears the mother’s voice, it is soothed and pacified.

From these examples, we understand that the sounds which we hear have a profound effect on our emotions and deep influence over our feelings. It is for this reason that men and women must exercise caution regarding the voice of the opposite gender, as it has the potential to plant the seed of sin and pollute the heart with illicit feelings.

In this regard, strange men and women should avoid communicating with each other directly. If there is a genuine need for a message to be conveyed, then it should be conveyed via the woman’s mahram.

In the case where there is no mahram present and there is a genuine need to convey a message, then together with adopting the other laws of purdah (e.g. not being in seclusion, the woman dressing in a concealing manner with the purdah, etc.), the woman must ensure that she does not speak in an attractive tone or an alluring manner. Instead, the conversation must be kept short and UNsweet. In the case of a phone call as well, no unnecessary words should be exchanged, thus prolonging the conversation, nor should the voice convey any form of affection, thus inducing feelings of attraction.

It is an undeniable reality that a woman’s voice contains attraction for men. Hence, in the Quraan Majeed, Allah Ta‘ala teaches the women of the Ummah the importance of them guarding their voices so that they do not become the means of inciting illicit feelings in the hearts of men. Allah Ta‘ala says, “So, do not be soft in your speech, lest someone having disease in his heart should develop a desire (for you); and speak appropriate words.” (Surah Ahzaab v32)

Similarly, women should be cautious regarding that which they listen to, as it is also possible for their hearts to be affected by the sound of a man’s voice. On one occasion, when Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was on a journey, he heard Sayyiduna Anjashah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) chanting to the camels. Among the Arabs of the time, it was a common practice to chant to the camels when traveling, as the sound of the chanting would motivate the camels to move faster and cover a longer distance before tiring. On hearing the melodious voice of Sayyiduna Anjashah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu), Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) addressed him and said, “O Anjashah! Be gentle with the glass bottles!” (Saheeh Bukhaari #6161)

The reason for Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) mentioning this to Sayyiduna Anjashah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) is that he possessed a good voice, and his chanting could be heard by the women. Women, by nature, are easily affected and influenced by the voice of a man, and it is perhaps for this reason that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) referred to them as ‘glass bottles’, as glass is fragile and breaks very easily. Hence, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) feared that through listening to the chanting of Sayyiduna Anjashah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu), it should not be that the hearts of the women become affected and fitnah is created. Therefore, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) prevented him from chanting further. (Sharhun Nawawi – Saheeh Muslim vol. 2, pg. 255)

Let alone women getting affected by the melodious singing of a male, many women have themselves enquired about whether it is permissible for them to listen to the tilaawat of a certain Qaari, or the talk of a particular ‘Aalim. The reason for asking the question is that they felt some inclination to the Qaari or ‘Aalim when listening to him recite the Quraan Majeed or listening to his talk. Allah Ta‘ala is All-Knowing and knows the secrets of the hearts. One should therefore fear Allah Ta‘ala and totally refrain from listening to the recitation of any such Qaari or the talk of any such speaker towards whom one finds any sinful inclination. Such listening, even though that of a qiraat or bayaan, will not attract any reward. Rather, it will incur the displeasure of Allah Ta‘ala.

Nevertheless, from the above we understand that just as the eyes are windows to the heart – the ears are also pathways to the heart. Hence, women must, at all times, make an effort to conceal their voices from strange men, and exercise caution regarding that which they listen to.

May Allah Ta‘ala bless us all to lead lives of hayaa and purity, aameen.