In recent years there has developed among some Muslim families and Muslim women a phenomenon, which is alien to the conservative Islamic society which seeks to protect women and their modesty. This is the phenomenon of going to "family restaurants" or restaurants which have a "family section."
When we look at this through the lens of sharee’ah and take into account what is actually happening, we will realize that there are a number of serious shar’iah reservations concerning this dangerous phenomenon, such as the following:
- The partitions to be found in many of these restaurants do not completely screen women in accordance with sharee’ah and conceal them from non-mahram men. This is either because the partition is too low; or it is raised from the floor so that it shows the women’s feet and calves; or it is too flimsy, making it possible to see some of the woman’s body; or it may have cut-away designs which let others see what is behind it through the holes of that design.
Inside the family sections of these restaurants, there are often no partitions at all between the tables; the partitions are only between the section where men sit and the family section. No doubt this makes it possible for all the members of one family to look at any member of another family.
- It is well known that many of the women who sit in these family sections are careless about the proper Islamic Hijab; they show their faces, hair, feet and what is above their feet through the clothes with cut-away designs that they wear. Even in the case of women who wear hijab, most of them show their faces when eating, so if the partitions are of the type described above, then that which Allah has forbidden them to uncover will most certainly be seen.
- In most of these restaurants, the waiters – who are men – enter the sections where women sit, to take orders and bring plates of food. Not all of them are people who will ask permission to come in, and not all the woman are the type who will put their hijab on when the waiters keep on coming in. In fact, some women do not care about wearing hijab in front of certain nationalities to which most of the waiters in restaurants belong.
- These places have become the haunts of evil, immoral types who will get to know a girl then bring her to these places, saying that she is his wife. So these sections give free scope to everyone who wants to do haraam things.
- Some girls who live a luxurious life have started to have parties in these restaurants for their female friends from school or college on various occasions. It is well known that many of them do not adhere to correct hijab and that some of their guardians treat the matter lightly on the grounds that they are still young, although their number is so great as to cause considerable fitnah. So each driver takes this girl to the party in the family restaurant even though there is much evil involved in this.
- When we look at how much money is spent in these restaurants – especially since most of them charge high prices – we will become aware of the extravagance that is involved in eating in these restaurants, in addition to the fact that left-over food is usually thrown away, unlike what happens when people eat at home.
- When women frequently go to family restaurants, this leads to them going out of their homes excessively for no reason. This goes against the command of Allah (interpretation of the meaning):
"And stay in your houses, and do not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance…" [Qur'an al-Ahzab 33:33]
It is well known that the sharee’ah does not approve at all of women coming and going because of the negative consequences to which this leads, the greatest of which is the gradual wearing away of modesty.
- Food prepared at home is far cleaner and much more healthy than food cooked in restaurants, especially since we know that many of the cooks in so-called high-class restaurants are kuffaar who do not pay any attention to tahaarah and najasah (matters of purity and impurity). Often those who frequent restaurants come down with diarrhoea and food poisoning. More importantly, those who eat in these restaurants do not know what kind of meat is being used in the food – unlike food which is cooked at home, where a person can know exactly what goes into it.
"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 Allah, but do that which they are commanded" [Qur'an al-Tahreem 66:6]
Some people claim that these excursions are for the purpose of leisure and having a change of scene, and say that the woman’s husband or guardian will be with her, and that she will sit with her back to the door, and the waiters in the restaurant will ask permission before coming in, and that she will cover her face when they come in, and that she will be wearing complete hijab, or that the waiters will be women, and that there is no music in the restaurant, or that each family sits in a separate, closed room in the restaurant, and that they only go out once a month and it is not going to become a habit, and that the cost is moderate…
I do not want to make things too difficult when responding to this or refuting it, because in reality, even in these rare situations, there are still reservations. But what I say is: if we really want to be honest with ourselves and seek the truth, then I wonder, what will we find if we compare what really happens with these so-called precautions? What percentages of people really apply these precautions? Even if some good and exemplary people do that in some restaurants that meet these conditions, what will the general public make of this?
I do not deny the fact that sometimes necessity – not the laziness of the housewife –makes it necessary to buy food from restaurants, such as when travelling or in other circumstances. But there are solutions which do not involve us bringing our wives into these restaurants, such as using home delivery services or bringing tins and packets of food home, or staying in a hotel room and asking the women what they want from the menu or buffet. In general, resorting to restaurants when necessary is completely different from going there by choice or for leisure purposes.
We ask Allah to help us to protect our families and to help us to follow the truth and to guide us to the straight path.
May Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad and his family and companions, and grant them peace.