When facing this question, I start thinking what makes people have such a question in mind, while there are millions of Muslim women working all over the world in different positions. Are all these Muslim women doing something forbidden (Haram), or are there other points that bring such questions to one’s mind?
Some points that may make the issue of “women’s employment” a challenge for people may be as follows:
Women have to observe the Islamic dress code (Hijab)
Women should keep their modesty and chastity in front of the opposite sex
Women should not be in a place with the opposite sex, where no one else can enter.
All the above-mentioned issues are equal for men and women, except the issue of Islamic dress code (Hijab); it is not that men should not observe the Islamic dress code (Hijab), but it is the limits of this dress code that differs in men and women.
The limits of Hijab and modesty and the etiquette of looking for both men and women are clarified in the Holy Quran: “Tell the faithful men to cast down their looks and to guard their private parts. That is more decent for them. Allah is indeed well aware of what they do. And tell the faithful women to cast down their looks and to guard their private parts, and not to display their charms, beyond what is [acceptably] visible, and let them draw their scarfs over their bosoms …” (24: 30-31).
As you can see, the difference appears in covering, where women should cover their beauties that are attractive to men. Displaying these beauties will have a negative impact in the atmosphere of the workplace, as well as negative consequences for women.
Therefore, Islamic rules about the Islamic dress code (Hijab) are not there to separate men and women, but to make their relationship harmless and therefore the society a safe place for all.
Another verse that some jurists use to explain that women should not work outside the house is: “Stay in your houses and do not flaunt your finery like the former [days of pagan] ignorance…” (33:33). The most important point about this verse is that it was revealed to the household of the prophet (PBUH), and not all Muslim women.
While at the same time the main point of this verse is not that women are prisoners at home, but it is emphasizing the value of women as humans who have the same material and spiritual talents as men. But women naturally enjoy looking beautiful, and the exhibition of their beauties is far more than men.
Considering other verses that guide women on how to appear in the society, we can conclude that Allah is guiding women to reach their main goal of life, rather than spending time on worthless tasks such as beautifying themselves and displaying it in the society; something that has been a culture at the time of pagans, and that we can still see these days in the society.
All the investments and advertisements on products that are beauty related and make men and women consume so much money and time using these products are meant to make them busy with worthless material things and keep them away from reaching their main goal of life.
Fourteen centuries ago, Islam entitled women to some of the rights that feminists have been fighting for in ages. Rights such as: Having an assertion or defense in the court as a claimant or defendant by using legal ways, equivalence before the law, a fair judgment, immunity of property, preservation of honor, the right to marry and establish a family, privacy, and immunity of life, guarantee of livelihood, etc.
There is even a verse in the Holy Quran that shows the importance of women’s financial independence: “To men belongs a share of what they have earned and to women a share of what they have earned…” (4:32)
In Chapter (Surah) al-Qassas it is nicely described how prophet Shuaib’s daughters had to work, as their father was an old man. Their etiquette and modesty while working with a group of men could be a great example for all women [i].
At the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), there were many women who used to work in the market to earn money for their living. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) not only encouraged them for their job but also taught them the right Islamic rules of business and commerce.
The most significant example is the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) himself who used to trade for Lady Khadijah (AS).
Vital Roles in Society
In Islamic jurisprudence, it is said that women should preferably go to classes with female teachers. They should be visited by a female doctor in case of an illness. How possibly could this happen if women do not work outside as teachers, doctors, nurses, dentists, etc.?
Should Muslim Women Work in the Society or Not?
Putting aside all the concepts that justify working is not forbidden (Haram) for women, it is good to keep in mind that “Allah does not task any soul beyond its capacity…” (2:286).
It is narrated from Imam Ali (AS) “Do not give a woman responsibilities that are over her tolerance, this is better for her condition, as the woman is a fragrant flower, not a chambermaid” .
Women should keep in mind that if there is no necessity (either financial, social or spiritual) for them to work outside the house, their first and most important task is to nurture their children and manage the house in a way that it becomes a place of comfort and long-term benefit for all family members.
But if for any reasons a woman finds it a duty on herself to work outside the house, then she must ensure that her home and children are properly cared for. She may ask for her husband’s assistance in this case.
