Fatima al Zahra[a.s] said ‘the best thing for a woman is not to see men, and not to be seen by men’. How is this hadith best interpreted? Is it only in a physical sense, because in the West this isn’t practical. Is there a more metaphorical meaning for it, and can the ‘best thing’ still be achieved by someone who takes an active role in society?
On a jurisprudential level, yes, a mere seeing and being seen is not Haraam (forbidden) unless there is an evil intention behind it, or she is not dressed modestly. So, this ‘best’ is talking about a Mustahab (recommended) act as a preventing factor. However:
It is mentioned in the biography of the late Sheikh Hasanali Nokhodaki (one of the amazing mystics of the early 20th century) that he was asked of the secret that when he was praying, his prayer would be granted. He said, ‘I don’t know but I tried not to sin all my life. I lived with my sister-in-law in a house for about 40 years and I never saw her face!’.
My friend, our present society is not the best, but what we can do is what Imam Ali said: ‘ you can’t be like me but help me (to intercede you) by endeavouring to piety’.
May God protect all of us.
Answered by: Sheikh Mansour Leghaei