Nowadays there has appeared among some Muslim families and Muslim woman a phenomenon that is foreign to the conservative Muslim society that seeks to protect and shield women. It is the phenomenon of going to family restaurants or restaurants with family sections. The one who examines the situation through the lens of sharee’ah and with proper insight will see that this involves a number of dangers and things that are forbidden according to sharee’ah.
1 – The barriers that are present in many of these restaurants do not conceal women properly as required by sharee’ah and screen them completely from non-mahram men. That is either because the barriers are too short or because there is a gap at the bottom through which their feet and legs can be seen, or they are too transparent, so that it is possible to see something of the woman’s body; or parts of the wall or screen are cut away in a design so that it is possible to see through it.
In the family sections of some of these restaurants there are no divisions at all between the family tables, rather the walls are between the place where men sit and the place where families sit. Undoubtedly this arrangement makes it possible for the members of one family to see any member of another family.
2 – It is well known that many of the woman who sit in these family sections are careless about proper Islamic hijab, and they show their faces, hair, feet or even more than that, and even most of the women who wear hijab uncover their faces when eating, so if the walls are as described above, then people will see that which Allaah has forbidden them to uncover.
3 – In most of these restaurants the waiters – who are men – enter the place where women are sitting to take down their orders or to bring the food, and not all of them seek permission to enter, and not all of the women cover themselves every time a waiter comes in. Rather many woman do not care about wearing hijab in front of men of different nationalities.
4 – These places have become frequented by some immoral people, who may get to know a girl and take her to these restaurants, pretending that she is his wife, so these family sections become a convenient place for those who seek to do haraam things.
5 – Some girls from rich families have started to hold parties for their classmates from school or college on various occasions in these restaurants, and it is well known that many of them do not adhere to proper Islamic hijab, and some of their guardians are lenient with these girls, on the grounds that they are young, even though their physical appearance is sufficient for there to be fitnah (temptation). So each girl has a driver who takes her to the family restaurant where the party is being held, even though that involves a great evil.
6 – In view of the large amount of money that is spend in these meals – especially since most of these restaurants charge a great deal – we see that eating in these restaurants is a kind of extravagance (israaf), in addition to the fact that leftover food is usually thrown away, unlike what would happen if these people were to eat at home. Being economical is, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, one of the twenty-seven parts of Prophethood. (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, no. 2010; this is a saheeh hadeeth).
7 – When women visit family restaurants this leads to an increase in their going out of their houses for no need. This goes against the words of Allaah (interpretation of the meaning):
“And stay in your houses, and do not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance”
It is well known that sharee’ah does not want women to have the habit of coming and going all the time, because that leads to evil consequences, one of the greatest of which is the gradual loss of modesty.
8 – The cleanliness and health benefits of food made at home are much better than those of food cooked in restaurants, since many of the cooks in the so-called refined restaurants are kaafirs who do not pay any attention to matters of purity and impurity. Visitors to restaurants often suffer from diarrhoea and food poisoning. More important than all that is the fact that those who eat in these restaurants do not know what kind of meat is used in the food, unlike food cooked at home, which is made where a person can see it and know what it is.
Because of these concerns and others, the Muslim should keep his family away from these places and obey the words of Allaah (interpretation of the meaning):
“O you who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allaah, but do that which they are commanded”
Some may claim that this going out is for the purpose of leisure and a change of scene, and that the woman’s husband or guardian will be with her, and she will turn her back to the door and the waiters in the restaurant will ask permission before entering, and that she will cover her face when they come in, and that she will be wearing full hijab, or the staff will be women, and that there will be no music in the restaurant, or that the place where families sit is a closed-off room, and that this going out happens only once a month and will not become a habit, and that the money that will be spent is a moderate amount.
I do not want to be too strict in refuting these claims, because there may in fact – albeit rarely – some places where these precautions are taken. But I will say that if we want to be honest with ourselves and do the right thing then what – I wonder – is the result of if we compare what really happens with these precautions. What is the ratio of those who apply these precautions in real life? Even if some good people do that in some restaurants, what will the masses make of that?
I do not deny that there may sometimes be cases of necessity – and not the laziness of the housewife – when food from restaurants is needed, such as when one is travelling, or because of circumstances affecting the housewife, but there are solutions which spare us the need to take our womenfolk into the restaurants, such as using home delivery services, or bringing instant food to the house or hotel room, whilst asking the women what they want to have brought to them from the menu or buffet. In general, going to the restaurant when needed is completely different from the results when one goes there by choice or for leisure.
I ask Allaah to help us to protect our families and to help us to follow the truth and to guide us to the straight path.
May Allaah send blessings and peace upon our Prophet Muhammad and his family and companions.