The Islamic viewpoint about women’s employment and working outside the house is not negative. Women have never been forbidden to work outside the house or choose the career that they enjoy in life.
The point of Islam about women’s career is that it should not interfere the tasks that men are not capable of fulfilling; like giving abundant love and affection to their husband and children. Also, according to Islam, women are not responsible for all the housework; rather they are free to do the tasks they are talented or interested in as well as the household chores. In fact, Multitasking is a female skill!
Many women have husband and children, but they keep achieving social success! “Social success” is a poison in our era. We should be wary of the negative impacts of this term and find the true definition of success in the eyes of God. Islam asks everyone to find their priorities and act accordingly logically.
[i] (28: 23- 28)
- Usul al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 510
A very significant aspect of Islamic life is “modesty.” According to the Islamic application of the term, modesty is a state of self-restraint which helps us check our manners and appearance, and correct them when necessary.
This general principle is also the main source of Islamic dress code or “Hijab” in Islam which has nowadays caused a lot of questions and contradictions both among Muslims and non-Muslims.
When talking about hijab in Islam, maybe the first thing that comes to your mind is women’s wearing a headscarf. But is it all that the word refers to? Does hijab also have something to do with our manner and behavior? Does it concern Muslim men as well as women?
You can read this article to find out what hijab in Islam is really all about.
Well, hijab is an Islamic ruling which is also mentioned in the Quran [i]. And submission to God, of course, means that we should follow His advice even if –or especially when—it is not really easy for us to do so!
Still, if a woman, for example, thinks that she can preserve her modesty without wearing a headscarf and is not quite convinced to conform to the Islamic cover limits –we all have our failures or our personal ideas, don’t we?—it doesn't mean that she cannot be a Muslim, or that she will not receive God’s mercy!
You can read this article to find out if wearing hijab in Islam is actually a matter of choice!
Islam has stressed on cleanness and tidiness maybe more than any other religion in the world. But does Islamic dress code or hijab place any restrictions on wearing makeup or jewelry? Are there special occasions where Muslims are prohibited from or, to the contrary, prompted to make themselves up?
This article tries to answer your questions with regards to wearing make-up and jewelry.
Some people think that Hijab and its implications are only related to Islam and Muslims. Well, it’s not. It may be the case that the special form of Hijab which is used by Muslims has some differences with other religions.
Have a look at this article, If you want to know more about the history of Hijab and modesty in the Abrahamic religions before Islam.
Really, why would women cover their hair? Why don’t men do this? What is that they are hiding beneath this Hijab? What is the philosophy behind it?
Is it useful for Muslim women or men? Is it only related to appearance and observing some religious etiquette? This article provides answers to this questions based on Islamic sources.
[i] Quran 24:30,31
I am a Muslim woman. I grew up in an Islamic country. I went to segregated schools, sports clubs, swimming pools, friendly parties, and wedding parties. Then I chose Media as my career. I worked in different journals, made films, and traveled to various cities and countries, with or without my family.
As a Muslim who believes in modesty and follows the rules of Islam, my Islamic country is an outstanding place. However, I did not realize that, until I had to leave my country. I lived in Europe for several years. I had heard that the west is where the dreams of freedom come true. But after a short while, I found myself imprisoned in Europe.
I am a table tennis trainer, a good swimmer, a good basketballer, and relatively professional in many sports. In my Islamic country, I used to go to women’s sports clubs or women’s swimming pools after school since childhood. But years ago in Europe, I could not find any sports clubs that were segregated from men, so I could wear my comfortable sports set and play my favorite sports. Because there were men everywhere, and I wanted to keep my modesty, besides my Hijab.
Then a few Muslims came together and decided to rent a sports club for a few hours over the weekend. It sounded awesome, but when we went to that sports club that we had hired for women only, I realized that European Muslims who were born and raised in European countries were mostly very weak in sports.
Basically because since childhood they did not have access to segregated sports clubs to learn and practice any sports. And of course, my problem was that I could not find anyone to play professionally with and enjoy playing! Therefore for as long as I lived in Europe I felt imprisoned.
And when I returned to my Islamic country, I was so thankful that I had sports clubs (where we have our athletic competitions), gyms, swimming pools, spas, and even women-only parks! where we could enjoy running without a scarf or taking a sunbath, and not worry that we are doing anything against God’s will or orders.
