Sayyidah Ummu Salamah (radhiyallahu ‘anha) narrates the following:
I was once in the blessed presence of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) while Maimoonah (radhiyallahu ‘anha) was also present. While we were with Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), ‘Abdullah bin Ummi Maktoom (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) arrived, and this was after the law of Hijaab was revealed. When ‘Abdullah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) arrived, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) instructed us, “Adopt Hijaab from him.” We replied, “O Rasul of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)! Is he not a blind man who can neither see us nor recognize us?” Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) responded, “Are the two of you blind? Can the two of you not see him?” (Sunan Abi Dawood #4112)
The blessed wives of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) were the purest of women, living in the purest of ages, in the purest of presences – the presence of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) – and the man who entered, over and above being blind, was a Sahaabi and thus from the purest of men. Despite the level of purity that prevailed, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) still instructed his respected wives to adopt hijaab in the presence of this Sahaabi, as there is more precaution in this. Hence, the commentators of hadeeth have explained that although it is permissible for a woman to look at a man (provided there is absolutely NO fear of fitnah and sin arising), piety and precaution still demands that she refrain from even this. (Mirqaat vol. 6, pg. 285)
When Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) commanded his respected wives to adopt hijaab and not look at this blind Sahaabi in the situation of pristine purity described above, we can well imagine the law that applies to us! After all, we are not only sinful, but live in an age and environment wherein we are perpetually bombarded by evil and lust. Thus, if an ‘Islamic’ event or conference is taking place, where male and female presenters are addressing a mixed crowd of males and females, non-mahram men and women are freely interacting, etc., we should ask ourselves, “How can they impart Deen and flagrantly violate and disregard the laws of Deen at the same time?” After all, it is absolutely impermissible for the men to be looking at the women – let alone freely interacting with them! – and it is equally impermissible for the women to interact with the men and sit with them.
Sa‘eed bin Musayyib (rahimahullah) was given the title ‘Leader of the Taabi‘een’ on account of his piety and knowledge. Despite this, even when he was eighty-four years old, blind in one eye and had very weak vision in the other, he exclaimed, “There is nothing (no trial) that I fear more than women!” (Mirqaat vol. 6, pg. 285) Hence, at no point did he ever sit with women saying ‘my heart is clean’ or ‘I have no feelings’.