Lady Attending Awards Function

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Q: I am a lady who is a specialised accountant for a listed international corporate. For the passed 2 years, I have received performance awards, but have never attended the function. Now my company is giving me the group md's award, ceo award and divisional md's award. I also have been allocated 10 minutes to give a speech. My region's GM said that it was compulsory to attend or I would receive a written warning. I have never attended, because although I would wear an abaya and scarf, there is music, alcohol and dancing. My husband has abandoned me and my 3 sons all under the age of 10. I therefore have to work. Please advise.
A: The fact that you are seeking guidance on a matter like this is encouraging from an Islamic perspective, for it suggests concern for Deen and the Law of Allah. May He reward you for this.
Firstly you should understand that for a Muslim woman to be in a mixed gathering, even without alcohol, music, and dancing, and to address such a gathering is totally haraam. It is haraam notwithstanding the abaya and even pardah that she would wear. Just going there and delivering a public address is not permissible. When you add to the equation the above three haraam factors, the prohibition is compounded. You need to consider the situation honestly and sincerely.
The very first option to consider is to make a written submission that can be backed and supported by a reputable Aalim or body of Ulema explaining reasons why you may not attend. (Reasons being alcohol and dancing mainly, for the western mind may not comprehend the pardah factor)
If this is not possible or feasible, then consider whether non-attendance can result in you losing your job. If not, then you are obliged by Shariah not to attend.
If you run the risk of losing your job, then consider whether you will be able to find alternate employment that will enable you to live comfortably and provide for your children. If the answer to this option is in the affirmative, then too, you should chance your arm and not attend. If you lose your job, you can fall back on the alternate employment.
If there is no possibility or opportunity of alternate employment then as a last resort you are allowed to attend but on the following conditions:
1) Cover as much of the body as possible.
2) Avoid association with males as much as possible.
3) Never shake the hand of a male.
4) Come away from that haraam gathering as soon as you are able to, even if you feign illness or any other excuse.
5) Before attending, while present there, and after returning make lots of istighfaar and repentance to Almighty Allah, and ask for His Protection. Make taubah salaah, etc.
And Allah knows best

Mufti Siraj Desai