Talking too much about my memories of a Muslim woman was all for the goal to discuss a few misconceptions about being a Muslim woman and deprived of social rights.
Well! What should I say? This article is being written by an educated practicing Muslim woman who is now educating other Muslim and non-Muslim women.
We have narrations from our beloved prophet (PBUH&HP) that encourage us to learn until death; “Gain knowledge traveling”  or “Gain knowledge even if it is in China.” , which emphasizes the importance of gaining knowledge during one’s lifetime, even if one has to travel far distances and learn the knowledge from non-Muslims.
Also in another narration, our prophet (PBUH&HP) makes it an obligation to learn, and not only an obligatory for men, but he emphasizes that it is also a lifetime and necessary for women to be knowledgeable; “Gaining knowledge is an obligation upon all Muslim men and women” .
We also read in the history that the prophet’s (PBUH&HP) daughter and granddaughters were excellent teachers and used to teach women of their era.
The only issue that is raised about women’s education is being in mixed classes and groups with male students. In such situations, it is not women’s education that is forbidden (Haram), but like any other situation of mixed gatherings (men and women), people should be wary of their relationships.
Women should avoid flirting and chatting about different issues with men if it is not necessary. The relationship between students of the opposite sex is lawful (Halal) as long as there is no intention for pleasure. 
"Dalia Mogahed was the US’ first Muslim woman in the White House back in 2009 and one of Barack Obama’s ‘closest advisors’"
In Islam some duties that are obligatory for men, such as defending the borders of their country if it is attacked, or working outside the house to earn money for a living. But making it compulsory for men, never means that it is forbidden for women.
“Islam views women as masters of the family and emphasizes that the family environment must become a safe, dignified and tranquil one for women so that they could do their best in fulfilling their main task which is to care for the family .” That is the reason for which there is no force on women to work and bring money for the family. .
And that, in fact, is the most important social activity in itself. However, if a woman would like to participate in different social and political activities, besides her role as a wife or a mother, there are no objections towards it. Muslim women have no essential duties in their homes such as cooking or cleaning or sewing, etc. unless they wish to do it themselves. Otherwise, the husband could hire a servant to do the house works.
Nevertheless, the fact that women are less active in political activities comes down to their feminine nature. Imam Ali (AS) says: “woman is like a fragrant flower, and not a champion” , which means she should not be expected to do tasks that are beyond her capabilities. But it does not mean that she cannot choose to do things that may naturally be against her nature.
Also, some women may not choose to do manly tasks. However, at some point, they have no choice but to do so. For example, it is narrated that at the time of Imam Ali (AS), Lady Fatima (AS) went to the mosque and performed speeches. Or after the event of Ashura, Lady Zainab (AS) took on her shoulders the responsibility that was even hard for a few strong men and performed political speeches in different places.
There are plenty of issues that are forbidden in Islamic countries, either for men or women, which are not related to the Islamic law but go back to the old cultures and traditions of those nations. For example, wearing a veil for Muslim women, or preventing women from education, etc. are all amongst those old cultures.
However, many of them have been mixed up with the Islamic law, and people regard them as religious matters instead of social conventions. But we have to be clever enough, to distinguish between the Islamic law and old traditions of different nations. The same way that Muslims do not relate mistakes of “so-called” Christians to the religion of Christianity.
Driving is forbidden for women in very few countries, and there is no firm Islamic ruling to support it.
In fact driving in today’s world, makes traveling safer for women and there is no rational opinion against it.
There are many narrations from our Prophet (PBUH) that encourage people to do sports that are common in their time such as swimming, horse riding, and archery, and in those narrations, women were never excluded. In fact, no reference shows sports to be forbidden (Haram) for Muslim women. But in this case, again it is the issue of modesty and Hijab that should be observed.
Regarding sports that are forbidden (Haram), there is no difference between men and women. Sports that are connected to gambling or may harm the player are forbidden (Haram) for both men and women.
There is no problem for women having fun if they do not commit a sinful act; and again, there is no difference in this between men and women. The only point for women is that they should consider keeping their hijab and modesty (Haya) and do not join activities that may harm their chastity. You can read about forbidden (Haram) and lawful (Halal) fun in Islam in related articles.