By Umm Isam and Dr. Sadaf Sheikh
Stepping out of an all-girls college, I entered the corporate world, which was not segregated. Alhumdulillah, I did a great job. I felt the myth of “girls going to co-ed are the confident ones” dissolve. I was never under-confident or threatened by any male (who were definitely the dominating work force) in spite of having no prior experience of working along with them.
There was, however, one thing common in almost all of my male colleagues. Deliberately or unintentionally they would grab the first chance they could to joke, flirt, play a super hero, try to impress, etc. Obviously, the co-working girls giggled and enjoyed all the attention (negative or positive) that came their way. Nobody was going out with no one, but the vibes or chemistry still existed even among good friends. This reminded me of the popular sitcom “Friends” – in spite of being casual buddies, there remained a cross connection among each and every one of the characters.
No matter how much we may hate chemistry, the only chemistry we are pulled towards as normal human beings is the boy-and-girl chemistry shown in movies, described in books and so on. It is natural, because Allah (swt) has wired the male and female bodies this way. They are meant to attract each other. So all such excuses as ‘we are simply friends,’ or ‘just a gang hanging out together,’ or ‘strictly working professionals’ is more of a self-deceptive game that we play with ourselves.
A teenager going to one of the most reputed co-ed schools of Karachi shared with me: “When girls from other schools come to our campus for their exams, you can tell that they have gone to extra length in dressing up to be noticed by boys.”
What happens, when a boy and a girl meet? Dr. Sadaf Sheikh reports a story from BBC News (2003) about how male sex hormones get easily triggered.
Scientists have proved that even the most seemingly innocent chat with a woman can be enough to send male sex hormones soaring. A team from the University of Chicago paid students to come into their lab under the pretence of testing their saliva chemistry. While there, the students got to chat to a young female research assistant. Saliva tests showed that the brief interaction was enough to raise testosterone levels by as much as 30%. The more a man’s hormone level shot up, the more attractive he later admitted the research assistant to be. The research assistant herself was also able to identify the men, who found her attractive. The men, whom she judged to be doing the most to impress her, proved to be those, who registered the biggest jump in testosterone levels.
However, little or no change was detected in the saliva of students, who chatted with other men.
Testosterone, a male sex hormone, has long been closely linked with the male libido. The researchers say their work is the first time that hard evidence has been produced about it. It is known that the release of testosterone in animals can embolden them, triggering courtship or aggressive behaviour. The Chicago team believes the same may be true about humans.
Dr. Nick Neave from the Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit at Northumbria University said the study was very interesting. “Other researchers have found changes in male hormone levels after watching erotic movies, but this seems to be the first study attempting to assess hormone changes, when males meet women on a more ‘normal’ level.”
Dr. Benjamin Campbell, an anthropology expert at Boston University, said it was possible that testosterone made men bolder by suppressing activity in an area of the brain called the amygdala, which controls the stress reaction. Testosterone levels peak in a man by his early twenties, and then gradually diminish. Men, who are married or engaged in long-term relationships, have lower testosterone levels than those still playing in the field.
This research was published in the journal “Evolution and Human Behaviour.”
Now, this was the scientific explanation about the Hadeeth of Allah (swt)’s Apostle (sa): “A man should not be secluded with a woman except with a Mahram (guardian).” (Muslim)
The skipping of your heartbeat, sweating of your palms, giggling, babbling, blushing, or hitting around playfully are just some signs of your attraction towards the opposite sex. Understandingly, close interactions between the opposite sexes in solitude or in a confined environment are thus discouraged in Islam. This is not because Islam belongs to the medieval times, but because men and women have not changed since Adam (as) and Hawwa (as) and will continue to behave the same till the very last soul Allah (swt) will send to this world.
The Prophet (sa) also said: “A man should not be alone with a woman, for verily Satan makes a third” (Muslim). This is mainly for protecting both sexes and preventing the possibility of any evil that may come thereof. Infatuations, misunderstandings, broken hearts, and illicit relations are just to name a few.
Since nowadays the society encourages a mixed culture, unfortunately, it may be difficult at times for one to adhere to the Islamic principles. In this case we need to act with caution, care, distance, and poise. Your mannerisms are sufficient to signal to others that you are not interested in the simple friendship proposition. You will only interact with others for business in a decent manner, whether it is in college, at work or in the marketplace. There should be no under-currents, hidden messages or misleading behaviour.
Allah (swt) has given a code of conduct to the believing men and women: “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah (swt) is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornments except only that which is apparent (like both eyes or palms of hands, etc.).” (An-Nur 24:30-31)
Save the special friendship for your spouse-to-be and opt out of simple friendships with many. It’s time to pay attention to our self-dignity and not to the fools around us.