Can you give information about the mahram state of a woman near her husband's brother and the things to be paid attention regarding the issue?

Details of the Question
Will you explain the issue of the relation between my wife and my brothers in terms of being mahram or non-mahram? Is my wife mahram or non-mahram for my brothers when I am alive? Can my wife and my brothers not be in the same environment? Is there a drawback to my brothers’ staying in my house during certain periods?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Your brother is non-mahram for your wife and he is regarded a stranger religiously. Therefore, your wife must not display any parts of her body except her hands and face when he is present. In addition, she must not stay in the same room or place alone with him. Our Prophet stated that the male relatives of the husband are “death” for the woman and advised keeping away from them. The hadith is as follows: Once our Prophet (pbuh) said the following: "Keep away from entering the presence of women.” A man asked: "What about the male relatives (brother, uncle, cousin) of the woman’s husband? The Prophet said: “Those relatives are death” ( (Tirmidhi, Rada, 16; Ahmad b. Hanbal, IV, 149, 153).

The word “hamw” that we translate as relative defines all of the relatives of the husband like, father, son, brother, nephew, uncle, cousin; the translation as brother-in-law, nephew might not be correct.

Imam Nawawi says the following while explaining that hadith: "A person may stay alone with the wife of his brother due to the customs and traditions; it is death. The fact that chatting with him is forbidden is more important than the prohibition of chatting with strangers. That is the correct meaning of the hadith."

That is, any wrong look or an improper attitude may bring about some bad events in the family. Therefore, it is necessary to be cautious. We must be careful and we must not exceed the criterion Islam advises us. It is also necessary for the health of the family. 

To sum up, it is not permissible for your wife to be without tasattur (without covering all parts of body except her face and hands) when your brother is present.
Nawawi says what is meant by the word “hamw” in the hadith is the people that a woman could marry if she were single, like her husband’s brother, nephew, uncle, cousin, etc. The tradition of the community is very loose about those people and sometimes the brother of the husband is left alone with his brother’s wife. The Messenger of Allah likened that situation to death. That is, that prohibition precedes the prohibition about strangers.

The reason why our Prophet likens it to death for a woman to be alone with the male relatives of her husband is explained in various forms:

* To be alone with a male relative may cause them to commit a sin. Thus, by harming his/her religion, he/she is regarded to have killed him/her in a sense. Or, if the punishment of stoning to death becomes necessary, then that person really dies. Or the husband divorces his wife due to jealousy and the woman suffers.

* When a man stays alone with the wife of his brother or nephew, it is like death. Arabs liken unpleasant things to death.

* Ibnu'l-Arabi says: "Death is a word that Arabs use for metaphor. As a matter of fact, they say, “lion is death”, that is, “there exists the danger of death when you approach a lion.” Then, the meaning of the hadith is as follows: "A woman must beware of staying alone with a male relative of her husband as if she bewares of death,”

* Some scholars say the following meaning is also possible: "When a woman is left alone with a man, she becomes a source of disaster; nobody can be sure that he will not commit a sin. Then, the male relative is death; that is, it is not permissible for a non-mahram to stay alone with a woman.

* The fact that staying alone with relatives is likened to death does not mean that staying alone with others has no drawback. Staying alone with a relative of the husband takes place more frequently than staying alone with others. Therefore, the seductions of the soul and the devil when a woman is together with relatives are more in comparison to others. Since it is easier and more probable for a woman to be in contact with and to stay alone with a relative, the probability of mischief is higher in comparison to others.    

* Qadi Iyad stated the following: "The meaning of the hadith is as follows: "To stay alone with male relatives causes mischief and destruction in religion. Therefore, the Messenger of Allah likened it to the destruction of death and uttered the hadith using a harsh expression.” Qurtubi stated the following: " The meaning of the hadith is as follows: "When the relatives of the husband go near the woman, it is like death in terms of evil and mischief; that is, it is an obvious haram. The Messenger of Allah likened it to death in order to keep people away from it and to make people more cautious about it because people were very loose about it." (Canan, İbrahim, Kütüb-i Site Tercüme ve Şerhi, 10/226 et al.)

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